The Big-But-Simple Guide to Creating an Amazing Snail Terrarium

A snail terrarium is a great, low-maintenance learning tool for little kids and big kids alike. Snails are easy to care for and fascinating to observe, and once your little habitat is set up, they are one of the easiest pets in the world to take care for.

What is a Snail Terrarium?

The dictionary definition of terrarium is:

1. a vivarium for land animals (distinguished from aquarium)

2. a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants

Can a Snail Live in a Terrarium?

Yes, land snails can live in a terrarium.

Snails actually require remarkably little to survive. With the right environment and stable conditions, your new pet will be just as happy in a terrarium as they are in any other kind of enclosure.

cute terrarium with toys

Can a Snail Survive in a Closed Terrarium?

A snail can survive in a closed terrarium, but the tank should have airflow. You can’t cut off your snail’s oxygen supply and hope it’ll live!

Do Snail Terrariums Need Air?

Yes, snail terrariums do need air. Believe it or not, they have lungs just like you do.

The snail home must have a ventilation system or function, which can be as simple as small holes poked through a plastic lid. Some purpose-created tanks have vented lids or sections.

How Big Does a Snail Terrarium Need to Be?

A terrarium for a snail needs to be big enough to allow the snail to happily live, sleep, move around, and explore a bit.

One small-to-medium size snail (like a garden snail) should live in a 5-gallon container.

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If you have two snails, you will want bigger– a 6 to 10 gallon tank.

Allow 1 to 2 gallons for every snail, so three snails would require 8 to 10 gallons and four snails should have a 10-to-12-gallon container. The more space you can give your snails, the happier they are likely to be.

Dark image of terrarium

How Do You Start a Snail Terrarium?

It’s very easy to start a basic terrarium. It could literally be as simple as grabbing a 5 gallon (or bigger) glass tank, adding soil, throwing a few hiding spots in, then adding one or two garden snails that you found in the back yard.

Your snail’s container can be super simple or as complex. The conditions should match the snail’s natural habitat: in this case, your back garden.

Snail Terrarium Setup Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up your very first snail pet enclosure:

Step One: Consider a Snail Terrarium Kit

If you want a super quick and easy (and lazy) way to set up a terrarium, you can buy ready-to-go kits, both online and in some pet stores.

Kits usually consist of the tank itself, soil or other substrate, some plants, decorative items, etc.

The terrarium doesn’t have to be made from glass. You can buy plastic setups along with various other materials.

Make sure the enclosure has a door that can be firmly shut and locked. Snails can lift top-opening homes, even lifting many times their own weight.

Sideways-sliding doors are not recommended for snails. If the snails are on the glass behind the door, you run the risk of injuring them when you open it.  

snail terrarium

Step Two: Clean the Enclosure

You will want to clean and then rinse the tank to make sure it is safe and free from toxic compounds.

Clean with soap, then make sure that all soap has been removed. Consider using an all-natural, chemical-free cleaner with antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Step Three: Add Substrate

Snails like to hide and bury themselves in a layer of soil, etc., so it is best to add base material that allows for it.

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The substrate layer should be two inches deep or more, and one of the following:

  • Dirt/earth from your garden

  • Compost or potting soil from stores

  • Tropical terrarium mix

  • Coco coir

  • Orchid bark

Some people like to add a mix of ingredients – potting soil and orchid bark, for example – in different areas or corners, to allow the snail some freedom of choice. You will soon get an idea of which substrate materials your snail prefers.

Some commercially sold potting soil or compost mixes are often contaminated with chemicals, such as pesticides, that could prove harmful to your gastropod pets.

Substrate should be pH neutral. Because of this, certain materials, such as moss, should be avoided at all costs. It might be tempting because of how green and soft it looks, but acidic peat moss is not recommended.

You should also avoid using gritty materials in your base layer, such as sand; sharp-edged materials, such as rocks; or very hard materials that can crack the snail’s shell, such as pebbles.

Step Four: The Snail Terrarium Plants Debate

Although it’s tempting to add living plants to the soil, you must remember that snails will probably eat them. Fake ones suitable for fish tanks and similar are best.

Step Five: Add Snail Terrarium Décor

You can add a wide variety of things, including fish tank-safe decorations, providing they can’t damage your gastropod. Sharp edges are not advised.

Wood and tree branches can be added provided they have been properly sterilised and potential splinters have been removed.

Cuttlefish is a great addition. The snails will slowly eat it, boosting calcium intake. If you place the cuttlefish up higher in the terrarium, the snails will also get some exercise!

Avoid adding a water dish. Land snails can easily drown in even shallow water.

Step Six: Get the Conditions Right

You will need to know the conditions for your specific snail species, and you may need to invest in tools.

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What Temperature Do Snails Need in a Terrarium?

If you have giant African snails, you should recreate a tropical environment – 68 to 74F (20-29C).

Garden snails have a wider temperature range – 65 to 85 F (18 to 30C).

A thermometer will help you keep track of the temperature in your terrarium. You may need to add a heat mat if the temperature dips.

What Humidity Do Snails Need in a Terrarium?

Giant African snails require 80 to 90% humidity.

Most snail species are happy at 70% humidity or more, but it will vary from species to species.

You can use a humidity meter to keep check of the levels. You can increase humidity by misting with a spray bottle of clean, fresh water.

Step Seven: Find the Right Spot

If you put your new terrarium in a bright, sunlit spot in your home, it will start to turn into a greenhouse in hot weather. It is best to find a warm, shaded spot to keep your new pet.

Snail Terrarium Maintenance and Cleaning

Although snails are low maintenance and easy to care for, they will still need cleaning.

Substrate should be changed every four to six weeks.

The glass sides and lid will also need cleaning to remove the snails’ mucus smears.

Any fruits, vegetables, and other foods that have not been eaten and has started to turn bad should be removed. It’ll start to smell otherwise, and it’ll start to attract flies and other pests.