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Is Acrylic Paint Safe for Hermit Crabs?

Hermit crabs are fun, easy-to-care-for pets. They change shells every so often, moving into larger ones. You can find shells with acrylic paint in pet shops, and many people paint their own. There’s a lot to know before you try it for yourself!

So, is acrylic paint safe for hermit crabs? Acrylic paint is non-toxic, so it’s mostly safe to use. You’ll want to avoid painting inside the shell and make sure the paint won’t chip or crack off. Lastly, don’t use dark colors as they can absorb heat.

Overall, acrylic paint is mostly safe for hermit crabs. As long as you take care while painting, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about! Everything you need to know is below, so let’s keep reading.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Hermit Crabs?

Acrylic paint isn’t toxic to hermit crabs, so it shouldn’t harm them. They can’t absorb paint through the shell’s hard surface. However, you want to make sure the pigment isn’t inside the shell, just to be safe.

You’ll need to choose an acrylic paint that comes with non-toxic branding. While most types of acrylic paint aren’t toxic, it’s still a good idea to be sure. Your hermit crab will appreciate it!

Apple Barrel is a great brand that is non-toxic and even kid friendly. This would be great to use on a hermit crab’s shell.

You’ll want to choose paint that won’t crack or chip off. It could make its way into your crab’s food or water, where they ingest it. Since it’s non-toxic, small amounts shouldn’t hurt the crab, but it’s still best to be safe.

 Plus, these paints are non-toxic to us, but hermit crabs are a lot smaller than we are, so they can’t handle exposure to as many chemicals as we can. If you notice the paint chipping off the shell, place a clean paint-free one in the tank for the crab to move into.

Can You Paint a Hermit Crab’s Shell?

You can paint a hermit crab’s shell, but you should only do this if there isn’t a crab already living inside it. After painting the shell, let it dry completely. Then, when your crab is ready to move into a larger shell, mist the interior with salt water and place it in its habitat.

The crab should naturally move into your new painted shell, as long as it’s the right size for them. Painting the shell with the crab inside is a bad idea because it could become very messy. Plus, the paint won’t have time to dry before the crab can rub it off.

So, while you can paint a hermit crab’s shell, you should always do so with some precautions. It’s best to use a sterile, new shell bigger than the crab’s current one. Also, while you can paint their shells, that doesn’t mean they’ll choose to move into a painted shell. Never force your crab to move into a shell they don’t like.

How To Paint a Hermit Crab’s Shell

First, you’ll need to sterilize the empty shell. To do this:

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  1. Boil a pot of water on the stove.
  2. Place the shell inside for about five minutes.
  3. Remove the clean shell with tongs and set it on a clean paper towel.
  4. Give the shell a few hours to dry, so it’s completely cool to the touch.

Next, set up your acrylic paints and work on the shell. You should only paint the outside section of the shell. Painting a shell is a lot different than painting on paper or canvas- it has a lot of grooves and bumps that catch the paint! You may want to prepare a shell to practice on first.

You should also consider what colors you use carefully. Dark paints can absorb heat, harming the crab since they live in very humid environments. Try to use mostly light colors to help keep the hermit crab comfortable.

After you finish, make sure you give the paint ample time to dry and seal onto the surface of the shell. It’s best to wait at least half a day to know it won’t be wet when you put it in the crab’s tank. Many crab owners prepare the shells well ahead of time, so they have them ready when their pet shows signs of molting.

To seal the shell, I recommend using Mod Podge. It’s non-toxic and it will leave a nice glossy finish.

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Can You Use Nail Polish on a Hermit Crab?

You should never use nail polish on a hermit crab shell! Nail polish is toxic to many animals. The crabs can easily absorb those chemicals if they make contact with it. Fresh nail polish also releases a lot of fumes that the crabs are sensitive to.

Hermit crabs might also ignore shells with nail polish on them because they hate the smell. They’re much more likely to go for a natural shell than one with fumes coming off it.

You should never use nail polish on a hermit crab- especially if they’re already in the shell. You could harm your pet, so always use the proper non-toxic paints.

Non-Toxic Paint for Hermit Crabs

When painting hermit crab shells, you should only use non-toxic paints. If you need quality, non-toxic paints, then always go for acrylics. There are tons of options that you can find on the market today.

However, if you’re even slightly unsure of the paint, you can always apply a non-toxic, waterproof sealant to it. This process ensures the paint doesn’t chip and fall off into the hermit crab’s tank.

Another great non-toxic brand is Crayola. You can use their Tempera Paints for your hermit crab shell project. Tempera paint is non-toxic and preferred by parents and teachers. It’s also easily washable.

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After painting the shell and drying it, apply the non-toxic sealant to it. You’ll want to work slowly, only adding one layer at a time and letting it dry. Then, let the shell dry for a few days before offering it to the crab. You need to wait, so it has enough time to cure the whole through.

Other types of paint can be very toxic, including oil paints. You should never use them on your hermit crab’s shell. You won’t get excellent results with anything other than acrylic paints anyway.

Is Paint Toxic to Hermit Crabs?

Acrylic paint isn’t toxic to hermit crabs when it’s dry. Wet paint can be an issue, so prepare your shells well in advance.

It’s important to note that hermit crabs will only choose to move into painted shells when there are no natural ones available. They prefer unpainted shells. So, while acrylic paint isn’t toxic to them, the hermit crab probably still won’t like it very much.

You need to be careful when buying hermit crabs in pre-painted shells. Some stores force the crabs into them before they’re ready to molt, which can harm the creatures.

If you do want to paint your hermit crab shells at home, always use non-toxic acrylic paint before the crab moves into it.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, acrylic paint is non-toxic, so it shouldn’t harm your pet when you take care to paint the shells properly. Many hermit crabs won’t choose painted shells over natural ones, however. If your crab doesn’t move into the painted shell, you shouldn’t force it. Instead, offer it a clean natural shell.

Lastly, never use any other paints on the shell! Oil paint and nail polish can be extremely harmful to the hermit crab. You shouldn’t risk your pet’s health, so only use the safest possible options when you want to paint a hermit crab’s shell.

Make sure to follow all my tips and recommended products to ensure your acrylic project turns out great! Also, don’t forget to check out my other articles for all your painting Q&A’s. Happy painting! 

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