a kid holding a pet snail

The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Keeping Snails as Pets

Keeping snails as pets have become trendy in recent years. The trend gained massive momentum with the recent pandemic and the quarantine that came with it. Snails are what you can consider easy pets. They don’t need a lot of caring and watching them slithering on their way is pleasing. It is probably much easier to take care of them comparing to other traditional pets like cats, dogs, fish, birds, etc. But you still need to remember that this is a living creature. Therefore, it requires some attention to keep it safe and more important, to keep the owner (you) safe.

8 top reasons why you would want to keep pet snails 

Before getting into which snail species to get, how to find it and how to take care of it, you might wonder why should you get a pet snail in the first place. Well, snails have a lot of qualities that make them a better choice. This might comparing to other pets or comparing to no pets at all.

Easy to keep

Land snails adapt very well in different conditions. You can keep them in just a plastic container, make their own habitat by yourself or buy a glass terrarium from a pet store. It will all be the same to them and you will not hear them complain.

Little maintenance

Caring for pet snails is very simple. You can feed them once a day or every couple of days. Don’t worry about them eating too much. As soon as they are full, they will stop eating. You don’t have to provide them with fresh water. They can get water from their food and from the humidity in the air. You can clean their living terrarium once a in couple of week. 

No need for a walk

Snails spend most of the time on their own. Some snail owners might bring their snails to the gardens for a change of scenery. Others might take them to parties and other gatherings. However, it’s totally fine to leave your pet snails inside its living terrarium all the time.

Interesting to observe

Watching a snail does what he usually do can be very relaxing and interesting. They are slowly gliding from one place to another. Most of the times, they defy gravity by sticking to a vertical wall or even upside down. They are going in and out of their shell home and using their two sets of tentacles. Other activates like eating, mating, laying eggs, are a true spectacular.

Inexpensive hobby

You can get snails at no cost by picking a garden snail. If you are interested, you can buy exotic snails at pet dealers at reasonable prices. The snail’s food is left-over veggies from your fridge. They don’t actually need to be taken to the vet for periodic checking. Basically, the largest expense for keep a snail as pet is the terrarium. Which like we said, can be DIY terrarium.

Great for kids

Kids can take care of pet snails with little supervision from the adults. Once they learn how to keep themselves, they are pretty much set. This is basically sums up to washing hands with soap before and after they hold the snails. They need to be thought the right way to pick up the snail and that is pretty much everything. The snail life cycle is not only interesting to them, but it can teach them a lot of things.

a child hold roman snail

No noise

Another good reason to have pet snails is because they are very quiet. They will not bother your neighbors with barking. They will not wake you up early in the morning or late at night. They will slowly and quietly glide so no one will be bothered by them.

Great for busy schedule

Normally, you would want to take care of your snail at least once a day. That care will usually be provide him fresh food, spray the terrarium with some water and generally check on him and its living condition. However, with a proper setup you can leave them unattended for about a month. They need to have enough fresh air, constant high level of humidity and some food that cannot rot. Having said that, this is not usually recommended.

Best types of snails for a pet

There are many things to consider when choosing the right snail for you as the new pet. Most people will decide based on how it looks. This is definitely a factor but when it comes to snails, there is another, more important factor to consider. Some types of snails can transfer diseases that can hurt the environment or human. Also, Some species of snail are considered very invasive. In fact, the list of the 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Species has not one but three species of snails. 

Having said that, it is very important that you do not import snails from different countries or state before you confirm it is legal to do so. Even if you got a snail from outside your home, it is important that you will make sure it is a snail the native to this area in case you are planning to release it back to the wild.

Garden Snail

Probably the most popular snails to have as pet is the garden snails. It is a dark-brown land snail type that you can easily get without any cost. Moreover, taking care of this small snail is simple. If you do not want to keep it for a long time, you can just put it back to nature. It is around 1.5 inches in size (about 4 cm) and has brown color. 

a garden snail in the grass

Roman Snail

Apart from the general attributes of pet snails, Roman snails are widely used in biology classrooms for enriching student’s observations. Their life span can be up to 20 years if you keep it properly. Although this species is a legal pet snail in the US, they are protected in IUCN Red List. Killing or commercializing them is illegal in the UK.

Giant African Land Snail

Giant African Land Snails are easy to take care of. As their name implies, their size is huge as the adults can be as big as your palms. One of the best parts about this land snail you might not know: the Giant African Land Snails have an excellent sense of smell, that helps them to recognize the owner. However, this species is illegal to have as pet in the US and in some other countries as they are very destructive to the corps.

Apple Snail

If you are looking for a freshwater snail, the apple snail is probably the best choice. They are very popular, attractive in their appearance in both color and size. The most popular apple snail is the spike-topped apple snail, which has different colors like: blue, yellow, pink, brown, etc..

You can easily find apple snails in any aquarium pet shop at a reasonable price.

Where to get pet snails

The easiest way to get a pet snail is by looking around your garden. Probably you can find a garden snail or a roman snail tucking under leaves or plant pots. You can find them in many parts of the nature. So if you didn’t find one in your garden, you can try to look for them in wooded areas around your neighborhood. Some tips on finding them in the nature is looking for them after a rainy day or during the evening. They are much harder to find during a hot day.

If you want them right away, a lot of aquarium and pet shops are now selling various snails (from adult snails to baby snails). You can just pay a visit to one of thoes shops and bring one home.

Another option is to get your pet snails delivered to your door. You can buy pet snail online from eBay, Amazon, etc. There are also a lot of online stores that will supply you in just a few clicks.

How many snails should you get

The average snail is small in size so you might ask yourself how many should you get and keep. There a couple of points to consider before you decide. 

First, most people are not aware but snails are actually social creatures. Many researches show that when given the opportunity, a snail will prefer to eat next to another snail. For example, if you will offer several snails some pieces of lettuce, you will see at least a couple going to the same piece. In addition, when there are several snails, they will usually sleep close to each other which also indicate that they enjoy companionship.

a group of snails hanging out together

So if you believe your new pet will be lonely and want to get him a friend, you can get a couple and put them together. The difference in space is minimal and it will not require that much more effort from you. 

If you do decide to get more than one, make sure that both (or all) of them are from the same species. Keeping different species can be harmful because some snails have deseases that can be harmful to other species.

On the other hand, most snails are hermaphrodite. This means that every snail has both the male and female reprodactive organ. Each can produce the sperm and the egg. So every two snails from the same species can reproduce and make snail babies.

If your mind is set on getting more than two snails in one terrarium, you also need to decide whether or not you are planning to reproduce them. Since they can give birth to hundreds of eggs in one time and reproduce several times each year, you might find yourself in a problem really fast.

The way snails reproduce is fascinating and there are several procedures to apply when you are going to go that route. Probably the most important one is to keep away the snails eggs away from the adult snails to prevent them from eating the eggs. Reproducing snail for a profit is called Heliciculture and there are known technics to achieve that. You can read more about it in our snail farming section.

For those who are not looking into expending their snails population, it is also advised to remove the eggs as quickly as possible. This should be done before they hatch. They should be disposed in an environmentally safe way. If you would just throw them out as they might hatch outside and become an issue.

Keeping and caring for pet snails

As we previously said, snail care is easy. There are several things to pay attention to in order to maintain the snail well-being and the safety of its owner. Those things are very low cost and do not require much effort. The below comprehensive snail care guide will answer most questions a snail pet owner might have.

Terrarium

Depending on how long you want to keep the snails, you may take a plastic box to make the home for your pets (if you just want to observe for a few weeks). Otherwise, a glass terrarium with a fitting lid will be the better option. Make a DIY snail terrarium is also possible without too much effort.

Do not use paper or cardboard containers as a tank. Believe it or not, they can eat the walls and escape.

The size of the terrarium for your snails is calculated based on two main factors. The size of the snail and the amount of pet snails you are planning to keep. You can go into specific consideration but generally speaking, one gallon per snail should be sufficient in most cases. 

Still, even if you will get a relatively large tank of 10 gallons for one snail, it isn’t really too space consuming. 

In any case, you need to clean the home before you start preparing it for your new tenants. The terrarium needs to be thoroughly cleaned using soap. You then need to clean the soap really good to remove all leftovers as this can be hurtful for your snail.

Cleaning the tank after the snail is living there is also easy. Simply take the snail into a temporary place. Remove any food leftovers before they go bad and wipe the tank walls with wet cloth or paper. 

Substrate

The substrates for snails is what you place in the bottom of the terrarium. It can be many things like planting soil, coir (which is a natural fiber extracted from the outer shell of coconuts), humus, turf, etc. The substrate should be about 1-2 inches thick (3-6 cm). It is important to keep in mind that the snails will probably want to dig into this substrate so it is not recommended to use anything like stones, pebbles, sand or anything that will make them more difficult to dig in. 

No matter what kind of substrate you end up choosing, you have to pay attention to two critical points. The material needs to be free of chemical and free of pests. Especially if you decide to use soil and dirt you find outside. Chemicals and pesticides, can obviously kill your snails. But unseen pests can cause a severe damage as well. 

Some people go through the trouble of sterilizing the soil by putting it in very high or very low temperatures. For example putting it in the oven or in the freezer. However, that is not needed in most cases. 

The pH level of the soil if also important. It should have a pH level of above 6. Lower than that means the soil can be too acid for the little guy and we want an healthy snail. Soil testers are very cheap and you can easily buy it in many stores or online. 

On top of the substrate it is recommended to have sphagnum moss. The moss will make your snail happy and also help keeping the humidity high which is very important. 

Air ventilation

Like many living creatures, snails take up oxygen (O2) and release carbon dioxide (CO2). It is important the the house of the pet snail will always get fresh air. If you buy your terrarium from a store, you probably already have some kind of opening in the lids. Make sure they are smaller than your snail or it might run out (or glide very slowly out). If you are making your own home for the snail, make a few holes in the box so air can move in and out. 

The lid of the terrarium must be securely closed with no gaps. Snail are delicate but they can lift dozen times their own weight. If you cover the box with a small cardboard you might wake up one morning to find an empty home.

Temperature and humidity

Snails are pretty flexible in many ways including their preferred temperature. There are snails species that live in the deserts while others live in the snow. However, for the common garden snail pet, a suitable temperature can be between 65-85 F (18-30 C). When it is too hot for them they will go inside their shell to rest and wait for a cooler time. When it gets too cold, they will try to dig into the soil and will close the lid of their shell until it is warmer.

The terrarium must be kept away from a direct sunlight as it can become too hot for the snail. Without a way to find a cooler place, the snail might die. 

If your home (or wherever you keep your pet) is colder than 65 degrees, you probably should equip the terrarium with a heating pad. You can heat only part of the terrarium and by that allowing the snail to find its own sweet spot.

Humidity is very important for snails. The optimal humidity for snail growth is around 75%-90%, and it can be easily achieved by using a small spraying bottle. You can spray some water inside the habitat once a day or every couple of days depends on how humid the room is.

Getting a temperature and humidity meter is something that can be bought for very cheap. It will make the supervision of the conditions much easier.

Making it a home

The habitat is almost ready. Just before you are putting the snail in, the last step will be to make this terrarium into a home.

Snails enjoy hiding, climbing and gliding all around. Place some plant pots, small tree branches, piece of bark or anything like that to keep the snail entertained. 

The home decoration should be something that does not rotten or can damage the little guy. Many items that work for other pets like lizards, iguanas, etc. will do just fine. For example cork bark, leaf, etc.

a snail climbing on a branch

How to feed pet snails

Most snails are vegetarian (or more correctly, herbivores). They are easily fed with apples, carrots, cucumber, and leafy greens. Providing them a dish of these veggies once a day is sufficient. You don’t have to worry about giving them too much food. Unlike like many other pets, they will stop eating when they are full and pick up later when they are ready to eat again. 

The food doesn’t have to be placed in a food bowl. But make sure you will not have rotten food and remove it before it gets bad. The food has to be cleaned to remove any pesticides or residue. Organic fruits and vegetables are preferred but they need to be washed as well.

A key ingredient in the snail diet is a source of calcium. The calcium is very important for the snail’s shell. It makes it stronger and bigger. There are many ways to provide calcium to your pet. You can crush empty eggshells, chalk, etc. However, probably the best and easiest way is just throw cuttlefish bones in the tank. A cuttlefish bone is something you can find in any pets store.

In any case, do not feed your new pet with any citrus food and never put salt in their tank.

It is not mandatory to put water in your adult snail terrarium. They usually get their water from the humidity in the air and from their food. If you are interested, you can place a shallow dish of water inside the tank. Don’t put anything deep as they can easily drown. 

How to hold pet snails

Before you hold your snail pet, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Wash away all soap residue and dry your hands. Next, get your hands a little moist. The easiest way to do it is by using your water spray bottle. 

Now for picking up the little guy. Never pick it from its body with your fingers. It is also not recommended to pick up your snail from its shell. Especially if it hangs on tightly to whatever surface it is on. Force pick up in such way can break his shell or hurt the part that connect the shell to the body. 

The best way to pick it up is to invite it to crawl onto your hands. You can also encourage it to go on a leaf you place in front of it and pick up the leaf.

The snail might enjoy gliding on your hands and fingers for a few minutes. But he will probably feel more comfortable in its tank so try not to hold it for periods of time longer than 10 minutes.

After you finish playing with your pet, place it gently back in its home. Then wash your hand again very thoroughly with soap and water. 

Although they can be cute pet, they can also be a source for diseases so sanitary is very important. 

Conclusion

Keeping snails is a great way for connecting with nature and also helping many of us to reduce stress in this busy world. Hopefully, this ultimate pet snail guide helped you understand how exciting it can be to become a snail pet owners.

What next?

Name your pet. Would you prefer a funny name like: Speedy, Crusher, Hercules, Rocket, etc. Or maybe a normal person name like: Jack, Phil, Myra, etc.

Open an Instagram account and get some cute pictures. 

cute picture of a snail pet
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