Snails

I've recently started keeping snails as pets, with the intention of eventually feeding off their young to chameleons (after the young have grown a fair bit).

I believe I have grove snails, Cepaea nemoralis, which I collected in the wild (from an organic farm that was happy to be rid of them). These snails are not a native species, and to the best of my knowledge are not protected by law.

This blog entry is to make note of what has worked in terms of keeping the snails happy and breeding :)

Snails can be kept in a variety of tanks and containers. It must be large enough to accomodate them, able to retain humidity, but yet with good ventilation. A tight lid is necessary. The snails need light so an opaque box is out of the question but a translucent/nearly transparent container will be fine - both from the snails point of view and in terms of cleaning.

I started with a larger plastic critter keeper, then moved up to a glass aquarium with a fine screen lid secured with clips, then quickly moved on to a really big bin (so I didnt have to clean as often) usually kept outside.

Snails need a damp environment (70-80% relative humdiity) kept between 10°C and 30°C (86 °F) although they generally do best from 18-21°C (70°F). Room temp - how convenient!

Substrate of loom (steralized and alkaline), moss, a bit of leaf litter, small amount of peat (because it is acidic), a small amount of fine sand, and a bit of sterilized organic soil.

Snails like it damp, but not wet. The substrate needs to be kept moist, but there shouldn't be pools of water or considerable constant condensation on the sides of the container.

A heavy (so it doesnt tip when they burrow under it) shallow water bowl will help keep humidity high and allow snails to bath. Shallow is key, as they can drown. Babies are tiny, so remove water dish if you've got babies (or move babies).

Most fruits and vegetables (soften/parboil hard vegetables), tortoise food. So far, mine seem to particularly enjoy lettuce and cucumber, and will also eat nectarine, apple, butternut squash, grapes, strawberry, and seem to eat a bit of the ground dry gutload I give to crickets. Avoid strachy foods. no salt. Remove uneaten food the next day to avoid mold, fungus, mites, etc.

Snails MUST have a plentiful supply of calcium to build and repair their shells. Keep a piece of cuttlefish bone in the enclosure, and about weekly sprinkle a bit of calcium powder on their food. The more calcium they have available, the faster they grow and mature. I like to use the sticky tongue farms Mineral as it has a range of minerals beyond calcium. Occasionally I sprinkle in Repashy Calcium Plus instead.

Breeding seems to happen frequently, provided you have several adults, they have enough space, the enclosure is clean and humidty high. Snails usually burrow several inches down, form an egg chamber in the soil and then proceed to fill the chamber with eggs. It seems like they can do this all in one night.
Note: the type of Snails I have need to be given an annual cool down/winter dormancy period to keep in breeding cycle.

This is not a fast venture. Snails take their time! From eggs, its about a year until you have something near adult size. As previously noted, they grow more quickly if they have lots of food, right humidity and temps (they hibernate in cool temps), and plenty of calcium (for the shell building).
I continue to collect wild eggs rather than rely solely on my captives to produce.


Its easy and its worth it, if you have the patience and dont mind a bin full of poop to deal with periodically (good compost material).

My panthers truly enjoy the occasional snail snack!

Comments

To maintain calcium, you can put eggshells in the tank as well, they work the same as cuddlebone.
 
Ellron;bt568 said:
To maintain calcium, you can put eggshells in the tank as well, they work the same as cuddlebone.
True, but you also risk samonella if you dont wash them carefully first.
 
Do you have any information on raising soldier fly larvae/reptiworms? If you do, that would be great!
 
Hi Sandra!

After a long search I finally have my land snail colony / pets! They are so fascinating to watch...

I have two questions:
1.) Do you give them a constant supply of food?
2.) How often do you find it necessary to clean the enclosure?

I was a little surprised my the amount of waste they are producing.
 
I toss food in almost daily. I remove any uneaten food left over from the last time. I try not to give them more than they can consume in a day. Make sure you provide lots of calcium/minerals or they will eat each others shells. and YES they are poop machines. I clear off the top layer every other week or so. dump the entire bin (saving teh snails of course) into the compost every few months and start with fresh substrate. I dont know if one really needs to do it that often, but its easy enough for me to do so I do it.
 
Thanks Sandra!

Will cuttlebone be enough to prevent them from eating eachother's shells? Also, do I need to remove babies to prevent possible spread of parasites from the adults?
 
In addition to cuttlebone, I also sprinkled in some of my Sticky Tongue Farms Mineral-O in my bin from time to time, as it contains minerals more than just calicum. Dont know if it necessary or not.
I did remove the snail eggs or babies and put into a new bin. Returned the original wild caught snails ourdoors once I had enough (didnt take long to get lots of eggs, but it does take a while for the snails to grow to a useful size). This seemed the best way to reduce chance of parasites.
I still collect snail eggs from outdoors now, to add to the colony (now that I know what to look for, I dont find it necessary to bring in adult snails as eggs are everywhere in the spring)
 
i have a question when feeding a cham a snail do they eat the shell or do they just rip the snail out of their shell..very curious on how this works
 
edward82;bt1866 said:
i have a question when feeding a cham a snail do they eat the shell or do they just rip the snail out of their shell..very curious on how this works
They eat the whole thing. Chewing/crunching up the shell on a snail is no different than crunching a beetle. The snail shell is a good calcium source.
 
Great info. I'm finding them to be an interesting addition to my insect breeding projects. Have you thought a about adding springtails to the soil to help keep it clean? I have them in my isopod tank, but not the snails. I did notice last weekend while cleaning the snail tank that the soil was starting to smell bad.
 
pigglett79;bt1939 said:
Great info. I'm finding them to be an interesting addition to my insect breeding projects. Have you thought a about adding springtails to the soil to help keep it clean? I have them in my isopod tank, but not the snails. I did notice last weekend while cleaning the snail tank that the soil was starting to smell bad.
Not intentionally, but they are in there nonetheless. I do keep springtails for frog food and frog enclosure clean-up (along with isopods) and they are all in the same storage closet. I tend to feed them all at the same time and I dare say I cross contaminated, or they hitched a ride on some leaves. they certainly aren't doing any harm, but I don't think they're a match for the amount of poop the snails make. I just clear out the top layer of soil (which gets much of the poop) in the snail tub and add fresh material. that seems to work best.
 
an excellent idea, originally posted in this thread: http://www.chameleonforums.com/snails-arrived-114158/

deadhd5;1033972 said:
Here is a tip for cleaning the baby snail enclosure: Use a small fan to dry out the container for a couple hours first. They will all attach to the side and start to go into estivation (temporary hibernation) due to the dryness of the air. At this point they are easy to knock off the sides and top of the enclosure en masse. Since they are in estivation they take a while to wake up and begin climbing back up the sides of the tank, plenty of time to wipe down the sides and ceiling.
 

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