how to keep pet snails

How to Keep Pet Snails [your beginners guide to snail keeping]

Did you ever think about having a snail as a pet? You might think that’s a weird choice of animal to care for, but snails can be interesting and rewarding pets. 

Pet garden snails are easy pets. It’s simple to care for them and they don’t need much to keep them happy. Snails might not be as cuddly as a dog, but raising a healthy snail is as simple as taking care of its basic needs and giving it a little love, and can be rewarding.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about keeping snails as a pet and just maybe it will help you decide if a pet snail is a good choice for you!

are pet snails fun

Pros & Cons of Keeping a Pet Snail

Keeping pet land snails comes with many rewards. They have simple needs and place little demand on their owners, making them near-perfect pets, especially for children. 

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Pet Snail

Pros of Keeping a Pet Snail

  • Low cost
  • Low maintenance
  • Quiet
  • Easy to feed
  • No need to take them for a walk
  • No need to train them
  • They’re fascinating to watch
  • Great for young children

Another significant benefit is that if you can’t or don’t want to keep caring for them, you can release snails into your garden, and they’ll carry on living a happy life.

Cons of Keeping a Pet Snail

There aren’t a lot of cons to taking care of garden snails. The biggest issue is that the average life span of a pet snail is only one to five years, which is shorter than some other pets like cats and dogs.

Types of Land Snails

One snail might look like any other snail to most of us, but there are thousands of different species across the globe. 

Types of Land Snails

They come in a wide range of colors and shell shapes and can be as small as the tip of a pen or as large as your hand. 

Of all the different snails, the most common are garden snails, Roman snails, and giant African land snails. Each of these snails has striking features, most often the colors of their shells. 

Garden Snails

These snails, also known as cornu aspersum, grow to around 1.5 inches (4 cm) long. Their shell’s pattern is a mixture of mahogany, chestnut, and even golden-brown markings.

Roman Snails

Another common species of snail is the Roman snail or helix pomatia. 

These wild snails are large, with an average shell height of 1.5 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) and a height of 1.5 inches (4 to 4.5 cm). Their shell is light brown to cream with darker markings.

Roman Snails

Roman snails are a delicacy in some countries. They make up the food commonly known as escargot, which is French for ‘snail’. 

Giant African Land Snails 

The name refers to a wide variety of large snail species. These massive snails grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length with a width of 4 inches (10 cm). 

They’re also often kept as pets because they’re larger species and fascinating creatures. 

Internationally, giant African land snails are the most frequently occurring invasive species of snail. These snails are even on the list of the top 100 invasive species in the world. 

Warning! Giant African Land Snails are illegal in the United States because they destroy crops and carry desease unless you have a permit.

Where to Get Pet Snails

Pet snails are easy to find in your backyard, and sometimes you’ll find them for sale in a pet store or online. 

In the wild, you’ll find snails on hedges, in wooded areas, on the edge of ponds, and in marshes. 

You might have to put a little effort into finding them as they like to hide under leaves, sticks, or in plants and bushes.

The best time of day to look for snails is at night, as snails are nocturnal. This means they’ll be sleeping during the day and scooting around in the dark looking for food. 

Snails don’t like direct sunlight, so they’ll tuck themselves into dark corners to keep away from the light. 

What Does a Pet Snail Need to Survive?

A pet snail needs the necessities in life: food, water, and shelter. If you can give your snails what they need, you’ll have happy and healthy snails. 

If kept in unclean terrariums and not given the right type and amount of food or calcium supplements, your snail will like become sick or even die.

Snail Food 

Snails are herbivores, which means they like to eat fresh vegetables and leafy greens. They’re especially fond of dandelion leaves. 

Do Snails Eat Fruit?

Snails also eat fruit like apples and bananas, but it’s best to avoid citrus as this can harm them.

It’s important to make sure that your snails have access to fresh food. No one wants to eat limp lettuce or brown veggies, and neither do your snails. 

Do Snails Eat Fruit

Fresh foods give your snails the vitamins and minerals they need, while old food has depleted minerals and vitamins. 

Another food source is specially-made snail food. The easiest place to find this is online at pet store sites or bigger merchants like Amazon. 

Specialized snail food often contains added calcium to promote healthy shell growth.

You’ll be surprised to hear this, but dog food is also a great source of nutrition for snails.


Constant access to fresh water is vital to snails. They’re ‘wet’ creatures in that they prefer damp, humid environments, but they need to drink water, too. 

Be sure to monitor their water levels and change out the older water for fresh water every couple of days.


Calcium is a vital part of a snail’s shell growth. Without enough calcium, a snail’s shell can become cracked, flaky, and brittle. 

This puts the snails in a dangerous position as the shell protects their body and internal organs. 

A weak shell means that at substantial risk for serious damage to its soft tissues. 

In the worst-case scenario, a snail could lose or irreparably damage its shell. When that happens, they die.

Thankfully, it’s easy to give your snail a calcium source. You can use cuttlefish bone, egg shells, or calcium supplements to give a snail the calcium it needs. 

These are easily accessible in pet stores, online, or in your home.

Simply add a small quantity of your calcium source to your terrarium and replace it when you see your snail has eaten it. 

Snail Terrarium

There are many ways for you to create a terrarium or home for your snail. A terrarium is a lot like an aquarium but without water. 

You can use a glass or plastic fish tank, a small container, or a plastic tub of the right size. 

Don’t use cardboard as it will absorb the moisture in the tank and your snail can eat through it and escape.

What’s important is that your container doesn’t contain any chemicals. 

Used Tupperware that’s been exposed to cleaning products or an old bucket used to wash paint brushes is not good for your snail. New Tupperware or other new containers will work just fine.

You’ll need the following for your terrarium:

  • Water bowl
  • Food bowl 
  • Substrate
  • Hiding place
  • Live plants
  • Covering for your tank

Water and Food Bowls

Food and water are vital for any animal. Use flat bowls to feed your snail so they have easy access and use shallow water bowls so your snail can climb in if they want to bathe.

Snails love to climb, and sometimes they drop from a height. Try to avoid hard bowls made of glass or ceramic as a snail can hurt itself or crack its shell if they fall onto it.

Tank Substrate

The substrate covers the bottom of a snail’s home. You can make your substrate from materials like garden soil, peat-free potting soil, or sphagnum moss. 

Sphagnum moss is especially useful for retaining the moisture snails need.

Use a couple of inches of substrate to cover the bottom of the terrarium. This will simulate their natural habitat. Some snails even like to burrow into the soil to hide. 

Snails Need Hiding Places

A hiding place is important as garden snails like to live in dark places. As nocturnal creatures, they try to avoid light during the day and they can’t do this if they have no place to hide. 

You can get creative with the spaces you create for them using sticks, stones, plants, and other objects. You can also buy hides in stores or online. 

Aquarium hides work well for making dark, protected spaces for your snails.


Live plants are a prominent feature of a snail terrarium. They give snails a place to hide, stimulation, and exercise. 

You can use small plants from your garden to recreate that natural feeling but be sure to do your research and to make sure the plants are safe for the snail. 

Terrarium Covering

Because snails can crawl up the sides of a container, it’s important to have a secure lid or covering that stops them from climbing out the top. 

When a snail gets loose, it can fall and damage its shell, injure itself in an accident, or get lost. 

How Many Pet Snails Can You Keep in a Tank?

This depends largely on how much space you have for their home. Snails need one gallon of space per snail, so if you have a five-gallon terrarium, you can have five snails. 

Having more space is great, but you don’t want to overcrowd your terrarium as this will make it difficult to keep the terrarium clean.

Some say that snails are social creatures, so having more than one will fulfill their socializing needs. 

You also don’t need more than one snail to breed as they’re hermaphroditic and can reproduce on their own.

How to Care for a Pet Snail

There are some key points for taking care of your snail that include keeping it hydrated, dealing with reproduction, and keeping your tank clean.

Snails Need Moisture

Snails thrive in damp conditions. Keep a water spray bottle on hand to spritz their terrarium every couple of days. 

You’ll also want to avoid putting your snails in direct sunlight as this can dehydrate them.

Snail Reproduction

Land snails are hermaphroditic. This means they have both male and female reproductive organs. As a result, snails can reproduce and lay a clutch of eggs on their own.

If your snail lays eggs, that means they’re happy and comfortable in their home. However, this can soon become a problem, as they often lay 100 or more eggs at a time.

You don’t want a mass of baby snails, especially not in the 100s! If your snail does lay eggs, you can dispose of them humanely with methods such as freezing the eggs.

Cleaning Your Pet Snail Tank

Keeping your terrarium clean is vital for healthy snails. Unclean snail homes are ones that have uneaten food, soiled substrate, or rotting vegetation in the bottom of the tank. 

This poses a health risk to your snails and can also attract unwanted pests like fruit flies.

How to Clean a Snail Terrarium

It’s good practice to wipe down the inside of the terrarium every other day. Use a clean spray bottle, warm water, and some paper towels to gently wipe the sides and lid of the terrarium. 

Related Pet Snail Questions

Do pet snails like to be held?

It’s hard to say if a snail likes to be held, but you can hold your snails. Often, they’ll crawl over your skin, and you can feel the muscles in their foot ripple.

Can you play with a pet snail?

Well, kind of! Remember, that a snail is not like a dog and you have to be very careful even when handling them at all.

Don’t rush anything. Go slowly and perhaps just try to hand-feed them a bit.

Set up some items in your snail tank and observe them as they negotiate the items. Watch your snail explore their environment as opposed to trying to pet them as you would a cat or dog.

How long do snails sleep?

Snails are long sleepers! It is generally thought that a snail will sleep anywhere from 13 to 15 hours a day or more.

You know that a snail carries their ‘house’ (shell) with them so they are ready to take a nap at any time and any place!

Do pet snails smell?

Generally, snails do not smell so it is not something you need to worry about. However, if you don’t keep up with their tank it is possible you could get some unwanted odors from it.

Does a snail recognize its owners?

No. Snails don’t possess the ability to recognize their owners. They are aware of you approaching the tank though and soon learn that’s a signal that food is coming.

Is handling a snail safe?

Yes, it’s safe to handle snails, but it’s important to thoroughly clean your hands afterward to get rid of any bacteria. 

Remember to never force a snail if it’s stuck to a surface. When you pull on their shell while they’re holding on, you can seriously injure them or even separate their shell from their body.

Are snails reptiles?

No, snails are considered to be mollusks.

Having a Pet Snail is Fun and Fascinating

Snails are interesting animals that are fascinating to watch. They’re also easy to take care of and make great pets, especially for young children. 

If you meet their basic needs and keep their terrarium clean and moist, you’ll have very happy snails to call your own.

How to Keep Pet Snails

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