All About My Slugs (including the legendary, predatory "shelled" slug!)

Scythemantis

Arachnobaron
Old Timer
Joined
Feb 27, 2005
Messages
499
I know there's still a slug thread on the first page, but I feel like starting one for my photos and information. I'm a little sad to see the weirded out or even mocking reaction some posters here have had to the idea of keeping slugs; they have been some of my favorite animals since childhood, I love having a bunch of slimeblobs creeping around in a terrarium, and the ease with which I can find them outdoors doesn't make them feel any less cool to me as indoor pets either.

I actually just moved to the pacific northwest last year, and it has been a dream come true for my love of these animals, in more ways than one. Here's every slug that I currently have, and why I think they're fascinating.



First, the banana slugs. These can *only* be found out here on the West coast, and they always seemed like some amazing, foreign exotic to me before. I'm still thrilled every time I find one in the wild, and I've been keeping several since our first week in Oregon.

Unlike most of my other slugs, my bananas don't seem very fond of burrowing or hiding themselves, actually spending almost all of their time visible in their enclosure. This may be because they naturally taste terrible, also a reason for their bright (by slug standards) color scheme. What's rather interesting is that they're very, very sensitive to specific environments, namely cool, wet pine forests at high elevation, and I have to drive out to just the right local parks to see them. Many other slugs are rare or completely unheard of in these same environments, and it's likely that the toxins associated with pine trees are too much for them. Bananas, on the other hand, must be especially adapted for the higher acidity, and I know mine spend a lot of time on the hunks of pine wood in their tank.

What I'm not so confident about yet is my ability to keep these slugs healthy in the coming summer months. They are very, very sensitive to heat, and an air conditioner can only do so much.




Almost as massive as the banana slugs and very slightly easier to come by is the black slug, Arion ater, actually an invasive species. Their color ranges from pitch black to almost white, but they usually have a gold, red, yellow or orange rim as you see here. Unlike the bananas, these are omnivores and WILL attempt to eat other slugs and snails. They're also burrowers, and unlike my bananas, my aters spent the entire winter months completely buried, even indoors.



The "cellar slug," Limax Flavus, is an ultra-common "pest" around here that nobody really appreciates, but I was enamored right away by their cool, mossy color scheme and blue eyestalks. What's really cool about these is that they originally hail from caves, and now make do with man-made equivalents like basements and sewers. In Germany, I've read that they originally spread through beer and wine cellars, but more sanitary practices and fewer basements in modern architecture have rendered them endangered in their native range - they really need cave-like environments that much!


I provided my cellar slugs with a partially buried birdhouse, and they do seem to love it. I'm not completely sure if it's ideal, though; I might try to make them something out of brick or rock to live in.


The "leather leaf" slug, Veronicellidae, is actually something I only encountered when I lived down in Florida. To me it was an absolutely hellish environment, but these slugs seem to thrive in intense heat, even dryness, much better than any other. The flat, rubbery mantle covering their back is actually almost dry, and they produce extremely minimal slime, obvious adaptations for retaining moisture in hotter climates.



Through a lot of trial and error, I repeatedly got these guys to breed in captivity, but I did experience a sudden die-off when we moved to Iowa, and they just couldn't handle the winter there like my other mollusks. This is why I'm fairly confident they could never establish themselves this far north, and indeed, nobody's ever found them in the U.S. much farther than the Southern ends of the Carolinas.

Key to keeping these slugs happy, besides warmth, is very deep, semi-sandy soil, and they'll only lay eggs under objects like rocks or broad, flat hunks of wood. They really get into a breeding mood when their tank has been cleaned out and changed, or they've been transferred over to a new one, and unlike some slugs, they seem capable of mating more than once in their lifetime....others tend to bite off each other's genitalia when they're all done.


Finally, something that just absolutely FLOORED me was finding several of these "shelled slugs," Testacella haliotidea, right outside our apartment in Portland. I read about these when I was just a kid, but all I've ever heard was that they're "barely ever" seen by human eyes. This is actually because they're fossorial, like moles, deep under the ground where they prey upon earthworms, and only surface at night during heavy rainfall.


Within only minutes of setting up an enclosure and loading it with worms, I got to watch the predatory behavior of these things - it was a MASSACRE, with some worms severed neatly in two.

They've remained buried ever since, of course, but once in a while I see one of them up against the glass, and earthworms of all sizes just keep disappearing. I can find no precedent whatsoever for keeping these in captivity, so I guess I'm pioneering something.



Caring for all these slugs is fairly easy. They are certainly messy, it's true; in addition to their droppings they will just track soil and detritus all over the glass of a tank, but you only need a damp paper towel to fix that when it really becomes an eyesore. Otherwise, a rich indoor biome of plants, worms and isopods will just benefit from the slug's waste.

Key to keeping any slug happy seems to be moisture, deep soil, and lots of rotten forest litter. Fish flakes for protein and frozen slices of squash, mostly zuchinni, are my generic, staple slug diet and seems to keep all herbivorous/omnivorous species growing pretty well. They actually prefer the squash frozen, since it thaws out soggy and mushy for them and gets eaten up within hours.

I really don't see why these are so readily dismissed as a more boring pet than other inverts; even some of the more popular tarantulas, millipedes and roaches spend a lot of their time sitting in one place or buried in a tunnel. Slugs aren't fast, but you do see them poking all around their enclosures, they look cool and they're not demanding. Certainly more active than a house plant - which is also still interesting to keep - let alone the "pet hole" you get with some arachnids.
 
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mickiem

Arachnoprince
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Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
1,536
Thanks for posting.

A few years ago, I read a book called, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. It made me look more closely at the slugs in my garden and have more appreciation. I haven't caged one yet, but I intend to do so soon.

I have seen a few interesting slugs here near Cincinnati and some big ones!

Thanks, again.
 

Aquarimax

Arachnoprince
Joined
Mar 1, 2014
Messages
1,057
Very interesting post! I spent quite a few years as a child in the Pacific Northwest, so seeing banana slugs again was a blast from the past! I have kept terrestrial (and aquatic) snails as pets, but not slugs...I imagine that they don't require as much calcium as snails, but do the shelled slugs require a calcium source to maintain their vestigial shells?
By the way, the mossy vivaria your keep your slugs in are beautiful!
 

Tenodera

Arachnobaron
Joined
Sep 28, 2011
Messages
486
Thanks so much for sharing! The behavioral observations in particular are convincing me that slugs have much more pet potential than I had given them, though I have always liked their appearance. How warm do you keep those pancake slugs? I've found them in Florida but never thought they'd do well in captivity.
 

arizonablue

Arachnosquire
Joined
Jul 26, 2016
Messages
96
Wow, these are awesome! Thanks for sharing your pictures! I traveled to the PNW a few years ago and I was so excited to find my first banana slug in the wild. I just took pictures, but they were amazing to see in person. I even got a book about them and a glass sculpture of a banana slug at one of the park gift shops. Amazing little creatures. I'd never even heard of a leather leaf slug before, but they're so cool!
 

Scythemantis

Arachnobaron
Old Timer
Joined
Feb 27, 2005
Messages
499
Thanks so much for sharing! The behavioral observations in particular are convincing me that slugs have much more pet potential than I had given them, though I have always liked their appearance. How warm do you keep those pancake slugs? I've found them in Florida but never thought they'd do well in captivity.
A simple, small heating pad seemed to keep deaths to a minimum over the course of another winter, but I've been hesitant to try a much stronger heat source because I still don't want to risk baking them; like a reptile they seem to know when to get out of bright light, but not necessarily when to move off of a hot spot. I guess what I should try is an actual heat lamp.

They definitely surge to activity and growth during the mid-summer!

I just wish I could get some of the slugs that live in Australia and New Zealand like these:



 

mickiem

Arachnoprince
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A simple, small heating pad seemed to keep deaths to a minimum over the course of another winter, but I've been hesitant to try a much stronger heat source because I still don't want to risk baking them; like a reptile they seem to know when to get out of bright light, but not necessarily when to move off of a hot spot. I guess what I should try is an actual heat lamp.

They definitely surge to activity and growth during the mid-summer!

I just wish I could get some of the slugs that live in Australia and New Zealand like these:



Those are beautiful! If only.....

@Marika has kept some amazing species. She has a cool slug post on here somewhere. :happy:
 

Hisserdude

Arachnoking
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Apr 18, 2015
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@Scythemantis WOW, love those shelled slugs, so cool looking! Hope you can breed them successfully, such neat little carnivores! :D

Really like the Pancake slugs too, would love to keep some of those...
 

GingerC

Arachnosquire
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Feb 10, 2017
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117
I love slugs! I personally never learned to associate slugs with anything, good or bad, but as soon as I saw a video of some sea hares (okay, technically not slugs, but still) I knew I'd found a new favorite animal. They're neat looking little animals with some interesting behaviors, and I'm preparing to get some garden slugs (have not identified species) soon.

I was honestly really surprised at all the negative reactions on the first slug thread... this is a tarantula forum, after all. Most of us keep giant hairy spiders. Because no one ever raises an eyebrow at that. >_>
 

Marika

Arachnolord
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Feb 7, 2016
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@Marika has kept some amazing species. She has a cool slug post on here somewhere. :happy:
Actually I've never really kept slugs, except a few small ones that came with some leaf litter that I collected for my millipedes. But I've kept several species of (terrestrial) snails and still have some. Slugs are interesting too, especially the pancake slugs are very cute.
 

houston

Arachnopeon
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Messages
39
Neat collection! I love snails and slugs, even if their goo is a bad texture, shudders. I went onto a trip to the Pacific Northwest a few years back, and was absolutely enamored with the bananas. Are you having any luck breeding the banana slugs?
 

spotropaicsav

Arachnobaron
Joined
Apr 3, 2017
Messages
432
Nice! I kept a few banana slugs in college, it was fun. If someone didn't already mention, they are the mascot of UC Santa Cruz, I think I even had the tshirt
 

Salmonsaladsandwich

Arachnobaron
Joined
Jul 28, 2016
Messages
499
Huh, I didn't know black slugs were established in the US. I wish we had those in the northeast instead of those smaller orange- brown Arion that secrete pungent yellow slime that doesn't wash off.

Black slugs have a lot of beautiful polymorphism.

IMG_6428.PNG
 

Salmon

Arachnopeon
Joined
Mar 25, 2017
Messages
46
We've kept a few native slugs at the invert lab... they are certainly personalities. Very curious and inquisitive, seem to respond to enrichment and decor cycling. I love their weird tiny vaguely humanoid mouth holes that they munch with??
 

Chris LXXIX

ArachnoGod
Active Member
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Ah ah, such a coincidence... aside mine, the last two posts of this thread are from two users with a similar username: 'Salmon' and 'Salmonsaladsandwich'.

Do not eat each other :kiss:

:troll:
 

Salmonsaladsandwich

Arachnobaron
Joined
Jul 28, 2016
Messages
499
Ah ah, such a coincidence... aside mine, the last two posts of this thread are from two users with a similar username: 'Salmon' and 'Salmonsaladsandwich'.

Do not eat each other :kiss:

:troll:
What makes it even more confusing is that I'm just "Salmon" on a few other bug- related forums.
 
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