1. Home

Giant African Land Snails (Achatina spp.) as Pets

By

Warning:

Giant African land snails are illegal in the US and some other countries due to their potential as a devastating invasive species. While they are legal pets in some countries, under no circumstances should they be kept as pets where illegal to do so, and they should also never be released into the wild. They are also prolific breeders so if you have more than one you also need to be extremely careful about disposing of the numerous eggs produced.

Species:

Achatina fulica(East African Land Snail), Achatina marginata (West African Land Snails), Achatina achatina (Tiger Snails). Care for all is similar. A common abbreviation for giant African land snails is GALS.

Size:

The smaller of these snails (Achatina fulica) grow to be about 3-4 inches long (shell length), while the larger ones (Achatina achatina) can have a shell up to 10-11 inches long (in a snail this size the body stretched out would be about 14-15 inches!).

Life Span: Average about 5-6 years, but can live up to 10 years.

Housing:

A good sized, well-ventilated plastic or glass tank with a secure lid makes a good home (for full grown snails count on a 5-10 gallon tank as a minimum). Provide a 1-2 inch layer of soil or compost as a substrate (allow the snails to burrow). Pieces of wood, cork bark or clay flower pots provide an interesting landscape and hiding spots for the snails. The substrate will need to be cleaned out weekly. Mist the tank to keep the substrate slightly damp (not wet, though).

Temperature:

Although they come from a tropical climate, GALS seem to adapt well to lower temperatures. Their tank can be kept anywhere from 65-84 F (18-29 C) but 70-77 F (21-25 C) is a good range to aim for. If you need to heat the tank use heat strips available for reptile habitats, under half the tank only. Keep in mind that if you are heating the cage it will dry out faster and you will need to make sure the humidity is maintained.

Feeding:

GALS mostly need a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, such as cucumber, lettuce (remember, dark leafy types of lettuce such as romaine are more nutritious than head lettuce such as iceberg lettuce), peppers, apple, nectarine, grapes, banana, peach, plums, melon, papaya, leafy greens (e.g.spinach, kale), green beans, corn on the cob, tomatoes, etc. Some will also eat brown bread and moistened dog biscuits.

Calcium Source:

Snails need calcium supplementation to keep their shell strong, so provide a piece of cuttlebone or other calcium supplement (check the bird section at the pet store).

Water:

Providing water in a bowl is not a strict necessity as long as the tank is misted regularly (they get lots of moisture from their foods). However, a shallow bowl can be provided - one designed for reptiles with the stepped edges is ideal to keep the snail from slipping into the bowl.

Handling:

These snails do not seem to mind being handled, but you must be gentle with them and avoid damaging the shell. Moistening your hands before holding them is recommended by some owners. The shell is most fragile at the base where it is next to the body, so try to avoid picking them up by this part of the shell, and be careful to provide solid support to the body and shell.

Miscellaneous Facts:

  • Due to the risk of becoming a successful invasive species and becoming a serious agricultural pest, importation of giant african land snails into the US is not permitted, and they are illegal to keep as pets in the US. They are kept as pets in some other countries, however. For more see "Potential Pet or Potent Pet."
  • Giant African land snails are hemraphrodites, meaining they possess both the female and male reproductive organs. Two snails are still needed for breeding, but they are very prolific breeders. A fulica can reprtedly lay 1200 eggs per year.
  • In Africa, giant land snails are used as a food source.
  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Exotic Pets
  4. More Exotic Pets
  5. Giant African Land Snails (Achatina spp.) as Pets

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.