Snails are not commonly thought of as pets; in fact most
people see them as pests. But you may want to think again
when it comes to our friends the snails. Snails are not
insects or bugs, they are Mollusks like their relatives the
clam, octopus, slug, and squid. This shelled, worm-like,
creepy crawly slips along on its slime trail while looking
around with its eye stalks poking in, out and around. When
frightened it can pull itself completely into its shell and
block the door with its large rubbery single foot. Children
find these "shelled slugs" fascinating and will watch them
crawl about for as long as their attention span holds.
Some snails are a hazard for gardeners, as they love fruits
and vegetables. Snails and their cousins the slugs are
especially the bane of strawberry growers everywhere. But
they are fascinating and generally harmless creatures and
probably one of the more interesting and educational small
creatures to keep as pets, especially for small children.
Most snails use camouflage to blend into their surroundings,
so they may be hard to find unless they are out in the open
trying to get from one place to the other. You can often
find them under leaves, rocks or small logs, and in the
garden on vegetables or fruits or snacking on the
rosebushes. You can also often find them crawling across the
driveway or sidewalk after a rain.
One of the more important things to do when hunting for a
snail for a pet is to make sure that you find a healthy one,
otherwise it won't live very long and your efforts will be
wasted. Be sure to look for your pet snail in places away
from flower beds and gardens that may have been "snail and
Snails are nocturnal like their cousins the slugs and often
if you see one out in the open during the day it's because
it was disturbed from its hiding spot or it is sick. The
best time to go snail hunting is from twilight to couple
hours after sunset. This gives them time to leave their
hiding spots from the day before.
To go snail hunting you will need some chemical free gloves
and a jar with a lid. Snails are fragile and you shouldn't
collect more than a couple to keep as a pet. When you find
your snail or snails do not pick them up by the shell.
Instead coax them into your jar or pick whatever plant or
detritus they are on and put the snail and whatever they are
on in the jar. Make sure the jar you choose doesn't have any
chemicals in it or you could kill your pet before you even
get it home.
For your snail's home you will need a small aquarium with
some aquarium or pea gravel lining the bottom. You can also
add some small clay flower pots, plants, and other things to
decorate the tank and for your snail to climb on. You will
need to keep on hand some distilled water and a spray bottle
to spray the tank every day so that your snail can drink
from the water droplets.
Feed your snail very small amounts of chopped well-rinsed
vegetables and fruits. If your snail was eating when you
found it, give it more of that plant along with other foods.
Snails should not be handled often if at all, they are more
for watching. It is very important that the snail does not
come into contact with any chemicals or it will die. Do not
put a lot of snails together in one aquarium, they like
their space. And make sure that your snail cage has a tight
lid and very small ventilation holes lest your snail escape.
Put distilled water into a spray bottle and mist the inside
of your snail's vivarium every day. You may also want to put
some moss in the tank from the snail's natural environment
as it is good for holding the misted water so that the snail
can drink throughout the day. It is important that before
the food you give the snail starts to mold or go bad you
remove it from the tank and give the snail fresh food. You
do not want to leave mold or bacteria in your tank it could
kill your snails.
With good care snails will live a long while for a small
creature, sliming their way up and down and around their
tank. They can climb the walls literally and you can see
their undersides and watch them explore. Kids really enjoy
them because of their ickiness. Don't tap on the glass or
otherwise harass the snail, it's not good for them. But if
you follow these simple instructions you can have a
fascinating pet for at least a year.
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