Feeding Guide for African Giant Land Snails

Feeding Guide for African Giant Land Snails

Feeding your African giant land snails is one of the most important parts of keeping them happy and healthy. In their natural environment, these land snails are scavengers, as such, they have evolved to have specific dietary needs.

With the rise in popularity of African giant land snails as pets, we can find more and more information regarding their feeding and care. Unfortunately, not all of it is correct.

That is why before you even get a land snail, you should do extensive research on the species and their diet to make sure that you are able to provide for them properly.

The following feeding guide for African giant land snails was written to address some of the most commonly asked questions, like:

  • What should your African giant land snails eat to stay healthy?
  • How often should African giant land snails eat?
  • What food should be avoided?

Without further ado let’s start. 

African Giant Land Snails’s Natural Diet

Before we jump into discussions, I need to start off with the general description of what African giant land snails eat in nature. This information will help us to better understand their feeding requirements.

According to multiple studies, these land snails are polyphagous. It means that they feed on a variety of plant materials as well as on decaying organic matter. It can be almost any:

  • fresh leaves,
  • fresh fruits,
  • vegetables,
  • plants and flowers,
  • dying plants and decaying leaves,
  • barks,
  • seeds,
  • grains,
  • mushrooms,
  • organic waste,
  • decaying organic
  • sometimes even other small snails and

As we can see, African giant land snails are detritivorous. Basically, they will eat anything they come across in the tank.

However, does it meant that we should not care about their diet? No, it does not!

Some food can be more beneficial than others. So, if we know the specific nutritional requirements of these snails and the peak period of nutrient intake, we will be equipped to plan for their feeding for optimal nutritional benefits, which will result in a happy pet. 

What Can I Feed My African Giant Land Snails?

If you want to give them the best life, they need to have a varied diet. To be sure that snail’s dietary needs are met, we need to provide them with a well-balanced diet:

  • Vegetables and Fruits
  • Protein
  • Calcium

Vegetables and Fruits

Here is a list of recommended and avoid vegetables and fruits.

Recommended food for African giant land snails

Vegetables

Asparagus dandelion Peas
Alfalfa Green beans Pumpkin
Broccoli Green pea Pepper (only sweet)
Basil Leeks Sprouts
Beet Lettuce Swede
Cabbage of all sorts Moss Sweet corn
Carrots Nettle Turnios
Cauliflower Oats (soaked and mashed) Watercress
Clover (love it) Parsnip Zucchini
Cucumber Plantain (broadleaf)  

Fruits

Apple (only sweet) Mango Plum (only sweet)
Apricot Melon Raspberry (only sweet)
Banana Nectarines Raisins
Butternut squash Papaya Satsuma
Cherry (only sweet) Prickly pear Sharon fruit
Coconut Peach Strawberry (only sweet)
Dragon fruit Pear Tangerine (only sweet)
Grapes Physalis Watermelon

 

With Cautionfood for African giant land snails

 Vegetables

Aubergine Cilantro Parsley
Artichoke Kale Spinach
Beans Motherwort Turnip
Broad bean Mushrooms (edible – dry, boiled, or raw – once per week) Thyme
Tomatoes (only ripe and sweet) Mint Woodbine
Celery Potatoes  

Fruits

Avocado Persimmons (only ripe and sweet) Kiwi (only ripe and sweet)
Olives Tangerine (only ripe and sweet)  

 

Note: Spinach, kale, and parsley are high in oxalates which inhibit the uptake of calcium, so they should only be fed in limited amounts.

Avoidfood for African giant land snails

Vegetables

Celandine Melissa Sorrel
Garlic Leek Wormwood
Horseradish Onion  

Fruits

Blackberries Guava Orange
Blueberries Gooseberries Pineapple
Buckthorn Lime Pomegranate
Cherries Lingonberries Rowan
Currants Lemon Viburnum
Cranberry Satsuma  

 

IMPORTANT – Do not ever give your African giant land snails

  • acidic
  • salty,
  • spicy,
  • fried,
  • smoked,
  • sweets (like candy),
  • flour (including bread),
  • boiled eggs (eggshell is OK).

All citruses (like lemons, oranges, tangerines, etc.) contain a lot of citric and ascorbic acid. The problem with these acids is that they break down calcium.  As a result of a chemical reaction in the body of the snail, it will inflate all internal organs of the snail!
Note: It is not the acid itself that is dangerous, but its reaction with calcium supplements.

Avoid oxalic acid, (it can be found in such products as spinach, sorrel, jealousy, parsley, beet, etc.)

Do not give your snails boiled eggs! Albumen (egg white) does not ferment (which facilitates digestion) but denatures (losing hydrophilicity (moisture absorption) and solubility. Unfortunately, the snails’ digestion has problems with products that do not rot very well.

You should never give snails any bread. Because of commercial yeast (fermented very quickly), it takes a lot longer to digest it. 

Potatoes, and especially any green part of the plant, contain a toxic chemical called solanine

It is very poisonous to the snails.

For example, tomatoes have a high concentration in shoots and greens. However, tomato fruits do not have solanine.

Avoid starchy foods (potatoes, bread, rice, corn, pasta, etc.). Starches are long chains of glucose. In other words, it is resistant to digestion.

Flour and honey are also bad for the digestion of the snails.

Supplements for the Land Snails

If you think that giving your African giant land snails a variety of vegetables and fruits is enough for itself – you are wrong!

Even though they can be very nutritious and contain a lot of vitamins, vegetables and fruits are still lacking in important nutrients, such as:

  • Calcium
  • Protein

For example, when African giant land snails cannot find enough calcium, in their natural environment, they can be found feeding on plastered walls!

Problems associated with a lack of calcium and/or protein:

These are some signs that African giant land snails do not have enough calcium and/or protein:

  1. A very slow growth rate. On the Internet, we can find some diagrams and tables describing their growth rate. If you see that your snail is falling behind – check the supplements!
  2. Snails do not regenerate and heal. It is a well-known fact that snails have a very powerful regeneration, with time they can even heal the broken shells. However, without protein and, especially, calcium – it may take them too much time.
  3. Gnaw themselves and other snails. They need a lot of calcium and if you do not give it to them, they will solve the problem in their own way. African giant land snails can even start gnawing on their own shell and leg. In some cases, they can even eat their young.
  4. Problems with fertilization Calcium and Protein are key components in promoting egg formation and growth, so maintaining adequate levels of these supplements can go a long way in ensuring the healthy development of snail offspring.

Calcium

In snails, 98% of the shell is made up of calcium carbonate (the remaining 2% mass are compounds of Fe, Mg, Mn, Al, Na, K). Mostly because snails’ shells can have several calcified layers (generally two to five)). Therefore, the need for calcium is absolutely critical to the snails.

A calcium deficiency can cause weakness and crack in the shell making the snail susceptible to diseases, heat, and dehydration.

Calcium can be found in kale, broccoli, spinach,

  • cuttlebones,
  • eggshells,
  • natural chalk
  • wonder shells,
  • oyster shells, etc.

Note: Be careful with mineral stones. They can have salt, so check the ingredients, if it is possible.

For better and faster consumption, you need to ground them to dust and use them as supplements during feeding.

Cuttlebones should be in their enclosure all the time (as one piece). It should not be salty. If so, put it in cold water for 4-5 hours and dry it out. After that, it can be given to the snail.

Keep in mind that Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. Without this vitamin, snails will have insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. So, we have to provide them as well.

Also, you need to know that for the absorption of calcium, snails need vitamin D.
It can be provided to the snail in the form of food:

  • mainly greens: nettle, lettuce, dill, etc.
  • tomatoes, carrots, etc.
  • mushrooms.

Protein

Protein is another important part of the African giant land snail’s diet. However, we cannot give it uncontrollably. Otherwise, snails can get protein poisoning.

The first indication of protein poisoning – snail food start swelling. It becomes huge!

Snails become lethargic. In some cases, we can notice a prolapse. During a prolapse, they cannot retract anymore. This may lead to death.

There is two types of protein – animal and plant-based. Following the rule of diet diversity, we need to give them both. Although in terms of components, we will not see a big difference between animal and plant proteins, the ratio of amino acids is still different.

According to the study, it was concluded that the snails fed on a diet from different protein sources such as blood meal, fish meal and soya bean meal had higher crude protein content and also performed better than the snails fed with only leaves such as pawpaw leaves and pumpkin leaves.

1. Animal-based protein

Some recommended dosages.

  • Daphnia – 2-3 times a week (no more than 1 teaspoon).
    Gammarus – 2-3 times a week (depending on the size of the snail, 4-7 crustaceans per adult).
  • Boiled chicken, fish, beef, shrimp, etc. – 2-3 times a week (no salt and spices).
  • Fish / shrimp/ crab flakes .
  • Dog food (check out ingredients before!).

Important: Avoid beef, lamb, pork, veal, cream, cheese.

2. Plant-based protein

African giant land snails will gladly eat:

  • Dried seeds (pumpkin, cucumber, melon, watermelon, flax, poppy, sesame),
  • herbs and leaves,
  • lichens,
  • mushrooms,
  • any cereals except semolina (grind into dust, cook without salt),
  • nuts (walnuts, cedar, cashews, hazelnuts – everything in small amount (except peanuts)),

Recommended dosage:

  • Do not give plant and animal-based protein at the same time.
  • On a teaspoon, on days free from animal protein.

Note: Adult snails can have protein-free days 1-2 times a week.

According to the study, for the best growth, feeds should contain protein at a level of about 20% of the diet.

African Giant Land Snails and Addictive Food

Feed preference experiments in snails show that highly palatable foods can trigger pleasure centers in their nervous system and make them addicted to those foods.

How they develop feed preference is complex, however, this has been linked to post ingestive effects (satiety or malaise) and their interaction with mainly the senses of taste and smell.

Once the pleasure associated with eating certain foods, they start turning down anything else.

For example, there are multiple reports that bananas and cucumbers may be addictive for land snails. So, given a choice, they often prefer them to anything else.

This is very bad and in the long-run can have a detrimental effect on their health.

Snails cannot get all the necessary nutrients only from a few products. For example, as for the cucumber, there is nothing useful in it at all. In fact, cucumbers are made up of about 96% water!

What should we to do avoid this problem?

  • Do not give them these products too often.
  • The diet needs to be diversified.

What should we do when we already have this problem?

You need to prepare a cucumber puree:

  • Mashed cucumber (90%)
  • Any other product, for example, zucchini or pumpkin (10%)

On the next day, do the same only in a ratio of 80/20, then 70/30, and so on until there is no problematic product.

In the future, either give this product very rarely or do not give it at all.

Chicken Eggshells Powder

Your snails will love powdered chicken eggshells. Chicken eggshells consist of calcium carbonate (~98.2%), and a trace amount of other microelements, i.e. magnesium, boron, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur, silicon, and zinc.  (Shell membranes comprises of 69.2% protein, 2.7% fat, 1.5% moisture, etc).

1.  To make eggshell powder, boil eggshells in hot water for 5 – 10 min to kill any harmful bacteria.
Tip: It easier to remove the membrane if you boil them longer.
2. Let them cool off and dry.
3. Roast them in an oven or microwave for 5 – 10 min to completely dry out and become crispy.
Note: Roasting will remove (burn out) the membrane.
4. If you do not do step #3 – peel the membrane away from the inside of the shells. It can take a while. We remove the membrane so the powder will be cleaner without it.
5. Put the eggshells into a coffee grinder and run until they are pulverized into powder (dust).
6. Add some of the eggshells to your African giant land snail’s enclosure. That is it. Your little friends will thank you!

How often should We Change the Food?

African giant land snails do not eat fast. So, you can easily leave their food in the tank for 24 hours before removing it.

Just make sure that whatever they do not consume in one day is removed to prevent moles.

For best results, give them food before nightfall. Snails are nocturnal animals, their feeding activity increases at night (2 to 3 hours after the onset of darkness).

So it is recommended to feed them at night (at least in the evening), it will replicate the conditions and environment under which they eat naturally.

How often should We Change the Menu?

Some snail keepers try to give their pets a new, or different food each time they feed them.

Well, in my opinion, this is a little extreme and isn’t always possible, however, they will definitely appreciate having something different once in a while.

How Often to Feed African giant land snails?

Young snails (up to 1 year), we should feed every day. They need a lot of food to grow.

Adult snails can be fed 3 – 4 times a week.

In Conclusion

Although African giant land snails are scavengers and have a broad spectrum of food, their feeding is not that simple. There are still some rules that you should know to avoid food that can be dangerous to the snails.

Make sure that they have variety and a good variety of a minimum of 2 different things in their feeding dish.

Just remember when it comes to fruits and vegetables nothing spicy, acidic, or salts. Keep it very bland, keep it very simple and you should be safe.

Related articles:

Archachatina Marginata – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding

Giant African Land Snails – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding

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