Do Frogs Eat Snails? (Everything to Know)

Frogs are generalist carnivores that feast on worms bugs and a wide variety of other prey. They aren’t very picky with what they eat, so almost any prey they can catch and fit into their mouths is on the menu. But do frogs eat snails?

In general, frogs do eat snails and slugs. They are opportunistic predators that will eat almost any prey they can catch and fit into their mouths, and this includes snails, slugs, and other small animals. When frogs eat snails, they swallow them whole, including the hard shell. 

The shell is later passed in the droppings, usually broken up into small pieces.

Since frogs do not chew their food, they will only eat snails small enough to swallow whole.

Small frogs will typically eat baby snails and smaller species of snails. But large frogs can eat adult snails and large species of snails.

Frogs Can Eat Most Snails & Slugs

Frogs are opportunistic predators with very diverse diets. Smaller frogs mostly eat small worms and a wide variety of bugs, but large frogs such as bullfrogs will also eat smaller amphibians, small lizards, mice, and even small snakes!

Frogs can eat most snails
Photo by: Olexandr Ostrovyi, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

If a small enough snail passes in front of a hungry frog, the frog will try to eat it.

In addition to eating adult snails, frogs also eat snail eggs and baby snails.

Since baby snails are smaller than adult snails, even frogs that are too small to eat most adult snails (such as newly metamorphosed froglets), can readily feast on them.

Eating snails in their immature stages is easier than eating adult snails, as baby snails have soft delicate shells that are very easy to swallow and digest.

Do Frogs Eat Snail Shells When They Eat Snails?

When frogs eat baby snails, they can easily swallow and digest the shell – because baby snails have soft shells. When they eat adult snails, however, the shell poses more of a challenge.

Still, most frogs can swallow adult snails whole, including the hard shell. The shell is not digestible, so it is later passed in the droppings, usually broken up.

If you ever take time to “dissect” and inspect the droppings of frogs, especially those that live in an area with lots of snails – you may find broken-up snail shells and hard indigestible insect parts.

How Do Frogs Eat Snails?

Frogs catch and eat snails the same way they catch and eat insects. They have sticky tongues that allow them to catch any prey that comes into range quickly.

Once a frog spots a small enough snail, it launches its tongue to catch the prey. After catching the prey, the tongue wraps around it and coats it with sticky saliva. The frog will then yank its tongue back with a force equal to twelve times greater than the force of gravity.

Once the snail is in the mouth, the frog will swallow it whole, then the snail will go down to the stomach and be digested.

The hard shell is later passed off in the droppings.

Are Snails Good or Bad for Frogs?

Most snails are generally harmless, and are a rich source of protein, fat, fiber, and energy, and can be a significant source of vitamins and minerals for frogs.

However, sometimes snails may be exposed to pesticides that can be harmful to a frog when the snails are eaten.

Also, snails and slugs often carry many parasites such as the rat lungworm that could be passed on to a frog if the snails/slugs were eaten.

Rat lungworm parasite
Rat lungworm parasite under a microscope.

Furthermore, since snail shells are not digested, a frog eating lots of snails in a short period may lead to impaction/constipation when the frog passes the undigested shells in its droppings.

Can You Feed Snails to a Captive Frog?

In general, it is not a very good idea to offer wild snails to captive frogs. As mentioned earlier, wild snails may be carrying pesticides that can be harmful to a frog.

In addition, a healthy-looking snail could be carrying parasites that can easily be passed on to a frog if the snail was eaten.

Should you ever want to feed snails to your frog, be sure to use captive-bred snails that you are 100% sure are free of parasites or pesticides.

Still, a diet of snails will be not appropriate for all frog species.

Large frogs such as Pacman frogs or bullfrogs, and even leopard frogs will eat and digest snails comfortably, but the smaller more delicate frogs such as gray tree frogs may have problems with the hard shell.

Smaller frog species should only be fed soft-bodied invertebrates that are very easy to digest.

That being said, slugs or soft-shelled baby snails should be fine for most frogs (including small frog species), as long as they are captive-bred for the live food industry and not taken from the wild.

Other things frogs can be fed in captivity

Here is a list of other things you can feed a captive frog:

  • Worms (earthworms, whiteworms, blackworms, etc)
  • Mealworms, waxworms, phoenix worms, superworms
  • Silkworms, hornworms
  • Crickets 
  • Dubia roaches
  • Wingless fruit flies
  • Feeder Fish 
  • Pinkie mice (for large frogs such as bullfrogs)

The most appropriate food will depend on the size and species of the frog. For example, some tree frogs won’t eat mealworms, but will readily eat crickets and wingless fruit flies.

Large frogs, such as bullfrogs enjoy the occasional “pinkie” in their diet. A “pinkie” is a tiny, baby mouse. You can find them in pet stores either alive or frozen although it can be difficult to get frogs to eat the dead/frozen ones.

Small frogs, on the other hand, should preferably be fed soft-bodied invertebrates like crickets, hornworms, silkworms, etc.

A varied diet is recommended, so remember to change up the food items offered to the frog every few feedings.

Whatever you feed, make sure that the prey is well gut-loaded or dusted so your frog gets all the nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy!

Some Slugs (& Snails) Are Poisonous

Some slugs such as the banana slug found on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America, have toxic mucus so some frogs will learn to avoid eating them.

When threatened by a predator, banana slugs secrete lots of slimy mucus. When this mucus is swallowed by the predator (a frog for example), it will make the predator’s tongue or throat go numb.

Banana slugs have toxic mucus so some frogs will avoid eating them
Banana slugs have toxic mucus so some frogs will avoid eating them.

To warn predators of their toxicity, banana slugs have a bright coloration. This is known as “warning coloration”.

A frog that eats a brightly colored poisonous slug will remember the experience and learn to avoid eating similarly colored slugs in the future.

Still, even toxic slugs are regularly preyed on by many frog species.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do frogs eat snail shells? Yes, frogs eat snail shells. When frogs eat snails, they swallow them whole – including the hard shell. However, the shell is not digested and is later passed in the droppings, usually broken up.

Do frogs eat snail eggs? Terrestrial frogs do not typically eat snail eggs. However, some aquatic frogs will readily eat aquatic snail eggs laid in the water.

Do frogs eat pond snails? Yes, frogs eat pond snails. If a frog lives in a pond with lots of snails, they too will be on the menu. The size of the frog will determine what size of snail it can eat. Smaller frogs only eat baby and small snails, but larger frogs can eat large adult snails.

Do frogs eat garden snails?  Yes, frogs eat garden snails. This means having frogs in your garden can help control the population of snails, slugs, and other pests that feed on your garden plants. It’s a natural form of pest control!

Do frogs eat sea snails? Frogs only live in freshwater, and can not survive in salt water. For this reason, they do not encounter sea snails in their natural environment and do not eat them. However, if you offered a small enough sea snail to a captive frog, the frog would eat it.

Do African dwarf frogs eat snails? Yes, dwarf frogs eat snails. In the wild, dwarf frogs eat snails as a regular part of their diet. For this reason, it is not a good idea to house snails in the same tank as your frog. If you put snails in your dwarf frog’s enclosure, the frog will eat or try to eat the snails.

Do tree frogs eat snails? Tree frogs do not frequently eat snails. This is because they find most of their food in the trees and shrubs – so most of their diet will be made up of bugs and other prey that is abundant in that environment. Still, if a tree frog spots a small enough snail, it will eat it.

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