How to Care for a Pet Garden Slug
Slug is a gastropod mollusc that does not have a shell or a very small reduced size shell. They belong to the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Mollusca and Class Gastropoda. They are found on land, freshwater and sea. Slugs in general refer to the ones that live on land, the slugs found in freshwater are called freshwater slugs and the ones found in sea are called sea slugs.
Slugs are very similar to the snails except for the shells. The slugs have two pairs of tentacles, one long pair with eyes for seeing and another shorter pair for sensing smell. The foot of the slug is muscular. The slugs move by secreting a slimy fluid on which they travel to reduce friction and prevent damage to their body tissues.
A few species of slugs hibernate during winter when the temperature is at its extreme. Slug’s body has high moisture content and hence finds it hard to survive in dry weather. They can be seen after a rain, or in damp and moist areas like damp wood or cardboards, flower pots or any place that retains moisture. Slugs come out during the night, so if you need to find one, the best time is after sunset. Slugs can burrow into the earth to moist regions during droughts.
Slugs are hermaphrodites. They eat decayed leaves, fungus, fruits, decaying vegetable matter and some plants. Some carnivorous slugs feed on other slugs, snails and even dead slugs.
Slugs are eaten by frogs, toads, snakes, rats, some birds, beetles etc. Their mucus has a bad taste for which reason some animals do not feed on them. They can also be slippery to hold due to their mucus secretion for birds and animals that way they can escape when attacked by some predators. Slugs can be pests in horticulture and agriculture as they feed on crops, plants, fruits and vegetables, making them not fit for sale in the market.
Now that we have seen all the basics about slugs, what they like, what they do, what is dangerous for them etc., let us look into how to care for a slug that you will be growing up and looking after as your pet.
First of all before finding a suitable slug, you need to make sure you have the requirements for your new pet. You need a home for your slug. It can be a container with a secure lid which has enough substrate for your slug to move around. You then need to have food to feed your slug and a spray bottle to spray water into the slug’s home. Once you have these ready, you need to find a slug most preferably in your garden to grow as your pet. You can look for them in wet places, under logs, leaves, plants, under flower pots, etc. They can also be seen in areas where you collect materials for compost or where you have stored compost especially outdoors.
The container you use can be a small aquarium or another spacious container at least 20 cm by 20 cm with a lid that has tiny holes for ventilation. Make sure that the holes are not too big, as your pet can free itself through bigger holes. Then comes the substrate, the material you place at the bottom of the container for your pet to move around. Look for the area where you find your pet, and take in enough soil, leaves and decaying plant material and a few gravel. The substrate has to be moist as slugs live in moisture filled habitat. In order for your slug to be happy, moist and healthy, spray the container with enough water from time to time, without which your pet will dehydrate, become dry and eventually die. Slugs mostly feed on leaves, decaying plants, fruits and vegetables. Do not feed too much fruits as too much sugar in fruits might kill the slug. So place small amounts of these inside the container for your pet and make sure you change them every day to maintain cleanliness and avoid bad smell. You can also get pellet food from pet stores to feed your slug, as this contains all the nutrients needed for your pet. Change the substrate once a week or once every two weeks to maintain a clean habitat for your slug’s own health benefits. You can put small twigs inside the slug’s home so it can climb up and feel at home.
When handling your slug while cleaning its home, you need to hold him very gently avoiding any sharp edges in touch with its body. Use wet hands preferably to hold the slug and make sure you clean your hands before holding your slug. Do not keep the slug in direct sunlight.
Few facts about slugs:
Let us look at a few interesting facts about slugs:
- A slug is basically a snail without a shell
- Most slugs are herbivorous, but there are a few carnivorous slugs too
- Slugs eat decomposed and rotting vegetation
- Slug eggs can remain dormant for years and hatch when conditions are favourable
- Slugs are hermaphrodite
- Slugs can live up to 6 years if conditions are good for their survival
- Slugs can stretch their body a lot so that they can squeeze through even very small openings
- Slugs can grow their tentacles back if they lose them
- Slugs do not have a backbone
- Slugs will dehydrate and die if you put salt over them