Painted Hermit Crab shells are not only a waste of natural resources, but also extremely toxic and unsafe for your little crabbies.
Painting Hermit Crab shells has always been to serve one purpose only, to entice children to want to buy them. Pretty pinks, purples, blues, gold, novelty characters etc. They all appeal to young children. One of the most successful marketing strategies is colour. Haven't you noticed that when you are in the supermarket, your eyes are instantly drawn to brands with bright and outstanding colours, ones that catch your eye straight away. This is a marketing ploy to entice you to buy that brand. The same goes for painted Hermit Crabs. The brightly coloured shells entice the eye and excite children to want to have them as a pet. Maybe you'll end up with a Spongebob crab, or a soccer ball crab... its all fun and exciting. Until it's not.
What pet stores don't tell you is, painted shells are actually toxic to your crab. The paint used on these shells is filled with harmful chemicals. Hermit Crabs will often pick at their own shell to adjust the way it fits to suit them, while doing so they will chip small pieces away and consume them. They do this because shells are filled with calcium, and the last thing your crab expects to be eating is paint.
You wouldn't feed harmful paint to your dog, your cat or your children... so why feed it to your crab?
The heartbreaking truth behind the painted shell process
When Hermit Crabs are taken from the wild, they are always within a natural shell.
Once they arrive at the warehouses, they undergo an extreme amount of stress and torture.
Each crab is placed into a device that clamps down on their natural shell and cracks it open. The naked Hermit Crab is than removed from the natural shell and is either 1. Thrown into a large bin filled with painted shells, giving them no other option but to choose a painted shell or die. Or 2. They are literally stuffed bottom first into a painted shell and then forcefully pushed inside. If the crab doesn't stay put inside the painted shell, there have even been instances of them being glued inside their shells, which is now a death sentence as they will never be able to change shells again.
These two processes alone are absolute torture and abuse of these poor innocent creatures. What your painted crab has gone through before it came to you is a journey of absolute heartbreak and stress.
Can't I just remove the paint from my crabs shell?
Firstly, no. This would be an extremely stressful process for your crab. Picking and pulling at their shell is extremely frightening for them and will cause a huge amount of stress. They don't know you are trying to help them, they just know that a predator is picking at their shell and they don't feel safe.
Unfortunately, the chemicals and toxins from the paint have already absorbed into the shell, rendering it unsafe. You may not be able to see it, but it's there.
Shells have many layers to them and are actually very porous, meaning they can absorb the harsh chemicals painted onto them. Just like egg shells and human finger nails, you wouldn't think they could absorb and be porous, but they are.
So although your shell may now look brand new and totally safe, it is quite the opposite. If your crab consumes it's shell, it is still consuming harsh chemicals.
It is not common for hermit crabs to voluntarily take a painted shell, in all instances of painted shells, some form of abuse and torture has been used to entice the crab into the painted shell. Other methods which are sometimes used include, heating the natural shell until the crab leaves it, drilling holes into the shell and poking the crabs abdomen with wire or probes until it leaves its natural shell.
What can I do if my Hermit Crab won't leave their painted shell?
Nothing. All you can do is make sure to offer natural shells in various styles with various openings such as D shape, O shape or Oval shape and in the correct sizes for that particular crab. The rest is upto your crabby. They will change shells when they are ready. You should never try to force your crab to change out of their painted shell.
How can I help prevent the sale of painted shells?
Always buy natural shells. Do not support businesses who sell painted shells. When painted shells are no longer a desired product, they will be rendered a useless marketing ploy. If you purchase a crab from a pet store, always try to purchase ones in natural shells.
The truth is, natural shells are absolutely beautiful! Some of them come with the most stunning and unusual patterns. Why would anyone want to cover up their natural beauty.