Pet Snails: How To Keep Snails Healthy & Happy

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: February 2, 2022
Image Credit Terelyuk/Shutterstock.com
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Snails may just be some of the best pets out there! They are low to upkeep, don’t need tons of attention, and can be super fun to play with (even if they don’t fetch). People place snails in their fish tanks or just in tanks on their own, each with its own benefits. Let’s look at the best things you can do when owning snails and how you can keep them happy and healthy!

What do pet snails eat?

Pet Snails: How To Keep Snails Healthy & Happy
Snails eat vegetation like leaves, vegetables, and algae.

iStock.com/Daniela Schröder

Generally, pet snails will happily eat leaves, plant material, algae, fruits, and vegetables.

There are a few things to consider when feeding your snails. The first is the type of snail that you have. There are three types of snails: land snails, freshwater snails, and sea snails. Each of these will have different preferences across the board, from diet to habitat. Ensure that you follow the correct guide for your specific type of snail.

Land snails (the kind you find in gardens and outside) are simple. They prefer green plant material, fungi, and algae. To feed them, simply place some plant material in their tank and allow it to sit for a few days. Snails know what they like and will choose the things they prefer. Most land snails eat vegetables, leafy greens, and root vegetables. Make sure that you dispose of any leftover plant material after a few days, or it will begin to rot.

Freshwater snails are pretty simple. They are often bought and placed in tanks for the sole purpose of acting as a cleaner. Freshwater snails clean algae off of tank glass and will eat any rotting organic material in the tank (things like fish poop and dead fish). Most of the time, an owner won’t even have to feed their freshwater snails, provided there is algae or organic material inside.

Saltwater snails operate in much the same way. Sea snails also live in water, only instead of fresh water, it’s saltwater. They eat similar things to freshwater snails as well, mostly algae and plant material. They are great scavengers and love to eat anything dead and organic that they stumble upon. Certain saltwater snail species are carnivorous, however, and require small bivalves to hunt, so keep that in mind.

Where should I keep my pet snail?

Pet Snails: How To Keep Snails Healthy & Happy

Land snails prefer moist environments with substrate and things to climb.

Terelyuk/Shutterstock.com

Land snails need a small enclosure made of glass or plastic. Your pet snail can be kept in a 1-gallon tank, but a 10-gallon tank would allow for future growth and some more snails. They don’t need a heat source, but they do need plenty of ventilation with a lid since they can climb the sides. For the enclosure, simply add some substrate (mostly fresh, unfertilized soil) with some leaves and sticks. Moss is also a great addition that can hold moisture in the enclosure. A few sticks will encourage climbing (something snails love), and a place for them to hide is a sure way to keep them happy. Occasional sprays of water will help keep things humid.

Freshwater and sea snails need similar environments. If you are keeping them with fish, placing a few of them in the tank is simple since you already have an existing environment. They like to climb the glass and occasionally the structures within the tank. Like the land snails, having a lid is paramount since they all have the ability to climb out and harm themselves by accident.

Can I keep my snails with other animals?

Pet Snails: How To Keep Snails Healthy & Happy
Land snails should be kept alone, but aquatic snails often do well with fish.

Dcschmidt – Public Domain

Some snails work well with others, but some don’t. Land snails should be kept apart from any other animals, especially ones that would consider them food. The larger species (like the African giant snail) are large enough that a tank wouldn’t even feel empty with them in it. Keeping snails with lizards or other animals risks harm to your snail.

Freshwater snails and sea snails are a little different than land snails. They actually prefer living alongside other animals such as fish. They create a small ecosystem where the fish create poop, which then creates algae, which the snails then eat and clean the tank in the process. If you are keeping snails in your tank, keep in mind that some species of fish will eat their eggs or the snails themselves. This is sometimes done intentionally to prevent too many snails from taking over a tank, but any owners should be aware. Additionally, some snails need other animals to eat! The assassin snail, for instance, kills and eats other snails. It’s important that they have a food source if they are going to be kept as a pet.

Do I need to provide new shells for my pet snail?

Unlike many species of hermit crab, snails don’t need shells provided by humans. They are born with the beginnings of a shell and then grow them more extensively over time. As a result, humans don’t need to provide larger shells for them to grow into.

It is important to note that humans need to provide a calcium source to keep a snail happy and healthy with a growing shell. In fact, once snails are born, they will immediately eat their eggshell for the calcium. They also occasionally eat the eggs of their siblings!

What happens if my pet snail lays eggs?

Pet Snails: How To Keep Snails Healthy & Happy
Snails are hermaphrodites and only need two individuals to reproduce.

Guillermo Guerao Serra/Shutterstock.com

Snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that if two snails are together, they can have baby snails! There are no “male or female” snails, so any two snails of the same species are likely to breed.

In a land snails tank, this won’t happen unless there are multiple snails. If it does happen (because you have 2+ snails), you have a few options. The first is to allow them to hatch (which will take about 2-4 weeks) and raise them for life in your tank! Besides that, simply placing them outside or tossing them away are also options.

In a freshwater or saltwater tank, it is much more likely for snails to have eggs. This naturally happens and creates a small circle of life within the tank. If there are too many snails being born and they begin to overpopulate the tank, there are a few options. The first is to simply dispose of the eggs. The second is to take the eggs and expose them to the fish, allowing them to be eaten. A third option is to get a carnivorous snail to eats them. This would keep their populations in check.

A human hand holds an African snail in the palm in the street in the summer.
A human hand holds an African snail in the palm in the street in the summer.
Terelyuk/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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