Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

You are here:

Snails (garden)


Note that you are not permitted to keep native species of snails without a permit from the Department of Conservation (see  The Wildlife Act 1953 ).

DOC Snail Identification Information

The vivarium

  • You can make an ideal vivarium for garden snails from an aquarium or a box with a wire mesh lid.
  • Line the vivarium with a layer of gravel and then a layer of moist garden soil. Add some rotting leaves, a few rocks, some decaying wood, a branch, and a few handfuls of grass.
  • Place the vivarium where it receives only dull light because snails like cool, moist, darkish conditions.
  • Ensure that the vivarium lid fits tightly to keep out predators and to keep the snails in.
  • If conditions are not right – if it is too hot, too cold, or too dry – each snail will curl up inside its shell, seal a thin "door" behind it, and wait for more favourable conditions.


  • When cleaning the vivarium, never use soap or detergent because these may kill the snails. Instead, use salt or bicarbonate of soda as an abrasive and then rinse thoroughly.

Vivarium diagram

  • dull light
  • cool, moist conditions


Vivarium for snails: main features


Vivarium diagram explanation

The vivarium shown is a box or aquarium with a wire mesh lid. It needs to be in dull light and cool, moist conditions.

On the base of the vivarium there is gravel or soil, rocks, rotting leaves, decaying wood and grass.

Water is needed in a small container and food in the form of leaves, grass, fruit and vegetables.

How to care for snails


In their natural setting, snails eat leaves, grass, fruit, and bark, but they will appreciate more variety and treats, such as moist, leafy, green vegetables.

Experiment with different vegetables and fruits.

A diet of lettuce alone is not recommended and could cause ill-health.

Rotting leaves and natural foods will ensure that the snails grow strong shells and live healthy lives.

Provide a small bowl of water.

Interesting facts about snails

The common garden snail has a fleshy mouth and a sharp, hard jaw with thousands of tiny teeth covering its tongue. Snails produce slime to help them glide safely across surfaces.

Snails are hermaphrodites, that is, they are both male and female, but they still need to mate to produce fertile eggs.

Each snail may lay two hundred to four hundred eggs every season, in clumps of about forty, in a protective layer of slime in damp soil.

It takes two years for a snail to reach maturity, and it can live for eight years.

Teacher resource for investigating Garden Snails. (Even though this is not a New Zealand based resource, it is still a useful tool for teachers.)


The text and illustrations for this online edition of Caring for animals: A Guide for teachers, early childhood educators, and students (published on Te Kete Ipurangi for the New Zealand Ministry of Education in 2005) is copyright © Crown 2005. All rights reserved.

Content has been adapted for the web from the printed version, originally published in 1999 by Learning Media Limited for the Ministry of Education. Although no longer available this publication may still be available in some schools.