What Do Snails Need To Survive?

What Do Snails Need To Survive?

Snails are one of the most diverse species on the planet. Some snails live on land while others live in water, and some can go in between. Terrestrial snails have adapted to live in all kinds of conditions throughout the world which makes them an ideal pet to care for. Snails that are native to our own environment are particularly easy to care for, and you can quickly put together a nice terrarium for them.

What Do Snails Need To Survive?

What do snails need to survive? If you have ever thought of keeping a terrestrial snail as a pet, you have come to the right place.

What Is A Snail?

What truly defines a snail is the shell that’s on its back. Snails are a type of mollusk, similar to slugs and even octopi, but what makes them different is their built-in protection.

There are many kinds of snails: land snails, freshwater snails, and saltwater snails. Many snails can even travel between water and land depending on their body’s ability to breathe water or air.

One area where land and aquatic snails are similar is how well they adapt to changes in the environment. Snails are one of the most adaptable creatures, finding ways to survive in a host of conditions, many of them extreme.

Although land snails and aquatic snails have their similarities and differences, we will be focusing on the snails that make the land their home.

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What Do Snails Need To Survive?

Land snails are not difficult to take care of. In fact, many people simply grab wild snails from their garden and create habitats for them. Still, they will do best if you keep a few things in mind as you cater to what does a snail need to survive.


Snails are adaptable and have evolved to survive a large range of conditions from sweltering heat, to the cold of the mountains. Because of this, they have been found in many places all over the world.

Wild Snails

There is no particular habitat that is best suited for all kinds of snails, as many can be found in isolated areas with rocks and plants, while others can be found in the garden outside your home.

With that being said, the majority of snails that live on land can be found in leaf litter of forests, fields, gardens, and riverbanks.

Captive Snails

In captivity, snails don’t need a lot to be happy. They are fairly easy to care for, and the effort is worth it because they are fun to watch climbing around their tanks. So, what do snails need to survive in a container?

To create the best habitat for your pet snails, prepare their home with these items:

  • Clear terrarium of plastic or glass (at least 10 gallons)
  • 1-2 inches of soil (only use soil bought from your pet store. Anything else may contain harmful chemicals)
  • Leaves
  • Mist sprayer (to keep your terrarium moist and your snails active)
  • Lid (to prevent escapes)


When it comes to the answer to what do land snails need to survive, food is top of the list.

Wild Snails

Like their aquatic cousins, most terrestrial snails prefer to feed on detritus and organic matter. Here are some of the things most commonly eaten by land snails:

  • Dead and dying plants
  • Live plants
  • Algae
  • Fungi
  • Bark
  • Animal carcass

Some land snails have adapted to become predators and will gladly go after anything they can catch. Some of these snail’s favorite foods include:

  • Parasites (mites & nematodes)
  • Flies
  • Beetles and their larvae
  • Millipedes
  • Other snails

Captive Snails

In captivity, you may not have access to some of these foods, or you might not want to deal with them.

You never want to give your snails anything that you catch in your backyard because they could be littered with disease or coated in pesticides.

To keep your pet snails happy and safe, here are some good things to feed them:

  • fruits & vegetables (apples, carrots, cucumber)
  • leaves
  • Calcium supplements (chalk, egg shell, or cuttlefish bone)

Land snails can drown in large bodies of water, but this isn’t usually an issue in captivity because they can simply climb out of the water dish if they find themselves in a precarious situation.

They do need to drink, so you will want to provide them with a shallow dish of clean water.


In the wild, land snails are adapted to many different environments and temperatures. While most of them live somewhere in the moderate range of temperatures, some can live in extreme heat or cold.

In captivity, it’s not hard to make sure your snails are living in the correct temperature. As long as your house doesn’t become too hot or cold, they will be okay without any outside help from heat lamps.

Snails can happily live in temperatures between 64-86°F, although they thrive when kept at temperatures of 70-74°F.

Other Tips

To keep your pets happy, you should clean out the terrarium at least once a week. Your snails are going to leave plenty of waste behind, and they will leave slimy mucous trails across the glass of your terrarium.

When removing them from the tank for cleaning, slide them to the edge of the tank to remove them. Avoid picking them off straight from the glass as that can hurt them.

Clean-up is easy: simply spray the walls with clean water and wipe them down with a clean paper towel. Throw out uneaten food and replace with new, and spot clean any waste from the soil. About once a month, you will want to do a complete change of the soil.

Always wear gloves when handling your snails. Although they are cute, they can pass diseases on to humans like salmonella and parasites.

can freshwater snails live out of water

How Long Do Snails Live?

If you are thinking of keeping a snail as a pet, you might be wondering, how long does a snail live? How long a snail lives is going to largely depend on what kind of snail it is and how kind the environment is to them. So, if you are keeping a land snail as a pet, you can help it to live longer by providing it with an ideal habitat. Generally, the answer to how long do garden snails live is anywhere from 3 to 7 years in the wild. So, now you know how long they typically live, but how long can a snail live?

How Long Do Snails Live In Captivity?

When in captivity, snails are usually well cared for and don’t have to worry about any kind of predation. When they are well fed with nutritious food and given a healthy place to live, they can live much longer than they would in the wild.

In captivity, a land snail can live between 10-15 years of age when given proper care.

Can Snails Live In Water?

Unfortunately, land snails cannot live or survive in water. Obviously, they can still be found by watery locations because they need to drink to survive, however, they strive to stay away from the dangers of the water.

Land snails are not able to swim and can not breathe water. Unlike their aquatic counterparts, land snails do not have gills, but instead have lungs.

While they can’t breathe water, many species can hold their breath for several hours, so they won’t drown immediately. Like on land, snails will use their muscular foot to grasp onto rocks and plants under the water to propel themselves out and back onto land.

If they are unable to remove themselves from the water for any reason, they will eventually drown.

Click here to read our guide to whether snails can swim or here for whether they need water.

The Exceptions

One interesting thing about snails is that there are many species who have both gills and lungs, so they can breathe both air and water.

Terrestrial snails that have gills are able to survive under the water for a time, but they can’t stay there forever. Their primary home is land and they will not survive being in the water indefinitely.

Even though there are some snails that have evolved to have both organs, it is not common, and most land snails only have lungs to breathe.

Want to know how snails breath? Read our full guide here.


I hope this guide to what do snails need to survive has been useful for you.

Terrestrial snails are easy to care for, and they can also be very rewarding. Whether you pick up a snail from the pet store or from your garden, you can easily create a great home for them, where they can live for years.

If you have ever thought about keeping a snail as a pet, you now have the tools to do so. Happy snail foraging!

Click here to learn whether snails eat grass, here to find out if they can swim, here to find out if they have a foot or here to find out if they can change shells. Find all our snail guides here.

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