Caring for Your New Land Snail -- 2013
The inside scoop from Aqualand on Helix aspersa


Land Snail Factoids


Italy probably

Maximum Size

About 2”


Cover a must

Humidity High
Substrate Moist


Makes self scarce during day


Prefers 75 to 80o


Inquisitive little rascals at night


Vegetable matter, iguana pellets

Threats  Beer, birds, French bistros, turtles


Needs high humidity and damp substrate

Land snails truck right along.  Not intimidated by handling.

Origin:  Our original land snails came from a truck stop in California.  The state of California considers them a real threat to their crops.  Originally from Italy (the ancient Romans ate them), European brown snails were brought to California by the French in 1850.  Guess those gold miners had a taste for escargot.  More people eat them in fancy restaurants these days than keep them as pets.  You can also buy land snails in some supermarkets in cans with an extra container of shells.  You stuff them in their shells after preparing them and before serving.  ZooMed also makes a Can o’ Snails product for your hungry lizards or French friends.

Land snails are much more mobile than aquatic snails.

Gastropods:  Land snails are gastropods -- they travel on their bellies.  Didn’t Napoleon say the same thing about his soldiers?  But we digress.  Napoleon wasn’t really French was he?  He just sort of borrowed the country for a while.  He knew how to make a great bakery treat though and thus his fame lives on in gastronomy.  It’s all related somehow.  Land snails are also mollusks (shelled critters).  That’s enough techie stuff for now.

During dry times, land snails clamp down like this to preserve moisture.

Mist them or sprinkle them with water to re-charge their batteries.

Keep Them Humid:  We humans hold our water in with the help of our semi-permeable skin (or epidermis for you ACA recent recruits).  Land snails hold their moisture in with their shells.  They can’t handle dry weather or the hot sun.  Since they lack that little flapper that snaps closed on aquatic snails, they crawl under rocks or miscellaneous debris and clamp down.  Rain or a good dew will bring them out to party.  Every place they go, they leave a little trail of slime that depletes their moisture.  If you mist them, they usually start climbing straight to the top of their cage.

 Limit Their Beer Intake:  Seriously, gastropods cannot control their beer consumption.  Hosta raisers kill slugs with “beer traps” -- shallow saucers of beer placed under their hosta plants.  Hostas grow in shady areas with humid soil -- just the ticket for land snails and slugs which love the taste of hostas but love the taste of beer even more.  Slugs and snails take a quick sip, dive in head first, and drown in a happy alcoholic stupor.

With his lid lifted, this land snail slides up and over the lip of his tank.

Decided climbers

Cover His Cage:  Land snails must live in trees.  They love to climb straight up.  Without a cover, yours will all climb out within minutes.  You can keep them in one of those snap-top critter keepers ... but ... you’ll go nuts trying to keep their glass clean.  Wiping their slime trails will scratch their plastic fronts.  We’d recommend glass aquaria.

Nocturnal Beasties:  Your land snails eat and drink much more at night.

Oddly enough, land snails don't shrink all up when you pick them up.

Not Shy Guys:  Unlike aquatic snails that slam shut, land snails are squirmy little guys that try to wiggle out of your grasp.  And he will surprise you.

Land snails will squirm around in your hand and try to eat you.

Raspy Tongue:  As he slithers across your fingers leaving a trail of slime, you can feel his radula scraping at your fingers.  He also uses his rasping radula to destroy garden produce or any other vegetation he stumbles across in his travels.  About six states consider them a serious threat to their crops. 

2013 Note:  The Feds prohibit shipping these guys (and other snails) across state lines without a permit.  Your chances of acquiring them are thus pretty slim.  They (or a closely related species do grow wild in Iowa.  You can sometimes run across them after a rain -- especially on the bike trails along our Des Moines River.

After a tasty snack of anacharis, he heads straight for the top.

 Substrate:  Unless you plan to breed your land snails, their substrate is of little note.  For one thing, they spend little time on it.  Sand makes a poor choice because it dries them out.  Obviously, brown substrate would be fairly low on your color choice list.  They’d disappear over brown.  Just give them a contrasting color and mist or sprinkle it enough to keep it damp.  If you plan to breed your land snails, give them at least two inches of substrate to lay their egg cases in.  You will want to separate the generations.  Snails like to dig in dirt (otherwise known as soil).  Besides laying their eggs in it, they also like to eat it for calcium and organics.  Water it carefully.  Avoid creating a mud swamp.  And use a substrate you can throw away or wash easily.  Their slime and droppings will otherwise foul their tank.

Here's a small tribe of land snails working hard at their all-you-can-eat salad bar.

Foods:  If it grows in your garden, your land snails will eat bits of it.  Vary their diet.  Add a calcium supplement also so they can build their shell as they grow.  They will chew on those parakeet cuttle bones to get calcium.  A little powdered calcium on their salad works much easier ... or ...

Land snails seem to like pelleted  iguana foods.

These guys will clean out their food bowl in one night.

Better Food:  Pelleted iguana food makes an even better land snail food.  It contains a variety of ingredients plus the calcium that growing iguanas need plus a nice protein percentage -- especially the juvenile iguana food.  You’ll need to change it daily.  Once iguana pellets get wet (and snail slime will do that), the pelleted foods start growing strange cultures on them.  The mold that grows on the pellets may or may not be bad for your snails.


Last Words:  If you like cute little (and inexpensive) bugs,  you’ll get a kick out of these little slimers.  We’ll give you some reproductive info later.  As it is right now, we’ll just say they’re hermaphroditic.  Deal with it.  LA.

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