It is very difficult (and in some cases even impossible) to tell if a snail is pregnant just by looking at it. However, knowing the type of snail you have, can help you look for signs that will indicate whether or not you should expect baby snails soon.
You will need to know, among other things, if your snail is hermaphroditic or gonochoristic. In addition, you should find out whether the type of snail you have lay eggs (most of them are) or give birth to live offspring.
Is My Snail Pregnant?
Obviously, a snail needs to get pregnant first. Snails cannot reproduce without a mate. So if you have just one and had it for a while, it is probably not pregnant. If you just got it or have more than one, read on.
Hermaphroditic snails, also called hermaphrodites, have both sets of sexual organs under the shell: male and female.
You do not need individual males and females for them to breed; they will breed with each other regardless. They have both organs. During the reproduction process, they can each get pregnant or just one of them.
Examples of hermaphroditic snails:
Gonochoristic only have one set of sexual organs, like many other animals. They are either male or female and can’t switch from one to the other. You would need to have a couple – one male and one female (at least) in a tank for them to breed.
You cannot put two single-gender gonochoristic snails together (female plus another female, for example) and expect them to produce fertilized eggs that successfully hatch.
Examples of gonochoristic snails include:
The Difference Between Egg-Laying Snails and Live-Bearing Snails
The type of snail you have will also dictate if their babies will start as eggs or live snails. This will also help you identify irregular behavior in your snail pet that indicates it is pregnant.
Some snails are egg-laying, with the eggs first ‘stored’ in the genital tube. In fact, quite a few gastropods take a laying-eggs approach to reproduction, including the common brown snail that you’ll likely see if you look in the back garden.
Other common egg-laying snails include:
- Nerite Snails
- Assassin Snails
- Mystery snails
- Apple Snails
- Giant African Land Snails
Some snails do not lay eggs. Instead, the snail is pregnant and gives birth to babies rather than eggs. Some know these as live bearers, or live-bearing snails.
The eggs develop inside the female’s genital tube and then hatch. The baby snails slither out once they are ready and fully developed, after a few days.
Examples of Snails that give birth to live snails:
- The Achatinella genus, also known as Oʻahu Tree Snails, found in Hawaii
- Alabama Live-Bearing Snail, also known as Tulotoma
- Japanese Trapdoor Snails
How Can You Tell if an Egg-Laying Snail is Pregnant?
Females laying eggs will carry a small clutch of roughly 100 eggs, attached to their bodies. This is hidden under the snail’s shell, in the genital tube, but can be seen once the body uncurls.
You will sometimes need to wait for a while to see if the female unfurls from her shell to reveal the genital tube on the left side, along with her eggs.
It is not recommended to pry the snail’s body from the shell to check for signs of snail eggs.
Eventually, the female will lay eggs in the tank or surroundings. Different species of snail like different egg-laying spots. They will also have different behaviors in the preparatory period.
How Can I Tell if a Live-Bearing Snail is Pregnant?
One of the first signs that your snail is carrying eggs is seeing them dive deep into the substrate of the tank. This is common behavior from all pregnant snails that belong to the family Viviparus.
Pregnant live bearers will bury and hide in the substrate to try and keep their clutch of snail eggs safe. It will look like she is trying to disappear, because she is.
The eggs hatch inside the snail’s shell and stay there until the babies are developed enough to leave. The mother knows she must keep her babies safe, so she buries herself. It is safer for her and her eggs to be hidden away, so she can give them the greatest shot at survival.
How Long is a Snail Pregnant?
Most snail species have a pregnancy length of approximately two weeks long. This does vary from species to species and type to type, however.
Garden snails, for example, bury eggs in soil roughly two weeks after the egg-layer has managed to fertilize an egg with sperm (get pregnant).
Is My Mystery Snail Pregnant?
Mystery snails lay snail eggs. They are gonochoristic, too. You will need both a male and a female in a tank for successful breeding to occur. Females carry eggs in her genital tube, which you will be sometimes able to see under closer inspection.
Do Snails Die After Mating?
No, snails do not die after mating; although, some species do lose a considerable amount of weight during egg-laying. This can cause them to become weak and unwell, and then potentially die.