Pet Snails bred for health & beauty,
some snails sold as feeders for your exotics!
I have loved snails and mollusks since I was a kid and now I’m lucky enough to be able to keep a small variety of species. I have been keeping Brown garden snails, Cornu aspersum, since early 2018, starting with a handful of young to adult snails from a local school teacher & my colony of browns has grown into a wonderful healthy captive population. I also currently have a colony of Milk snails (Otala lactea) and a small colony of AZ native Pungent Talussnails (Sonorella odorata), I have also previously kept a large colony of Decollate snails (Rumina decollata).
I have learned a lot about snail keeping from my own trial and error, successes and failures, and I hope to inspire other snail keepers in their own adventures and help other Arizona residents realize their snail keeping dreams!
This -long, but useful- blog will cover the legalities, breeding, enclosure set up as well as diet and various other tips and thoughts regarding land snail keeping. Hope you enjoy! Please be sure to read the culling section as well, if this is something you can not handle then I do not suggest snails as the pet for you.
The legalities around snail keeping – Transporting Land Snails (aquatic have very different laws) across any state lines, by mail, driving or otherwise is illegal in 99% of cases. There are a few species that can be legally transported but are rarely found in captivity.
Essentially, you can keep and raise most any species found within your resident state; from a breeder or wild. There are some state specific exceptions and species that are legally protected from collection, usually actual native species.
The USDA can grant permits for legal transport but these are rare and not generally given to hobbyists.
Illegal species & shipping/importing – Giant African Land Snails (GALS) are the worlds largest species of land snail and 100% illegal within all of the USA; though they are popular pets in the UK and other parts of the world. People caught with these illegal snails can face possible jail time and very steep fines per snail, and the snails are destroyed.
If you’re looking around online to purchase snails, be aware that ALL importing of snails from other countries is illegal. Sellers may claim they have permits or that it is okay for certain species, but this is untrue and if caught by customs or the USDA the snails are destroyed and you, the buyer will be the one to get in trouble.
Purchasing online from various sellers (in the US) through Amazon, Ebay and other similar sites is still just as illegal, but is still often done. Buyers should be aware of the risks; not just the possibility of getting caught in transit, even if they do arrive without notice, the quality of the sellers packing job will determine if the snails survived the rough journey or have them arrive with varied amounts of shell damage or even death. Delays in shipping also happen frequently, they could be stuck in transit for much longer than anticipated.
Also be aware of the seller quality. Sites selling illegally often have bad reputations & poor quality animals from what does survive in transit. There are some sellers who just go out and collect hundreds of wild snails for resale, some sellers who distribute poor quality captive bred snails; just do your best to know where your snails are coming from and their conditions if you do choose to order online.
Information shared is based off what I have learned over the last few years, my experiences, opinions, successes and failures. I try to do my best for all my pets, snail or otherwise.
In the next section below there are links and sources for additional snail care information.
Tank Set-up & Maintenance
Substrate, Microfauna, Misting & More
Diet, Protein & Calcium Options
Breeding, Culling, Health & Handling
Quick recap from above: Legally, you should be finding snails, either from a breeder or the wild, from within your residing state; ie, Arizona for myself. We do have native snails here, and some of them are protected and can not be collected for their own good; so know what you’re picking up.
Prefer finding someone local to buy from? If you’re also in AZ, I’d suggest joining my group Arizona Land Snail Keepers to connect with other AZ slime lovers! There are also two other snail groups mentioned below where you can try finding and connecting with others in your own state. You can also try your luck with local to you groups, usually reptile focused; reptile keepers keep usually have a lot of interest in inverts. Ask your local exotics shop if they know of anyone keeping snails!
Start with wild snails! If you’re having a rough time trying to look for wild snails on your own, try contacting your community gardens, garden and plant centers or try the local FB groups for backyard gardeners! Ask them if they have any snails around that they’d like to get rid of, you’d be happy to come collect them free of charge.. or maybe pick up ones that people pluck out of their veggies but don’t want to see them killed, helping each other out!
I’ve gotten a handful of great healthy adult snails this way! You can also scout out the iNaturalist app or webpage if you prefer a hunt!
Regardless of where you find your snails, once in captivity and under your care, do not release them into the wild.
Doing so is illegal to start, this law applies to many situations and to most any creature that has spent time in captivity; practically every species kept commonly in the hobby is not originally native to your area and are invasive. The popular Cornu aspersum, brown garden snails, that are found basically everywhere in the US, are actually native to Europe and Mediterranean areas.
Releasing our captive bred snails into the wild is also a worse, slower death sentence than us, the keepers, just being responsible about culling and population management in the first place. Weather, micro-habitats, time of the year, food sources, all these small but important things are necessary to give released animals a fair shot, and snails are no different. Being in captivity they are exposed to different bacteria, pathogens etc. and could potentially spread them to wild populations if released as well.
Now, read that again: Do not release your captive snails into the wild, you can not keep snails without culling eggs or babies at some point.
Snails do best with buddies, they are social and like friends. Some species can be cohabitated without issue, such as garden & milk snails. Snails are mainly nocturnal (active at night time) or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk hours).
Whether you only want to keep a few snails or have dozens, I find front opening glass enclosures to be the best overall option though many people use plastic totes or critter keepers. Exo-terra front opening terrariums are all I use for snails.
Size – 1gal of space per adult snail, this would go for just about any of the medium sized species kept in the US. The largest species kept in the US is H. pomatia, which should be 2gal per adult snail; these are only available in a few states.
Useable surface space also comes into play here, more the better, usually. The snails don’t typically just hang out in the soil during the day, they prefer to be up on the walls, the top, sleeping under leaves, branches and other décor. Lots of additional sleeping spots is great to have if you plan on keeping several snails. Do ensure the enclosure has a bottom basin deep enough to accommodate several inches of soil and substrate.
How does your enclosure open? – Glass tanks open in a variety of ways; lift-off tops, front opening, and slide out lids. Personally, I vote for front opening enclosures every time with snails. These tanks provide enough depth for substrate while being the easiest to maintain and least chance of an accidentally smashed snail. Lids that get lifted straight off work, yes, but I find the snails enjoy being up on the lid and babies would get wedged between the rim and lid making it difficult to remove the lid/open the tank with ease. I had a large plastic tote set-up early on and the lift off lid was the same issue, even with weather stripping and latches, they enjoy sleeping up in the sides and top.
Sliding lids are a no go! For the exact reasons addressed above, the snails will choose to sleep up on the top and there is no safe way to slide the lid in and out without extreme caution each time. It’s simply a hassle.
Ventilation – Many of the popular glass tanks have ample amounts of screen top ventilation, in almost any situation you’ll need to cover some of that up to help hold moisture within. The entirety of my tanks top is screen, I have 3/4th of that covered with a thin sheet of glass I had cut to size at a hardware shop, I also use cardboard wrapped in duct tape. Other options include plastic/acrylic sheeting, plastic wrap, small towels, cheese cloth, etc. anything to help hold in the moisture. Snails don’t need a whole lot of air flow, venting can be minimal but is going to vary depending on your own location and home conditions. If air flow is too low you may notice more mold/soggy substrate issues popup.
Of course there are abundant other options for snail housing rather than standard glass tanks, but the same principals should still apply to whatever you choose to use.
Soil & Substrate – Soil and substrate is a must; you should not house snails on anything else. No paper towels, just sand, or wood chip/bark. Healthy soil is very important to good snail care, you will want several inches of soil to allow for digging. My current favorite snail soil is Fox Farms Ocean Mix, which can be found at most specialty grow shops. Its been a very clean soil, non-compact and bug egg free with lots of nutrients packed in, from bat guano to worm castings, my snails have been doing great since switching. I have also been adding in limestone powder or chunks, in addition to still using leaf litter and soft woods as well. Both the soil & leaves need to be refreshed periodically as they breakdown and get eaten, it is also a good idea to churn up and mix the soil periodically, this prevents it from getting too compact and is a good time to check for eggs and get a good close look at your lovely soil.
Many brands of top soil will work, what you want to avoid is chemical fertilizer and manure, if it smells like poop, don’t use it. Eco-earth/coco-coir is a popular option but honestly I personally do not like or recommend this ‘substrate’ for much; when wet it holds water like a sponge and when dry it is very dusty. It is useful at times when added into a mix of other subs but I do not use straight coco-coir for anything.
Bioactive Substrate – What is bioactive? Bioactive just means the soil is ‘alive’ with good bacteria and micro-fauna such as springtails & isopods most commonly; this also typically entails live plants but not always. It does take some time for a bioactive enclosure to cycle and settle; once it does, it is not recommended to do a full soil change unless absolutely necessary. If you feel the soil needs to be topped off (usually 3-4x a year) or do a partial change/replacement that is okay once in awhile (no more than 2x a year); its a good opportunity to give the soil a churning and do an egg check. Healthy soil bacteria is important for snail health, you may even see small mushrooms appear naturally, this is a good sign your ecosystem is working!
– Springtails – Are a must have. These tiny little white springy bugs are a total necessity when keeping snails. They are super tiny, they really tend to stick to the enclosure and soil. They will die if they dry out, these are not something you need to worry about invading your home. Springtails are beneficial for many reasons, they are the decomposers of the ecosystem. They help control mold and fungus that pop-up naturally when creating this mini-ecosystem. Plus, let this be said clearly, snails poop, a lot, a ton, so much snail poop, on everything. Springtails love snail poop, they will help take that huge load off your hands!
– Isopods – For me personally, I do not keep any isopods with my snails at this point. I did in the beginning, but each of the complete tank break-downs I have done, were because of too many isopods. They can live peacefully together and be fine, but because the isopods have so much food source, from snail poop to the snail food itself, they breed and populate in high numbers and tend to overrun the enclosure. If you just have a few pet snails and that’s all you want, cool, have some isopods to enjoy too. I however want my snails to lay, hatch and grow at the best rate possible. For the most part, the isopods do leave the snail eggs and babies alone and do no notable harm. But, I can absolutely say that when isopod numbers are thick, the snail numbers and baby growth do take a hit and decrease vs an enclosure with no isopods.
Enclosure Décor – Do be cautious of using hard surfaces such as rocks, the snails do like climbing and often fall from the top of the enclosure, if they land wrong on a hard surface it could crack their shell. Some people are much more strict about this rule than myself, and I have had a few snails with small shell dents from falling wrong. I’ve never seen more than slight shell damage from a fall and they have ample calcium available to help restore their shell. Try softer plastic plant pots cut in half or silicone for the safest options.
Surface area is good but don’t over do it. By don’t over do it, I mean it becomes harder to search and find your snails when the enclosure is totally packed with plants, items or large wood pieces, especially if babies are present, you are much more likely to miss them when searching. Same idea for misting, an overly packed/planted enclosure will give them more places to hide from the mister/water so some snails may have a harder time waking up if your spraying never hits them.
Fake vs Live Plants – Snails don’t care. They really don’t. Get some good quality thick plastic fake plants, wash them off when they get too gross, snails will still use them to climb and sleep all the same. Plus you get the ease of not needing to provide a plant growth light or worrying about the snails eating the plant or introducing any unintentional micro-fauna to the enclosure with live plants.
Live plants – However do look better visually, keeps the soil healthier and helps with humidity. You need to know what type of plant it is, if it is safe, and take a chance on if the snails will just eat it or not. It seems to be a hit or miss on if the snails will eat live plants; I personally have good luck using croton plants, sweet potato and other thick waxy leaved house plants.
You will also need a plant growth light over your enclosure if going this route. The light does not bother the snails while it is on, during the daytime hours the snails are mostly asleep and sealed up anyways. There are several LED and white grow lights available, ideally looking for something full spectrum with 6500k brightness.
Live plants do pose the risk of inviting unintended hitchhikers and other tiny soil creatures. It’s recommended to quarantine any live plants before adding them to ensure no pest issues pop up. The plant should also be bare-rooted into the enclosure; meaning the all soil from the root ball should be knocked/washed away before planting. Even if additional fauna pops up, majority of the time its going to be just fine and not cause any harm to your bioactive setup or snails.
Misting – By hand or Systems – Misting is generally what is going to wake your snails up for dinner! First thing is type of water used, spring water and filtered water is going to be your best bet. Tap water is can be harsh and full of chemicals in most places, well water will be dependent on your situation and location. I use RO water with my misting systems so the mineral build up doesn’t clog the system, however RO has had important minerals stripped away which can be important to the snails, or any live inhabitant. I have a gallon pump sprayer filled with regular filtered spring water in it that I use in addition manually. Even with an automatic misting system, I feel hand spraying is still important. I find, especially the younger baby snails, tend to die if they are not sprayed and woken up directly. The misters do not reach everywhere, my hand sprayer can be sure all parts of the top and under plant leaves get sprayed to wake everyone up.
I use a MistKing system with my snail enclosures, and several of my other bioactive enclosures; but be aware the flooding and over saturation risks if your enclosure is not set up for this or you set the timers wrong. My snail enclosures are on the larger side at 40gal, and has a full drain layer/water basin setup below the soil to hold excess water. Mine is created with plastic egg crate and screen but there are multiple methods for this, search YouTube for creating bioactive enclosures.
A simple pump sprayer from the garden section, or beauty hair supply mist bottle will be plenty for most people to spray down everything in the evenings. Misting is how they will wake up majority of the time, anytime I add fresh food I do a heavy manual spray to ensure everyone wakes up. *Estivation/sleeping is discussed in Health section*
Humidity & Temperature – Humidity is important to a point, but don’t freak out over it. Humidity levels will generally spike and fall with misting and drying out during the day. Keeping the soil at a good overall low saturation level, along with lower amounts of ventilation is generally enough. It is not necessary to provide most snails with crazy humid enclosures, they tolerate a wide range of humidity from 30-80%, shoot for a balanced middle ground. When the environment is drier and humidity is low they simply estivate and wait for better conditions; aka misting to wake them up. Some species may tend to be more active and for longer amounts of time at a constantly high humidity but this may have negative affects on the snails health in the long run.
Temperature – ‘Room Temp’ is always a broad term and depends on your location in many cases, that being said, if you are comfortable in your home, your snails are probably fine too. Personally my home is always on the warm side and that room gets quite warm at times, getting up to 83° and I have no worries about that.
Heat mats, under-tank heaters or any bulb heating element is not going to be necessary in large majority of situations. The use of these will generally result in more risk, dangers and potential issues, than if you were to not use them at all. If you do choose to use them, please do it correctly with a proper thermostat attached.
*Important note about enclosure placement – Do not place the snails/enclosure directly in front of any windows or direct sun contact, this will quickly overheat the enclosed space and be very dangerous, potentially killing any inhabitants. It is not worth setting it in front of a sunny window for live plants, use a plant light. Also try to avoid setting tanks directly on the floor due to potentially higher drafts, kicking it or dropping items on top of enclosure.
Potential Pests – Soil mites or gnats would likely be the most common two. Soil mites are perfectly safe for your enclosure and often popup out of nowhere, they just act as additional clean up crew. They often times pop up out of nowhere, while they can be potentially annoying they pose no real risk. The word ‘mite’ has a poor connotation, their numbers will sway with the enclosure and springtail population, they’re just helping in their own way!
Gnats on the other hand, tend to come in as eggs in the soil and be extremely annoying. They have about a 4week life cycle, so a couple months of treatments may be needed for bad infestations. I do run a Katchy next to the snail tanks, lovely product that helps. Yellow sticky traps are often placed just outside of or on top of the enclosure to catch them; obviously do not place these inside the enclosure. Another alternative is ‘Mosquito Bit tea’, this product targets the specific larvae. The tablet is left to soak overnight in a gallon water jug then added to a spray bottle and the substrate is thoroughly soaked. You can also add the crumbled up bits into the soil itself, so when you mist regularly it will still help, doing both is most effective. This is safe for springtails and isopods and should not affect them or the snails negatively; this method has been used in the general reptile keeping hobby and by isopods hobbyist dealing with infestations.
Cleaning – In addition to the occasional soil turning and leaf litter top offs, the glass and décor items will inevitably be covered in rainbow string snail poops! The plants and items can usually be given a good spray down with a pump sprayer on a ‘jet’ setting to wash the poops off. The glass can be cleaned in a few ways, but never use any cleaning products or soaps inside your enclosure! If you have an odd shaped enclosure or rounded sides a silicone bowl scraper works great vs a straight razor!
My personal glass cleaning method is to first use a clean razor blade to scrape everything down into the dirt, I then use either a clean blue glass scrubby pad that is dedicated for the snail tank, or a glass sponge and water to give the glass walls a second go over. Next, I move to paper towels and water, go over again. At this point it is usually good, if I really want to get it clean, spray the glass down with water again and use that razor blade to go down the glass; you will get a very gross brown slime sludge layer off that you didn’t even know was there. Do a final wipe down with water and paper towels again.
Fresh Foods – A wide variety of fresh foods can be fed to your snails and they should have access to various fresh foods basically 24/7, foods do not need to be organic, but a wash off is never a bad idea. Things can be left in the tank sometimes a few days and be fine or some things may need to be removed less than 24hrs later if it is quick to mold and go bad. Keep an eye on things and try to mix things up each time you go to the store, many people keep a list handy of what foods they try and their snails preferences. Most of their diet should be made up of a variety of leafy greens and lettuces, followed by most any thinly sliced vegetable, with fruits being fed in smaller portions. Both snail groups linked in the intro also have food guides available in their files.
Snails enjoy fresh foods but also don’t usually mind food that’s gone a bit gross, just be sure to remove before molding and flies start. I find 3-4 food changes a week works well, but do regularly find 2x a week okay as well; depends a lot on your own colony numbers and amounts fed.
Things to limit or watch for – Tomatoes and citrus should be kept to a minimum due to acidity levels. Do not feed onion or garlic. Beware foods containing salt or copper. Pastas and breads are a no-go; this can cause serious issues and be potentially fatal. No ‘Quick Oats’.
Protein & Mixes – Protein is important for all snails, adults should get fed protein weekly, or if you have growing snails, twice weekly. *Please note that this is referring to most commonly kept species, some species such as the Decollates, need a higher protein ratio, please know what species you are keeping* Protein ratios are also important when choosing your foods; ideally you’re looking for 20-25% protein values, be sure to check individual brands as not everything is created equal. Majority of my protein fed is from Etsy: Brittany Bellows Protein Mixes who has a variety of flavors. I buy the variety packs and put the food into a ‘spice bottle’ with a shake top; the rest is stored in a fridge until I need to refill the bottles. The Land Snail – Advancing Husbandry group also has their own protein recipes available.
Other common protein sources & their %: Omega One freshwater flakes, usually high at 40% protein, this should only be fed once a week and no other protein that week. Dried shrimps meant as fish foods, bloodworms or dried mealworms, I’ve seen range from 30-50% protein, fed only occasionally. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds (no salt and get a quality brand) and hemp are also popular options, ranging from 20-30% protein. Hardboiled or plain scrambled eggs or moist Old Fashioned Oats, both of these have less than 20% protein and aren’t great choices but can still be fed. Some dog treats can also be used, generally higher quality and the less total ingredients the better.
Calcium & Cuttlebone – Calcium should be available at all times for snails of any age, it is crucial for good shell development and growth, and for shell repair if any damage occurs. I find the simplest way to do this is by using plain cuttlebone, which is readily available online and at most pet stores. These are often sold for birds, do not buy any with added dyes or flavors. I give the large pieces a few good whacks to break it into large chunks and place around the enclosure for the snails. They will rasp on this for calcium, there is a soft side and then a hard plate on one side which will be kind of left over after all the softer calcium has been eaten. Keep an eye on the calcium and replace as needed.
People also use cleaned and baked egg shells as a calcium source, the inner membrane is removed, the eggs are rinsed and baked in the oven, once cool they can be added in as is or run through a grinder to chunk it up. Oyster shell chips or crushed coral are also options, or pure calcium carbonate formed into hard blocks can also be used. Regardless of what calcium option used, have a few spots around the enclosure at all times. Do not sprinkle calcium directly onto their fresh foods, or feed dry foods with calcium already added- forcing the snails to ingest more calcium than needed; snails self regulate their calcium needs and will rasp on cuttlebone/calcium separately. Adding limestone chunks or powder to the substrate can also be useful for some species!
Feeding Dishes – Food is placed in several spots around the enclosure to ensure everyone gets some, but I do have a few small flat slices of slate near the front where I place most of their protein foods, this keeps it from sinking into the soil and keeps it contained. Small shallow silicone cooking dishes also work well.
Water dishes or standing water is not necessary and can pose a drowning risk to smaller snails, they get enough water and moisture from misting. If you really feel the need to provide a water dish, be sure it is shallow and put smooth stones inside.
Breeding, Eggs & Babies – Snails are hermaphrodites’ and can store sperm for a very long time, chances are high you’ll find eggs even with one wild caught snail. Even with a single snail there is still a chance for self-fertilized eggs, these eggs are still okay to hatch and proceed as normal. If you have two snails you will absolutely find egg clutches given a proper environment and soil depth.
How do snails do it? – Snails mate with their genital pores located on the side of the neck, it kind of appears as if the snails are making out. They also have a ‘love dart’ that is shot out of the snail and into the other one during mating. Now, sometimes things go wrong and the dart misses, you may see the snail with a long thin curly string hanging out. The dart is coiled up like a spring inside the body and sometimes comes out, this will fall off by itself and will not harm the snail!
A puffy mantle is common in snails for a couple days after mating, this is normal and will go away on its own. 1-2weeks later the snails will go down and dig a hole into the soil to lay their eggs. Number of eggs varies greatly by species, garden snails average -30-50ish+ eggs, while some GAL species lay 200+ eggs!
Egg checking is important to keep up on if you don’t want to be overrun by tiny snails, it’s best to check weekly. Egg incubation time varies but averages 2-4weeks, sometimes longer. Eggs are like tiny pretty white rubber pearls, they are surprisingly flexible and can be scooped up easily.
Culling – Culling, aka, killing, the eggs is going to be the easiest way to not become overrun with baby snails. Eggs should be frozen for 48hrs+ and crushed, then disposed of, or rather than throwing the culled eggs away, feed them back to the snails for extra protein. If you miss eggs and get surprise babies you do not want, quick crushing is the most humane. If needing to cull snails that are older, juvenile+, a shallow beer bath is recommended first to numb the snail, then be crushed or frozen. Alternatively if you decide to keep the eggs, you should hatch the full clutch and not only part of it to ensure you’re not accidentally killing the good eggs that would have made it to adulthood. Only about 10% of overall babies will be making it to adulthood.
Feeding to reptiles/chickens/fish, using them as a food source to cull runts or damaged snails is a very popular option and makes most people feel better about culling snails. I personally have several reptiles that I feed the snails to, I also sell them to my local exotics shop as feeders, not pets, for others to offer their pets an uncommon treat.
Baby snails have the same exact care needs as the adults, but fed protein 2x week. They hatch very tiny and delicate, you can do 2 things; the babies (or eggs, if you choose this method it’s a lot easier to move the eggs than the newly hatched babies) can be moved to a smaller environment (same setup just smaller) to be easily monitored; its easier for them to find food and calcium which equals a higher survival rate, and in turn means more for you to cull later. After hatching, a few will pass naturally, let them grow out 1-2 months, a few more here and there will likely pass away again, cull weaker or deformed shells as they appear, snails that have poor growth rates, do this over 3-4 months before choosing which of the remaining to keep or move into the adult enclosure.
Or, you can leave them be in the large main enclosure and let them thin out their own numbers naturally to start, giving the babies no special treatment. Less survival rate, kind of a natural culling of babies to start, though do know you will still need to cull some of the survivors down the line. This is what I do personally, I don’t do egg checks or give the babies any additional care. The snails lay, the eggs hatch, some babies tend to die quickly and I’ll find several tiny hatchlings right above were the eggs were laid, there will be the occasional small empty shell laying in the soil, and that’s okay, majority of snails never make it to adulthood, the ones that do are stronger and healthier.
Health and culling really go hand and hand, it is necessary to keep the snails healthy and to only pass on good genetics. Snails breed frequently and have a ton of babies, only about 10% of those will be making it to adulthood. Many of the babies may form with messed up internal organs, irregular or poor shells, slower overall growth, the runts. ‘Babying’ these runts and letting them reach good size and age is not inherently a good thing; these types of snails tend to have shorter life spans overall and may be promoting poor genetics down the line.
Estivation & Health – Older healthy snails can sleep or estivate, a kind of snail hibernation, during drier periods for up to several months+ and be totally okay. Need to go out of town for awhile? Just stop spraying, and let your snails seal up and sleep until your return! Young or baby snails can estivate, but they can not go for nearly as long and usually need to be woken up by misting more, and have access to more consistent foods/protein.
There are different levels of snail sleeping- relaxed out of shell napping, where you may find them with eye stalks inverted but the body is out of shell to some extent, they’re day napping. Day time sealed sleeping, where they are usually up on the glass or décor item, body lightly exposed or not well sealed to the surface; these two sleepers will probably wake up to eat on their own at dusk.
Estivation occurs more so when the mucus membrane seals around, or over the shells opening, whether its the outside rim visibly sealed to the glass/item, or the membrane covers the full shell opening, these snails are sealed up heavier and will need to be sprayed down to wake up. Some snails may be quicker to estivate than others, they do this to avoid drier conditions and to stay healthy and moist until awoken by the misting rains. You may also notice that snails can retract pretty far back into their shells, heavily estivated snails tend to do this and will need to be woken up by direct spraying into the shell and placed on fresh foods. Some species of snail have a much stronger/thicker mucus seal than others, the milk snail for example, is adept at surviving hot dry conditions for months at a time. Their mucus seal is very different from the brown garden snails, it is much thicker, tougher and they regularly create multiple mucus seals in a row/stacked; milk snails tend to be more inactive and sleep for longer periods naturally. If trying to pry a milk snail from their sealed estivation spot, I highly recommend spraying heavily and letting the mucus seal soften for a few minutes before attempting to remove the snail, their seal is extremely strong; even the strongest estivation mucus seal from brown garden snails is no comparison.
Deceased – Snails do pass away naturally, for any number of reasons. Snails that have passed away will be a darker color and have an unnatural tucked curl to them, and their membrane may start pulling away from the shell rim, they will also smell fishy and unpleasant. Dead snails, if not caught early, will just turn to slime sludge and more than likely springtails/isos and small flies (annoying) will help clean out the shell. If you see the snail passed away and would like to clean the shell out to keep, there are a few options. I personally use my dermestid beetles to clean any deceased snails out, but many other types of bugs will work as well! A strong isopod colony, mealworms/supers, an ant hill outside, or other similar options work. You can also get some very hot, not boiling water, and soak the full shell with body until it can be easily picked out. Do a gentle soapy water wash with a light bristle brush to clean the shell and let it dry.
It just happens sometimes, don’t beat yourself up! If you’ve gotten this far into the blog and care, you’re trying your best!
Handling Your Snails – It is safe to handle your snails, but like most things you should do your best to thoroughly wash your hands before and after. If you plan to have them crawling around your hands it is best to rinse/spray your skin before hand so its a bit wet. – Now before anyone cries *diseases*, the chances of that happening, especially if you wash hands, is astronomically low. The risk of having anything dangerous to us is overall extremely low. Wash your hands.
How to pick up snails – The snails body should be slid along the surface with your fingers and lifted upward in a sweeping motion and picked up by the snails foot/body. If the snail is out, do not lift straight up by the shell, this really strains the snails and is like pulling on their internal organs, this could lead to a mantle collapse; a sad death generally, can be noted by the snails body pulling away from the inside of the shell around the edges.
– If the snail is on the glass/surface and you can see its body up against the glass or the body is just slightly resting outside of the shell – in this situation you can just kind of gently slide and lift the snails body. These types of resting snails are likely to wake up on their own without any misting.
– If the shell is sealed to the glass/surface and there is no body visible or there is a thin white membrane around the edges – it is best to first give these snails a light spray down and after a few moments the shell should be loosened and you can pick it up gently. These snails are in a deeper sleep usually and should be sprayed down to make sure they wake up.
– If the snail is retracted far into the shell or there is a thin white membrane present covering the full shell opening, you can help wake the snail by misting it directly or setting it in a very shallow water dish; give them several minutes to wake. These snails are in deeper estivation, or sleep.