Shamed as a Lousy Hermit Crab Mom

For my graduation present, while some parents give trips to Europe or an Armani power suit, my mom gave me a pet hermit crab. Reddish brown with purplish claws, little Tranz (we had difficulty determining its gender) was about an inch long, including a hideous turquoise painted shell with a ceramic penguin on it. Who does that?

I bought some “crab food” nibbles from the local pet store, religiously watered Tranz’s sponge for its water source, and eventually decked out a big glass bowl as they’s* personal household terrarium. Even though I have mixed feelings about pet ownership in general, before long Tranz was scuttling around my room during Game of Thrones episodes, joining me at the park during group picnics and becoming quite popular on my Instagram.

Meanwhile, at my job, where I analyze trends and forecasts related to sustainability issues, I wrote a blog piece about the environmental and social benefits of 3D printing. People heard about it, especially a few mission driven 3D printing startups, to whom I agreed I would feature in a sequel article. “Thank you so much!” one of the founders told me, “Please let me know if there’s anything I can ever do for you!”

“Well…,” I said, “Would you mind printing a new shell for my hermit crab?”

The start-up founder was game, and within a week I sent him specs of Tranz’s future shell. The shell came out beautifully, a work of art really, and was made from a clear PLA resin, a recyclable material derived from corn. I immediately set it out for Tranz to investigate and my little crab seemed interested, but didn’t make any sudden moves towards relocation. I quickly snapped a few photos of Tranz checking out the shell and posted to Instagram that night.

Tranz exploring a potential new 3D printed home

The next morning, I checked my phone to see plenty of new “likes” on the photo and a fair share of comments, too. One of the comments was from a girl in Australia who asked me, “What is the shell made out of?”

I responded, “Clear PLA resin, a recyclable 3D printing material,” happy I had done my homework as a sustainability professional. With that I closed my phone and got ready for a doctor appointment in Midtown. While in the waiting room, I checked my Instagram…omg.

The same Australian girl who had asked me of the shell’s material, and whom I later looked up owns a hermit crab food supply shop in Melbourne, had publicly commented five lines’ worth of criticism of the shell. “That is an unacceptable shell for a crab. Hermit crabs need like to eat their shell to shape it and they will get sunburned from living in a transparent shell…” on and on, and then invited me to join a Facebook group for hermit crab owners.

Just to note, the 3D printed shell was not the only shell Tranz had to choose from in they’s terrarium but was one of an array of natural murexes and moon shells. It was up to Tranz to decide! Also, Tranz is never in direct sunlight and would never get sunburned — if that even is a concern for crabs. But anyway, I thought, “Ok cool, I probably need to join this group as a new hermit crab mom and learn something,” so I joined the group and wrote back:

“Thanks, I joined the group! We’ll see!”

Not too much longer she had written back:

We’ll see? Like experiment on a hermit crab??”

Oh dear, I thought, have I encountered a hermit crab Nazi? I mean, I appreciated her concern, but I’m a good crab mom! I love Tranz. But I felt like she was crab-shaming me like a Park Slope mom teat-shaming one who doesn’t breast feed. If this girl really cared about the welfare of my hermit crab, she could have direct messaged me privately and instructed me on why a 3D printed shell may not have been the best decision for a crab.

I promptly deleted her patronizing comments. But, not five minutes later, I got one more:

“Did you just delete all my comments about experimenting on a hermit crab??”

I then googled “how to block people on Instagram” and blocked her.

I have not heard back from her since, but I did join the Facebook group and it is the most self-righteous, judgmental group I have ever seen. Enthusiastic new hermit owners post pictures of their first “crabitat,” or hermit crab habitat, only to be fiercely hit with a wall of scolding from the more experienced members of the group. I have learned a thing or two about hermit crab rearing, but I never post anything. However I do fantasize about staging questionable photos with Tranz, like over a boiling pot of water or decked out in glitter, just to get a squeal and raucous talking to by the group.

Needless to say, today Tranz and I are close as ever. They’s changed shells from my massive shell collection I amassed as a child visiting my grandma in Florida and is always asked about by my friends.

“Oh Tranz? They’s doing really well. Growing up just fine,” I say merrily like the proud crab mom I am.

Tranz and I sharing a moment


* Tranz had to choose from in “her/his,” or in today’s gender-neutral parlance, “they’s” terrarium, etc.

You can also check out this article on Medium.