Giant African land snails are easy to keep and make great pets for people looking for something a little different. On average they will grow to the size of a tennis ball, however some have been known to grow much larger than this.
They belong to the group of creatures that are known as molusca and are part of a sub group known as gastropods. To help them glide along gastropods produce mucus, this is why all slugs and snails are slimy. Slugs are basically snails without shells!
Inside a snails mouth is an organ known as the radula. This organ contains thousands of teeth and is used to scrape food into the mouth.
Housing your Pet
The most convenient housing for your snails is either a plastic or glass tank that is easy to clean. It should be as large as possible – this will help to keep your snails healthy. It is very important to have several centimetres of peat and some bark pieces on the bottom of the tank as this will allow your snails to burrow. Adding some moss or leaf litter to the tank will also be very much appreciated by your snail. Place a large terracotta plant pot in the tank, as this will create a hiding place for your snails. Giant Land snails can be kept at room temperature during the summer, but during the winter additional heating of some form will be necessary, such as a heating pad, as snails will shy away from a light bulb. Your snails will grow at a much faster rate if a temperature of 20 – 25c is maintained, rather than room temperature.
Feeding your Pet
Giant Land Snails are very easy to feed as they will eat most fruit and vegetables, and especially like lettuce, apple, banana and cucumber. These are ideal, as they will provide your snail with the moisture that they need. To enable their shell to remain strong and healthy it is vital to provide your snail with a good source of calcium. e.g. cuttlefish bone. These should be placed whole in the cage, as your snails will rasp away on them, using their tiny rows of teeth.
All snails are hermaphrodites; this means that each snail has both male and female sexual organs. You still need two snails to mate and produce offspring, but it does not matter which two! Giant snails do not have to be fully grown to produce young; they can produce when they are only 4 – 5cm long. Snails lay eggs that are usually white and round and laid in clutches in the soil. The number and size laid will vary with different species. The eggs can be left to hatch in the tank, but a better way, to enable a better hatching rate is by gently removing the eggs and surrounding soil to a plastic box. The eggs and soil should be kept fairly moist. A lettuce leaf should be placed in the box when the small snails start to emerge (usually after several days.) The snails will cluster on the leaf, and can then either be put back with their parents or moved to a larger separate container, the rate at which the young snails grow is dependant on food, the supply of calcium and temperature.