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Author Topic: Forcing Hermit Crabs to Wear Painted Shells
Risu
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I was doing research on the harms of painted shells for hermit crabs, when I came across several methods that hermit crab distibutors have been known to use to force a hermit crab to give up their natural shell for a painted one.

"1) Cracking the shell so the hermit crab is scared out and only has painted shells as his next choice.
2) Drill a hole in the natural shell and use a sharp object to poke the hermie's abdomen til they drop out.
3) Try to pull the hermies out of their shells (and most get ripped apart or in half )
4) Enclose the hermies in a jar and release a gas to kill them. Remove them from the shell, and use pure oxygen to revive them. They scuttle into the painted shells.
5) Stick them in the freezer and make them slow down (most die ). Remove them from the shell and insert them in the painted shell.
6) leaving food and water on the other side of a small opening, forcing the hermit crab to abandon his shell in order to eat, and then having to take up a painted shell on that side"


i've heard of the shell cracking and freezing methods, but the other ones are new to me and sound a little too cruel (though i don't doubt people would use these methods for profit). before i post on my website my findings on painted shells, i want to find actual facts that these methods are used, and not snowballed stories passed on from crabber to crabber. anyone know where i can start?

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qualli
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one place I used to visit simply placed painted shells in the cage. Eventualy the crabs grow and need a larger shell. If all they have available is painted, that's what they'll go for.

Never having had a crab I wouldn't know, but that's what they said.

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BeachLife
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They often change shells looking for the perfect fit. It is not something they do only when they grow. It seems like the easiest thing to do would be to throw several dozen painted shells in the tank with a score of hermit crabs and wait. Chances are that within a week many of them will be sporting painted shells. Remove the non painted shells an repeat. No killing or cruelty required.

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paisley claus
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Okay, I was genuinely curious after reading this, so I did some reasearch..

First off, this interesting tidbit from some children's craft site:
quote:
Land hermit crabs are very fussy about how their shell looks. And scientists have discovered that Hermit Crabs much prefer brightly painted and coloured decorated shells.
I'm really interested to know where they got that study...

Also I found this article, from the Crab Street Journal (heehee). It's actually a really sad article; a hermit crab lover rescued two crabs in painted shells. One was STUCK in his shell, glued in there by the paint on the INSIDE of the shell!!!!!

Here's a Hermit Crab Forum; from what I've looked at, it looks like the majority of crab enthusiasts are HIGHLY against the painting, but it seems to be because of the paint itself, not how the distributors GET the crabs into the painted shells.

There's also a petition against painted shells.

I couldn't locate any of the HOW information you're looking for, but maybe one of these sites will be a starting point.

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paisley claus
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quote:
Originally posted by BeachLife:
They often change shells looking for the perfect fit. It is not something they do only when they grow. It seems like the easiest thing to do would be to throw several dozen painted shells in the tank with a score of hermit crabs and wait. Chances are that within a week many of them will be sporting painted shells. Remove the non painted shells an repeat. No killing or cruelty required.

That's what I assumed they would do... if they don't offer them anything other than painted shells, then that's all the crab will "wear".

But if you look at some of those links I referenced above, there were some crabs that were STUCK in their shells, either because they were too small or because of wet paint on the inside. THAT makes me wonder and also makes me sad [Frown]

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The Year Without A SeaPea
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I would also really like to know what scientific study said that hermit crabs much prefer brightly colored shells. To me, they always look so...embarassed.

Although it does seem like just putting the painted shells in would be the easiest way. Why waste all the time and effort of setting up elaborate ways to get the crabs out, when they will most likely do it themselves?

While I like hermit crabs in natural shells, if they WANT to go in the painted shells, who am I to argue? Maybe some crabs just have really tacky taste [Big Grin]

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geminilee
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quote:
4) Enclose the hermies in a jar and release a gas to kill them. Remove them from the shell, and use pure oxygen to revive them. They scuttle into the painted shells.
Wow, who knew pure oxygen could create zombies?
Maybe it only works if it is a crab....

If they are breeding the little guys at all, why would they have to do anything special to get them in a shell, other than providing only painted shells?

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tribrats
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First and foremost, please don't put your crabs in painted shells. Its bad for them. Given a choice, they will not go in a painted one. I can't be sure as to why but for some reason every one I have gotten has moved out of the painted literally with hours of bringing them home. That site has some very good thoughts as to why.

I have PP's. I prefer them over the Ecuadorians.
This is the site I use.

ETA: This will break your heart.
ETA: Ohh, spanked by Paisley, that will teach me to check the posts before researching then just posting.

Also, BeachLife, you said
quote:
No killing or cruelty required.
Unfortunatly, thats not true as the articles show. Even after drying, the paint gets tacky and will still stick to them. A lot like a picnic table that has been painted then you sit on it on a hot day.

Given how sensative they are to their enviroments, I don't see how it would be profitable to use most of those methods. If crabs are stressed just because you moved their favorite rock [Roll Eyes] , then I can just imagine the loss with these methods.

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Soprych
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Given a choice Pearl (a strawberry), Sheldon (also a strawberry), and Rob, Buddy, and Sally - all purple pinchers - could not possible seem to care over whether or not the shell is painted.

All the PP's at one time or another have tried on the hot pink mickey mouse painted shell complete with glued on wiggly eyes. They have stayed for a week of two before moving on but repeat the cycle.

The crabitat is a 50 gallon aquarium and there are 40-50 shells they can exchange for but still they keep the fancy one in use.

Alean

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tribrats
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geminilee, hermit crabs are not bred in captivity. They are picked off the beaches to be sold. Because of the conditions needed to breed, they are very difficult to reproduce in captivity. From what I have found, there are only 2 scientists that have done it.

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Signora Del Drago
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Hermies like warm temperatures, but do not, I repeat - do not - go into a restaurant to eat and forget they are in the car. My daughter, granddaughter and I were on the way home from vacation and did just that. We spent a couple of hours inside, eating and then looking at things in the gift shop. It was awful. We revived them, but they died later. My granddaughter cried, and we adults almost did. We were devastated. Sad.

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Squishy0405
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I thought to look on Peta and found this under kids Keep them free There is a "quiz" too.
There is also this story about Football Helmets being glued to shells

If you go to peta.org and type in "hermit crab" as a search it mostly brings up the kid's newsletter and stories of one crabs rescue and what you can do...
Just to add I support Peta's cause, just not their methods, and I am NOT becoming a vegetarian and bambi is yummy (as long as you eat what you kill, not just for fun) [Smile]

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Spamamander in a pear tree
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Wow, this is an issue I never would have thought of. I think most of the things in the OP sound honestly too complicated/ silly to be used profitably, but reading teh article about freeing the crab really was heartbreaking... that poor guy had to be SO relieved that he could move again.

Of course, now it wants to make me do a ton of research on hermit crabs. I always thought they were kinda cool... now I want some. In nice, natural shells.

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tribrats
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They make wonderful pets/companions. Unfortunatly, I lost a whole tank of them when it became contaminated (still not sure how but we gutted, sterilized and got all new things for it). I now have 4, I think. One went to ground- I think to molt- and I can't find him (normal behavior). But you don't want to disturb them durring this time anyways so hopefully, he's ok.

They have really strong personallities. We have one that loves to be held and stroked. One likes to sing. One likes to burrow into the river rocks we use to hold the "pool" in place where the others prefer the coconut substrate.

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MissEltoe
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Awww.
I got one as a birthday gift when I was much younger (probably less than 10 years old).
I was more scared of it than anything. (I have phobias of anything remotely creepy-crawly, reptilian, etc.)
However, this sounds so sad for the poor hermits. [Frown]

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The Year Without A SeaPea
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I had three that were given to me by someone who either bought them or won them at a fair! They were pretty big too...much larger than the ones you generally see in for sale. Then, while I was working at the pet store, I found one roaming around in the back room sans shell. I named that one "The Nudist" [Big Grin] I know it sounds weird, but I SWEAR that guy just loved running around nekkid! For the first couple months I had him (or her), he/she would try on different shells then just sit around in the buff. He/she finally did settle on a shell though.

I would also occasionally hear them "talking" to each other at night...or maybe it was all in my head [Smile]

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Risu
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hehe wow i'm surprized i got such a large response, and from fellow crab enthusiasts too [Smile] it does raise the question, why would distributors go through all that trouble to force hermit crabs to wear painted shells, when all they have to do is offer them only spare painted shells. then again i wonder at times why i find poor jumbos' trying to stick their butts into teeny painted shells. i think i'm going to ask around on several of the popular boards, perhaps the members who have been crabbing longer than most of us can give an idea as to where these cruel methods were thought up. they're been floating around the crabbing world for years, but no one has ever mentioned a source for their information.

if i've perked anyone's interests in hermit crab care, here are a few good sites, including the one listed above:
www.crabzilla.net
www.crabstreetjournal.com
www.hermit-crabs.com
www.epicureanhermit.com - website with alot of data on the hermit crab diet

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moonfall86
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I remember being a little upset when one of my friends painted her crabs' shells with nail polish. That really can't be good for them.
I tried bringing some home from the beach once, but they died. It's probably not a good idea.

I seem to remember being told that the crabs available at fairs, pet shops, or whatever, are not the same kind of hermit crabs found at the beach because they are terrestrial (some kind of tree crab?). Does anyone know about this?

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Risu
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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if you found the hermit crabs in the ocean they were most likley marine hermit crabs, which means they live in salt water. the ones sold accross the country are known as land hermit crabs, and will drown if submerged under water for too long.
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Troberg
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I would say that it's Ok and they will not get hurt if:

* You use sensible paint, something like you would use to paint your eggs for easter. I hardly think this can hurt the animal.
* Only apply paint to the outside of the shell.
* Don't overdo the paint. One thin layer only.
* Don't force the crabs to change shells. Give them several options and let choose a shell that fits them when they want a new shell.

The big problem I see is that this causes people to see animals as toys or decorations, not as living beings and companions.

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Chimera
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My son keeps hermit crabs. He has three of them. Two of them came in painted shells but the non-painted one decided to move to a discarded painted shell instead of a non-painted one. It seems they care more about the opening in the shell than the fashion. I really can't see how most paints would be harmfull to the critters, nor can I see how you'd forceably remove a critter from its chosen shell. Besides, as has been mentioned, what would be the point? I have several shells available and they are constantly switching around. It's really hard to identify them. I think I recall that they'll even use waste (human garbage, not just scavenged shells). They don't grow their own shells so they have to borrow something. How do we know about the "purity" of unpainted shells? Could they contain bacteria? Could they be bleached? I don't really want to over think the crab thing. They are fairly low maintence but still evil little critters. I wouldn't wish crabs on anyone.

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Risu
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hermit crabs can't see in color, so i think you're absolutley right it depends alot on shell opening, and the size and weight of the shell. hermit crabs are extremely sensitive animals, so i'd think any type of paint would be harmful if they ate a piece, even if it's non-toxic to human children.

hermit crabs are not low maitance pets. if you think that, you might be doing something wrong. check the websites i listed. as for sterilizing the shells, boil the shells in salt(made with aquarium salt) or fresh water for 5 minutes to kill all the bacteria. however, painted shells generally peel when going through this process, so prepare for a mess [Razz]

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Troberg
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quote:
as for sterilizing the shells, boil the shells in salt(made with aquarium salt) or fresh water for 5 minutes to kill all the bacteria.
Couldn't you colour the shells in this process by putting some suitable ingredients in the water? If I recall correctly, red onions (the redder, outer layers) are used in this way to colour eggs and I think other vegetables have similar effects. This gives nice patterns on the egg/shell. There are probably dozens of sites on this. Boil or rinse it a second time in just water to get rid of any residue stuff. That should be harmless enough. Food colour should also be fairly safe. An egg shell and a shell are very similar in composition, so anything that works for an egg should work just fine, although you may have to rough up the surface slightly with a fine sandpaper.

Avoid methylene blue though. It's fun as hell to play with, especially if you can trick people into eating it (it works well to put just a tiny amount into some kinds of candy) and it gives them blue urine and blood for a while, but is completely harmless. The problem is that it easily gets everywhere. A pinch of the stuff with a drop of water and soon everything will be blue. A tin of it and a small lake will be blue. A shell coloured with it could probably make the water for the crab blue.

The important difference with this type of colouring is that the pigments go into the surface of the shell and colours the shell itself, instead of forming a layer on top of the shell.

On the other hand, I have never painted a shell like this, so I have no real experience. I've done some eggs as a child though.

Still, take care of your pets first, then, if and only if you have spare time and are sure it will not hurt them, do things like this.

As for the science reports about crabs prefering painted shells, I would guess that they, unable to see colour, just see a speckled shell. Believing that will give them a better camouflage, they prefer that to a plain shell.

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Dogwater
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Jeez, I just figured you pick up the crab and paint the shell. I always found it to be unseemly -- using them as decor and toys, not living creatures -- but never thought it was physically harmful.

I swear, everytime there is a "how NOT to care for this animal" post, I walk into a Petsmart and see that very thing occuring.

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tribrats
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogwater:
Jeez, I just figured you pick up the crab and paint the shell. I always found it to be unseemly -- using them as decor and toys, not living creatures -- but never thought it was physically harmful.

I swear, everytime there is a "how NOT to care for this animal" post, I walk into a Petsmart and see that very thing occuring.

You've never picked up a crab before have you [Wink] ?

These are 2 of my crabs: Rocky and Harry. Rocky is named that because he likes to burrow into the river rocks we use to hold the pool. Harry is named after, you guessed it, Harry Potter. He loves being held and have his legs stroked. In the pics, you can see him getting into his favorite position. Muckled onto my thumb with my hand cupping his shell. Problem is, he is strong and sometimes he starts to turn my thumb blue.

We have 2 more (no names yet, they are the newest and we haven't figured out anything that fits them) but one has gone to ground to molt and the other is hiding for now. He will come out nearer 8:00 tonight, I will try to get pics then.

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Signora Del Drago
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Cool photos! I love Harry's shell and have several of them. This almost makes me want to get a couple of hermies. I love to watch them eat peanut butter.

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tribrats
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Thanks! Harry picked it all by himself [lol] . He is a real people person. He will eat right out of your hand. And if there is something he doesn't like, he will spit it right back at you. There isn't many things funnier than watching a hermit crab spit! (and he goes for distance). You just need to be sure to not have the smell of food directly ON your hands when holding him. He will munch down. I learned that the hard way. Crabs are stubborn. If they want something, they will not let go.

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tribrats
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As promised, here's some more pics. I just added them to the same album. 3 of the 4 crabs.

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paisley claus
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Wowwwww Harry is Ginormous! I saw some REALLY big ones at the flea market awhile back..I had never seen ones that big before!

How old are yours/how long have you had them? I have never had a hermit crab, but they were popular with my friends whose parents didn't want any other animals!

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Risu
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it's hard to determine the age of hermit crabs because the molt rate that they grow is random dependning on enviroment.

i know you didn't ask me, but i've had 2 of my hermit crabs for 3 years this august.

check this out. this woman has had her 2 hermit crabs for 30 years. amazing, isn't it?

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tribrats
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I've had these since about December but I've had Hermies for about 4 years now. Unfortunatly I lost 5 of them from Sept-Nov. The first one we thought was just stress but it broke my heart. He was one of the first ones I got. By the 3rd we knew something was wrong. We gutted and sterilized the tank but it was to late for the last two. One of the things that took us so long to realize something was wrong is that they acted just like they were getting ready to molt.

Its hard to age crabs. Using this as a guide, I estimate him to be about 15-18ish. I also suspect that if Harry came out far enough, I would discover that he is actually a Harriet. The legs are shaped more like what I have seen and have come to expect from the females than the males and although its not a rule of thumb, I have found the females to be more affectionate and active. The others are all about 10 or less.

The 4th crab also made an appearance today so I snapped a few pics of him too. They are in the same link I posted earlier. (the last 4 pics)

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tribrats
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Risu:
it's hard to determine the age of hermit crabs because the molt rate that they grow is random dependning on enviroment.

i know you didn't ask me, but i've had 2 of my hermit crabs for 3 years this august.

check this out. this woman has had her 2 hermit crabs for 30 years. amazing, isn't it?

Risu, your link didn't work but I suspect you are trying to link to Carol

1/2 way down this page is I believe the pic you may have been trying to show (please correct me if I'm wrong). The one with Kate and the little shells next to her.

Edited to correct spelling and to ask: Risu, do you have any pics to share? I love Hermies! [Big Grin] And to add and official "Welcome to the boards!" I kept forgetting! [fish]

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Risu
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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hehe yea i was trying to link the comparison photo, i wonder why that didn't work [Razz]

This is Luan and this is Realta, my micro ecuadorians, the newest additions to my community.

This is Scuttle, I've had her the longest out of all my crabs, and she's kind of my favorite. She's been burried for weeks though, and as tempted as I am to lok for her I'm waiting it out and hoping she's going through a sexy molt or something [Smile]

thanks for the welcome.

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tribrats
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Awww! How tiny! I hope she's ok. Very pretty.

Can tell mine is ready to molt. His shell is that whitish color instead of the purple it was when we first got him (doesn't really show it in the pic, I snagged him out of the pool). He is the first one that has gone to ground but he comes out every couple days so far to eat and drink so I don't think he's quite ready. Usually they prefer to scare the crap out of me and just spit the molt out. More times than not, I have thought I had a dead crab laying in the tank only to find a pretty pale pink claw blocking the way to the shell.

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Chimera
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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All living things take some amount of care. I didn't mean to sugset that you just throw food in and forget about them. Its just that after taking care of non-releasable animals requiring shots and force feeding and dogs that require a lot of attention, play, ect. crabs don't seem to be the worst of my headaches.

Although I see the point about them being sold as low maintence. My son's collection started when my parents took him to the mall and he saw the holiday painted crabs. They brought one of those things for him to take home. It was in a little plastic critter cage box with a tiny sponge a shell and a few peebles in the bottom. Evidently if you bought the box and food you got a free crab (or the other way around). Anyway I did set up an aquarium for it (then them). I found sand works well for me and crabs love digging in it (or they just like hiding from people, they also like the hiding log). They've got some branches and stuff (things used for reptile cages) for them to climb on as well. They look happy enough (if crabs can be happy). I'll admit one of them (the largest, "Sheepy") is pure evil. My son knows not to touch that one (yea I get to wash my crabs) but the boy likes his little pets and the other crabs seem content... well actually they seem very stupid but not unhappy.

BTW I didn't know they'd eat peanut butter. Is it safe for them? I might have to give that a try. Heck they're crabs, what kind of treats can you give them? Hell even if you do give them a treat do they have enough brain to think its special? Also how many NFBSKing years do the LIVE?!? I saw them as living critters but still on the novelty side. I should've just given in and let the kid have a stupid gerbil. I know what his next pet will be, a goldfish... from the fair.

I know some of you will hate me but I personally collect Beta fish. I started with one in a 5 gallon aquarium. It didn't do anything. They aren't big swimmers from what I've seen. I now keep them in little bowls and masson jars because they seem to do the same thing there as the one I put in an aquarium, which is absolutely nothing. All they seem to do is eat, deficate, and look pretty. I think that's their purpose for existence. However, seeing them as nothing but decorative makes me take care of them all the more. Seeing something belly up in a cloudy bowl isn't pretty IMHO. I'm also constantly cleaning, landscaping and changing the crab habitat. I figure if I'm stuck with crabs I might as well make them look as attractive as posible.

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