How to Tell if a Snail Is a Boy or a Girl

Written by justin w. sanders
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How to Tell if a Snail Is a Boy or a Girl
Most land-based snails are hermaphrodites. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Most land snails, or pulmonates, are hermaphrodites, meaning they possess both male and female sexual organs. However, land-oriented prosobranch snails, as well as many water snails, are dioecious, meaning they can be either male or female. The apple snail and the tiny New Zealand mud snail, for example, are dioecious. If your snail is of the dioecious variety, determining its sex will take some patience and careful observation.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Magnifying glass

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  1. 1

    Remove the snail from the aquarium or other habitat, gently holding it between your thumb and forefinger.

  2. 2

    Keep the snail on its back, belly facing the sky, for one to 10 minutes.

  3. 3

    Watch for the snail's foot, a wide, flat membrane, which it will extend in order to try and right itself.

  4. 4

    Look through the magnifying glass as the foot extends, training your vision on the right mantle cavity, attached to the inside of the shell over the head and neck.

  5. 5

    Keep your eyes peeled for the snail's relatively large penis sheath. It will resemble the front of a pouch. If you don't see one, the snail is female.

  6. 6

    Practice observing different snails to improve your gender-recognition skills. It may take a few tries before you can tell the difference.

Tips and warnings

  • Another very easy way to determine snail gender is to wait until your snails mate. Whichever one crawls up on top (usually the smaller of the two) is the male.
  • If you have failed to make the snail extend its foot after 10 minutes, be sure to give it a rest and return it to its habitat. It can be harmful to the snail to hold it for too long.

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