What Do You Feed Garden Snails And Slugs?

The feeding habits of slugs are a reflection of their way of life. Slugs leave behind a picture of misery. Shell snails clean up and chow down on trash. Learn here what snails eat and what they don’t. Clear tables illustrate important differences.

The most important in a nutshell

Slugs eat fresh greens, such as lettuce, cabbage, potato leaves, parsley, basil, horseradish, and strawberries.
Slugs with houses prefer to eat decomposed plant debris, decaying grass, mulch, fungal filaments, rotten fruit, and carrion. Fresh greens are not eaten by house snails.
Vegetables and flowers with thick-fleshed leaves or abundant tannins/bitter substances are not eaten by slugs, such as artichokes, chard, garlic, rhubarb, onions, cyclamen, begonias, coneflowers, lavender, beach lilac.

What snails eat everything – table


Destructive feeding habits make slugs a dreaded garden pest. As omnivores, the beasts mercilessly devour what amateur gardeners have lovingly planted in beds and tubs. Their invasive appearance, however, belies the fact that not all snails are the same. Harmless counterparts to voracious slugs are slugs worthy of protection. The question is: What do slugs with shells actually eat in contrast to slugs? The following table gives a compact overview:

Saladrotten grass
Cabbagewilted plant leaves
Carrot leavesMushroom threads
Potato foliagedecomposed plant remains
Fruit Vegetablesrotten fruits
Basil, parsleyCadaver
young petals 

A special form of nudibranchs are the predatory snails, which spice up their diet in a gruesome way. Slugs (Limacidae), such as the well-known tiger slug (Limax maximus), engage in cannibalism. Where the opportunity arises, other slugs are devoured alive. Despite this unusual diet, predatory slugs are now regarded as welcome beneficial insects in the natural garden.

What do snails eat in winter?

In autumn, falling temperatures put an end to the great eating. Before winter sets in, all slugs disappear and reappear in spring. Nudibranchs crawl into frost-free soil layers to hibernate. The mollusks have no resistance to freezing temperatures and die. More robust are the frost-resistant egg clutches from which young snails hatch just in time for the start of the new garden season.

Housing snails also stop feeding in winter. Because snails with shells cannot burrow in the ground, they have developed an alternative survival strategy. Before the first frost, they seek a protected niche in the garden or forest. There, the snails seal their shells with a lime lid.

What do snails not eat?

Snails have an aversion to plants that are suffused with tannins, bitter substances and essential oils. Numerous species produce these compounds in large quantities to keep the slimy goutweed slugs at bay. Some plants develop thick, leathery or hairy leaves as an ingenious defense strategy against slugs and snails. The following lists vegetables, herbs and flowers by name, which experienced hobby gardeners attest to slug-free growth:

  • Artichoke, Comfrey, Aster
  • Chicory, Watercress, Cyclamen
  • Endive, Ragwort, Begonia
  • Garlic, Chamomile, Sweet lily
  • Chard, Peppermint, Nasturtium
  • Radish, Oregano, Lavender
  • Rhubarb, Sage, Echinacea
  • Asparagus, Thyme, Beach lilac
  • Onion Lemon, balm, Watering heart
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Furthermore, snails lose their appetite for ornamental grasses of all kinds and most ferns. Because these gluttonous pests also ignore moss, natural gardeners use liverwort extract to combat slugs.

The culinary dislikes of slugs in the garden and forest can be summarized in one sentence: slugs with shells do not eat fresh greenery in the wild. This sentence does not apply to snails with shells, which live under the controlled conditions of the terrarium and have to eat what is put on the table.

Delicate leaves of plants prefer to eat slugs. Savvy amateur gardeners plant young vegetables with a slug collar as ideal protection against slugs in the garden. This precaution also applies to young anti-slug plants until they have developed a sufficient amount of tannins and bitterns or food-resistant leaves.

What snails like to eat in your tank as a pet

Glitter snails (Zonitidae), glass snails (Vitrinidae), Roman snails (Helix pomatia) and other snail beauties have no objections to a life behind glass, as long as the basic conditions are right. One of the main pillars of successful snail keeping in a glass house is a varied, species-appropriate diet. The following tips get to the heart of what snails like to eat in the terrarium:

Tidbits: Cucumber, clover, oatmeal.
Vegetables: leaves of kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, lettuce, (gladly wilted), boiled potatoes
Fruiting vegetables: tomato slices, eggplants (overripe pieces are eaten most readily)
Fruit: chopped berry or fruit tree fruit (soft and pell-mell or fresh)
Herbs: parsley, basil
Wild plants: Nettle leaves, dandelion
Supplementary food: fresh autumn leaves, eggshells as lime donor

Snails in tanks are demanding and have an aversion to monotony. Changing daily dishes are therefore the trump card if you want to feed your pampered little ones in a healthy way. If, on the other hand, you serve cucumber, clover or oatmeal every day, snails will go on hunger strike out of boredom until a new treat is served up.

Baby snails are no different from their snail parents in terms of food preferences. If they come into the world as tiny slugs, they prefer to eat tender lettuce leaves, fine dandelion leaves and white clover leaves. Because the mini-slugs hatch at the same time as the sowing season, seedlings and seedlings in the bed are highly sought after by the insatiable young.

Little snails with houses are not particularly eager for fresh plant leaves or strawberries. Rather, they mimic their parents and keep an eye out for wilted leaves, fallen petals, rotten mushrooms and similar plant debris. In the terrarium, mini house snails are happy to eat pieces of cucumber or tomato.

After hatching, baby snails first stay in their brood burrow. There they eat the remains of their eggs. Of particular importance here is a sufficient intake of lime, which is needed for a stable snail shell. It is not uncommon for the young snails to eat other egg remains and viable siblings. The snails emerge from this stronger and increase their chances of survival.

After a few days, it is time to welcome the sun. As they make their way to the ground surface, they eat away at the soil cover under which the brood burrow is located. Once at the top, they go in search of species-specific food.

Overview: What do baby snails eat?

  • Egg shells
  • Dead siblings
  • Earth cover of the brood burrow
  • Species-specific food

Snails eat your lettuce – What to do?


In the lettuce bed snail feeding is the biggest and, as a rule, the only pest problem. This is hardly surprising, because tender lettuce is at the top of the menu for insatiable slugs. In their greed for the tasty morsel, slugs ignore numerous control methods that achieve best results in other beds. So what to do?

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The best measure against slugs on lettuce is a slug fence. Tried and tested models for every budget are available from specialist dealers. The cheapest solution is a plastic snail fence that keeps the voracious vermin away from your salad bed for a season. Premium solution is a fence made of galvanized steel with a significantly higher purchase price. The investment pays for itself quickly because the sturdy slug fence usually lasts a gardener’s lifetime.

Snails eat your strawberries – What to do?

To protect against snails eating strawberries, nature-loving amateur gardeners reach into their bag of tricks. The secret to success in a slug-free strawberry bed is straw. A layer of straw acts as a barrier to slugs on the move. A positive side effect is that mulching with straw prevents strawberries from coming into direct contact with soil, thus preventing rot.

Frequently asked questions

What do predatory snails eat besides slugs?

Predatory snails are omnivores with a tendency to cannibalism. If no tasty nudibranch slithers by, predatory snails like to eat tender plant leaves, aromatic mushrooms or algae. Predatory snails love to gorge themselves on the eggs of slugs and Spanish slugs.

What kind of snails do hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs are crepuscular and nocturnal insectivores. The cute spiny animals will not disdain a fat snail either. They eat all kinds of slugs, such as garden slugs, Spanish slugs and predatory slugs. Because slugs retreat into their shells when threatened, hedgehogs bite their little teeth out on these slugs. Understandably, snails and other snails with houses are not on the hedgehogs’ menu.

Snails eat basil – what to do?

In the tenacious tussle with slugs over your basil, you’ll come out ahead with a combination of natural control methods. Mulch the root disc with sharp materials, such as grit, sawdust or pine needles. Sprinkle some coffee grounds over the mulch layer every two to three weeks. In mixed culture with sage, thyme, mint and Tagetes, slugs will avoid your basil. Best protection for your herb bed with basil is a plastic or stainless steel slug fence. Plant individual basil ideally with slug collars.

What do snails eat in the woods?

Snails are masterful at adapting their eating habits to local conditions. Because tasty lettuce and delicious basil cannot be found in the forest, slugs turn their attention to other green plants with tender, young leaves. Some species of slugs specialize in algae and lichens. Mushroom slugs feed on mushrooms with enthusiasm. Housing snails stay true to their reputation as beneficial insects, eating plant debris, carrion and mulm.

What is the largest native snail?

The largest native snail is a predatory snail in the snail family. A tiger snail grows up to 20 centimeters long. Largest shell snail is the Roman snail, which boasts a house 5 centimeters in diameter. In comparison with the world’s largest snail, the tiger snail and the Roman snail are at a disadvantage. At up to 65 centimeters in length, the sea snail Knight’s Helmet is a true giant, native to the coasts of Australia.

Are voracious slugs making your life hell in the garden? Then hire a brigade of feathered bodyguards for your ornamental and useful plants. Roosting ducks love to eat fat slugs and also eat the eggs with great pleasure.

What do snails eat?

Depending on the genus and species, there are wide differences, but in a pinch snails see past their preferences. Mostly the snails found in our gardens make themselves over plants, but also eat carrion and sometimes even other snails. Only rarely is there a preference for certain plant species. In general, it can be said that snails give a wide berth to leaves with a high content of tannins, bitter substances and essential oils.

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Gardens with clayey soil are more frequently affected by slugs than those with more dry, sandy soil. The reason for this is that slugs absolutely must protect themselves from drying out, and clay better retains the water that is important for this purpose. If the garden is generally rather sandy, it is less visited by snails.

In winter, the gardener can breathe a sigh of relief. Because here the animals fall into hibernation and no longer take food.

What do Roman snails eat?

The protected Roman snail (Helix pomatia) is one of the most welcome guests in our gardens. With its rasping tongue (radula) with around 40,000 teeth, it prefers to shred wilting leaves. In the process, it produces important humus. Young plants and juicy vegetables, on the other hand, usually go unnoticed. When hunger is great, however, fresh greens are sometimes eaten. It is of great benefit that young slugs in their nesting cavities eat the eggs of the dreaded slugs. Even tobacco plants are on the menu of Roman snails.

Overview: What do Roman snails eat?

  • Withered leaves of most vegetables
  • Rarely vital plant parts
  • Eggs of slugs
  • Tobacco plants

What do slugs eat?

On the one hand, there are phytophagous – i.e. herbivorous – slugs, but also those that live cannibalistically. Phytophagous slugs, for some time now especially the Spanish slug (Arion vulgaris), have a high damage potential. They feast on young plants and crunchy leaves and seem to have an insatiable appetite. The Genetted Slug (Deroceras reticulatum) is particularly fond of seedlings and is active even at temperatures below 10 °C. The slug has a lower damaging potential. The slug (Arion ater), which usually prefers wilted plant material, has a lower damage potential.

What do snails drink?

Snails drink water. They consist of almost 90 % of it, a human for comparison only about 70 %. Obviously, snails need to take in a lot of fluid to maintain their water balance. They absorb a significant amount of water through food, and a smaller amount through their skin. In particular, to keep their blood fluid, they must drink regularly. If a snail is dehydrated, it can no longer move. Then water intake through the mouth is especially important, primarily to keep the water content of the blood high, as well as to subsequently rehydrate the skin. You can recognize a dehydrated snail by the fact that its body is completely stretched out, but much thinner. It is also unable to move. You can help a dehydrated snail by moving it to a shady, moist place and giving it access to an area of water. A bowl with some water in it is a good option for this.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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