Gallery: Prefabs for Hermit Crabs



Prefabricated homes have really evolved over the years, to the point where they really do come in all shapes and sizes. 3D printing has been of immense benefit in this regard, with the world’s first 3D-printed house currently being assembled in Amsterdam. Prefabricated houses aren’t just for people, however, and groups around the world have been putting their creative talents towards creating homes for animals in need… and one of the species being designed for is the ever-fascinating hermit crab.

Why would a hermit crab need a plastic house, you might be asking? Like its distant human relative, the American hermit crab population is currently facing a massive housing shortage: there are simply not enough shells left on beaches anymore for hermit crabs to inhabit. Biologists routinely find crabs attempting to shelter themselves in glass jars, plastic containers and whatever other ill-fitting forms of refuse they can find. Scientists suspect that this sad situation might be due to pollution, but another major contributing factor may be over-collecting of seashells by humans. In order to try to remedy this environmental problem, (and perhaps draw social and cultural analogies?) conceptual artist-cum-bioengineer Elizabeth Demaray decided to give the little guys a “hand-up” a few years ago by mass-producing tiny plastic houses for them.


Another group that’s doing all they can to re-house our hermit crab cousins is Project Shellter, which is currently creating super-stylish 3D-printed shells for wild hermit crabs. While Demaray’s houses are well suited to very young crabs, Shellter’s are larger homes for older animals to move into. This project has been shared via Maker Bot, and people are encouraged to share their own plans for potential hermit crab shells, or just download other people’s patterns and print them on their own machines.

After discovering that hermit crabs around the world were living in everything from shotgun shells to glass bottles (which, if they break, can kill the little crabs), the folks behind Project Shellter made it their mission to create housing for these vulnerable friends. If you happen to be part of the Maker Bot community and would like to help out a crab in need, feel free to print up a home or three for some local crabby folks, or submit a design of your own. Every creature appreciates kindness, and although humans are the ones who have rendered these guys homeless, people are also taking steps to ameliorate the situation as much as possible. Hooray for crabs!

+ Elizabeth Demaray

+ Project Shellter


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  1. tonykw October 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Can anyone provide research showing that there is an actual shortage of shells?

  2. partgypsy July 2, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Sad that humans take shells for decoration while crabs who need them for homes have none, or yet are given plastic crap to use instead : (.

  3. Colm March 15, 2010 at 5:23 am

    totally stupid. ignores the rest of the ecosystem. The fact that rthe hermit crabs are in trouble should be used as an indication that there are a lot of other things going on that aren’t as obvious. Artificially supporting numbers of one species will not fix anything, just alter the problem. and with PLASTIC???

  4. somethingfishy2 March 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    It’s a terrible idea…even if it were to help the hermit crabs, it would be detrimental to the environment and the other creatures in the sea. Plastic, as I’m sure you all know is not biodegradable. It does however get broken down into very tiny particles, which are eaten by zooplankton. The plankton, with their bellies full of plastic then move up the food chain. Eventually, the plastic makes its way all the way up to birds, which ultimately end up dying because their bellies are so full of plastic that there is no room for nutritional food. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an animal lover, but people need to learn to stay back and stop trying to fix every single little problem. Instead of trying to fix problems that we didn’t create, we should be focusing on finding sustainable energy sources and reversing global warming.

  5. Zenalisa March 4, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    It’s a great idea to try and make shells for the wild crabs, they need some homes badly since all the real shells are being taken away.
    But i really think this design needs some work. If they were modeled after REAL SHELLS and made of something that the crab couldn’t accidentally eat (they will chip away at their shells for a better fit,) it would work. These seem really square and they don’t coil very far, which is something that crabs aren’t built for. The need to be rounder, and not so transparent, and made of something smoother. maybe dark, non-reflective glass.
    But my kudos too you for trying to help out :) it’ll work way better if they’re more like real shells though.

  6. ALMK December 3, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I think they should design them more like artificial shells. by the looks of it, it doesn’t look like an abdomen could fit in there comfortable. I own many crabs, and I think the crabs in the wild should have just as good choices as the ones in captivity.
    crabs are also picky from time to time, so different openings, weights, would be nice.. different styles. its like clothes shopping to them.

    also they can’t create a new race of super-crabs – unless the plastic homes some how start breeding with the crabs – because the ‘Giant coconut’ crab, when it cannot find any more shells that are large enough to house it, it goes under, molts, and comes up with an armored abdomen. they’ve been around for awhile.

  7. meldamiriel December 3, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    No, no, no. A thousand times no.
    I would NEVER give these to my hermit crabs and I’ll tell you why.

    First of all, hermit crabs are notorious for chipping away at their shells to make them fit their bodies more comfortably. If a hermit crab can chip it – they’ll eat it. This is fine with natural shells since they’re made of calcium carbonate and hermit crabs need a good amount of calcium to continue to molt and grow.

    The chemicals in plastic are not good for hermit crabs – at all. If they chip away at the plastic and eat it it could potentially harm the hermit crab.

    This is why it is also not a good idea to give a hermit crab a painted shell.

    I would advise everyone to stay away from anything other than natural shells.

    Please check for more information on the proper care of hermit crabs.

  8. hermies4arran July 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but after reading about the plastic design, I’d be willing to let my hermies investigate some plastic shell homes….

  9. LeFrench August 23, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    No more shells?! Recycle escargot shells from French restaurants! Dameet!

  10. Phill February 22, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I once saw a Scandinavian crab in wooden flat pack shell. The natural world is a magical place filled with wonder.

  11. Betty Pugh April 11, 2007 at 8:01 am

    This is darling! And such good research, too.

  12. Chloe March 25, 2007 at 3:37 am

    I once found a hermit crab on a beach in Costa Rica that was using a toothpaste lid.

  13. Erika November 23, 2006 at 9:28 am

    Is this really safe? I mean plastic homes for all naturals creatures. I wouldnt put my hermit crabs in one.

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