Heliciculture/Farming Snails

Successful snail culture requires the correct equipment and supplies, including: snail pens or enclosures; devices for measuring humidity (hygrometer), temperature (thermometer), soil moisture, and light (in foot candles); a weight scale and an instrument to measure snail size; a kit for testing soil contents; and a magnifying glass to see the eggs. You also may need equipment to control the climate (temperature and humidity), to regulate water (e.g., a sprinkler system to keep the snails moist and a drainage system), to provide light and shade, and to kill or keep out pests and predators. Some horticultural systems such as artificial lighting systems and water sprinklers may be adapted for snail culture. You will have better results if you use snails of the same kind and generation. Some recommend putting the hatchlings in another pen.

Four Systems of Snail farms:

  • Outdoor Pens.
  • In buildings with a controlled climate.
  • In closed systems such as plastic tunnel houses or "greenhouses."
  • In addition, snails may breed and hatch inside in a controlled environment and then (after 6 to 8 weeks) may be placed in outside pens to mature.

Climate: A mild climate (59-75 F) with high humidity (75% to 95%) is best for snail farming, though most varieties can stand a wider range of temperatures. The optimal temperature is 70 F for many varieties. When the temperature falls below 45 F, snails hibernate. Under 54 F the snails are inactive, and under 50 F, all growth stops. When the temperature rises much above 80 F or conditions become too dry, snails estivate. Wind is bad for snails because it speeds up moisture loss, and snails must retain moisture.

Moisture: Snails need damp, not wet, environments. Although snails need moisture, you must drain wet or waterlogged soil to make it suitable for them. Similarly, rainwater must run off promptly. Snails breathe air and may drown in overly wet surroundings. A soil moisture content of 80% of capacity is favorable. In the hours of darkness, air humidity over 80% will promote good snail activity and growth.

Ninety-nine percent of snail activity, including feeding, occurs in the cool, dark nighttime, with peak activity taking place 2 to 3 hours after darkness begins. The cooler temperature stimulates activity, and the nighttime dew helps the snail move easily. They hide in sheltered places during most of the day. If necessary, use misting sprayers, like those used for plant propagation, in dry climates to maintain adequate humidity and moisture levels.

Soil: Use a good medium soil that has neither a lot of sand nor too much clay. Snails cannot dig into hard, dry clay, and soils with too much sand or too little water. Soil that contains 20% to 40% organic matter is good. The soil should be similar to that of a garden in which green, leafy vegetables thrive. If your snail farm contains plants, keep them wet and properly care for them. Regularly remove any weeds. Neutralize soil that is too acidic with lime to make it suitable (at about pH 7). Besides the pH value of the soil, calcium must be available either from the soil or another readily available source, since snail shells are 97% to 98% calcium carbonate. If in doubt, you can add a little ground limestone. One researcher treats the soil with polyacrylamide at the rate of 12.5cc of a 160-g M.A./one preparation in 250cc of water per kilogram of dry soil. This stabilization treatment helps the soil structure resist washing. This allows regular cleaning without destroying the crumb structure of the soil that is beneficial for egg laying.

Snails dig in soil and ingest it. Good soil favors snail growth and provides some of their nutrition. Lack of access to good soil may cause fragile shells even when the snails have well-balanced feed; the snails growth may lag far behind the growth of other snails on good soil. Snails will often eat feed, then go eat dirt. Sometimes, they will eat only one or the other. This may be one reason that you should not crowd too many snails into too small a pen. The soil, unless frequently changed, will become fouled with mucus and droppings. Chemical changes also may occur in the soil. A mixture of peat, clay, compost, CaCO3 at pH 7 makes a very good soil. Leaf mold at pH 7 works almost as well. Organic matter in the soil seems as important as carbonates. Soils that are richest in exchangeable calcium and magnesium stimulate growth best. Usable carbonates and total calcium are important. Calcium may be added to the soil at the rate of 10 pounds per 100 square feet. Calcium may also be set out in a feeding dish or trough so the snails can eat it at will.