Let's face it. People love to decorate. No matter what age they are, any person can appreciate art and fashion. When it comes to pet keeping, there isn't much I haven't seen. From Dog Sweaters to Cat Clothes, people love to decorate their pets. Hermit crabs, in nature, are known for their uncanny ability to hide and disguise themselves, even at the expense of their surroundings. I've seen hermit crab species decimate other living organisms, such as coral, and use the pieces to hide their shells. This distinct survival skill is one of the many reasons why the hermit crab species has survived for so long.
One of the reason you don't see painted shells on this site is because the crabs seem to do better with natural shells. Weather it's the paint, the bright colors, or maybe just the personal taste of the hermit crab. From a commercial point of view it wouldn't be a good idea to not include painted shells on this site. Everybody wants them. They are inexpensive and readily available, however, they have certain moral implications and after doing several months of research, we have decided not to include them here. From a hobbyist point of view, one may never see the difference between a hermit in a natural shell, and one in a painted shell. Over the years, being in the business, we have witnessed a distinct advantage to hermit crabs WITHOUT a painted shell. Perhaps it's the camouflage, or maybe the paint itself. One must understand the anatomy of a crab to realize that its shell changes over time, and occasionally, after molting, it is very permeable. This means its open to the air and certain gases and chemicals may exchange molecules directly through the membrane of the shell (skin) of the crab itself.
I hope this "sheds" some light on the controversy. Even though they are pretty to look at, we here at livehermitcrabs.com, do not endorse hand painted shells for hermit crabs. As a suggestion, if you must have painted ones, please keep non-painted shells available for your hermits at all time. At least give them a chance to have a perfectly natural home to live in.
Please see our links section for additional information on hermit crabs and the proper care for them.