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Raising Snails for Food or Pets
In some European countries, snails (in the form of escargot) are considered a delicacy, and there is a small market for them in the United States and other countries as well.
Edible snails can be sold live, steamed, canned, and more. Some escargot producers also sell specialty butters and other products to enjoy with their snails.
Snails can also be raised as bait or food for certain exotic pets such as puffer fish. Some species, especially aquatic snails, are kept as pets themselves.
Common Snail Species
Helix pomatia, which is known variously as the apple snail, Roman snail, Burgundy snail, or simply escargot, is a large European terrestrial snail that is one of the most popular edible snails.
Helix aspersa, also known as the brown garden snail or petit gris, is native to Europe and is another common type of edible snail. However, it is also considered to be an agricultural pest, and is estimated to be responsible for $7-10 million worth of damages every year in California alone.
Viviparis malleatus, also known as Japanese trapdoor snails, are edible by humans, but are most popular as pets for aquariums and ponds due to their excellent algae control capabilities.
Planorbidae species, also known as ramshorn snails, are a group of popular freshwater aquarium snails.
Pomacea bridgesii, or golden apple snail, is a lovely bottom feeding snail commonly kept as an aquarium pet.
Edible Snail Farming
The technical term for edible snail farming is “heliciculture.”
Snails are commonly raised in outdoor pens, generally long, narrow rectangles to allow the farmer to easily reach inside without having to step in. The pens must have sheltered hiding places for daytime, and good soil to burrow in. I many regions, a sprinkler system is useful to help control moisture levels. Terrestrial snails require a damp, but not wet, environment.
Outdoor snail farming is best in regions with relatively mild
climates and high humidity. In unsuitable climates, snails can be raised indoors or in special greenhouses.
Raising Aquatic Snails
Many aquatic snails will breed readily on their own. One exception is golden apple snails, which are not hermaphrodites and require both male and female individuals to breed.
It is illegal to import
certain species of snails into the United
States, and production of some other non-native species may be carefully
monitored, since many edible snails are considered agricultural pests. In particular, the edible Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) is illegal to import or own in the United States.