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How to Make a Snail Terrarium

A snail terrarium can be the perfect addition for those who want to keep small pets as well as plants. Snails may not seem the most obvious pets for hobbyists but they can be a good choice. 

What You Need for a Snail Terrarium

Creating and maintaining a small-scale snail habitat requires some work. But get it right and you can spend hours watching these fascinating creatures in your home. 

The main thing to remember when creating a snail terrarium is that you need to make the right choices to create a long-lasting display and a healthy, snail-friendly environment. You need to:

  • Find the right container.
  • Select the right substrate to keep both snails and plants happy. 
  • Choose snails that will be happy in a terrarium habitat you can provide. 
  • Make the right plant choices. (Plants that will not be eaten by the snails and can remain in your terrarium longer term, as well as, potentially, temporary plants to provide snails with an additional food source.)
  • Consider what you might add to make your snail habitat a bioactive terrarium, or what features you might include to enhance the look of the space, or enrich the environment for the snail inhabitants. 

Choosing a Terrarium Container

First things first, if you want to keep snails in a terrarium you need to consider what vessel to use. You need to think about how much space is available, and how large you need to make the terrarium to house the snails you wish to house. 

Of course, some snails are much larger than others. So some snail terraria are larger than others too. Ideally, you should create as large a snail terrarium as you can manage, to keep snails as happy and healthy as possible. 

An absolute minimum space requirement is sometimes stated to be one gallon of volume in a terrarium per snail. Though more space per snail is better, especially if the snails you are keeping are larger in size. 

The container for a snail terrarium should be partially sealed, with some ventilation but not enough space for snails to escape. 

A Substrate Suitable for Snails

Once you have chosen your terrarium container, you need to work out what to put in it. To grow plants in your terrarium and to provide an appropriate habitat for your snails you will need to add a substrate layer to the base of the container you have chosen. 

You might purchase a high-quality terrarium mix suited to the plants you wish to grow. Alternatively, you might make your own blend using natural materials such as orchid bark, coconut coir, and activated charcoal, for example. 

When creating a snail terrarium, for the health of the snails it is important to avoid harmful synthetic substances that are found in some cheaper potting soils. Pesticides and other dangerous chemicals can kill your new pets, so take great care to avoid importing them into your new snail paradise. 

You should also avoid peat moss or other forms of peat-based potting mix. This is not only a bad choice for environmental reasons, but it also has an acidic pH, while snails will generally do best with a substrate that has a neutral pH level. 

Selecting Snails for a Snail Terrarium

Many of the specifics of a snail terrarium cannot be decided before you know what specific type of snail you would like to keep. 

In this article, we are focussed on creating a terrarium suitable for typical species of garden snails, or milk snails, which are the snails most commonly kept in a terrarium. 

Giant African Land Snails and other more unusual species are much more complicated to keep. These are not sustainable or ethical pets, and in some jurisdictions, it is actually illegal to do so. 

Whichever snails you want to keep, you need to know which you will house before you can determine all the best choices for the plants and other features of the space. 

Plant Choices for a Snail Habitat Space

When choosing plants for a snail terrarium, the first and most important thing to understand is that the plants are primarily for aesthetics and not provided for the snails to eat. If you want to create a longer-lasting display then you will need to choose plants that snails will not munch on. 

However, one option when creating a snail terrarium is to plant some non-food plants and some ‘sacrificial’ plants that the snails can and will eat in addition to the other food that you provide. 

In most cases, snails will need to be fed with items from outside the terrarium, since most will not be large enough to provide all the nutrition that they need. But plants might sometimes provide a little additional food if you do not mind replacing them regularly. 

Some good plant choices for décor that will not usually be eaten by your snails and that will not harm them either are:

  • African violets
  • Asparagus fern
  • Bird’s nest fern 
  • Boston fern
  • Coleus sp. 
  • Croton
  • Pilea sp.
  • Polka dot plant
  • Prayer plant
  • Staghorn fern

Moss also works well within a snail terrarium. It not only looks good within a display but also provides a soft cushion that helps keep snails safe as they explore their environment. 

Additional Features for a Snail Terrarium 

Once you have decided on the other details, you can think about what other features you might include to enhance your snail terrarium. 

One thing you should definitely consider is introducing springtails and isopods to turn your snail terrarium bioactive and cycle nutrients within the system. This cleanup crew will also help with any mold issues. 

Adding leaf litter to the substrate and placing plenty of natural features like bark, pieces of wood, etc. will help snails by giving them places to hide, as well as enhancing the ecology of the system. 

Avoid hard rocks and other potentially dangerous features and rather than providing water in a bowl, simply keep humidity high and mist regularly. 

You can play around with other ideas and add quirky features to enhance your display, as long as they won’t pose a danger to your new snail pets.