Other common names: Brown garden snail; Cornu aspersum; Cantareus aspersus; Cryptomphalus aspersus
Scientific name: Helix aspersa
The Garden Snail is a gastropod which is native to the Mediterranean and Western Europe, but which has been spread (intentionally and accidentally) to many other places around the world. These days the garden snail is most likely to be viewed as a garden and agricultural pest (it causes considerable crop damage world-wide). In the past though it was thought of more as an edible delicacy. Their slow movement and slow size and the fact that they are in no way harmful to humans make them an excellent pet, especially for children.
Although one of the common names call them 'brown' shell colour is more variable than this and they can often have yellow and light brown banding or tortoiseshell patterning. Like all snails they have a soft and slimy body and they travel on the base of their bodies (which is called the 'foot'). They exude a mucous from their bodies and it this that allows them move across all kinds of environments without injuring their bodies. If the weather becomes too cold or too dry they will seal themselves in their shells with a plug of dried mucous known as an epiphragm. They can also vary the constituents of their blood, allowing them to survive down to -5ºC.
When snails are active the heat and tail emerges from the shell and the head extends four protruberances (tentacles). The upper two are longer and have eye-like photosensors at their tips. The lower two tentacles which perform tactile and olfactory sensory duties. The mouth is located below the tentacles and this contains a chitin-based structure known as a radula that is used to manipulate food into the mouth.
Garden snails are exclusively herbivorous and will eat a whole range of plant matter from tree leaves to small flowering plants.
Like many terrestrial pulmoate gastropods snails are hermaphroditic and though they prefer to reproduce sexually, exchanging sperm by means of 'love darts' they can
Appearance / health:
The Garden Snail has the classic snail form of a soft body and a spiral-shaped shell. The shell is variable in colour, though the base colour is typically brown. Black banding can sometimes be present and yellow flecks and streaks are common. Some snails have a very pretty tortoiseshell pattern. The shell is 'calcareous' (ie based on calcium) and is typically 25–40 mm in diameter and 25–35 mm high and formed from four or five whorls (the shell increases in size spirally as the snail grows). The body is soft and about three times the length of the shell and can vary in colour from black to fawn.
Behavior / temperament:
Snails are quite slow, very calm and can readily be handle. They pose no threat to humans and make an ideal starter pet for even young children. It can be truly fascinating, watching them interact with one another in their tank. However, because of their longevity (they can live up to 15 years) they are not a pet for the short-term. Bear this in mind if you are gifting them as a pet to a small child.
Snails seem to like each others' company and the garden snail is gregarious, naturally clumping together at night for shared warmth. Small snails can be kept in larger tupperware containers, as long as here are sufficient air holes in the lid. But it is better to keep them in a plastic tank. This needs to be escape-proof and must have a tight-fitting lid. This way you can give your snails room to explore and give them damp hidey-holes (halved plastic bottles, bits of bark, mounded stones). It is also easier to clean a tank than other containers. It is also good to keep woodlice with your snails. They will help clean the environment and will give an early indication if the environment is becoming too dry. The environment must be kept moist and this is easiest done by using a misting bottle to spray the inside of the tank twice a day.
You should refresh the substrate of the tank once a week and check for eggs every other day (destroy these, or you will be inundated with baby snails).
If you are taking snails from the wild for human consumption or to feed as treats to chickens or guineafowl then they need to be purged beforehand. Because so many people put down poisons for slugs and snails these must be cleared from their system before you cook them or feed to other animals. One of the best places to keep them is an old recycling bin (this is made of plastic and has a lockable lid). Form holes in the top and use damp newspaper as the substrate. Starve them for three days to allow them to purge. Discard the substrate and replace then feed with greens and vegetable peelings for a week before feeding to other animals or cooking.
Garden snails are very healthy animals and very long lived. They require minimal maintenance, but they do need to have their shells cleaned occasionally to prevent fungal and bacterial build-up. Snails can also be prone to viral diseases and an outbreak can be devastating. Unfortu
Garden snail will eat almost any leafy matter and they will be happy on a diet of lettuce and cabbage. However, like all snails, they do require a source of calcium. This could be natural chalk or ground shellfish shells and cuttlefish shells. If feeding your snails a varied diet it is a good idea to place the different foodstuffs in plastic bottle tops as this makes adding to and removing from the tank very easy.
Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans
Fascinating little creatures, children, observation, classroom work
soft vulnerable body, sensitive eye stalks
calcium, Ancient Roman cookery, especially little boys, social snails, mildly moist environment
Snail trails up Kitesnest lane.
First I built a Garden of Eden in an old cake tin - a Rock Garden of Eden. with soil and weeds and stones.
Then I collected a few snails from the garden, subsequently adding other interesting ones as they appeared on walks to and from school up Kitesnest lane in in the Cotswolds near Stroud.
Fascinating little creatures, with such soft sensitive eye stalks and feelers and an infinite variety of exterior home decor, from contrasting glossy black and gold to more subtle lilac and gray shells. I was fascinated by their hiding in the shell, then gradually emerging, extending first one feeler, then the next and finally gliding confidently along in search of food.
Seeing the edge of a leaf being eaten into seemed like magic, for such a small soft animal with no visible teeth.. But the best miracle of all, my pièce de résistance, with which I was able to amaze and astound family and friends, was my death-defying "trained" performing snail, who would demonstrate(with a little coaxing) his ability to slide up one side of a knife blade, over the edge and down the other, his soft vulnerable body sliding over the very edge of a razor sharp blade, without the slightest trace of a scratch.
In fact, this is something snails are able to do, with the aid of their lubricating slime and careful sensitive foot.
They were super economical, absorbing, many had very attractive shells and were easily disposable (released back into the hedgerow). Don't make much noise, they do need to be kept in a mildly moist environment. Feed them what you found them on. An excellent low maintenance pet for youngsters with zero budget..
From sothebys May 5 2014 7:56AM
Snails Are Great Fun
Keeping a garden snail habitat is jolly good fun. Children especially will enjoy it, but I'm an adult without kids and I also think it's a blast.
I got the idea from owning a tank with a tiny leak that made it unsuitable for fish. My research revealed that I could make a perfectly nice snail terrarium out of it. I paid the children of a colleague to collect the snails for me, which they loved doing.
A 10 gallon glass tank with a lid makes a fine snail habitat. There should not be too many hard surfaces in the tank, because snails can fall from the sides or lid and crack their shells (I learned from experience). My tank has three inches of potting soil substrate, and one large, twisted, multi-pronged branch that the snails absolutely adore climbing on. This is a parrot branch that I bought at a pet store; it works wonderfully well.
There are also several pieces of cuttlebone in the tank - a necessity, because snails will die without access to sufficient calcium.
The snails eat all kinds of vegetables and fruits. These can be allowed to rot slightly, since some snails will prefer rotted food. I don't like food that liquefies too quickly, though (such as strawberries). My snails thrive on a mixture of shredded romaine lettuce, shredded or sliced carrots and potatoes, and finely diced apples, cucumbers, and eggplants. Eggplant is their especial favorite; it doesn't last long.
Buy a mister and mist the entire tank at least three or four times a day (but I do so even more often). A humid environment is important to the snails' well-being. I haven't found a heater to be necessary, though.
The sides of the tank should be wiped down with warm water once a week, because otherwise the slime and poop start to build up and become crusty. I use a toothbrush to clean tough spots. The substrate should not be changed, however, because the bacteria that build up in it are important to the snails' health.
To assist in the cleaning of the tank, many snail hobbyists enlist the help of pill bugs (AKA woodlice AKA isopods AKA roly-polies), earthworms, even a gecko (although geckos will go after baby snails). I haven't got any earthworms yet, but I have collected several hundred pill bugs for my tank (I'll write about them in a separate review here at the site). I consider the pill bugs to be equal citizens in the tank, and every bit as much my pets as the snails themselves.
The snails are great fun to watch - the combination of their hard shells and delicate bodies and eyestalks is entrancing. Garden snails are hermaphroditic, interestingly, so any snail can mate with any other, and mine certainly have. They lay clutches of eggs in the soil, and babies that look practically microscopic emerge a few weeks later. Adult snails do not care for their offspring - you're on your own there, kiddo - and not all the babies will "make it," but I have some that are growing nicely. They take a year to two years to reach full size.
Right now in my tank I have nine adult Helix aspersa, and who knows how many babies and pill bugs. I have room for some more adults, and will try to collect some locally when the rainy season starts here in Mexico.
If snail-keeping sounds of interest to you, I would definitely give it a try!.
From MarkHarris Mar 24 2015 1:29PM