How Long Do Snails Live? Things To Know About Keeping A Pet Snail | Kidadl

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How Long Do Snails Live? Things To Know About Keeping A Pet Snail

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It does sound a bit strange to have a snail as a pet.

The feeling of having a pet is often bittersweet. While you get to spend valuable time with them, make them your family, be around them all the time, you lose them before you’re ready, even though you’re never ready.

Before you get a snail as a pet animal, you must know that most snails are known to be hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproductive organs. Snails are mollusks who belong to the Gastropoda class. Mollusks are animals who belong to the phylum Mollusca and are soft-bodied invertebrates.

Animals belonging to the phylum Mollusca are generally covered by a small mantle that is made of calcium carbonate. There are almost 43,000 different species of snails, including freshwater snail, land snail, and sea snail, all differ in habitat and lifespan. Hermaphrodites are animals that can be both males and females as they have both reproductive organs. Most existing snails are hermaphrodites, and although some of them need a partner to reproduce, many of them reproduce asexually as well. Around 550 million years ago, snails were just sea animals. As snails made their way through evolution, they developed lungs and shifted to land. This happened almost 250 million years after the first snail lived.

After reading all the facts about how long do snails live, make sure to check out how long can a snail sleep and are snails born with shells?

How long do garden snails live?

Garden snails, less commonly known as Helix aspersa, are a type of snails that are usually large and are the most easily found snails. Garden snails tend to hide in shelters during the day to protect themselves and come out at night to eat and live their lives. A land snail is generally considered as one that can threaten farm owners as snails eat plants and can damage crops. Snails hibernate as well, they can go into their shells, not come out for months, and can still be healthily alive. The age of a garden snail depends on its species. Many of them live for 10-15 years on average, but snails can also live up to 25 years.

If you want a pet you can cuddle with, play with, become friends with, spend quality time with, then a snail is probably not the right animal for you. Without the need for much interaction and high maintenance jobs, a snail is a type of pet that might be easy to handle. If you want to get an interesting pet but have a busy schedule, a snail might be a good fit for you.

Talking about schedules, snails aren’t exactly the type of animals that would keep your life lively during the day. If you want to enjoy your time with your pet and observe their daily actions, you need to adjust to the life of your pet snail because snails are quite the night owl. As snails need to feel they protect themselves from predators, they live their lives during the night and sleep during the day.

As mentioned, snails are easy to handle. But it’s still important to handle them with care due to their tiny size and their shells. The shell on the body of your snail is attached to it by a muscle known as the mantle, so you must avoid picking your snail up by the mantle if you want to avoid damaging the muscle. Also, you should consider washing your hands before picking up the snail as you might leave some harmful substances on your body, and snails might end up seeping into your skin. This is only applicable to some particular locations, but it is better to remember that some species of snails are illegal to keep as a pet as snails can damage crops. For example, the giant African land snail is illegal to own as they are invasive and act as a threat to crops.

In order to tell how old a snail is, all you have to do is to count growth rings at the edge of the shell. Another way to do this is to count the number of winter breaks and then add this to yearly increments.

How can you tell how old a snail is?

The lifespan of a snail differs from snail to snail. Different snail species have different lifespans, shell colorings, and sizes. While some snail species can live up to 25 years, some live for just 2-5 years. Also, it's often surprising to people how an animal like a snail can live up to 25 years. As there are almost 43,000 species of snails, discussing the major ones of them is important to dive deeper into how long snails live.

Giant African land snail: This is one of the most important of the snail species. Snails are one of the world’s largest gastropods as well. Snails can grow up to almost 8 inches (20 cm), and the color of their shell varies from light to dark brown. These snails live up to the age of 10 and are quite destructive. Owning this species of snails is illegal as they have the capacity to destroy crops. Snails can eat up to 500 different varieties of plants. The fact that these snails can live outside their natural habitat makes them more dangerous and threatening.

Garden snail: Helix aspersa, or garden snails, are the most commonly known snail, which lives the longest. Also known as European brown garden snails, they can grow as long as 1.3 inches (3.30 cm) in length. They have shells covered with mucus and are of yellow or cream color. What makes garden snails unfavorable is their tendency to eat plants. The reason why they are so undesirable on farms is that they have the capacity to destroy entire crops. A garden snail is generally seen feeding on the bark of trees, flowers, and even cereal. Garden snails are observed to have lived for up to 25 years.

Apple snail: The most commonly purchased snail for a freshwater aquarium is an apple snail. Generally large in size, growing up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length, these snails are found in interesting colors, including blue and golden.

Mediterranean green snail: This snail can get up to 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length, thus, needs a big tank, these snails are relatively new and have only been introduced to the world of snails after the 1980s. Mainly found in rainforests, these snails eat a very wide variety of plants, including cereals, pastures, vegetables, etc.

Orchid snail: One of the smallest snails that exist in this world, orchid snails were named after their destruction of orchids. Not even half an inch in length, these snails are very small for the type of nuisance that they can create.

Roman snail: One of the most interesting species of snail is this one. Only found in Europe earlier in time, you can find this snail worldwide today. Being one of the species of snails that humans consume and having tentacles on their heads, these snails are generally 1-2 inches in length. The tentacles on a roman snail’s head make it interesting to observe.

What are snails' main threats?

As we discussed, a snail can be easily found eating crops. A snails’ diet includes everything that farmers plant as crops and even more. In some areas, owning some particular species of snails is illegal. These destructive creatures can often act as pests. They have the capacity to eat over 500 plant species, additionally, their schedule of eating at night and sleeping during the day makes it even harder to deal with them.

Most snails have male and female reproductive organs.

Salt is also one of the most dangerous substances for snails as their body is unable to process it, like that of slugs. They don’t even ingest it, merely touching salt with their body can have deadly consequences for snails. Snails primarily die due to high levels of toxins in the water and old age.

What is the life expectancy of an aquarium snail?

A snails’ lifespan highly depends on the snail’s species. Snails live for a duration as small as a few months and as long as 25 years. Factors such as habitat, pesticides, and threats from predators also affect the lifespan of a snail.

The important question for how long snails live isn’t necessarily about the snail, it’s about their habitat and the species they belong to. When it comes to aquarium snails, they live for 2-3 years on average. You must remember that marine snails are poisonous and can bite you with their teeth. So, carry out the cleaning of your salt water aquarium carefully.

How can you improvise the health of your aquarium snails?

As it goes for humans as well, the diet of animals can largely affect how their health is going to be. In captivity, snails can survive for longer periods as compared to the wild. But to ensure good health for your pet snail you must clean the aquarium and change its water regularly.

As we discussed, the diet of snails makes them potentially threatening to humans, since they have the ability to destroy crops. By including more plants and leafy vegetables in your snail’s diet, you can aid their healthy and long lifespan. By feeding your snail vegetables, cereal crops, various types of flowers, etc., you can make your snail’s diet sufficient for it to lead a healthy life and survive for many years in captivity.

How to tell if your aquarium snail has died or just sleeping?

As it gets quite hard to tell how old a snail is, it is also hard to tell if a snail is dead or if it is just sleeping. As you may have seen snails in the wild before, snails are animals that hardly move or move very slowly, so it’s not uncommon to get confused. 

It is known that snails hibernate, and the hibernation period can last through a whole season. Snails sleep a lot. So it is better to know well before you land on a conclusion. Many times you will find quite late that your snail is dead if you don’t clean your aquarium that often. On the other hand, you might think your snail has died when in reality, it is just during its long sleep. To figure out if your snail is sleeping or has fallen asleep forever, these are the things you can do.

Smell the snail’s shell. Snails’ shells are covered with mucus. The shell is so strong that only a few birds or predators can break it. When snails die, their shell starts to smell as if they decay quickly and produce ammonia. Ammonia has a smell that can be identified quickly as it is intense. If you have multiple pets in your aquarium, there are chances some of them might have been affected by ammonia. To ensure that the decaying of your dead snail did not leave much ammonia in the water, you can do an ammonia test. If your snail doesn’t smell pungent, you’re safe to go, put the snail back in the aquarium, let it sleep, and stop worrying!

Don’t miss the obvious signs. Sometimes we get so engrossed in checking other complicated factors, we miss some straightforward signs, including the absence of a response from your snail when you pick it up, the shell being empty, and the snail falling out from the shell. No matter if your snail is a freshwater snail living in your aquarium or a land snail, after the death of your snail, the shell of the snail will start getting dull, and it will become pretty clear that your snail has gone for a long, long sleep.

Although wild snails are the type of animals that won’t interact with you a lot or won’t move around a lot, or it’s rather slow when they do, if you mess with the shell of the snail that is made of mucus, which is supposed to protect the snail, it is going to react. One way to check if your snail is dead or if it’s just sleeping, you can very gently try to tap on the shell of the snail. If it responds in its own way, your tests can take a pause. If your snail is the one that has a trapdoor, you can try to open it. If it opens easily, your snail is probably dead. On the other hand, if your snail resists the opening of the trapdoor, it is very much alive.

One more way of checking is slow but effective. You can try moving your snail to a different captivity environment, and as any animal would if you change their habitat if your snail tries to explore (usually at a slow pace) and look around the new environment, a mini-wave of celebration for you should be on its way. But if your snail doesn’t seem to move much, or at all, it’s probably safe to say that something is going on with your snail, or it is dead. Snails also leave behind a trail of mucus when moving around in an aquarium, so look for a wet, sheen-like trail to determine its status.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how long do snails live, then why not take a look at how do snails reproduce or garden snail facts?

Written By
Kidadl Team

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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