How to Make a Cute Pet Snail Terrarium (Easy Guide)

Snails are one of the easiest terrarium pets to get started with.

Inexpensive, small, and famously chill, these slowpokes seem like a natural fit.  

That said, as these pets can actually eat the plants inside, they need a slightly different approach than your typical terrarium setup (and perhaps some hardier plant choices).

In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you know to make an easy snail terrarium setup.

Let’s escar-go!

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A Simple Snail Terrarium Setup

Honestly, a terrestrial snail terrarium is a relatively simple setup. 

Unlike a reptile or insect terrarium, there’s no complicated lighting or heating tech required here. You just need a functional plant terrarium with enough space for them to move around, relax, and feed. 

Easy peasy.

That said, though you can technically go pretty barebones with this project, I assume you’d like your terrarium to look nice and natural rather than a mere pot of dirt.

A terrarium full of lovely plants will be far better for both the snail and the owner, don’t you think?

Give your snail a real environment to explore.

Choosing and Filling the Enclosure

Okay, just about any clear container will do for the enclosure, provided it can be partially sealed or has some ventilation.

Enough to allow for airflow and gas exchange, but not so much that a potential escapee snail could slip through. They are good climbers, after all!

As you can see, snails really get around. This is just one night of exploring!

A glass fish tank with a vented lid is a solid choice that’s easy to get your hands on. 

When it comes to container size, it’s largely going to depend on what type of snail you choose and how many you want to keep.

Your basic Garden Snail will need a much smaller home than a Giant African Land Snail, for example (though the latter is a much more complicated – and sometimes illegal – pet to keep).

For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to assume you’re going to house a typical species of land snail e.g., the common Garden Snail or the ever-popular Milk Snail. 

Some snail species come even smaller, like these Garlic Snails (yes, that’s their name, not the food).

A rule of thumb seems to be 1 gallon per snail, but that feels a little on the small side. Both for the snail and just in terms of having a functional and aesthetic plant terrarium.

I’d start with a glass tank at least the size of a shoebox, but a five or 10-gallon container would be better.

With the container chosen, now we’ll cover what to put in a snail terrarium.

Snail Safe Substrates

First, you’ll need a substrate layer

As always, I recommend a high-quality tropical terrarium mix. Not only will your plants do much better in it, but it’s also typically much safer for snails.

Unfortunately, the cheaper potting soil option tends to come with various harmful pesticides and chemicals. It’s just not worth the risk.

  • Natural materials like orchid bark and coco coir help to retain moisture and humidity. 
  • Try to get one as pH neutral as possible too, so I’d avoid materials like peat moss.
A high-quality terrarium mix is essential.

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Terrarium snails often like to burrow, so be sure to make a substrate layer that can comfortably accommodate your biggest plants’ roots and your snails.

Picking Suitable Snail Terrarium Plants

First things first, these plants are for decor, not food!

Snails need a regular supply of food (think fruits and vegetables), so we don’t need to consider their appetites when we think of terrarium plants. 

For a variety of reasons, there are types of plants that snails tend to leave alone. So we’ll be sticking with these. Though I guess you could also add a couple of edible plants as a backup food source.

To start, I’d consult this list from the snail experts. 

That way, you can find out what’s safe to plant and what’s likely to be ignored

From my experience with terrariums, a few species stand out here. The entire Pilea genus is safe, opening up a wide variety of solid species, from the delicate vines of Pilea glauca to the stunning foliage of the Moon Valley Pilea.

He’s happy on this Raindrop Pepperomia.

As we’re creating a high humidity – and low light – environment for the snails, ferns are a natural choice, too. The Asparagus Fern is down as safe, as is the Boston Fern (but I’d opt for the dwarf versions of Nephrolepis exaltata, e.g., the Fluffy Ruffles Fern).

Then, there’s moss.

Moss is an excellent addition to any terrarium, but it can also be particularly useful for snails as it provides a soft cushion for any climbing mishaps… 

There’s a vining Ficus species here and a wide selection of moss.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Shop our Live Terrarium Moss Collection.

Finally, I’ve seen succulents recommended online, as apparently, snails won’t eat them. But remember, succulents require lots of full sun to grow, and snails prefer shade. So they’re not a practical fit for one another.

Snail Terrarium Decor (That’s Safe & Beneficial)

In the case of a snail terrarium, the decor can be both functional and aesthetic.

To start, snails like somewhere to hide. So, a chunk of cork bark or a large driftwood branch can provide a convenient and natural-looking spot.

For accents, leaf litter and cones/pods provide a dual purpose in serving a natural woodland look and a bioactive food source (should you choose to add some bioactive bugs).

We used magnolia seed pods and cork bark here.

Finally, you can add any miniature figurines, provided they’re non-reactive. 

Mushrooms and fairy houses can complete the Cottagecore look, or you can add dinosaurs if you like – it’s your terrarium!

Things to avoid:

  • Hard items like rocks can be a disaster waiting to happen. Snails can be clumsy animals, and a climber that loses its footing can end up cracking on hard stone like an egg into a pan.
  • Water bowls are surprisingly hazardous and best avoided (once they get in, they can struggle to get out). It’s recommended that you simply mist them regularly instead and keep the humidity high.

Bioactive Additions

Springtails and isopods make for good company in a snail terrarium. 

They share the same care requirements (high humidity and moisture), and they really come in handy. These bioactive beasties will help clear up any uneaten food and keep mold in check too.

terrarium springtails
Springtails are tiny and make great companions for snails!

๐Ÿ‘‰ Check out our range of isopods and springtails for sale on our shop!

Wrapping Up

A snail terrarium is a versatile project. 

Whether you’re looking to create a horticultural palace for your pet snail or a simple glass garden, you should be well on your way. 

If you’re curious, why not check out our guide to other great terrarium pets

6 thoughts on “How to Make a Cute Pet Snail Terrarium (Easy Guide)”

  1. My 9 year old granddaughter, came in a few hours with a snail, she gave him a name. Mr. Snail, she gather dirt and a few small plants. she now has it all together. I thought, does the little critter need a bowl of water. I went on line to hopefully finds a answer or two. I and she was delighter to find you site. Thank you for your information. We appricated it.

  2. I just found a large snail with a badly broken shell and am trying to nurse him back to health. I have him in a clamshell food container gas I am a microgreens farmer) gave him some leaves and some micro-kale and broccoli, and have been misting him gently. Knowing how to build a terrarium for him helps me HUGELY because the shell is so badly broken that it will take at least weeks for him to heal, if he even can fully recover. Thanks so much for all your advice and helpful info here! ๐Ÿ’š โ€œOswaldโ€ is grateful ๐ŸŒ

    1. Sarah Lynn Coleman

      Cuttlebone can be found in the bird isle of the pet store, and is an EXCELLENT source of calcium for restoring broken shells.

      I, too, rescue damaged snails, and most of my babies cannot be released, as the damage causes deformities that prevent them from surviving on their own.

      I have been doing this for about nine months, and I have come to LOVE their sweet little personalities, finding likes and
      dislikes of each. They all seem to like bean sprouts and butter lettuce, but one of my snails, who I named Stella, would ONLY eat carrots. If it wasn’t a carrot, she wasn’t eating it. Found out through trial and error that she liked it shredded with the wavy slicer, and she only liked the baby carrots. I tried to give her rainbow carrots once, and she didn’t want anything to do with any of the other carrots. Just the orange ones. Not really sure why, but she was strange little snail who I loved deeply. I lost her to a water bowl while I was moving… ='{

  3. Hi, I’m a snail owner who was inspired by your website I have become a recent snail owner and I’m grateful for the new info ๐Ÿ™‚

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