The Malaysian fire snail (Platymma tweediei) can undeniably be considered one of the most exquisite and beautiful snail species on our planet. Unfortunately, the striking red and black coloration of this large land snail has led to its near-extinction in the wild as lots of hobbyists have sought to keep it as a pet.
The Malaysian fire snail has incredibly specific requirements when it comes to its care and dietary needs. As a result, numerous attempts to keep it in captivity have resulted in a 99% failure rate.
In this article, I have gathered everything known about Platymma tweediei, from a few scientific studies to summarize the experiences of people who have had these snails for some time and noted their observations.
|Important: This may undoubtedly sound a little strange, given the nature of my blog, which mostly focuses on animal care, including the upkeep of pets like snails. However, there must be an exception in this specific case.
DO NOT keep them as pets.
Astoundingly, despite being on the verge of literal extinction, this species has not yet been listed in the IUCN and CITES. In my opinion, this is incorrect, as we risk losing Platymma tweediei at any moment.
Quick Notes about Platymma Tweediei
|Name||Malaysian fire snail|
||Malaysian snail, Fire snail, Hemiplecta sp. Fire, Red mountain snail of Malaysia,
火焰蜗牛 (local name)
|Scientific Name||Platymma tweediei|
|Size||up to 3 inches (7 – 8 cm)|
|Optimal Temperature||60 – 74°F (15 to 24 °C)|
|Optimal Humidity||70 – 90%|
|Substrate||Dead leaves piles and limestone blocks.|
|Diet||Herbivore / detritivore|
|Life span||up to 7 years|
|Color Form||Black and red|
Taxonomy of Platymma Tweediei
In 1938, J. R. LE B. Tomlin described Platymma tweediei.
Wikipedia states that this species is also used as a synonym for Hemiplecta tweediei (Davison, 1995). However, I couldn’t find any scientific research confirming this claim or even any mention of a certain Davison who made this assertion in 1995.
Personally, I have the impression that this information lacks any substantiation and is merely being repeated by others because it is mentioned on Wikipedia, but this is an incorrect approach.
Species: P. tweediei
Etymology of Platymma Tweediei
The genus name Platymma is derived from the Greek words ‘Platys’, meaning ‘Broad or flat’, and ‘Omma’, meaning ‘Eye or the eye of heaven’. Presumably, this name refers to the broad and flattened shape of the aperture or entrance in the snail’s shell.
The specific epithet ‘Tweediei’ is named in honor of English naturalist and malacologist Michael W. F. Tweedie (1907-1993), who pioneered collecting Southeast Asian land snails via sediment sampling methods, for his many contributions to the natural history of Malaya.
Distribution of Platymma Tweediei
Malaysian fire snails have an extremely limited distribution.
According to the study, this species can be found only in Temenggor (80 km north from Telom) and Kelantan (100 km north-northeast from Telom), exclusively in the cloud forests and at elevations of at least 3281 ft. (appx. 1000 m) above sea level.
These forests are often shrouded in mist and clouds, which contribute to the distinct microclimate and create a mystical atmosphere.
Habitat of Platymma Tweediei
The climate in the cloud forests is very harsh, with frequent short-lived rain showers and cold winds blowing almost every day.
The Malaysian fire snails prefer to dwell in the dark understory and in the dead leaves piled up between the limestone blocks.
These snails are naturally scarce in their habitat, possibly due to their specific niche within the cloud forests. They are highly sensitive and prone to mortality.
Description of Platymma Tweediei
The Malaysian fire snail is the largest land snail in Malaysia. The shell size of an adult individual typically measures around 3 inches across (7-8 cm), while the snail’s body can reach an impressive 8 inches (20 cm) in length.
Distinguishing characteristics include:
- Body color. The body color of the snail ranges from bright orange to vibrant red, gradually transitioning to black around the head region.
- The eyes are located on the tentacles and have a bulbous appearance.
- Shell color. The shell is dark brown in color, becoming slightly darker both above and below the periphery and lightening again round the umbilicus.
- Shape. The shell is flattened and rather solid with 6 ½ moderately convex The last whorl not descending, rounded at the periphery.
- Structure. This species has fairly regular and regularly spaced growth lines, and under a strong lens very faint spirals can be detected on the upper half of the earlier whorls; the effect of the growth lines on the protoconch is to give it somewhat the appearance of an ammonite.
The aperture is long-oval, well oblique, margins simple, and somewhat flattened above. Umbilicus is broad and deep.
- Mouth. The jaw is thick and solid, somewhat arched in the middle with a distinct forward projection. The radula has 150 fully developed rows of teeth.
It is widely believed that animals with vibrant coloration are poisonous as if they are signaling to everyone around them to not mess with them. However, in our case, things are different.
Although their striking coloration may give them a more imposing presence, it is important to note that, in reality, Malaysian fire snails do not possess any actual venom or toxic properties.
Lifespan of Platymma Tweediei
At present, there is a lack of scientific data regarding the maximum lifespan of both Platymma Tweediei in the wild.
When it comes to the lifespan of these snails in captivity, there is no definitive information available due to their rare survival. However, according to anecdotal evidence from some enthusiasts, these snails can live for at least 5-7 years.
Diet of Platymma Tweediei
The dietary requirements of this species are one of the things that pose a significant challenge for their captive care.
|On the internet, you can even come across claims that the Malaysian fire snail is predatory, hunting other snails and slugs in nature, favoring them over vegetation.
At the same time, various experiments conducted by enthusiasts (who kept these snails as pets) have consistently demonstrated their non-predatory nature.
Note: There is not enough date on this matter. It is quite possible that they could be aggressive towards small snails, but this needs to be tested. However, no aggression has been observed from them towards Giant African land snails (Achatina sp. or Archachatina sp.) during cohabitation.
Generally, Malaysian fire snails are scavengers that feed on the remains of decomposing plant or animal matter.
So, what’s the problem then, some may wonder?
When these snails are housed in captivity and provided a well-rounded diet, it seems like there is still a crucial missing component that they consume in their natural habitat. This results in a cumulative effect that eventually turns out to be detrimental to their well-being.
Nonetheless, it is also known that their taste preferences can periodically change, and often in a rather dramatic manner. For instance, in captivity, they happily consume:
- fresh white mushrooms,
- sweet potatoes,
- bean leaves,
- magnolia leaves,
- spirulina flakes,
- finely ground dried shrimp,
- thawed fish, and more.
Requirements for Platymma Tweediei
I would like to start off by emphasizing the fact that Malaysian fire snails are incredibly demanding when it comes to their captive care! Even minor fluctuations can have fatal consequences.
This is one of the biggest difficulties associated with keeping these snails in captivity.
These snails poorly tolerate transportation, as the necessary natural conditions they require are disrupted during the process. As a result, the majority of snails perish shortly after their arrival.
|I repeat – DO NOT keep them as pets. DO NOT assume that these snails will definitely survive in your care. Remember, they have practically vanished from the face of the Earth.|
However, if, by some chance, you find yourself in possession of Malaysian fire snail and are unable to return it to its natural habitat, here is what is known about their care requirements.
Temperature: Malaysian fire snails require a humid and cool environment. In their natural environment, the temperature during the day typically ranges from 68 – 74°F (20 – 24°C). At night, the temperature often drops to around 59 – 65°F (15 – 18°C). Therefore, it is also important for the temperature to vary between day and night when maintaining a terrarium.
In Malaysia’s cloud forests, the humidity can range from 70 – 90%. The cloud forests create a naturally moist environment, leading to high humidity levels. Thus, the optimal level will be around 80%.
Water: As it turns out, Malaysian fire snails absolutely love water. Hobbyists noticed that when they placed a bowl of water, the snails immediately crawled towards it, submerged their entire bodies, and spent a few minutes crawling there. That is also probably because their natural habitat is wetlands.
Altitude: Yes, these snails are not only ecologically but also altitudinally specialized. In nature, they can be found only at elevations of at least 3281 ft. (appx. 1000 m) above sea level.
Breeding Platymma Tweediei
It is extremely hard to breed Malaysian fire snails in captivity.
At present, only a few cases of successful snail breeding have been documented in the Сzech Republic and Germany. For example, you can read about it here.
From what is known:
- A typical snail clutch can contain anywhere from 100 to 200 eggs.
- It takes 3-4 weeks to hatch.
Although it seems like the hatching process requires the same temperature and humidity conditions as those for adult specimens, the offspring is very difficult to rear anyway.
The incredible beauty and large size of the Malaysian fire snails played a cruel trick on them when an overwhelming number of enthusiasts sought to have them as pets.
Unfortunately, the care of these snails proved to be too difficult, which resulted in a rise in the frequency of snail captures in the wild. Combined with destructive human activities, these snails have practically disappeared.
As someone who deeply cares about invertebrates, I strongly encourage everyone to resist the temptation of buying or exporting Malaysian fire snails. Otherwise, we can only harm their population. It is better to keep them in the wild.
- Walther, Frank, P. Kijashko, Laura Harutyunova, Levan Mumladze, Marco T. Neiber, and Bernhard Hausdorf. “Biogeography of the land snails of the Caucasus region.” Tentacle22 (2014): 3-5.
- SCHILEYKO, A.A. (2002): Treatise on Recent Terrestrial Pulmonate Molluscs — Ruthenica, Suppl. 2, Part 9, Moscow, pp. 1187-1188
- Supplementary Material – Foon, J.K. 2014. Habitat loss and wildlife trade threaten the survival of the montane cloud forest land snail Platymma tweediei in Cameron and Lojing Highlands, Peninsular Malaysia. Tentacle 22: 5-7.
- TOMLIN, J.R. Le B. (1938): A new Ariophantid from the Malay — Proceedings of the Malacological Society 23: 116-117, plate 14A, London