If you read our blog, you will know we have cats, a hamster, and a gecko, BUT we also have giant land snails. We have had them for a while, and they are the least demanding members of our household.
I have always been one for the less cute kind of pet. I was responsible for Gerald the Garter snake at school, and used to carry him around in my pocket. I had two toads that lived in a tank in our garden, and bred stickinsects into a growing industry, selling them to my classmates. I would love a snake or a rat but the husband refuses to accomodate this desire so we settled for giant snails.
They are very gentle and easy creatures, and are a great pet for kids because they can be handled easily, don’t run away, bite, and they are fun to watch as they grow bigger.
We have two snails. Herbert and Shelly. Snails are hermaphrodites which means they have the reproductive capability of both males and females. So technically one snail can have babies without mating. We don’t actually know if our snails are boys or girls, but they have laid a few eggs that didn’t hatch. They are a bit young for having babies yet, we think in a few months they might be ready for that.
They are about a year old and they live in a tank in our house.
Our snails love to be fed, and in the warmer weather, we put them on a cool wet surface and let them move about and explore. You can see a cheeky video here of them outside in the summer. They are easy to feed and care for, and our snails help us by eating leftover veggies, fruit and salad, so they are good food waste reducers too.
They are easy to look after and they live for about 5-7 years. You need a large enough tank for them to be able to move around comfortably and explore and to make sure they have soil or substrate they can hide or bury themselves in. They like to be kept warm and moist, so we keep our snails in the warmest room in the house, and spray them with water mist every day. They love veggies and salad, and cabbage, cucumber and strawberries are their favourite, so they are cheap to feed. They are snails, so they have a shell to grow, which means they need a source of calcium. You can see in our instagram story here that they have cuttlefish which we replace regularly to help them get the calcium they need. Snails have teeth that they scrape their food with, but they can’t bite or hurt us. I find watching them eat and gently move about very soothing.
There are some things you do have to know about giant land snails. If you live in the USA they are illegal to own as a pet. Giant snails when in the wild eat a lot and cause a lot of damage to crops and planted areas so you cannot legally own them as pets because often people release them into the wild and because they can reproduce thousands of baby snails that can be a huge environmental issue. They can grow to the size of an adult hand, so you do need to plan for that. They start out tiny and grow fast then slow down and grow more slowly.
Snails can have a LOT of babies. They can lay up to 500 eggs a time. You cannot just throw these eggs away because they can hatch and then you have giant snails in the wild eating a lot of things they shouldn’t.
So when your snails do have babies, you need to decide if you are going to keep them and give them to people who want to have them as a pet, or you can freeze the eggs then safely dispose of them, freezing them means they won’t hatch. We haven’t decided what to do yet if ours have babies.
You also need to make sure, that like any pet, you can look after them. They do need to be fed and kept at the right temperture and given calcium to keep them healthy. If you realise you can’t look after them you need to find them a new home, and not just let them loose outside.
Giant snails like other pets can be unwell, and not all vets are snail experts. We have a local vet for the cats and hamster, and we see a specialist in reptiles and snails for our gecko and snails. But so far, the snails are healthy and I have only ever had to call once for advice when we thought they were about to lay eggs.
Snails don’t need expensive tanks, but you do need to make sure they have enough space.
They are a very easy pet, and fun to learn about and care for. We love them, and they bring me a lot of calm and joy and they don’t talk back or argue with me, which some days, makes them my favourite inhabitants of the house…
You can find out more about Giant Land Snails here. But you can also ask us anything about them. If we don’t know, we can find out.