Snail fail - advice on starting a snail colony

Discussion in 'Chameleon Food' started by Franquixote, Aug 12, 2017.

  1. Franquixote

    Franquixote Member

    I ordered 20 snails to start a colony and wanted to offer a few pointers because some others seemed to be ready to try the same thing.

    The snails were purchased from the Greek Ebayer. She was polite and quick to respond and included 2-3 extra snails. When they arrived the odor upon opening the envelope made it obvious some did not survive the trip.

    The instructions said to peel off the 'epiphragm' which is a hardened mucus plug the snails seal up their shells with during drought. These type of snails don't have a permanent 'door' on their shells to protect them. This hardened area needs to be carefully peeled off!
    My first mistake was that I was too conservative about doing this, you really need to get it completely removed. I thought that taking most or some of it off and rehydrating them would work but it did not.
    Second, they have to be completely submerged in water, but in a dish that they are able to crawl out of when rehydrated.
    I put mine on wet paper towels after taking off the epiphragm and I think that is partially what killed them. The paper towels were saturated, but offered a way to get out of the water which I thought was perfect but far from.
    One snail did emerge and I offered it fresh Swiss Chard from my organic garden.I started eating but died that night still out of the shell.
    The temp was about 75 degrees and I was told this is fine.
    They offered to replace the snails so I will report back with a second effort.
    Just a heads up though, these guys STINK when they die- if you have ever been a fisherman and left earthworms in a hot car by accident it is kind of that smell. Horrible.
    I would almost hesitate to seriously consider these as a feeder because if and when a snail dies in a setup, it is not always easy to tell which one is dead and the smell is overpowering. I can't imagine the hassle of digging through a 10 gallon+ tank worth of coir trying to find out which snail is dead and I don't think it would take more than 1 to create a big stink.

    I'm wondering if maybe the paper towels were somehow toxic, they were normal white Bounty- no lotions or anything in them, but maybe the snail ate some and it killed it.
    Anyway there you have it, if you do decide to try this consider how to keep them happy without a deep or messy substrate that is going to require sorting through if one dies.
    I definitely would not just order some and feed them to my chameleon without making sure they were healthy for a few weeks.
     
    Brad and jamest0o0 like this.
  2. Bush baby

    Bush baby Established Member

    You shouldn't peel off the mucus plug imo, doing so wakes them up abruptly and may cause them to get sick and die prematurely. The ones that survived; just place them in a tank with about 2 inches of damp (not wet) soil and leave dark greens like Collards in there and mist the tank about twice a day. The increase humidity in the air will cause them to emerge in a few days. Once they emerge continue to feed them greens along with carrots and cucumbers, and depending on how big they are, they'll start breeding in a few weeks. They're asexual, so all you'll need is about 3.
     
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  3. jamest0o0

    jamest0o0 Chameleon Enthusiast

    Thank you for this post, I actually just ordered some... would like to hear input on some right ways to care for these guys
     
  4. Bush baby

    Bush baby Established Member

    1) Keep them in a dark area.
    2) Keep them at around 75-85 degrees.
    3) Keep their enclosure humid via misting.
    4) Make sure you have at least 2 inches of soil if you want them to breed.
    5) Feed them mostly dark leafy greens, carrots, cucumbers. Change out every other day to avoid flies, mold, etc
    6) DO NOT feed them citrus or salty foods..
    7) Make sure they have access to calcium like a calcium block fed to birds.
     
    Decadancin and jamest0o0 like this.
  5. Longhorn1234

    Longhorn1234 New Member

    Do you know what type of snails are the ones you bought from Greece?
     
  6. bluesox68

    bluesox68 Established Member

    Bang on. I agree with all of this. I've also found success with a much deeper substrate like 6-8 inches. I threw in a bunch of pill bugs and worms to clean up and keep the dirt churned and it also helps with the snail waste. I have a heat pad at the bottom of a large clear tote and every few days I dump a glass or 2 of water in, It helps with the deeper substrate. I love the clear tote because they are awesome to watch but also know that snails can lift 30-40 times their body weight so make sure the lid is secure! Oh and if you don't have access to cuttlebone for calcium eggshells can work in a pinch.
     
    jamest0o0 likes this.
  7. Franquixote

    Franquixote Member

    species: Helix Aspersa Muller

    I was specifically told by the seller the mot likely reason they died was because the epiphragm wasn't removed- and that was really the point of my post.

    This seller has hundreds of sales, but you are saying the exact opposite- I'm not saying you are wrong, but one of you is.

    The logic of what you are saying makes more sense to me, but I tried the gentle approach and it failed miserably. In fact, the largest snail was about 1 1/2" and had to be at least 2-4 years old AND he was definitely alive when I got him- I moistened and peeled a bit of the epiphragm away and was hoping that gentler approach would be the way things would occur naturally.

    Anyway, not to start an argument, I don't know which of you is right, but the next batch I am going to follow the instructions and completely peel off the entire epiphragm (she said some have several layers) and submerge them and see if that works better and will report back.

    James- I know you have been on board with me for this thing so keep me posted too. My research from various sources often recommended what the big chain pet stores label as hermit crab substrate, but when I went and checked it out it's nothing but overpriced 100% coconut coir.
    I also researched "sterilized soil" and the consensus is that there is no such thing- it's just soil heated to destroy weed seed and microorganisms, but it is not packaged in sterile conditions so it isn't truly sterile.

    [A bit off topic, but I have a lot of experience growing mushrooms and one way to really ensure sterility in substrate is to put the substrate in mason jars, put a nail hole in the lid of the jar, and cover it with a breathable bandage tape. Here is the tough part- it's gotta be pressure cooked for about 30 minutes (make sure the jars are not touching the bottom of the pressure cooker) at around 15 psi and then you let it cool for a few hours before removing.
    For shrooms, you use a sterile syringe to inject the spores through the tape into the growing medium and hope the mycelium colonizes it before anything else does.
    Since many of you keep your chameleons in enclosures that are pretty much ideal for growing mushrooms I thought that you might be interested in growing a few cakes of mushrooms in with the chameleons.]
     
    jamest0o0 likes this.
  8. jamest0o0

    jamest0o0 Chameleon Enthusiast

    I've grown mushrooms the same exact way. Bought a fancy pressure cooker just for that. Have to watch out for contamination, can be very dangerous.

    My cages have shrooms pop up all the time, I love it
     
    Franquixote likes this.
  9. Franquixote

    Franquixote Member

    James you are my kinda guy : )
    I was thinking of doing a few cakes in with the snails if I get them going. Snails LOVE to munch on shrooms.
    And to be honest, I would really like to see the colors on an ambilobe that was fed snails gutloaded with <ahem> certain species of mushrooms
    : )
     
    jamest0o0 likes this.
  10. jamest0o0

    jamest0o0 Chameleon Enthusiast

    Hahahaha man brings me back to senior year telling my mom that the pressure cooker and mason jars were for a science project.... I guess that's true though eh? She wasn't thrilled when she found out what they were after a couple months growing in my room. It's been years since I grew anything. I remember having giant piles of vermiculite, brown rice powder, etc. Was going to do a monotub, but never got around to it...

    Anyway, we need to all collaborate on this snail care. I plan to load their bin with springtails and isopods... not sure what else? I'm worried worms could transfer parasites or toxins, but Idk how much of a worry that is.
     
    #10 jamest0o0, Aug 12, 2017
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
    Franquixote likes this.
  11. Andee

    Andee Chameleon Enthusiast

    Generallt you don't need to sterilize the substrate of snails, you need to pasturize it at most. But that's it. But most people keep feeders on coco coir. Thats it, because it stops pests etc from growing. I keep most of my feeder insects that way with a few healthy additional things in the soil.
     
  12. bluesox68

    bluesox68 Established Member


    Clearly the seller knows the right approach so yes stick with that! My response was more focused on the optimum conditions for breeding in my experience. Good luck with then next batch I hope they work well for you. cheers!
     
  13. jamest0o0

    jamest0o0 Chameleon Enthusiast

    I like using topsoil, @Andee would there be any problem with that?
     
  14. Andee

    Andee Chameleon Enthusiast

    As long as you pasturize it and it's a closed as possible bag in the beginning you should be fine ^^ but that's just my opinion. I have gone rather crazy with some of my soils lately, especially with my millipede soils XD
     
    jamest0o0 likes this.
  15. Franquixote

    Franquixote Member

    I'm laughing at your response James, obviously we have had some similar hobbies in the past. Those good old days ended for me years ago when I attempted what's known in the inner circle as the "heroic" and then doubled down for good measure. I like attempting this journey a lot better- are you using a bioactive where you can keep the snails in the enclosure? I'm not sure it's going to be worth it for me since it takes like 2 years to get the colony going and up to eating size. My original intention was to do it half for my own consumption since I actually like escargot and am intrigued by the caviar which apparently is the world's most expensive, but after the stink I went through over the last 3 days I don't think I'm going to be able to stomach it.
    Anyone have any data on the actual calcium benefit of using them? Seems like my effort would be better spent doing another colony.
    Right now I'm thinking silks, orange heads, walking sticks and something else TBD
     
  16. bobcochran

    bobcochran Chameleon Enthusiast

    I raise cornu aspersum snails, they were introduced from Europe, everywhere in Ca.. Easy to cultivate on just about anything edible, can gut load with all the wonderful things you would like your chameleon to eat. Plus the calcium benefits from the shells.
     
    Action Jackson likes this.
  17. jamest0o0

    jamest0o0 Chameleon Enthusiast

    @Andee do you see any issues with not pasteurizing it? Organic topsoil often has lots of critters/fungus I like.
     
  18. bluesox68

    bluesox68 Established Member

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  19. Andee

    Andee Chameleon Enthusiast

    There are a lot of issues with not pasterizing if you are raising them for feeders. Topsoil contains parasites and stuff that can survive a pasteurization that the snails could pick up. It also can carry mites. As far as how to pasteurize, I deep freeze my soils etc, for 12 hours, then bake at 200 degrees for around 90 minutes.
     
  20. jamest0o0

    jamest0o0 Chameleon Enthusiast

    Which parasites would be found in topsoil? I have yet to do this with any of my soil in my cages, or isopods cultures. Just curious... and aren't soil mites beneficial
     

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