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Life Cycle of the Freshwater Snail

| Updated October 19, 2017

There are hundreds of species of snail. They can be found on land, in saltwater and in freshwater. All species of snail are characterized by their spiral shells and soft, mucous-covered bodies. They move by the muscle at the bottom their bodies called the foot. Most snails are herbivores, but some are omnivores.


Snails are hermaphrodites. This means that they have both male and female reproductive organs. The female parts create the eggs and the male parts produce the sperm. One snail can fertilize its own eggs and reproduce by itself. Two snails can reproduce together as well. They do this by pressing the front parts of their feet together and shooting sperm-filled darts into each other. Then they lay fertilized eggs. Snails can begin mating and reproducing at 1 year old.


Around two weeks after mating or self fertilizing, the snail lays its eggs. It digs a hole in soil and lays them in it. Snails lay anywhere from five to 45 eggs at a time. These eggs are enclosed together in a jelly-like sac. Then the snail carries its eggs with it. The eggs hatch after four weeks. The newborn snails leave their mother shortly after hatching. A snail lays up to a thousand eggs during its life.


Immediately after hatching, snails will search for food. They eat their eggshells after they hatch. Snails are omnivores, but eat mostly small plants and minerals from rocks. Snails have thousands of tiny teeth on their tongues called radula. The snail uses these powerful little teeth to grind the rocks and absorb needed minerals and to scrape off pieces of plants. They can eat microscopic organisms as well.


Freshwater snails live in a variety of areas, including on water plants and in mud with an abundance of decaying plants and animals. They also live on algae-covered rocks, stones or concrete. They can go on land and in the water, but they cannot stay on land for too long or they will dry up. Freshwater snails have wide range in life span depending on species and environment. They generally live two to three years and are typically killed by predators. However, in captivity, they can live past 15 years.