Just over a month ago my sister got given some baby Giant African land snails. This meant some research into how to look after them. So I decided to node our findings on the subject.
Species and Sizes
They look like normal snails with dark and light brown stripes/speckles (The pattern depends on the snail, and is one of the only ways to tell them apart). There are three main species sold as giant African land snails. These are:
The largest is the Achatina achatina which can grow to over 37cm from snout
and have a shell length of over 27cm!
The size of the snail however depends on the care
you give it however. A poorly
cared for snail will not grow as much as a well cared for one. For a healthy
snail it is important to pay particular attention to housing
and nutrition (see sections below).
Snails as pets
Ok, I’m not at home at the moment so I only have to ‘live’ with the snails for maybe a week at a time. They seem fairly low maintenance needing cleaning out every week or so and they dispose of scraps of vegetables! I know it sounds strange but they’re kind of cute in a way.
Your land snails will need a good home! Some sort of tank is ideal, this can be either plastic, or glass (like a fish tank, but ventilated). Remember that a fully-grown snail can grow to a considerable size (This can be up to the size of your fist) so depending on how many you have adjust your tank size accordingly. We have a pair of snails and a tank with base dimensions of about 40 X 20 cm. You will need to put about 1 – 2 inches of peat in the bottom of the tank, as snails like to bury themselves. Make sure that the peat is not chemically treated and not acidic (apparently acidic peat can cause whitish patches on the shells of your snails). Some people suggest chipped bark, but the snails cannot bury themselves in it as easily. You may also want to add a piece of wood from your garden, its not necessary, but makes the tank look nicer and our snails like to go under it. Your tank should be kept ideally between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius. A good idea if you live in a colder place is to buy a heat mat available from most reptile shops, the staff there should be able to tell you which one is right. Remember that your snails do not like any sort of extremes so keep them in a well-lit area but not in direct sunlight.
Snails eat most green vegetables (Lettuce, cabbage, cucumber green beans, etc.) and fruit (Pears, apples, peaches etc.). Basically anything you might put in a salad or you can feasibly imagine a snail eating in the wild it will be able to eat. Make sure all the food you give it is clean! You must also give your snail a source of calcium to keep its shell healthy, this is very important! The easiest way to do this is put a washed cuttlefish bone in with them. You’ll be surprised how quickly they go through it. As well as this you must keep your snail’s home moist. You can do this easily by spraying the tank twice a day with fresh water. This is sufficient, but they do seem to appreciate a small water bowl in their tank. You should use a special dish from a pet shop which will be sloped to stop your snail drowning itself.
Yes! You can pick up your snail! Make sure you do it gently however their shell can be quite delicate, especially around the area of new growth. If you are holding them on your hand then make sure it’s a little damp first because they seem like that. If they are stuck to the glass of the tank the spray with them a little water to get them to let go (but do not force them). Once you're holding them you can… keep holding them, do not expect them to do too much. They seem to like going under a gentle dribble from a tap and may even get quite lively if you do this.
Breeding and babies
Snails are hermaphrodites so if you have more than one I’m guessing they’ll breed. The mating process of snails is well noded in snail sex and the process seems to be similar for Giant African land snails. Your snails will lay eggs (about 4mm in length). These can be left in the tank, or put in a separate dish in the tank with a little peat. The eggs should not be too hot or cold, and kept damp. When first hatch the baby snails are transparent, but they soon grow. They also need a supply of cuttlefish for their shells and should be treated like the adults basically (although you may want to keep them in a smaller enclosure until they are a little bigger).
Update:20/03/2004 - Added size + species info due to popular demand... sorry it's not much, but size details are fairly sketchy!
Update:18/05/2004 - Re-ordered the writeup... My sister's snails are doing well, and have grown considerably. They are big enough that you can easily see (and hear!) them chewing their food!