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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have decided to write up my own basic snail care outline, based on my own experiences and keeping it as simple as I can while not leaving out anything important. I have kept it as general as possible due to the sheer number of snail species kept in captivity.

It is by no means the "only way" to do things, and I have offered alternative methods here and there. This is simply methods I have been using in the several years I have kept various snails, with great success. Unfortunately snails often seem to be like goldfish, in that people just buy them with little or no knowledge of them, thinking it is ok to dump them in a tiny empty tank and that that is all they need to thrive, often with misinformed petshops saying that this is ok, or saying it to make a sale. I am hoping this information will help shed light to at least some people, on the fact that in order to properly flourish, that is far from sufficient for any snail species, and perhaps help people see how truly fascinating they can be to watch as they interact with each other and grow.
I hope it proves useful in some way, sorry for any spelling and grammar mistakes.

Housing

Snails in the wild are generally roaming, although they have been known to roam in search of food then return to one place each night. They need a decent sized tank, small babies are ok in one of the larger "petpal style" tanks, but as they get older they need more room to properly display natural behaviours and grow.

Before buying snails always research how big the species gets, as the larger like Archachatina marginata, or Achatina achatina, are NOT ok in a small tank. They get big, not just in shell length, a huge amount of snail is packed into those shells. If you cannot accommadate a big enough tank for such large species but want a more unusual snail, look at the smaller species instead. Give them plenty of space to explore.

They are social creatures and will readily interact with each other, so you need to factor in the number you will be keeping when choosing a tank. While width is more important than height, they do like to both burrow and climb so there needs to be enough room to allow for this.

Tank walls and substrate should be spot cleaned as needed, and the substrate changed regularly if you do not have a "live substrate" in place.

Heat and humidity

Most species will need additional heat, particularly in the winter, so having a heat mat or such on hand is a must. Heat mats ideally for safety should be secured on the side of the tank, outside, and if needed a sheet of polystyrene or layer of bubble wrap can be added to help hold in heat. The ideal temperature of each species can vary greatly, so find out this and anything else before buying. Some need it much warmer than others, and some species actually need to be kept quite cool.

Humidity can be maintained through the prescence of a shallow water dish, damp moss, the level of moisture in the substrate, the amount of ventiltion in a tank (covering part with clingfilm when a tank dries too fast can work wonders), and misting with clean warm water when needed. The most common species, fulica, actually can become sick or die if the tank is too humid, so monitor your snails behaviour to see if it is active, or inactive, or avoiding the substrate. If they never go on the floor, or are barely out even at night, it is a sure sign something is wrong.

Substrate

For substrate, different snailkeepers have different preferances. Personally I prefer to use organic coir, due to its compact easy to store nature, its clean pest free nature on purchase, and the fact it allows snails to burrow and lay as they please (not to mention being fine for most of my other inverts). Other options are sterilised topsoil (ensure it has no chemicals or fertilisers added, and try to pick a totally sealed bag (its best to check this through before use as often random bits of undesireables turn up in it), homemade organic compost of various snail safe foods and leaves, "bug bed" which is available from many invertebrate suuppliers and is a leaf mulch mix, sphagnum moss, and for quarantined or sick snails damp plain kitchen roll that is changed regularly.

A good thick layer is needed to allow snails to burrow, lay eggs, and generally do as they please, and you can combine different ones to allow different textures, although they will most likely get mixed fast. Moss is best draped over decorations and hides, or in clumps to hide in, rather than as the sole substrate.

"Tank custodians", small, useful creatures that eat bits of detrius food and snail poo, mould etc, are very useful things to consider. A very large colony of tropical woodlice and a few clean worms have allowed me to create a live substrate in my biggest tank, merely skimming the top layer and mixing in a little fresh every now and then, placing the old into a small composting tub. The tahnk is still clean and smell free, with no mould issues, and the snails in it have been thriving this way for two years. It is worth considering such a setup, although if you will be throwing the old substrate out weekly still it is probably not worth it.

If your snails never go on the floor, night or day, it may be there is something wrong with the substrate, so trying a change may see them exploring the floor as normal.

Decoration

Branches, cork bark, mopani wood, fake plants, organic snail safe live plants, rocks and pebbles, coconut shells, and plantpots are all good options for tank decor.

Branches, wood/bark, plants both fake and real, and bits of stone all provide a more natural habitat that allows the snails to explore, and on changing a tank around you will often see them searching this new landscape.
You can gather, sterilise and use branches and such from the wild (with the landowners permission), scraping the bark off (or leaving it on), soaking in boiling water or CAREFULLY baking, to kill off any nasties inside. Pebbles and rocks can be boiled for a few minutes then left until completely cool. I would advise against treating wood with bleach or such as it will absorb the chemicals, and a small patch not rinsed off enough can be enough to cause serious problems for a snail. All tank contents need to be free of such things, as well as wood varnish etc.

Live plants will often get eaten or totally trampled, (GALS are often referred to as bulldozers), but if you still wish to get some, search around on google for lists of snail safe plants and either grow yoour own or source totally chemical and pesticide free ones. Wash these carefully with lukewarm water, and keep for a while to make sure they have no hidden nasties.

Clean coconut shell halves, plantpots on their sides (block the holes to ensure snails don't hurt themselves trying to fit through when smaller), shop bought and pieces of cork bark all make good hides that snails may or may not take advantage of. Often groups of snails will cluster together in a sheltered place, so try and offer a few choices so they don't all end up stuck because the exit is blocked.

A water bowl will help keep humidity up and allow snails to "bathe" when they wish, although this will become soiled fast usually, and it must be very very shallow so none drown. I leave these out entirely with babies and just put a shallow dish in with adults. Make sure it is easy for them to get out the water when they need.

An important thing to remember is that snails can, and will, fall, often randomly letting go of whatever they are clinging too for no apparent reason, other times because another snail has climbed on them, or something has irritated them and caused them to draw back. Snaiils shells can be broken, even as adult, and this can lead to fatalities or difficult emergency shell repairs. Hard objects and surfaces should be covered with moss or substrate where possible, or positioned so a snail cannot fall onto it from height. If in doubt, leave it out entirely, and find an alternative.

Diet and Calcium

Calcium constantly available is vital, and feeding them just on lettuce is not a good plan, they need a varied diet to encourage healthy growth and lettuce has a very low nutritional content. I like to provide at least two calcium sources but just cuttlefish is fine. Without enough calcium a snails shell will become weak, sometimes deformed, flaky or lumpy, and it can cause stunting or cessation of growth. Food should be thoroughly washed before being given, and if you can provide organi, even better.


Food list

Sweet potato
Courgette
Cucumber
Carrot
Apple
Pear
Honeydew melon
Mushroom
Bean sprouts
Cauliflower
Sweetcorn
Watercress
Dandelion leaves (make sure no pesticides or chemicals near and well washed)
Pumpkin
Peas
Sprouts
Kale
Green beans
Parsnip
Butternut squash
Papaya
Apricot
Peach
Plum
Broccoli
Swede
Turnip
Lettuce (not iceberg)
Common plantain
Mango
Sweet pepper
Borage

Use vegetables, root vegetables and leafy greens mostly, with fruit added as treats and supplements. Not all snails will eat all foods, they have likes and dislikes just like humans. Broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and the like, are best kept as an occasional food. Cabbage is not a good base food and may lead to some very poor shells if given too often. The key is variety, to be healthy, range is needed.

Seeds

Ground hemp seed (good for healthy shells)
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds (act as a dewormer)
*Ground and mushed together with lukewarm water into a paste, these three seeds are very popular with snails, especially with well soaked and mushed oats added in small amounts, and limestone flour.

Calcium sources

Cuttlefish bone
Limestone flour
Limestone chips
Powdered oyster shell
Exo terra liquid calcium in baths/water sprayer

Limestone flour can be mixed into the substrate, mixed with water and set to make to make powdery blocks, or offered in a dish as powder/sprinkled over food. The chips are a natural extra source they can rasp on. Powdered oyster shell is good to add to seed mix, as is limestone flour.

Handling

Snails can be handled, and usually seem to "enjoy" exploring this strange warm thing. At first they can be shy, retreating into their shells, perhaps even bubbling at you, but with gentle handling and patience they will come out of their own accord, and begin to have a look around. Before you start remember baby snails have very very delicate shells, especially in the first month or two, and it is far too easy to damage them.

First, hand washing with lots of plain warm water to remove any soap or chemical traces. To pick a snail up, don't yank on its shell, you can gently slide a finger under them, offer your hand to explore, or drip some drops of water on the tank side when they are firmly gripping it. If they really don't want to let go, then unless it is urgent leave them be and try again in a little while. The more you keep trying, the more like a predator you will seem, and the harder they will grip.

Snails are slimy yes, its how they move around so easily, how they climb, and a vital part of their being. It is easily washed off with a little soap and water.

When you have picked up the snail, sit them on your hand and let them explore in their own time. You may feel a strange tickly sensation, which is them "rasping" you with their tongues. It doesn't mean they are eating you, just testing you, just gently move them a little if it bothers you. Don't hold them too high in case they do fall. Once you are done carefully put them back and wash your hands with soap.

NEVER try to pull a snail out when it retreats into its shell, you will injure or possibly even kill it. A gentle warm bath may encourage it out, otherwise leave it be until ready to emerge.

Breeding

Snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both sets of reproductive organs, so it is not possible to have two girls or two boys, and avoid them breeding. Once they reach a large enough size to carry and lay eggs they will begin to breed, and even if you catch and seperate them the first time (or the first ime you see), they can use the sperm from one mating to fertilise multiple clutches. Both parents will lay eggs, and depending on species there can be hundreds in each clutch, so it is very very important once your snails reach a decent size you start thoroughly checking the substrate for eggs at least once a week.

Unwanted eggs can be frozen for a day and a night to prevent them hatching, and some reptiles will eat snail eggs.

If you want them to hatch, place them in a tub with the same heat, humidity, and substrate as the parents, being careful not to jostle them too much, and allowing airholes. The time will vary from clutch to clutch, species to species, but a few weeks until hatching is the norm. Check each day or two for emerging babies on the surface, and when they start to hatch remove them as they appeaar to ensure the newly hatched do not eat their siblings eggs. Never dig up baby snails as they hatch, they spend a little time eating their old egg beforre emerging and this gives them a much needed calcium boost.

Babies should be kept as the parents are, in a smaller tank, and provided with constant calcium an a good variety of food.

Some species, such as Achatina iredalei, give birth to live snails not eggs, so either keep these seperate from baby or only keep them when you are sure you can handle the potentially large amount of young that will need homes.

One of the key things to keep in mind, is baby snails need food, calcium, housing, and new homes. If you cannot guarantee this then it is best to only hatch those you wish to keep yourself, or who will have a guaranteed home. Some species do sell well, on here, snail forums, even eBay, but the more common ones, especially Achatina fulica, can be very very hard to rehome at times. It is a far too common thing for keepers to become overwhelmed with snails they cannot even give away, that sometimes they even end up dumping or killing sadly. Keeping a watch for eggs and dealing with them before they hatch will give the hundreds of unwanted baby fulica a chance to find a home.

Species

Different species, all have different needs in regards to heat and humidity, some more specialist species even need special diets, so before buying research the needs of the species you are considering. It sounds common sense but a lot of people do not do this then wonder why their snails died from being kept too hot/cold, wet/dry.

The various species get to different sizes as stated previously, so you do need to check that before buying to ensure they have enough room.

Another thing to remember, is some species, such as Limicolaria flammea, seem to become stressed when kept in with other species, and it has been noted by myself and some other keepers that when kept in a mixed tank they seem to slowly decline and eventually die. Unless they need the same conditions and you know they will be ok, keep the species separate.

Shell Breaks

Since this is something unfortunately little known, I am adding this link, on repairing a broken shell, that also explains how to decide if the snail can repair it itself or not, and how to care for said snail until recuperated. Reading this guide, will lead you to the bottom part, where the repair method is explained. The link also discusses other snail health issues. Broken/Chipped Shell / Snail Problems

A last note: Please remember it is illegal to keep giant African land snails in the US and some other countries, so please check the laws of the local authority before buying!
 

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This is an awesome care sheet :]

Quick question. I'm using eco-earth as my substrate & every time I get back from college I'll find them both on the roof of the tank. Though once I found one in the hidey hole. You think I might need to dampen it more than I am?

Thanks :]
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is an awesome care sheet :]

Quick question. I'm using eco-earth as my substrate & every time I get back from college I'll find them both on the roof of the tank. Though once I found one in the hidey hole. You think I might need to dampen it more than I am?

Thanks :]
It might be that, or that it is too wet. :hmm:
Do they have many branches, hides etc and do you see them on the floor at all? Some do just sleep on the roof.
 

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It might be that, or that it is too wet. :hmm:
Do they have many branches, hides etc and do you see them on the floor at all? Some do just sleep on the roof.
I've only ever seen them on the floor when I put them there, but they hang about a bit, they don't go straight back to the roof.
They have one large hide which is covered with substrate, I usually find them on the roof of that too on the inside :blush:
They are eating properly & stuff, just don't seem to like the floor very much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I've only ever seen them on the floor when I put them there, but they hang about a bit, they don't go straight back to the roof.
They have one large hide which is covered with substrate, I usually find them on the roof of that too on the inside :blush:
They are eating properly & stuff, just don't seem to like the floor very much.
:hmm: Maybe try making the substrate a little drier, fulis are sensitive to too much moisture so it may be that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What about retics? I'm going to skip spraying the tank for today anyway, see how they are :]
Ahh sorry hun, had a derp moment. They are pretty much the same as fulis care wise. How wet is the substrate?
 

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VERY comprehensive and well written care sheet:no1:
 

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African land snails

Hello, I have African land snails about 4 years old. They are not very active now and sometimes they have been sealing up their shells. I haven't changed their feeding and still keep my tank moist. They still lay now and again so must be healthy. Can you help me please.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hello, I have African land snails about 4 years old. They are not very active now and sometimes they have been sealing up their shells. I haven't changed their feeding and still keep my tank moist. They still lay now and again so must be healthy. Can you help me please.
Just saw this, will PM you. : victory:
 

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sleeping snail

Hi i have 2 land snails... one is very active eats well and seems very happy the other has slept for 4 or 5 weeks! it has covered the opening of its shell. i woke it up using warm water but the same evening it decided to go straight bk into its shell n cover over again :-( please advise
 

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Hi i have 2 land snails... one is very active eats well and seems very happy the other has slept for 4 or 5 weeks! it has covered the opening of its shell. i woke it up using warm water but the same evening it decided to go straight bk into its shell n cover over again :-( please advise
Are you using a heat mat? It may be that it is too cold.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Answered your PM, sorry for the delay hun. : victory:
 

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hey

great care quide i aalso found out that if your substrate is dry get on of the take away tubs and fill about 2cms deep they will drink from it

warning dont do it really deep otherwise tey will drown
 
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