The Giant African Land Snail (Achatina fulica).
The Giant African Land Snails (Achatina sp.) are molluscs and make ideal pets as they are easy to look after. They can live for several years and grow up to 20cm in length. The snails are most active during the night (they are nocturnal).
These snails can be housed in a variety of containers, depending upon the size and number of snails that you have. A good container is a glass or plastic aquarium tank. These type of containers allow easy cleaning and you will be able to watch your snails through the sides. The snails like to burrow, so when you have your tank, fill it with several centimeters of peat-free compost and a large piece of bark. (If you collect the bark yourself make sure that you soak it in water overnight to remove any nasty chemicals). Make sure that the substrate is kept moist at all times, but not soggy. Leaf litter and moss are also good at keeping the soil damp. The tank should be kept at 20-25°C, which means that a small heat mat or pad is necessary during the winter months. The tank should be kept moist and a plant spray is ideal, providing it hasn’t been used with chemicals as these could harm your snails.
If snails are not kept in correct conditions they may seal the aperture (opening) to their shell and wait for conditions to improve. If this happens you should make sure you are keeping the snails correctly. Once you have resolved these housing issues you can encourage the snails to open up again by bathing them in luke-warm water.
The African Land Snails are very easy to feed, as they will eat a wide variety of things. The best food is lettuce and cucumber but apple, banana and cabbage can also be given. However, if you give your snails food that goes off quickly (like banana and apple) be sure to remove it when it has gone brown so as not to make your snails ill. An essential part of the snails diet is calcium. This is used to keep their shells strong and healthy and calcium can be provided in the form of a cuttlefish bone.
All snails are hermaphrodites, which means that they have both male and female sex organs, so although you need two snails in order for them to breed, it doesn’t matter which two. If conditions are ideal, the snails will produce nests of small, white round eggs. These should be removed very carefully, so that the adults do not disturb them, and placed in a small container containing some damp peat-free substrate, where they should hatch after about 14 days at 20-25°C. Keep an eye on your eggs, and as soon as they hatch give them some food and cuttlefish.
Snails can produce more than one clutch of eggs following mating. As a result, snails that have not have been in contact with other snails for some time may still produce batches of viable eggs (assuming the snail was an adult when it was in contact with other snails).
Health and cleanliness
Giant Land Snails should be treated with the same care and attention to cleanliness as any other pet. Like many animals (caged birds, snakes, terrapins, tortoises, lizards etc.) and some food products (raw poultry and eggs), snails can carry the Salmonella bacteria.
Consequently, after handling snails (or cleaning them out), you should wash and disinfect hands thoroughly.
The AES is occasionally asked about parasites carried by Giant African Land Snails. Like many slugs and snails, Giant African Land Snails are capable of carrying a parasite known as Rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis). This is a parasite of rats but the larvae is passed to snails when snails eat infected rat droppings. Rats then eat the snails and the parasite is passed back to the rat to complete its life cycle.
This parasite can be passed to humans if they eat live/raw infected snails or a part of a snail. In most cases infection does not require medical treatment but, in very rare cases, can cause a rare form of meningitis.
Parasite transmission in the UK is very unlikely for several reasons:
- It is thought that rats in the UK do not carry the parasite so snails originating in the UK do not come into contact with infected rat droppings.
- Most Giant African Land Snails available in the UK are captive bred within the UK and not imported. Before purchasing any snail you should enquire about its origin (although this is standard advice when buying any animal).
- Pet snails are not eaten.
The above does not constitute medical advice. If you are in any way concerned about health risks posed by snails then seek advice from a medical practitioner.
In some countries it is illegal to own Giant African Land Snails because of the invasive nature of this snail. There are currently no restrictions on owning these snails in the UK but it is illegal to release them (including eggs) into the wild. Excess eggs should be frozen before being disposed of.
Remember: it is important that you know the needs and requirements of your pet before you obtain the animal. You should never, ever obtain an animal before researching its needs and preparing the housing and conditions.
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Giant African land snails, or GALS are they’re often referred to online, are one of the largest snail species in the world, reaching an adult size of up to 8 inches.
Due to these impressive dimensions and how simple they are to keep in the home, giant African land snails are one of the most popular invertebrate species kept as pets. If you’re considering joining the ranks of passionate snail keepers around the world, here’s what you need to know…
Giant African Land Snail Housing
The key to housing exotic pets securely and successfully always begins with an understanding of their ecology. By considering their natural environment, together with what makes them unique as an animal, we’re able to design a habitat that perfectly matches their requirements.
Coming from Africa it should come as no surprise that GALS have evolved to thrive in a warm environment. As a result, in all but the warmest areas, some form of artificial heating is usually necessary for them to be comfortable.
As soft-bodied invertebrates, they’re also tremendously prone to drying out in this heat, however. Therefore, like the snails you find crawling around your vegetable plot after heavy rain, they appreciate a moist living environment.
Lastly, it’s worth bearing in mind that African land snails are expert climbers and, as a result, escape artists. Consequently, a close-fitting lid on their cage is essential if they’re not going to make a “dash” for freedom when your back is turned.
All these factors combined means that an old aquarium or similar container can make the perfect cage for land snails. The glass or plastic sides help to keep in warmth and moisture while providing a good view of your pets going about their daily activities. A good-quality lid will also help to maintain this warm, moist environment as well as preventing any escapees.
It should be mentioned that not only is it sad to lose a pet after it escapes, in many of the warmer parts of the world, escaped African land snails represent a very real danger to the local flora and fauna. One more reason to ensure that lid is always secure.
While your snails may be comfortable at room temperature during the summer months it’s likely that in all but the height of summer some form of artificial heating will be required. A variety of heaters are available from specialist reptile stores though arguably the most appropriate are the low-cost heat pads.
Heat pads cost virtually nothing to run as they’re so energy-efficient yet can keep your snails at a comfortable 22-26’C throughout the year. Simply place their tank half on and half off the heat pad to create a temperature gradient for your pets. In this way they can move about – cycling between the warmer and cooler areas – to help maintain the perfect body temperature.
Line the base of the tank with a decent layer of substrates such as pesticide-free potting compost, coir or bark chippings in order to retain moisture as well as giving your pet somewhere to dig. Spray this as necessary in order to keep it – and the tank – pleasantly humid. Twice a week is a good starting point though change the frequency as necessary.
With this relatively simple and low-cost setup you’ll have your giant African land snail tank all set up and ready for its inhabitants.
Feeding Giant African Land Snails
GALS can have a surprisingly large appetite and so a regular supply of fresh vegetables and fruit should be provided. Apple and lettuce seem particularly welcome though aim to add as much variety to their diet as possible.
As with any live animal, a bowl of freshwater should be available at all times and changed daily. For GALS, which are not the most athletic of animals, try to make this water dish shallow to prevent any risk of drowning.
One final point when it comes to feeding your snails is that they require a relatively high level of calcium in their diet in order to build their shell. Therefore some form of calcium supplementation in their diet is recommended. Most commonly this either takes a powdered form which is sprinkled over their food, or the addition of a cuttlefish bone (as sold for budgies) which your snails will gnaw upon and extract all the calcium they need.
Housing: a glass terrarium of at least 300x300x300mm
Heating: ambient air temperature of 70-75 o F
Diet: Vegetation and cuttlefish bone
Decoration: damp substrate to raise humidity levels
African land snail do well with a glass terrarium as their enclosure. This is because glass is great at allowing heat to escape ensuring that the enclosure stays cool enough. Other enclosures such as wooden vivariums are far too efficient at retaining heat.
This snail’s terrarium should be at least 300mm in length and 300mm in height but the more space you can provide the better. The snail is going to grow to around 5-6" so they need a space large enough for them to move around in.
African land snail require a near constant air temperature of 70-75 o F. This is best achieved by sticking a heatmat on one side of the glass enclosure. This heatmat is regulated using a thermostat to make sure the temperature stays constant.
As the glass is only being heated on one side this also creates a small temperature gradient within the enclosure allowing the snail to warm itself up or move away to cool down.
Popular Products For This Pet
African land snail should always be allowed at least 2” of substrate. We find the best substrate for this snail is a soil mix called spider life.
The snails terrarium can be decorated with artificial plants for a more natural look.Small natural wood ornaments look very effective and also provide further perches for the snail. Trailing plants are very good at disguising electrical wires and equipment, as well as providing cover for young snails.
Diet & Water
African land snail eat vegetation. The core of the diet should be a mix of kale, cabbage, and leafy greens. We also always include small chuks of cuttlefish bone for added calcium. We would feed the salad daily to make sure they never run out of food.
Protect your home or business from giant African snails by learning techniques for identification and control.
How do I get rid of giant African snails?
What You Can Do
Because snails favor humidity, removing items such as mulch, dense vegetation and wood can help lessen the chance of an infestation. Some barriers also have been successful for minimizing the damage done by these snails. Copper foil, which is available for purchase at most local garden supply stores, is believed to deter them, but they become less effective over time.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Understanding Giant African Snails
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, giant African snails are a great threat to agriculture and crops. They range from 10 to 17 cm in length. They typically have cone-shaped shells that are light brown in color with darker brown vertical stripes, though occasionally the color may differ – reddish-brown with pale yellow stripes, for instance – depending on their environment.
Behavior & Habitat
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, giant African snails are a great threat to agriculture and crops.
The giant African snail commonly is found in warm, humid climates. They can be found in coastal areas, shrub lands, plantation habitats and forests. The snail prefers temperatures that are well above freezing. It is nocturnal and spends most of the day underground. These snails produce a slime that reduces friction and allows them to move along many ground surfaces.
Giant African snails are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. They typically feed on leaves, wood, bark, seeds, grains and nuts. Older snails can become carnivorous, however, also feed on living plants or other snails, fungi or animal matter. Their tongue, called the radula, has teeth on it that allow it to scrape or cut food.
The typical life span of the giant African snail is three to five years, but they have been known to live as long as nine years. Giant African snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive parts. Young African snails only produce sperm, but adults are able to produce both sperm and eggs. Even though they have both male and female reproductive parts, they still have to mate with another snail because their sperm cannot fertilize their own eggs.
When two snails mate, they exchange sperm. The sperm may immediately fertilize the eggs, or it can be stored inside the body for up to two years before fertilizing any eggs. Once fertilized, the snail does not lay the eggs for eight to 20 days. They typically hatch 11 to 15 days later.
The snail can lay up to 100 eggs in its first year and up to 500 in the second year. After six months, the young reach adult size.
Signs of Infestation
These snails don’t travel far from their host plants, so if damage is visible, it is likely that the Giant African snail is nearby. To keep an eye out for these invasive pests, look for any signs of feeding. They feed on plants at night and hide in plants and soil during the day, and are large enough to be seen. If found, they can be picked up by hand, but it is highly recommended to wear gloves when doing so.
Giant African Land Snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that one snail is both both male and female. Although they don’t often self-fertilise, it is not unheard of, so keeping a single snail will not guarantee that you won’t end up with eggs or baby snails. Achatina fulica are the easiest snails to breed and don’t require much special attention in order for them to reproduce.
Snails can start breeding after around six months and the larger of the pair will normally carry the eggs.
Clutches of eggs are produced in batches of anywhere between 30 and 1,000. Usually, batches are produced several months apart to give them a better chance of survival, but we recommend you check for eggs every three days. Eggs are white or yellowish and are 4-5mm in diameter. Eggs can take anywhere from several days to six weeks to hatch. If conditions are good, around 90 percent of the babies should survive.
Giant African Land Snail eggs. (Photo by Scot Nelson)
Eggs and very small babies should be kept separate from adult snails to avoid damaging them. A tupperware tub (with airholes!) with some substrate and food is perfect for keeping baby snails.
However, it is important to remember that the supply of baby Giant African Land Snails is greater than the demand, making them incredibly hard to re-home or sell. If you don’t want to or can’t keep lots of baby snails, then it is best to destroy the eggs by freezing them as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should you let baby African Land Snails or their eggs loose outside, as this is illegal in many countries and will do a great deal of damage to the surrounding wildlife. Cleaning your snail tank out regularly will ensure that you find any eggs before they hatch.
Unfortunately, there is an extremely large number of unwanted Giant African Land Snails within the UK and so they are often very difficult to find good homes for.
If you do find yourself with unwanted snails, the classified section on this Pet Snail Forum is a good place to advertise, as well as Preloved.co.uk, which has a large number of snail postings. Facebook has many groups dedicated to snails and snail care but we are are a member and supporter of Snail World, which has an active community of snail lovers and often has space for you to offer your snail babies to other owners. Be warned: There are some people who purchase snails as live feed for reptiles, so be careful when vetting responses if you are concerned about this.
If you manage to find a buyer or someone willing to adopt your snails, be sure to provide them with sufficient care information and inform them that regular checking for eggs is required. Snails can live for around ten years and grow very large, so make sure the new owner is aware of the responsibility.
Snails can suffer from a number of health problems and, unfortunately, there are not many veterinarians (if any) that will treat snails. Prevention is always better than, so it important to be aware of any potential problems so you can prevent them before they occur.
Below are some of the main problems you might come across, and I’ve included links to give you more information, but PetSnails.co.uk has very in-depth descriptions of many more snail health issues, as well as how to treat/prevent them.
Aestivation is when a snail creates a membrane and seals itself into its shell because of the dryness of its surrounding. This can be combated by increasing the humidity in your tank – easily done with a daily spritz of water from a spray bottle. Humidity in the tank should be around 75-90% – find out more about humidity monitoring here.
If your snail is still sealed in after increasing the tank humidity, you can encourage it come out by bathing it in lukewarm water, or by spraying the snail directly (but gently) with the spray bottle. Snails can take a little while to adapt to the new humidity level, so don’t worry if they hide again soon afterwards.
Snails may also seal themselves into their shells if the temperature of its surroundings is too low. Most African snails require a temperature of around 20 – 29°c, although difference species can prefer lower temperatures. PetSnails.co.uk has detailed care guides for many different species of snail here.
A heat mat is useful for keeping the temperature of your snail habitat steady and warm. You can find out more about heating and heat mats here.
Snails can sometimes retract themselves into their shells and be reluctant to come out again. If there is no covering across the shell opening, then this is classed as retraction rather than hibernation or aestivation.
There are many possible reasons for retraction, and there is detailed information on these and how to treat them here.
Cracked or Broken Shells
Snails grow their shells by absorbing calcium through cuttlefish bones and food. Poor calcium intake can result in weak and flaky shells, as well as make them prone to cracking and breaking. Breaks on the wider part of the shell (next to the entrance where the snail emerges) are not too serious and the snail will usually repair these themselves in time. More serious breakages can occur on the point of the shell, where the older growth is. The snail cannot repair these, and if the snail’s body is exposed, this can lead to other health problems, and drying out.
Shells can be repaired, but care must be taken to avoid the snail’s body coming into contact with any materials or chemicals used. A guide to repairing shell breakages can be found here.
Snails and their environment can be prone to flies and mites. More details on the different types of these and how to get rid of them, can be found at the following links: Mites and Flies.
Giant African Land Snail Care Sheet
Giant African Land Snail Care Sheet – This care sheet contains recommendations from our shop assistants.
Giant African land snails make great unusual pets. Adult African land snails get up to 20 cm long and the largest ever recorded was 37.5cm. In general, giant African land snails live around 5 – 10 years.
These snails are hermaphrodites, meaning each snail has both male and female reproductive organs. However, an individual snail needs a partner to be able to reproduce by cross-fertilization.
IT IS ILLEGAL TO RELEASE GIANT LAND SNAILS INTO THE WILD.
Snails are vegetarians. Their favourite foods are leafy greens, like lettuce, cabbage, and cucumber. Food should be placed on the floor within the enclosure. Any uneaten food should be removed daily, to prevent it from going stale. Although snails get most of their moisture from their food a shallow water dish should be available for your snails to drink from, this should be shallow so there is no danger of drowning.
Snails can be kept in a variety of different enclosures; we recommend keeping them in a fumarium. The humidity level should be kept quite high, this can be achieved by keeping the substrate damp (not wet) with regular misting. The substrate should be at least 5cm thick to accommodate the animal’s natural behaviour of burrowing and hiding. Adding bark to the enclosure will offer the snails some enrichment by allowing them to climb different textures.
Giant land snails come from East African, therefore might require heating supplements. This is best provided using a heat mat that covers the back wall of the enclosure (placing the mat under the enclosure may dry out the substrate quickly). A heat mat will need to be thermostat controlled when used with your snails to prevent overheating.
Snails can go into hibernation, induced by temperature (warm or cold). This is not harmful, and the snail can be woken up when the conditions return to normal.
If two or more snails are kept together, they will eventually breed. Adult snails can lay up to 200 eggs, five or six times per year. The incubation time for the eggs is around 14 days. It is the owner’s responsibility to home or rehomes the snails accordingly. If the snails can not be rehomed the most humane way to stop your enclosure from being overrun with baby snails, is to place the eggs in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 48 hours.
Releasing snails into the wild can damage the environment and is cruel to the animals themselves.
For any further information or advice please feel free to message us on Facebook or contact the store on 01902 494860
Our Giant African Land Snail care sheet has all the expert guidance you need to ensure you can effectively look after your Giant African Land Snail.
The Giant African Land Snail (Achatina Fulica) is one of the most commonly available giant african land snails available.
They are one the best pet snail species as they are easy to look after, feed and (for the majority of the time) don't need any specialist heating requirements
Originating from from Kenya and Tanzania, this species is considered a pest in any countries where they have been accidentally introduced, they are now widespread in Ethiopia, Somalia, Madagascar, Morocco, Ghana and many more countries.
Commonly reaching 12cm or more (shell length) and with a typical lifespan of 5-7 years they are a large, long lived species.
Interesting, even snails that live alone will begin to reproduce at an age of 9-12 months (they do this via parthenogenesis). As snails hermaphrodites (both male and female) this will happen to all snails.
There is a wide range of suitable enclosures for Giant african land snails, glass tanks can be used as long as the roofs are low. Plastic tanks are also a favourable option.
This species requires temperatures between 20-25 o C, in some cold houses a heat mat with a thermostat will be required. To check temperatures, a digital or an infra-red thermometer should be used
No additional lighting is necessary, but a small LED light can be used for visual lighting.
Snails are quite prone to dropping off the top of the enclosures, and a fall onto a hard surface could damage or potentially break their shell, so avoid hard objects
Plastic food dishes, flower pots, corkbark, plastic plants and flowers are all suitable for snails. It is a good idea to have sphagnum moss in the enclosure as it will aid humidity levels.
Coir substrate is the best option to use, and you can buy it as compact bricks or loose. The substrate should be deep enough for the snail to fully bury itself into
Cuttlefish should be provided as a source of supplementation for giant african land snails. The snails rasps at the cuttlefish bone and use it as a source of calcium for egg laying as well as to help them grow and repair their shells.
There is a wide variety of foods you can offer them. A protein day should be given at least once week, this can be in the form of fish flakes (no garlic in them), soaked in water, dried mealworms crushed up and soaked into water, and you can even offer pinkie mice as a rarer treat for them to eat.
Salad, fruits and vegetables comprise the majority of their diet. All items offered should be thoroughly washed as insecticides can linger.