Hermit crabs need a variety of shells so that they can switch shells as they see fit. This makes it possible for them to be comfortable, less stressed, and they can change as they see fit. While there are a lot of different natural shells that people can choose from, there are also a lot of painted shells. Painted shells are really cool and come in a huge variety of colors and styles. Before you buy painted hermit crab shells you should know why many hermit crab enthusiasts don't recommend them.  

There are a lot of reasons to skip painted hermit crab shells, even if they are the most beautiful shells out there. These reasons will get you started. 

  • Hermit Crabs Can Remove the Paint - The paint is designed to stay on the shell and it is usually even coated with a hard, clear finish. However, the hermit crab will accidentally remove paint in a number of ways through their natural behavior. Some ways this happens is when the crab scratches the opening to make it his or her favored shape. Additionally, they will chip the paint as they are climbing at each other. They may also scrape paint off in their habitat by bumping and scraping other things.  
  • Hermit Crabs Eat Chipping Paint - Hermit crabs are scavengers. When they come across paint chips they often eat it. Even if they are just trying it out it could be dangerous. They may also end up with paint in their pinchers that is then transfered to their really food.  
  • Paint Taints the Water Source - Hermit crabs often get the paint in the water source. This can be done through paint chips soaking in the water or from the hermit crabs entering the water with a painted hermit crab. This then taints the water for everyone.
  • Hermit Crabs Are More Sensitive to Chemicals - Most people think, “Hey, they are painted with non-toxic paint. It can't be that bad!” However, the non-toxic paint means that it is non-toxic to people. Hermit crabs are much more sensitive to the chemicals that they come across than people are and just because it is non-toxic to us doesn't mean it is non-toxic to them.  
  • Hermit Crabs Can Get Glued Into Their Shells - Perhaps the worst issue that can come about because of painted hermit crab shells is the fact that hermit crabs can get glued into the shells. This happens when they are painted in their shells or when the whether, temperature, and humidity make the paint tacky. When they get glued into their shells part of or even all of their body will get stuck to the paint and they will be helpless to get out of the situation on their own. Many experienced hermit crab keepers use tiny scissors to slowly chip the shell away from them and get them unstuck from the paint. Sometimes this is successful and sometimes it isn't. In either case, the hermit crab may die because they got stuck to the painted shell.  

Painted Hermit Crab ShellsCredit: AmazonCredit: Amazon

Hermit Crabs May Be Forced Into Painted Shells

The other reason that many people don't like painted hermit crab shells is because there is a lot of belief that hermit crabs are forced into the painted shells. There are a lot of stories as to how this is done.

  • Some say that they take hermit crabs that are naked and stuff them into the shell forcing them to go into it.
  • Some stories include hermit crabs in places where they can't get to the food and water without leaving their shells behind. The natural shells are then removed and painted shells are the only options.
  • Others say that the hermit crabs are offered nothing but painted shells and then when they move their old shell is removed.

Whether the hermit crabs are forced into painted shells or not isn't something that should really matter because the truth is that it is dangerous and risky to put and buy hermit crabs in painted shells.  

What About Painting Your Own Shells

Some people also talk about painting their own shells. They do this while the crab is in the shell or they paint a bunch of other shells and offer only these ones as options for the crabs that they have. In either case the concerns that you should have with the painted shells are still accurate. There are a lot of worries, even if you are using non-toxic water color paints or craft kits designed for decorating hermit crab shells. 

Drying Shells

If you absolutely have to have a shell that is a weird color then you can consider dying them with berry juice. To do this you will want to blend berries and use the juice to dye the shell. It often takes a long time for it to go deep enough to permanently color the shell. You are also limited by hermit crab safe berries, so you won't be able to get all the wild colors that paint comes from.  

Interesting and Beautiful Hermit Crab Shells

While natural colors may seem really boring, there are really a lot of different colors, shapes, and styles available that are good choices for your hermit crabs. If you shop around you can find a lot of really great colors. If you spend a little time looking at natural shells you are sure to find several that your hermit crabs will love that you also find appealing. Finding natural hermit crab shells can be a lot of fun.  

Turbo Hermit Crab ShellCredit: H. Zell, Wikipedia, CC BY SACredit: H. Zell, Wikipedia, CC BY SA

What About Kids?

Kids often fall in love with the fun styles and that can make it really hard to say no to a child. However, it really isn't worth a dead hermit crab over so it is best if you gently say no to your child wanting a painted shell and you explain to them why it is a bad idea. Then direct them toward the tons of other options that are natural and beautiful. Even a young child will find some favorite natural shells.  

Some things about painted shells might be exaggerated such as how they get crabs into them. Some things about painted hermit crabs might not happen very often compared to how many hermit crabs are sold in painted shells. However, in the end it just isn't worth it. Painted hermit crab shells are bad news.

Related articles on hermit crab care include:

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