Never heard of getting snails in the mail? Have too many snails in your aquarium and would like to unload some? Shipping snails is a simple and effective way of offering what you have to others who may not have access to certain types of aquatic snails. It's also a great way to trade for other items that you might be interested in.
First things first, make sure that that the type of snails you have are legal to possess as well as ship within and outside of your state. There are many different kinds of snails that are commonly found in home aquariums. Most snail keepers know the term "apple snail" or "mystery snail" but really these terms are too broad and don't pinpoint any certain type of snail.
Some snails are illegal in some states and in others, while it's legal to possess the snails it is illegal to ship them over state lines. Pomacea Canaliculata, otherwise known as baseball snails, apple snails, giant apple snails, and golden snails, are commonly illegal to ship across state lines in the United States but in many places, you can distribute to those within the borders. Another type that often has restriction is the Marisa snail, also known as the Giant Columbian Ramshorn Snail.
Other snails require a permit for shipping through the US government. These include the very popular and extremely colorful Pomacea Brigedesii snails. Be sure to check with your local state restrictions as well as the state where the snails will be shipped too. Typically snails such as Malaysian Trumpets and European Ramshorn Snails and Physa Acuta are legal to ship anywhere, as long as several other types.
Assuming you've got a legal snail to ship with no restrictions, are shipping within the state or have the require permits, you are now ready to learn how to ship a snail.
Step One - Gather Your Supplies
You will need:
Fish Shipping Bags - The best are at least 2 mil in thickness. The four inch by twelve inch bags work great for shipping snails, but other sizes are available.
Newspaper - This you will use for packing material. It insulates better than cotton batting or bubble wrap.
A Shipping Box - Snails are best shipped by USPS Priority Mail. Free Priority boxes are available at the post office. The small #4 box works great for small shipments with bigger boxes available for larger ones. Otherwise, any box will do.
Insulation - There are two ways to go about this. You can purchase Styrofoam insulation from your local hardware or home improvement center for about $8 for a huge pack of it. Or you can find molded Styrofoam containers from veterinary clinics, medical offices, dental offices and even pet stores that are great to use for shipping snails and fish. If you end up purchasing sheets of insulation, be sure to cut it so it covers all six sides of the shipping box and tape all seams to prevent leakage of water to the outside of the box.
Towels - This is for obvious reasons!
A Sharpie - Getting a box of live critters in the mail can be frustrating if labels aren't on the bags. A Sharpie works best for labeling what's in the bag.
A medium sized bowl of clean water - Fill it with water of approximately the same temperature as what the snails are living in currently. Be sure to use dechlorinator as well. This will be the water to ship the snails in.
A Turkey Baster - This isn't a necessity but over the years I've found that using a turkey baster to fill the fish bags with water is so much easier than pouring it in.
Packing Tape - You're going to need a lot! A simple strip across the top isn't nearly enough!
Ice Pack or Heat Pack - Obviously this depends on your weather and where they are going so use good judgment.
Bits of Live Aquatic Plants - Use this if you have it. If you don't, then it's no big deal. Adding cuttings of live aquatic plants simply gives the snails something to grab onto during transit.
Snails - Having your snails collected ahead of time greatly reduces the packing time. Separate them the night before being careful to not feed them over night. A well fed snail poops in clean water and we don't want his only source of water fouling during his trip.
Step Two - Start filling up the bags.
Using your turkey baster, suck up one good squeeze of water. I like to use one full baster of water to fill the shipping bags, no more, no less. When shipping snails, it's important to remember: Air is more important than water. A very small amount of water goes a long way, while a very small amount of air in the bag can be fatal. So, a good squeeze of your clean water should suffice.
Once the water is in the bag, add a cutting of live aquatic plants, if available.
Don't forget to add the snail! You can go ahead and put your snail in the bag at this point. If you are shipping large snails, only pack one per bag. Bigger snails foul water more quickly. Also, during shipment, they'll be banging into each other and could cause quite a bit of shell damage.
For smaller snails, multiples can be shipped together. For example, approximately 25 - 35 Malaysian Trumpet Snails can be shipped in a 4 x 12 inch bag safely. These guys have tough shells that are next to impossible to damage and their small! For European Ramshorns, you can safely fit 15 - 20 snails in a bag of the same size. If shipping Pomacea Brigs snails, 3 - 5 very tiny ones can be in the same bag, about 2 middle aged ones per bag and only 1 adult per bag.
Use your best judgment. Keep in mind that they'll be in that bag for two days and you want to ensure their safety.
Step Three - Knot the bags.
When you go to the fish store, you've probably noticed that the bags are tightly closed and secured with rubber bands. Many fish and snail shippers use rubber bands as well. I, however prefer to knot the bags. In my own experience, a better seal is accomplished and less leakage occurs.
Set the bag on a counter top and quickly grab the bag a little more than halfway up. Lift the bag off the counter and twist the bottom one way with one hand and twist the top the other way with the other hand. Keep twisting until there is a significant amount of air and the bag is fairly tight. If shipping via air mail, be sure to leave some give in the bag so the pressure changes don't cause a bag to burst.
Once it's all twisted, keep twisting to form a knot. Pull the excess end of the bag tightly to form a nice seal.
Step Four - Double bag!
Shipping snails in one bag isn't enough. Double bagging helps ensure the safety of the snails and prevents leakage. If the inside bag leaks, then the outside bag is there for a back up.
Flip your newly knotted bag upside down, making sure no snails are stuck in the folds of the bag. Slide the bag of snails into a new bag, knotted end first. Most likely, excess air will have to be squeezed out of this new bag before the bag of snails will fit in.
Twist and knot the second bag as the first was done. Now you've got double bagged snails ready to be shipped!
Step Five - Label the bags.
After dealing with getting fish and shipping fish and snails for long you'll realize that hobbyists that do this often send "extras". These are additional fish or snail related critters or items that weren't paid for. It's nice to add labels using your Sharpie to the bags so the recipient knows what they are getting.
A good label would include the amount of snails per bag and the type of snails. For example: #1 Striped Marisa Snail or ~35+ Malaysian Trumpet Snails.
Step Six - Pack and insulate the box.
You've already got your box ready, whether it's molded Styrofoam or you've cut insulation to fit all six sides of the box and taped all the seams. Now, it's time to pack it up and send these guys on their way.
Using newspaper or newsprint, wrap up each bag of snails. Arrange them in the box so they won't be bouncing around or falling over. For excess space in the box, wad up more newspaper to fill any voids. Be sure to stuff small pieces into corners and make sure the snails are well padded. Another purpose of using plenty of paper is to provide enough that will soak up any water that might leak out.
Once the snails are packed securely and plenty of paper has been added, attach the ice pack or heat pack to the inside of the insulated lid, if it is necessary for your local temps and the temps of the buyer. Heat packs can be taped to the inside of the lid with packing tape being sure to leave a small amount of the pack exposed to air to promote heated air flow.
Ice packs or cold packs can be wrapped in paper towels and secured to the inside of the lid in the same manner. Be careful when using heat packs or cold packs that neither directly touches any of the shipping bags. To keep the snails comfortable, place several layers of newspaper between the bags and the heat or cold pack.
Step Seven - Prepare the box to ship.
Now is the time to get that packing tape ready and the Sharpie nearby. Use packing tape on any and every seam on the box: One across the middle of the top with two along the sides. Don't forget the bottom of the box! It'll need the seams sealed too! Most boxes also have a seam going up one side.
One thing I should mention is that any markings should be made onto the box before taping. Everyone marks their boxes of live fish and snails differently. Simply marking "Fragile" and "Water" is sufficient. You want to mark "Fragile" for obvious reasons. "Water" is written on the box incase of leakage. If a box ends up wet, it will be considered hazardous materials unless the post office employees are told otherwise. Marking "water" on the box will let them know that the wetness is simply that; water.
Step Eight - Address the box.
Double and triple check to be sure that the address of the recipient is fully correct. Nothing is worse than sending out a box of critters and waiting for their destination day to arrive only to find out that it never made it there. Many times the box is returned to the sender many days later; sometimes the guys inside are OK, sometimes not.
Also make sure your address is clearly labeled on the box to speed up any potential returns.
Step Nine - Apply postage.
Simply take the box to the post office and ship it Priority or another quicker service. You don't have to do anything special when shipping. The markings are made on the box. Answer questions honestly, telling the clerk that it is fragile and liquid.
Delivery Confirmation is a helpful thing to get to determine if and when the package was dropped off at its destination. Insurance isn't helpful when shipping via USPS mail as it doesn't cover live animals.
Step Ten - Alert the buyer and wait.
This is the hardest part. Send a quick message to the buyer to let them know the little guys are on their way. This will tell them to be alert on the day they should arrive so they can be there to accept the package rather than allow it to sit on a hot or cold porch all day.
Then wait. Hopefully the buyer will alert you as to when they have arrived and the condition they are in. If everything was done correctly, more times than not, they will be just fine.
Shipping snails is a fun way to meet others in the hobby, distribute what you have to others and to get what others might have that you don't have. It seems intimidating at first but it's easy to get a hold of.
You can find other hobbyists online on various websites to sell snails too, or to purchase from. Websites such as www.aquabid.com
specialize in those looking to buy and sell aquatic critters. Otherwise, you can check into local aquarium clubs or even state wide aquarium clubs.
These are our pets. If you put care and consideration into every bag that is packed, your package should arrive in perfect condition.