How to ship live snails

Last updated: September 28, 2022

Post by: mastsnail on July 17, 2004, 12:01:39 PM
I’ve been asked several times about my shipping method for snails and I’d like to post this so those of you who are curious will have a point of reference. Please, don’t think this is the ONLY shipping method used for snails because I’ve received them in a myriad of methods. Once I even received them simply wrapped in a wet newspaper and thrown into a small USPS priority mail box. Sadly, those snails did not survive their trip.
I’ve tried to develop a shipping method that is conducive to the snails’ survival of the trip. Here’s what I do:

I use disposable plastic containers (get ’em at Malwart for $2.33 a pkg. of 4 to 8 depending on size). I poke a hole in the lid just big enough so I can squeeze a piece of aquarium airline tubing through without it collapsing. I leave the tubing long enough so I can run it to the outside corner of the box (this lets them have access to at least a little fresh air). I line my box with styrofoam that I buy at a local building supply store in sheets. You’ll find these sheets near the house insulation. I think they’re 2 ft. wide and 5 or 6 ft. long and come in a pkg of 4 or 5 sheets. After lining the box, I wrap the snails in VERY wet white paper towels (I usually wrap each snail separately in its own piece). I place them inside the disposable plastic container, put the lid on and let the airline tube stick outside the box at one corner. Then, I place a thick layer of quilt batting (also at Walmart) on top of the container.
For summer shipments: I put an ice pack on top (You can use a food sealer to heat seal water inside plastic bags and freeze them or you can simply put 5 or 6 ice cubes inside a ziploc baggie). You can also buy those gel pack ice packs that you hydrate, freeze and then use (I’ve recently purchased a pkg of 72 of these on ebay).
For winter shipments a heat pack would be substituted for the ice pack.
Put the styrofoam lid on top (remembering to allow the airline to hang out one corner and not to squeeze it so hard that it collapses). Close box top, tape. I tape all the way around the top of the box and then cut the airline tubing off even with the corner of the box (so it no longer hangs outside of the box, but just even with the corner). I ship USPS Priority and usually that’s only about $3.85 since the boxes seldom weigh more than a pound each. I only ship on Monday’s so they have all five weekdays to reach their destination.

If any of you have different ideas or use different shipping methods, I’d love to hear about them! I’m always open to improvement! 🙂

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: Yvette on July 17, 2004, 01:44:59 PM
Thanks Mast 😉

Could this be stickied for reference?

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: mastsnail on July 17, 2004, 06:19:50 PM
Somebody beat me to the “sticky-ing”, but consider it “sticky-fied”. 🙂
Oh and it’s no problem Yvette! Good luck! 🙂

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: guppiesRus on July 19, 2004, 10:52:24 AM
Yeah, this is great! Im shipping some snails to my cousin for her birthday (the 26th). She had some other snails that just didnt want to stay in her aquarium….. (one crawled across the kitchen floor, was still alive in the morning when she found it… one laid eggs and died, the eggs were infertile……) Over all, shes not had that great of luck with her snails. But beleive it or not, shes the one that got me into aquariums! I got two snails from their petstore, and one little tank. Well, over time everything multiplied, snails, fish, aquariums…… So basicly, the snails are going to be her thank you.

So thank you very much!

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: pwright on August 07, 2004, 04:45:42 PM
I recently had an incident with snails in the mail….hmmm a rhyme. 🙂

I ordered a “low light” plant assortment from an online vendor, and the assortment included 2 marble snails. When I got the shipment, the 2 snails were in a sealed plastic bag containing water. Well, both were dead.

I contacted the vendor, and they sent two more, this time wraped in wet newspaper. This time they survived, taking off as soon as they hit the water. I don’t know if the method of shipment had anything to do with it…they could have just picked up 2 snails lying at the bottom for the shipment.

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: mastsnail on August 08, 2004, 07:00:31 AM
I’m sure that sealing them in plastic isn’t really a good way to ship them since there is hardly much air in a sealed plastic bag (unless you sealed air inside the bag with them much like shipping fish). If I were guessing, I’d say that your snails died en route. Very sad, really.
I’m posting a link to another thread on that references shipping methods. It was started by a lady who has had MANY successful shipments and she included pics with her information (for those of us that are visual :)).
Good luck in all of you shipping and receiving experiences!!
Here’s the URL of that thread:

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: mastsnail on October 17, 2004, 12:31:17 PM
I’ve made recent changes in my shipping methods in order to continue to improve mortality and health of the snails that I ship.
So, I thought I would post an update. Let me say, though that the Seachem Prime vastly improves the mortality of the snails. It neutralizes chlorine, chloramines and ammonia and detoxifies nitrite and nitrate. It’s a wonderful water conditioner and I use it with every shipment. I also use it in my water changes and have seen vast improvement in the health of my tanks. I hope any of this information helps you!

Fasting snails for 24 to 36 hours prior to shipping is a good idea (although not completely necessary if a good water conditioner is used) to limit the amount of waste that will be deposited inside of the shipping bags. I ship year round, but in the summer when it’s very hot I use ice packs and in the winter when weather is below 30?F either at my house or at the destination, I use heat packs. I get boxes from USPS free (order online). I buy styrofoam insulation at either Lowe’s or Home Depot. Cut it to fit tightly inside of the box so the box is completely lined with styrofoam. I bag the snails wrapped in white paper towels with some water treated with Seachem Prime. I make sure there is twice as much air in the bag as water and I tie the bags (fish shipping bags – I purchase on aquabid usually). I use rubber bands to keep the bags closed tightly. I double bag if I’m using bags that aren’t real heavy (2 ml is a heavy bag and I don’t double bag when using that type). I ship USPS Priority Mail so the pkg. arrives in 2 to 4 days. I tell whoever is getting the package when to expect the pkg. and as long as they get the pkg. out of their mailbox asap after it arrives, everything is great! That’s the long and short of what I do when shipping snails.
I work constantly to improve my shipping methods, but this is what it has evolved into over the course of shipping these little guys.

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: Yvette on October 17, 2004, 03:02:34 PM
Mast, the last snails I ordered (from someone on applesnail), they were packed similarly to how you describe. wrapped in toweling in a plastic bag, with water and air. I have to say, I was very unhappy with how the snails arrived.all had shell damage from the shipping (not to mention from the sellers water conditions). every snail had damage at the front of their shell (and one had a broken spire-which was in the bag!) from being tossed about a bag that had way too much air in it. The snails hadnt been fasted and had soiled the water and toweling. I would caution that the snails have to be wrapped very very well using this method. Since there is air in the bags, that means theres room for them to get momentum when they go slamming into one another.

For my own shipping, Ive adopted that first method you posted on in July and have had great success with it. Im also not shipping on a large scale either and have only shipped to friends in that manner.

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: mastsnail on October 17, 2004, 11:19:08 PM
I have to agree with you on this Yvette. It does leave room in the bag that can cause the snails to smash into each other. The best thing I’ve found to keep this from happening is to use a lot of paper towel for each individual snail and not to pack more that 3 to 4 in a bag (for dime size and smaller) and no more than 2 adults in each bag wrapped carefully in a full paper towel each of their own. This will pad them from each other and keep them from finding their way out during the trip. I have actually not placed two large snails in the same bag for another reason. If one dies during the trip, the other is almost sure to die also in the same bag because of the rate of decomposition and the pollution of the water with the resulting ammonia.
Another thing I do is to pad around the outside of the bags after they’re packed into the box with more paper towels or newspaper to keep the bags in place as the boxes are moved around a lot during shipping.
I use betta bags that are about 3″ wide and 8″ long. I sit them inside the box similar to the way I would pack an order for multiple fish.
It’s never a good idea to ship a snail that hasn’t been fasted because they will continue to create a lot of waste for at least 24 hrs. following the last meal they had. Fasting fish is done for the very same reason.
I would encourage anyone shipping aquatic snails to use a water conditioner in clean tap water (not tank water) for pkg. the snails. I highly recommend Seachem Prime or something as suitable for the ammonia issues that are going to arise during shipping.
Using the other method, I was experiencing some losses of snails. I do not even pretend to know why, but to lose even one shipment is unacceptable to me. So, I’m constantly trying to improve on my method. Perhaps I have not found the absolute best method, yet. But, I’ve had feedback from 6 shipments done with the bag method and all of the snails arrived safe and undamaged. I hope my luck with this method continues to hold. 🙂

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: mastsnail on February 18, 2005, 12:57:41 PM
Well, I’ve revisited my shipping methods and I’ve made a few changes this year to increase successful shipments.
I use the large Priority Shipping box from USPS unless I’m only shipping 5 or 6 snails (in which case I use the smaller one). I line that with R-4 house sheathing cut to fit very tightly inside of the box (I buy this at a local building supply and it’s 3/4″ thick polystyrene).
I ship snails (no more than two to a bag if they’re small and no more than one to a bag if they are larger than dime size) in a juvenile fish bag (4X10″ flat polybags) with about an ounce of water that’s been treated with Seachem Prime. No more paper towels. Just snails and treated water.
I double bag. Then, I nest the bags inside of shredded newspaper. I tape a heat pack to the inside of the lid (the house sheathing lid), seal the box up and away they go.
I will never use the gladware container method of shipping again. It’s too stressful. I’ve received two shipments of baby snails this year that were dead and the only difference between the seller’s shipping method and my own was they used a gladware container, painstakingly wrapped each snail in a wet paper towel and poked air holes in the lid of the container.
My theory on this: The heat pack uses oxygen to operate, so the snails suffocated in their container. Using bags the snails have their own air source that the heat pack can’t rob. I use an airhose off one of my airpumps to inflate the bags with good air. They don’t have to be shipped like fish (less water and air is normally sufficient for snails), but they need air to survive and the heat pack robs them of the air once inside the box unless they have their own air source.
I’m not going to ship snails in a gladware container again. And I’m not going to buy snails from someone who does unless it’s a spring or fall shipment when heat or ice packs don’t have to be used.
It’s too sad to receive a shipment of a dozen or more snails that are dead and smelly. 🙁 And most hobbyists don’t do replacement shipments for DOA’s. 🙁

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: Mickel on March 21, 2005, 08:37:22 PM
Can you send snails to australia 😀

Title: Re:Snails in the Mail
Post by: masocchicka911 on June 13, 2005, 09:41:32 AM
thats a good way to ship snails i will have to try it