What to Consider Before Buying a Pet Snail

pet snail about to take off styrofoam

Snails have grown in popularity as pets. A great alternative to fish, snails are quiet, small, and very low maintenance. But as with any pet, a few things should be considered before committing to care for one.

Snails and Your Schedule

Snails are thought to be nocturnal or crepuscular creatures (although a sleep study in pond snails showed that the time of day does not matter), so they may be most active when most people are going to bed, waking up, or already sleeping. If you plan to watch your snail’s activities during the day and handle it while it is awake, then you better be a night owl. Be prepared to wait until later in the day to feed your snail and enjoy its slow-paced life.

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Children and Snails

Some children may love having a unique pet like a snail, while others would prefer a more traditional pet like a guinea pig. Snails move much differently than other animals so they can be very interesting to watch and even gently handle. Snails don’t have to have human interaction to thrive, so if you have a child that is interested in nature, a snail could be an easy pet. On the other hand, if you have a child that would prefer a pet to cuddle, a snail may not be the best option.

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Handling Snails

Snails are safe to handle, but there are a few things you should do to make sure you don’t cause them any harm:

  • Before picking up your snail, wash your hands with soap and water. This will help to remove any potentially harmful lotions, oils, and natural elements that a snail may absorb off of your skin.
  • Then, with slightly wet hands, a snail can be scooped up underneath its foot to break the suction.

WARNING

Never pick up a snail by its shell, as this can damage the muscle that attaches the body to the shell. If this muscle, called the mantle, is damaged, death can result.

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Zoonotic Concerns with Snails

Snails can harbor parasites that can potentially infect people1, especially if the snail is wild-caught. Because of this, you should not only wash your hands before handling a snail to keep them safe but also after to keep yourself safe. You should never kiss your snail or allow children to put them in their mouth.

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Space for a Snail

Snails do not take up much space. Each snail should have at least a one-gallon tank to roam in. But even if you splurge for a five or ten-gallon tank, this still only takes up a couple of feet of desk space. Snails need things inside their tank to chew on and burrow in, but they don’t require play space outside their enclosure.

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Budgeting for a Snail

Once the initial investment of a small tank is made, ongoing expenses will include fresh vegetables and fruits, calcium, and substrate. Cuttlebones that are typically used for pet birds, spaghnum moss, and small amounts of products will need to be replenished regularly but are not expensive. Overall, snails are very affordable pets.

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Time Requirements to Care for a Snail

Snails will need fresh produce daily and an occasional change of their substrate. Aside from that, snails can be left to their own devices. They do not require attention or handling so there is no need to make sure they receive a certain amount of exercise each day. The largest amount of time will be dedicated to purchasing and washing your snail’s fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Snail Life Span

Snail life spans can vary, but in captivity, it is possible for your snail to live to be a teenager. Two to five years is typical for most wild snails but some larger species could possibly live up to fifteen years. Keep in mind though, if you find a garden snail and decide to care for it as a pet, there is no way to know how old it is.

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Some species of snails, such as the giant African land snail, are actually illegal to own due to concerns with invasiveness and being pests to crops. Check with your state laws before purchasing a pet snail or simply opt to care for the one you find outside.

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