Leopard Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Leopard Snail (Babylonia spirata) - Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Babylonia spirata (also known as the Babylonian snail, Tiger nassarius snail, Leopard nassarius snail, Lion snail, Ivory whelk snail, etc.) is probably one of the most beautiful snail species in the aquarium hobby. These absolutely gorgeous snails are sure to attract attention in any marine tank. Since I like these little guys, I figured that it might be helpful to make a detailed guide on them.

In short, Babylonia spirata grows quite large and prefers warm water. These snails fall into the category called carnivorous and opportunistic scavengers. It can be really hard (yet possible) to breed them in captivity.

In this guide, I gathered everything we currently know about Babylonia spirata including ideal tank setups, healthy diets, breeding, compatibility with reefs and other species, etc.

Quick Notes about Babylonia Spirata

Name Babylonian snail
Other Names
Tiger nassarius snail, Leopard nassarius snail, Lion snail, Spotted Babylon snails, Spiral Babylon, Butterscotch Nassarius, Puramutta chank (Dove egg shell), Ivory whelk snail, or Baigae snail
Scientific Name Babylonia spirata
Tank size (minimum) 15 gallons (~60 liters)
Keeping Easy – Medium
Breeding Difficult
Average size 1.7 – 2.2 inches (~4.5 – 5.5 cm)
Optimal Temperature 79 – 86°F (26 – 30°C)
Water type SG = 1.021 – 1.025
Optimal PH 8.1 – 8.4
Optimal KH 8 – 12
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Carnivore
Temperament Peaceful (with caution)
Life span up to 4 – 5 years
Color Form White to yellowish, with large orange to brown markings

Interesting fact: These snails are traditionally exploited for the shell-craft industries. In addition, Babylonia spirata meat is a valuable food with high-quality protein and a well-balanced diet enriched with essential vitamins and minerals. Nutritional contents of protein (53.86%), carbohydrate (16.85%), and lipid (9.30%)

Habitat of Babylonia Spirata

Babylonia spirata is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific region, especially, from the Western Indian Ocean to Bali, Indonesia. In India, these snails have been recorded from southeast and southwest coasts and in waters around Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Generally, they can be found at the depth of 15-100 ft (5–30 m) in the marine coastal waters in silt or sandy benthic zones.

Description of Babylonia Spirata

Babylonia spirata is a relatively large species. The average shell ranges in size between 1.7 and 2.2 inches (4.5 – 5.5 cm) in diameter and 0.8-1.2 oz (25-35 g) in weight.

Notable features include:

  • The shells are typically white to yellowish, with large orange to brown markings.
  • The shell is smooth, broad, and ovoid with regular spiral rows.
  • Full-grown snails have 6 whorls.
  • The whorls are rather inflated and have deep sutures with a sharp edge.
  • The columella is smooth.
  • The aperture is large, ovate, and constricted posteriorly.

Babylonia spirata also has an operculum (the trap-door) which they use to completely close their shell when disturbed or stressed.

This species also has a proboscis/siphon (mouth), which looks like an elephant’s trunk. They also use it for breathing and smelling.

Interesting fact: The operculum of Babylonia spirata is exported to foreign countries for manufacturing medicine and perfumes.

Differences between Babylonia Spirata and Other Babylonia Species

Leopard Snail (Babylonia spirata) - Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - differenceIn some cases it can be very difficult to distinguish Babylonia spirata from Babylonia zeylanica. They look almost identical.

Nonetheless, Babylonia zeylanica grows a little bit bigger (up to 3 inches or 7.5 cm). Its shell has slightly impressed sutures compared to Babylonia spirata. Also, the species is distributed mostly in Indian and Sri Lankan waters.

Lifespan of Babylonia Spirata

Babylonia spirata grows at a fast rate and attains maximum size within 2-3 years.

In aquariums, if appropriately cared for, they can live for 4 – 5 years.

Typical Behavior of Babylonia Spirata

Babylonia spirata can be shy and quiet, especially when newly introduced into an aquarium.

This species is predominantly nocturnal, during the day they will often bury themselves within the substrate. Nonetheless, when they are hungry, they will be relatively active at any time.

When they are buried, they extend the proboscis to the surface of the substrate like a periscope. It allows them to smell the dead organic matter while resting. After that, Babylonia spirata quickly emerges from the substratum and moves toward the food.

Note: According to the studies, Babylonia snails have a complex olfactory system. The detection of food can occur from a distance of a few feet (meters). Generally, they come out of the substratum within 5-10 min when the feed was placed anywhere in the tank.

Even though Babylonia spirata is carnivorous, they are not active predators and rather prefer dead animal matter.

Generally, these snails are pretty lazy and do not move too much. From time to time they may climb to the top of the tank, however, it does not happen often.

Babylonia spirata has a very long and strong foot. So, when needed, they can easily flip themselves over to right themselves.

Features:

  • Social: No
  • Active: No
  • Burrowers: Yes
  • Temperament: Peaceful (with caution)
  • Peaceful: Yes

Diet of Babylonia Spirata

Babylon spirata is a scavenging gastropod mollusk of dead organic matter. This species is a carnivore and feeds mainly on dead and decayed animal matter present in the substratum where the animal lives.

Scavenging snails are acutely sensitive to chemical messages emanating from food material.

In the scientific literature, there are some minor contradictions regarding the optimal diet. According to one study, the best results were gained by giving them a diet containing 40% dietary protein compared to the 30 and 35% protein diets. Another study showed that a 35 % protein diet had better results.

In any case, Babylon spirata heavily depends on protein and calcium-rich diets.

Important: Protein deficiency can hinder growth and leads to weight loss because protein is important to maintain vital organs. Whereas calcium is needed for several vital life processes in snails, the most obvious being the formation of shells. Calcium carbonate is the basic natural compound of their shells.

In the aquarium, Babylon spirata will eat leftover food, detritus, etc. However, if you have many snails or there are not enough leftovers and naturally occurring food, they can attack other snails.

Therefore, it would be better to supplement their diet with all sorts of meaty food, such as:

  • frozen brine and mysis shrimp,
  • freeze-dried larvae,
  • cut up pieces of fish and seafood.

Note: experiments showed that when given a choice, Babylon spirata mostly prefers meat of bivalves such as oysters, clam and mussel meat, or crustacean such as prawns as diet. The pellets feed is the least preferred food.

Interesting facts according to laboratory observations of Babylon spirata:

  • In the case of food, these snails may consume around 3-5% of their body weight.
  • Large snails (more than 2 inches or 5 cm) can consume up to 2 g of meat in 7 minutes.
  • They are acutely sensitive to chemical messages emanating from organic food.
  • The time taken for reaching the food kept at a distance of 3 ft (100 cm) ranged between 10 – 11 minutes.

Features:

  • Diet Type: carnivore
  • Feeding Frequency: 1 – 2 times a week

Is Babylonia Spirata Reef Safe?

Yes, they are reef safe. Babylon spirata will not damage anything in a reef tank on purpose. When looking for food, they will not try to snack on corals.

However, there is still one main problem, it relates to their size and strength. Babylon spirata tend to knock things around them. These snails can simply bulldoze through the corals.

Note: To prevent any incidents it is advised to glue corals to the rocks.

Keeping and Caring for Babylonia Spirata

Babylon spirata is not difficult to care for even though these snails have some specific requirements if you want to create an ideal environment for them.

Tank size:

Babylon spirata requires an established tank with sufficient size and water volume to support its needs.

The minimum recommended tank size for one large snail is a 15-gallon (60-liter) tank. The bigger the tank the better. Keep in mind that, according to the study, different stocking densities affect the growth rate of the snails.

Another big problem with small tanks is that it can be very difficult to keep water parameters stable. Therefore, unless you are already an expert, I would recommend staying away from small setups.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: Their preferred water temperature is between 79 – 86°F (26 – 30°C). This temperature range is considered optimal for Babylon spirata. This species does not tolerate well either too low or too hot temperatures.

Temperature is considered one of the most important physical factors influencing snails. It affects the survival rate, hatch rate, incubation period, larval feeding behavior, larval growth, etc.

For example, according to the study,

  • At 68 °F (20°C) they close the operculum tightly.
  • Babylon spirata becomes inactive and lays above the substratum if the temperature goes below 75 °F (24 °C).
  • At 79 °F (26 °C) these snails become a little bit more active and start slowly responding to the feed.
  • At 82°F (28 °C) Babylon spirata shows a normal life of movement, feeding, and burrowing.
  • At 94°F (34 °C) snails become inactive once again. They cannot even fully retract into the shell.

pH: Maintain optimal pH values of 8.1 – 8.4 for the snails to thrive in your saltwater aquarium.

Hardness: Keep water hardness values between 8 – 12 dKH.

SG: Specific gravity should be between 1.023 (or 30 ppt) and 1.025 (or 33 ppt).

Juvenile and adult Babylonia spirata were studied. Normal activity and survival were observed at salinities between 27-35 ppt for juveniles and 31-35 ppt for adults. Salinities below 1.015 (or 19 ppt) were lethal and all snails died after 24 hours of exposure.

DO: Dissolved oxygen should range from 5 to 7 mg/L.

Substrate:

Substrate plays a very important role in a snail’s life. It provides attachment, shelter, and nourishment that are the fundamental needs.

Therefore, you need to have a substrate that will allow Babylonia spirata at least to bury.

Experiments with 4 types of the substrate gravel (1 – 2 mm), coarse sand (1.00 – 0.50 mm), fine sand (0.25 – 0.10 mm) and silt (0.05 – 0.002 mm) showed a clear preference for the silt substrate (ranged from 45.2 to 64.7%) followed by fine sand (16.8 and 31.7%). There was a negative correlation with gravel and coarse sand.

Therefore, silt (preferably) and fine sand substrates will be the best choice.

Lighting:

Although Babylonia spirata is nocturnal studies have shown that photoperiod plays an important role in regulating their reproductive cycle.

Luckily, they do not have any strict requirements. So, lighting should be adapted to the needs of fish, corals, sea anemones, etc.

Acclimation:

Babylonia spirata is relatively sensitive to transportation stress. It is extremely important to transport them in at least a moist condition by covering them with a wet jute bag or wet cotton soaked in seawater.

Before putting these snails into your tank do not forget to carefully acclimate them as all invertebrates. Do it very slowly. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough.

Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)

Sexing Babylonia Spirata

Babylonia spirata is not hermaphrodite. Males and females can be also distinguished by external features.

  1. Size. At the same age, females are a little bit larger and heavier than males.
  2. Reproductive organs. The males can be determined externally by the presence of a male organ on the right side of the head, just behind the right tentacle. Female snails possess a pedal gland on the ventral side of the foot, to shape and harden the egg capsule.

Breeding Babylonia Spirata

Unfortunately, the pet industry mostly depends on wild-caught species even though the breeding process of this species is fully described in scientific literature.

Babylonia spirata can breed in home aquariums as well, the main problem is the survivability of the larvae due to its specific diet requirements.

Mating:

In Babylonia spirata, males usually become mature at 1.4 inches (3.6 cm) size while the females attain maturity at 1.5 inches (3.9 cm). The smallest recorded mature female was 1.1. inches (3.1 cm) whereas the male was only 1.1. inches (2.8 cm) long.

The process starts with the female positioning herself on the right side of the male and mounting slightly over the male.

The process lasts for 2-3 hours during which the snails remain immobile. After that, males start moving away first and leaving the female remained in an inactive stage for some time.

Mating does not depend on the daytime. It was observed both during the day and night hours.

Also during the spawning period, the females do not eat even if the food is placed near them.

Fertilization:

Babylonia spirata is gonochoristic with internal fertilization.

Eggs:

After fertilization, females deposit egg capsules. It takes 5-10 minutes to release a single capsule.

The average number of capsules ranges from 35 to 40 with 350-800 eggs per capsule. Basically, each snail may potentially produce from 12000 to 32000 eggs.

Jelly-like capsules become hardened on contact with the seawater. Females firmly attach the transparent egg capsules to the substratum to hold it in an erect position till the larvae hatched out.

Larvae:

Babylonia spirata has an indirect development with an initial capsular phase followed by a planktonic phase (veligers or larvae).

The hatching happens on the 7th and 8th days after spawning. After hatching, larvae start immediately swimming to the surface of the water with fast-moving cilia.

The larvae exhibit phototaxis, it means the ability of organisms to move directionally in response to a light source.

During the next 10 days, the larvae feed on phytoplankton. According to the laboratory experiments, better survival (around 3%) was observed in the veliger larvae fed with a mixed culture of Isochrysis and Chaetoceros or I. galbana and C. calcifrans at a density of 20,000 cell/cc twice daily. After that, they can be also given Tetraselmis.

Note: Poor growth and heavy larval mortality occurred when fed with T. gracilis and N. salina.

Metamorphosis occurs from larvae to juveniles when their shell length reaches 1.7 mm and weight is around 0.01 g. After settlement, the planktonic life changes and they become carnivores.

Scientists noticed that after reaching the juvenile stage at the shell length of less than 0.2 inches (5 mm) Babylonia spirata does some strange things. The little snails will crawl up to the tank wall but cannot move back to the water and die soon after that.

At the crawling juvenile stage, the snails can be fed with:

  • early hatched frozen artemia (for 2 weeks),
  • adult frozen artemia (subsequently),
  • artificial shrimp feed,
  • agar based feed,
  • egg yolk,
  • egg albumin,
  • tubifex worms,
  • rotifers, etc.

After 4- 5 weeks, Babylonia spirata can start eating small pieces of fish meat once daily.

Rearing Tank:

The rearing tanks should have the same water parameters at a density of 150 larvae/l.

Before adding larvae to the tank, it is recommended that the water be treated with hypochlorite and potassium permanganate solution to eliminate the unwanted microorganisms.

Aeration also has an influence on the hatching process of the larvae. In the experimental tank with aeration, the larvae actively swam in the water column while in the treatment without aeration they usually remained in the bottom of the tank.

Babylonia Spirata and Compatible Tankmates

Babylonia spirata is not an agressive species and compatible with most tank-mates. Nonetheless, if sufficient food is not provided, they may prey on other (smaller) snails. After all, this is their way of survival.

In general, they are belong to predatory whelks that eat animals located in the sand. However, full-grown snails (Fighting Conch Snail, Cerith snails, Astrea Snails, Mexican turbo snails, Trochus snails, etc) should be relatively safe in any case.

They are compatible with shrimp like Sexy shrimp, Red Fire shrimp (Lysmata debelius)Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) or Skunk Cleaner (Lysmata amboinensis).

Bad Tank Mates: 

I would not advise keeping Babylonia spirata with:

The problem is that hermit crabs can try to kill them just for their shells. If you still decide to keep them with hermit crabs, it is crucial to make sure that the hermit crabs have numerous empty shells spread out through the tank. However, it can only reduce aggression, not eliminate it!

In Conclusion

Babylonia spirata belongs to a diverse group comprising of carnivorous whelks that are scavengers and predators. Even though this species is not very aggressive, its behavior can change depending on food availability.  

With their beautiful ornamental-looking shells, these snails will definitely be an attractive addition to most marine setups.

Caring for them is not difficult and can be recommended even for beginners. Just keep in mind that this species requires a very warm temperature.

References:

  1. Chelladurai, G. “Influence of diets on growth and biochemical parameters of Babylonia spirata.” Geology, Ecology, and Landscapes 1, no. 3 (2017): 162-166. 
  2. Rejeki, Sri, and Titik Susilowati. “A Study on The Domestication of Tiger Snail (Babylonia spirata l) in An Abanont Brackish Water Pond at Different Stocking Denstities.” Saintek Perikanan: Indonesian Journal of Fisheries Science and Technology 6, no. 2 (2011): 63-69. 
  3. Rachmawati, Diana, and Istiyanto Samidjan. “THE DIETARY PROTEIN REQUIREMENT IN FORMULATED FEED FOR SPECIFIC GROWTH, DIGESTIBILITY AND SURVIVAL OF SPIRAL BABYLON (Babylonia spirata).” Jurnal Teknologi 78, no. 4-2 (2016).
  4. Edward, J. K., B. Selvam, and R. Emilin Renitta. “Studies on the status and feasibility of culturing spiral babylon, Babylonia spirata in Tuticorin, Southeastern India.” (2006).
  5. Sreejaya, R., Anjana Mohan, P. Laxmilatha, and K. K. Appukuttan. “Larval development and seed production in the’whelk’Babylonia spirata.” Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India46, no. 1 (2004): 64-72.
  6. Patterson, Jamila, T. Shanmugaraj, and K. Ayyakkannu. “Salinity tolerance of Babylonia spirata (Neogastropoda: Buccinidae).”  Mar. Biol. Cent. Spec. Publ24 (1994): 104-106.
  7. Edward, J. K., C. Raghunathan, and K. Ayyakkannu. “Food preference, consumption and feeding behavior of scavenging gastropod Babylonina spirata (Neogastropoda, Buccinidae).” (1995).

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