Despite their name, hermit crabs aren't really loners; they're actually quite sociable and enjoy company. According to Hermit Crab Paradise, most pet hermit crabs come from the wild where they are part of a large community of crabs. Whether in the pet store or in the wild, Pinky's probably used to living among other crabs. If he's living a true hermit life, he's likely lonely.
Social Networking with a Purpose
In the wild, hermit crabs live together in colonies. Scientific American reported much of this networking is driven by practicality. Shells are very important to hermit crabs because they offer their protection and act as home; when a crab sheds his shell, there is an organized vacancy chain waiting to take advantage of the open shell. The exchanges aren't always friendly; crabs will fight over the shell, but when the winner is established, the remaining crabs exchange shells. Crabs often have to make do with whatever they can find to fill the role of their home -- sometimes using bottle caps as shells -- so their social network can provide them with housing options.
More Crabs; Less Crabby
If you sense Pinky's lonely, the best medicine is company. Hermit crab lovers tend to go with a "more the merrier" attitude, however be practical and consider how many crabs will fit comfortably into your crabitat. Generally, a 10-gallon tank will hold 10 tiny crabs, 6 small crabs or 4 medium crabs. You can keep different sizes together but the substrate should accommodate the largest crab at molting time. Large or jumbo crabs need a larger tank with at least eight inches of substrate for molting. Hermit-Crabs.com recommends having at least two crabs and notes that crabs are more active if they have company.
Nice to Meet You!
Introducing hermit crabs isn't difficult, but they need time to get used to each other and re-establish their social hierarchy. If Pinky gets a roommate, don't be surprised if he greets his new friend with an "antennae war" or "feeler fights" where they actually smell each other. They may also flick their legs and claws at each other, but this is normal crab behavior as they establish their pecking order.
Crabs Like Toys
If Pinky is lonely toys will help him fill his time. Hermit crabs love to climb and hide and there is a wide variety of toys available for them. Driftwood, dried choya wood, unpainted flower pots and plastic plants are great things to put in his crabitat, as they'll give him hideaways to duck into and new terrain to climb. Any toys you give Pinky shouldn't have paint that can chip and be ingested by him. Crabs are irritated by cedar and pine, so evergreen wood in the crabitat is a no-no.
You're Your Crab's Best Friend
If Pinky's home is new to him, he'll need a few days to adapt before you start to handle him. Move slowly so you don't startle or hurt him. To pick him up, hold him by his shell and keep your other hand under him so that his legs are lightly touching your outstretched hand. Don't leave his legs and claws dangling in the air -- he'll fee insecure and be more likely to pinch. After he's used to you holding him, allow him to walk across your hand. If you decide to let him roam outside of his crabitat, provide safe place where he won't fall or encounter something dangerous, such as the family cat or dangerous chemicals.
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