Critter Culture
Caring for Your Snail
Small PetsExotic

Caring for Your Snail

Ben, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 15, 2020

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Snails are the perfect pets. They are easy to care for, don't make noise, and are interesting alternatives to more conventional household animals. While some people prefer a conventional pet, snails are probably one of the least offensive pets one can keep. Many people even find them adorable. If you're seeking a low-maintenance critter, look no further than the humble snail.

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1

Snail behavior

Snail climbing out of a plastic box. Викентий Елизаров / Getty Images

Snails are nocturnal, spending their days snoozing and their nights feeding and roaming.  As mentioned before, they like to climb on things. Feel free to play with your snail by letting it climb on you.

Some snails also hibernate. During this process, they won't move a lot. It happens in the winter, or if the temperature drops significantly. You don't have to do anything if you notice your snail hibernating — just let them rest.

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2

Snails love company

Snail riding on another snail's shell. Herbert Kehrer / Getty Images

Snails enjoy the company of other snails and will often sleep next to each other. So if you have one snail, consider getting a few more. They're low maintenance and cheap pets so having a few more snails isn't an inconvenience.

You can also add other creatures to your snail's habitat; worms keep the soil healthy and reduce the risk of mold developing. Plants are also good options and can serve as part of your snail's diet — they love to eat moss and grasses. Ferns also make good decorations and snails tend to leave them alone.

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3

Your snail's diet

Snail eating lettuce. AlexRaths / Getty Images

Most snails are herbivores. They love fruits and vegetables. In general, any remains of fruits and vegetables you have can be fed to snails. Avoid citrus, though, as it can make them sick. Snails can be particular when it comes to what they will eat, so try different foods to see what they like best.

Snails also do well with a calcium supplement; it keeps their shells strong. You can buy supplements from most pet stores.

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4

Your snail's health

Snail on green leaf. gaffera / Getty Images

A snail's lifespan depends on the species. In general, snails live between one and ten years, although there have been reports of pet snails living longer. Some common health problems snails face are cracked shells, retraction, and parasites. For cracked shells, minor breaks heal over time. For a more serious crack, you can try repairing the shell with a special plaster. Snail retraction is when snails won't come out of their shell. It could be due to dehydration, but other times the cause is unknown. To prevent snail parasites, keep their habitat clean.

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5

Picking up a snail

A snail in human hands. VladimirGerasimov / Getty Images

Although snails are not as playful as a dog or cat, you can handle them. Before picking up a snail make sure your hands are clean. Wash them with warm water and soap, so no harmful bacteria gets on the snail.

Place your hand palm-up in your snail's habitat and let them climb on you. Don't lift snails by their shell unless they are inside them. You can stroke the shell but avoid touching the opening. Keep them right-side up on your hand and not too elevated so they don't fall. Let them crawl around on you or a flat surface. The evening or night is the best time to play with a snail, as they are most active then. Wash your hands after.

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6

Maintaining a habitat

Person maintaining a terrarium mixetto / Getty Images

There are a few things to keep in mind with snail enclosures. Snails like damp places, so keep it humid in tanks by spraying water into the tan occasionally. Whenever the substrate feels too dry is a perfect time to mist. Conversely, if it's too damp in a tank mold could grow. Replace the soil if you notice mold growth.

Wipe the walls of a tank once a week with water to remove slime. Also, remove snail waste from the soil a few times a month. Although, earthworms in a tank can do this for you.

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7

Where to get a pet snail

Snail on a green leaf. valentinrussanov / Getty Images

Snails are hard to find in pet stores. Most people consider them pests and there are laws about where you can purchase a snail legally. Unfortunately, popular pet snails, such as Giant African Snails, are illegal to own in the United States as they are invasive species. The best place to get a snail is from your backyard. Luckily, snails are common in America. Your garden or local forest probably has an abundance of snails you can keep as pets.

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8

Setting up a home for your snail

Tropical terrarium. alekseystemmer / Getty Images

Glass or plastic enclosures are ideal for snails. Whichever you use, snails' enclosures should be at least seven inches high and ten inches long. Snails like to explore, so their enclosure should have a heavy lid on it, as snails can lift objects multiple times their body weight. Make sure there are holes in the lid for ventilation. Mosquito netting can prevent outside bugs from getting in.

Add a three-inch layer of soil or compost to the bottom of the tank. Put in more soil if you want to add plants. Spray the tank with water occasionally if the soil gets too dry. Keep the tank out of direct sun as snails like dark, damp places.

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9

Decorating your snail's tank

A tropical terrarium. kikkerdirk / Getty Images

Snails like to crawl over things and enjoy a tank filled with objects they can move around on. Avoid items that are hard like brick or ceramic, as snails could hurt their shells on these. Plastic plant pots can be cut and turned upside-down to make a little snail home. Cork and tree branches also are good for snails to climb on. Snails don't usually drink water, but add a little water dish in their tank to keep humidity levels at a healthy level and for them to bathe in.

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10

Fun facts about the snail

Snail on a globe. Studio-Annika / Getty Images

Snails live on every continent, even Antarctica. Scientists have documented thousands of snail species. They are also almost identical to slugs, the only difference being that snails have shells, and both are related to shellfish. Snails are also social creatures and will often choose to eat together.

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