Snails are awesome, so I’m doing a quick guide on H. aspersa, which are legal in the US, and are just as awesome as fat squishy African snails.
But snails are gross-
Snails are great. They’re very small, sociable, harmless, silent and can live for several years. They also have no ears and they’re nocturnal. Every snail is unique, from their personality to their physical appearance. You won’t think I’m bullshitting you when you’ve kept them yourself. Just because they look like slugs with shells glued on doesn’t mean they don’t have minds of their own.
Never paid attention to the snails in your garden? Keep snails but think garden snails are boring? I’ve seen far more variety in my aspersa colony than any other species of snail. Red bodies, pale bodies, grey, black, one of them even has a black patch on their head. Their name is Patches. Every single shell is unique as well, and well worth keeping long after they’ve passed away.
They make faces too. Snails make facial expressions. My albino A. reticulata makes his disapproval of virtually everything I offer him very clear. Nothing’s too good for him to wrinkle his face up and move away like a fussy toddler. You can sit there and shove a spoon of mash in his face, it’s just like trying to feed a bratty child, which is especially problematic when they’ve had worms. Eat your medicine damnit. The other snails eat their deworming medicine just fine you little shit.
If you don’t believe snails can be unique and have their own minds and personalities yet you need to go order some snails right now. Yes, right now.
Now onto the things you’ll need/need to know.
- 2+ snails. (1 snail is not acceptable, they need another snail to socialize with. No exceptions, I’m not covering solitary carnivores in this guide.)
- Tank/Enclosure. If it fits a betta, it’ll fit plenty of snails. BETTAS DO NOT LIVE IN BOWLS OR CUBES. Snails can however, go wild with that. If you’re going to send me messages about how your neglected betta is perfectly happy in a painfully small unfiltered tank, don’t bother even reading any further.
- Substrate. I recommend coir. Plain top soil is fine, anything sharp or difficult to burrow in is not a good staple. If you want to use bark chips, mix them into the soil. No wood shavings or sand. Shavings will rot and get dust all over your snails, cedar is toxic and sand is just sand. Would you want to live in a pile of wet sand with no clothes on?
- Food. Obviously. Lettuce and cucumber are the staples. Anything from the onion family, pasta, rice, millet and salt can kill your snails very gruesomely. If you pour salt on snails I’ll punch you through my screen. Only feed fruits in moderation. Dandelion leaves are very popular with mine. Never give your snails anything that has been contaminated with pesticides. GMO doesn’t matter in the slightest unless someone creates lettuce that kills snails or some shit like that.
- Cuttlebone. Your snails need calcium, no matter how old they are. Don’t pick up cuttle on the beach, it’s riddled with salt.
If you live in the UK, everything is riddled with these snails. If you live in the US, you may not have them in your location, hence the earlier link to a store selling snails. You can buy them from snail farms too, but you’ll have to ask for good stock that hasn’t bred yet, or you’ll get the rejected ones too small for the restaurants.
Don’t ask me how to raise your snails as food.
If it’s winter, you’re going to have trouble finding anything without some effort. Tubes, hollow branches and fences are popular snail hibernation spots. If it’s not winter, you’ve probably passed by thousands already. Get a tub and go searching after it rains, you’ll find plenty.
I got some snails, now what?
Here’s some tips.
Snails wake up at night. Mine start stirring around 11pm, get out a flashlight and watch them go. Yours will have their own schedule.
Snails can get worms, as I mentioned earlier. If you don’t control it, you will literally have centimeters thick layers of worms in your tank, and the only cure is a shitload of bleach. If you’re picking up your snails outdoors, they’re WC and should be decontaminated to an extent. Wash them, feed them pumpkin seeds/ground hemp and keep an eye on them. They should be perfectly fine, but once you’ve got worms, it’s a pain in the ass to get rid of them. Try hauling a 75ltr tank filled with soil and plants down a staircase, through the house, outside to tip the whole thing out and violently attack it with bleach. Then reassemble it again. And push it back upstairs. One worm = thousands of worms, overkill will save you a lot of irritation and sick snails later. Worms fucking suck.
Your snails will breed. My tank is currently a borderline 24/7 snail orgy, and as amusing as that can be, that means a lot of babies. If you’re in the UK, the babies can be dropped outside. If these snails aren’t native to your area, sweep the tank several inches deep for eggs once a week and destroy them. Microwave them, feed them to chickens, etc.
Snails can and do overeat, and will get a nasty stomachache from it, or worse, they will literally eat themselves out of their shells. If one of your snails has been spending a few too many hours glued to that apple slice, you should take it out. They’re like children with candy on Halloween.
Do not tug on your snails by their shells. If they suck down onto the surface when you touch them, scoop them from the front end backwards. Once their head is lifted, the rest will come loose.
Don’t poke their eyes, being poked in the eye hurts. The top two stalks are their eyes, the bottom two are their nose and used as feelers.
If your snail is squeaking or bubbling, put them back down and leave them alone. They’re scared and trying to make you leave them alone. If it happens every time you try to handle them, be patient. They’ll get used to you soon enough, especially with your hands being a warm strange surface to explore. Snails are very curious.
Snails tend to fall a lot, mostly in their sleep. Don’t leave anything sharp in the tank they could crack on. Don’t ever drop your snails. If you’re not sure you can handle them, keep them over a cushion. They will be absolutely traumatized if they fall and smash against the floor, and probably won’t come back out again.
Snails don’t have very good eyesight and they tend to be a bit dumb at times. Don’t trust them to know better all the time, mine have crawled up my hot radiator. Fortunately they weren’t hurt, but they can be burnt very easily. Treat them like dumb little children basically.
Snails love baths. Run them under the tap with some warm water.
I’m also more than happy to help out, if you need help then feel free to ask away.