Snails are molusks which belong to the gastropod class. There is thought to be over 43,000 species of snails in the world. They have been categorized into land snails, sea snails and freshwater snails. Despite many of them sharing the same features, they all have different diets, prefer different habitats, and come in unique shades.
Snails are adaptable animals that live almost all over the world. Some snails can be found in your back garden, others live in the snow or in the desert, while some prefer to live up trees.
Most land snails only eat plant-based food because they are herbivores. Other snails will eat only animal-based food, whilst many eat both plants and meat. Some snails are edible to humans, and even considered a delicacy in some countries, but be careful as many species of snails are dangerous because they contain parasites.
Did you know:
The first snail is thought to have lived around 550 million years ago on the seafloor. 286 million years ago the sea snail evolved into a land snail and developed lungs for breathing.
How to Spot Different Types of Snail
When trying to identify the type of snail, the easiest method is to check it out closely. Most snails will have a conical shaped shell. The number of whorls persent on the shell can help you easily identify the snail species. The profile of the whorls and their comparative size can also help determine the species. Some types of snail shells are ventricose, others are very slender, whilst some have increasing whorls. The texture of the shell and skin can also help determine what you are looking at.
If the apex (the tip of the shell) is pointed it’s an Achatina, if it’s blunt it’s an Archachatina. The sutures (the ridges along the spiral groove) of an Archachatina is deeper than an Achatina shell. Archachatina have much smaller and tighter-knit pores on the skin in comparison to Achatina snails.
Wetting the shell can help bring out the texture and the color.
16 Different Types of Snail
Giant African Land Snail
The giant African land snail is one of the largest snail species in the world. As the name suggests, it is native to Africa, but it can be found in every continent aside from Antarctica. It’s not a welcome snail, as it’s known to cause damage to crops and plants. Giant African land snails have also been identified as a specific organism which transmits plant pathogens.
Giant African land snails have a distinctive, brown, tough shell that has the heaviest metal content of all snails. They are herbivores, living off fruit, vegetables and sometimes even cardboard! In some cases, this type of snail has been known to eat sand, stones and even other smaller snails. On average, the Giant African land snail can live for between 5 and 7 years, yet some have been known to live for up to 10.
Did you know:
The giant African land snail measures about 2.75 inches in height and 7.87 inches in length.
Brown Lipped Snail
A brown lipped snail is very similar to a white lipped snail. The main difference between the two lipped snails is that the brown-lipped snail has a brown band around the shell opening. Despite the name, the shell comes in lots of different colors including yellow, brown, red, and pink.
Brown lipped snails are commonly found in Britain and feed on decayed plants. They like to eat old nettles and buttercups, which means they are actually considered the friends of gardeners. Although this land snail can be found in a range of habitats, it likes damp spots in gardens, hedges and grasslands.
Apple snails are a general term for larger freshwater snails. They have stunning colors including, blue, gold, white and even tiger striped patterning. Freshwater snails can grow up to 5.9 inches when cared for correctly. Because of the size and color, they are frequently kept as pets, living in aquariums.
Apple snails feed on vegetables, brine shrimp, fish food pellets, dead fish, frozen foods and sometimes insects. Although in the West they are considered pets, in Asia they are treated like pests because they climb out of the water and feed on crops.
Orchid snails get their name for being so small, yet so destructive to orchids in greenhouses. The disc-like shell has a reddish-brown color, yet the animal inside has a blue-gray tone. This invader originates in North America and reaches about 6mm in diameter.
You will find the orchid snail living under pots, in greenhouses, under litter or in cultivated areas. If you see this little snail near your plants, we advise moving it out.
Assassin snails are native to southeast Asia and are known to control the snail population in their area. These carnivorous animals mainly feed on other snails but also eat dwarf shrimp. They can be kept in aquariums as they don’t like to eat live plants or fish. They will never eat other individuals of their own species.
Assassin snails prefer tropical monsoon climates and can be found in the rainforest. They live in freshwater habitants, typically in locations with soft substrate like streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
The rabbit snail is a popular freshwater breed that is named after its rabbit-like face. The two drooping antennae on the top of the head look similar to long rabbit ears. They are an aquarium favorite because they have interesting, rough and wrinkled skin and a unique shade of shell. Indigenous to Indonesia, they eat soft algae, dead plants, and detritus.
Rabbit snails are usually only 3-5 inches long when fully mature. They are easy to care for and do a fantastic job cleaning the tank. They have a quick growth rate, meaning they will reach their full grown size quite quickly.
Did you know:
In captivity, rabbit snails can live somewhere between 1 and 3 years.
Pond snails are considered both valuable assets and extreme pests, depending on the situation. These omnivorous snails live on algae, fish food and dead plants. They are completely safe around healthy plants, although when fed consistently, they can reproduce quickly.
There are two main groups of pond snails, the main difference between them is that one breathes air through lungs and the other uses gills. Pond snails enjoy all types of freshwater ponds, just as long as they can freely feed on plants and dead animals.
Roman snails are commonly known as escargot. Native to Europe, this large snail is edible and considered a delicacy to some Europeans. Roman snails have a shell that is creamy white or light brown. About two-thirds of a Roman snail’s weight is its shell.
Their diet includes plants, vegetables, flowers, and fruits. This type of snail prefers to live in temperate forests with humid weather but minimal rainfall. Roman snails are active in late spring until around October. Over the winter months, they hibernate and form a rigid calcium carbonate lid to close their shell.
Mediterranean Green Snail
Also known as a green garden snail, this green-colored land snail can grow up to 4.72 inches in length. Native to Africa and Europe, they can be found living in rainforests. They are now found in the US but are considered a pest as they can negatively affect the health of an ecosystem.
The Mediterranean green snail has an herbivorous diet, feeding off crops, grasses, and leafy vegetables. In the 1980s, this type of snail was found infesting over 350 hectares of suburban and market gardens.
The milk snail is a large, air-breathing animal that feeds on fruits and plants. They come in a range of colors, but usually are light brown with dark lines that spiral along the shell. They are considered a pest, as they can outcompete native snails and cause disruptions to gardens, allotments, and orchards.
Milk snails were once a staple in Mediterranean diets and Moroccan archaeological sites have shown that it was frequently eaten by prehistoric humans. Generally only seen a night, they live in Mediterranean climates.
Mystery snails are probably the most popular aquarium snails. The main reasons they are popular are because they have stunning, colorful shells and can clean up waste with ease. They don’t eat living plants, just dead ones and will live happily alongside fish and shrimp.
Another reason mystery snails make fantastic pets is their peaceful personality. If approached by an aggressive fish, they will just hide away. Because they are so peaceful and can scare easily, try to keep them with other chilled out animals.
The common whelk is a big, edible marine snail with a red, white, or yellow shell. They live on sandy seabeds, just below the low tide mark. The common whelk is carnivorous and feeds off worms, crustaceans and other mollusks.
Common whelks are the biggest sea snail, with a conical shell that can reach around 10cm in length. The cream shell can be identified by the pattern of wavy folds.
Did you know:
When common whelk shells are empty, large hermit crabs often move in.
Candy Cane Snails
Candy cane snails are one of the most colorful gastropods. They have a white, conical shaped shell with an adorable rainbow-colored stripy detail. This type of snail can be found in the Caribbean and generally lives up trees. There have even been instances of candy cane snails being found in the Florida Keys.
These little snails feed on moss, fungi and algae that can be found on tree bark. Because of how beautiful the candy cane snail shell is, it has been over-collected in the shell trade which has made the snail almost endangered.
The Angustopila dominikae is famous for being the smallest snail in the world. Its size is less than 0.03 inches (0.86mm) and has a gray colored shell. This type of snail can be found in limestone caves and around cliffs. They usually can be found in southern parts of China, but they may be hidden elsewhere in the world.
This tiny snail is a new discovery, so very little is known about it. The diminutive size keeps it safe and protected, especially as many animals like to eat snails. While many other snails have evolved defenses through their tough shells, the Angustopila dominikae snail uses its size.
Nerite snails are a popular addition to aquariums because they eat algae, dead plants, and detritus. This small snail comes in a range of stunning shades with unique patterns, including one with horns! A small snail, they don’t eat live plants and their waste contains bacteria that is favorable for shrimps’ digestive tracts, making them a perfect addition to planted aquariums and shrimp tanks.
The have a shorter lifespan but can live up to 5 years when kept as a pet. They love to climb out of the water, so make sure your tank has a secured lid on it!
Manus Island Tree Snail
The Manus Island tree snail is often called the emerald green snail due to its beautiful bright green shell. Found on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, it lives in trees and prefers a humid, rainforest environment.
Over-harvesting of this type of snail for commercial purposes and the logging of rain forests has led to a decline in the population. The snail is protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and the species is listed in the IUCN Red List as near threatened.
Types of Snails: FAQs
What is the Difference Between Slugs and Snails?
Slugs and snails are very similar, but slugs generally have internal shells instead of shells found outside of their body. The reason snails have external shells is due to evolution.
Another difference between slugs and snails is their behavior and habitat. Slugs can squeeze their shell-less form into a range of different habitats that snails can’t reach like under tree barks or within logs on the ground.
Slugs can grow up to 15 inches, whilst snails can only grow to 10 inches. Snails are more commonly kept as pets, which helps them have a longer lifespan in comparison to slugs.
Did you know:
Snails and slugs are both gastropods, which comes from the Greek words gastros (stomach) and podos (foot). This is because they have a flat, muscular foot on their underside.
How do Snails Mate?
Most snails are hermaphrodites, which means they can be both be female and male. While some snails may still need another snail to reproduce, others can do it on their own via asexual reproduction. If two snails mate, they both could become pregnant. It is possible for one single snail to have around 90,000 grandchildren!
Can I Keep Snails as Pets?
Yes, snails make excellent pets. They are quiet, easy to look after and are good with children. A simple set up is inexpensive, plus they can be an attractive feature in any room. We recommend keeping them in a large, ventilated enclosure. Even though snails are fine with humid conditions, they still need to breathe.
Snails like to hide in dark locations, although some breeds like to sit near the lid and others prefer to hide under the dirt. The best thing to do is to provide lots of places for snails to hide. Also, add other things to the set-up like plants, rocks, and twigs. This makes the tank look pretty and gives the snail a more varied environment.
Research the type of snail you are getting before you set up your enclosure. Every type of snail has a different habitat preference. Some are friendly with other animals, others prefer to be with their own kind, whilst some species are incredibly aggressive.