They’re super viscous, carry their homes and are the vicious predators of our helpless little lettuces. And by the way, in France we eat them as revenge: yeah, I’m talking about snails.
But now, have you ever seen giant African land snails?!
I’m here going to explain how to keep your own slimy creatures at home, and more specifically the Archachatina species!
The Archachatina is a genus that includes many species such as A.ventricosa, A.puylaerti, or A.marginata with several sub-species (ovum, suturalis, marginata…). This is just to name a few! There are dozens of recognised species within this genus, and hundreds of species within the family Achatinidae. These giant African land snails are in the family Achatinidae. They can measure up to 20cm (8″), and can live up to 10 years!
Their original geographic range was western Africa, from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to Congo.
It’s a nocturnal animal who lives in forests and likes to bury itself.
Caring for GALS:
When it comes to snail farming, we are usually talking about heliciculture. In France we have the Garden Snail (Cornu aspersa), the Escargot (Helix pomatia) … But the one I’m going to talk about is much bigger and doesn’t arouse the same interest as these littles ones.
In Africa, the bushmeat of these snails is so prized that some species are endangered because of the intensive picking in nature. It is therefore not unusual for some people to have their own little stock at home for breeding.
So, you would rather keep them as pets than eat them? I get it! That’s why I’m now going to give you caring methods instead of cooking recipes!
A vivarium of the appropriate size: This can be a transparent plastic crate, a terrarium or aquarium, it doesn’t matter. What your snails will need is space, humidity, and a little bit of ventilation. About the size, a vivarium of 50cm (20”) long and 30cm (12”) high and wide will be just right for a pair of Archachatina marginata ovum. I invite you to click on this link to calculate the right size for your vivarium: The Snail Calculator.
Substrate: Opt for humus/coconut fibres rather than peat (it is too acid and will damage your snails’ shells). Make sure there is a 5 to 10cm (2” to 4”) layer so they can bury themselves. The substrate should always be damp yet not too much so they can’t drown. A humidity of 80% would be ideal and for that, you should spray at least once a day.
Heating : These snails come from countries that are quite hot, so in our cold temperatures, it is essential they have an extra source of heat. Just so you know they become lethargic if the temperature gets down to 18°C (64 fahrenheit) and they will die if the temperature drops below 15°C (59 fahrenheit). To stay on the safe side, I would recommend the temperature to always stay above 20°C (68 fahrenheit). For this you should buy a heat mat, some even use them all year round. The best way to attach it is on the side of your vivarium and not underneath, so they still have a cool place they can bury if needed. The ideal would be for the temperature to stay around 28°C (82 fahrenheit). Side note : when you use heating, it should always be connected to a thermostat as this is what controls the temperature and stops it from overheating.
One or more companion(s): Snails are gregarious animals, it means that they live in a group. A duo is the minimum, but as they say: the more the merrier! (Keep in mind that each of them must have enough space to live and they should not be crammed.) It is a very important thing to remember because they don’t tolerate solitude.
A calcium source: It is absolutely required, they will need it to build their shell and produce future eggs. See in the food section below to find out what you can use.
First, make sure you give your snails a varied diet. Just imagine yourself, eating green beans for the rest of your life… not so great? So, don’t do that to them either!
Note: They like their food better when it’s not cooked. And they’re opportunistic, not vegetarian as one might think. Also like us, each snail has preferences, so you’re going to have to learn by trying out various foods.
These are non-exhaustive lists, so feel free to test other things out yourself:
Fruits: apple, apricot, banana, grapes, kiwi fruit, mango, melon, peach, pear, raspberry, strawberry, plum, tomato…
Vegetables: lettuce, eggplant, broccoli, carrot, cabbage, zucchini, pumpkin, radish, pepper, mushrooms…
Food supplement: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hard-boiled egg, raw meat, pinkies, dog/cat food, fish flakes…
A calcium source: cuttlefish bones, crushed oyster shell, eggshell (if you really don’t have anything else to give them)
The don’ts: pasta, rice, salt, onion, food treated with pesticides (for that you can just peel the veggies and fruits).
It is well-known that snails are hermaphroditic, meaning that they are both male and female. Self-fertilization is impossible though.
The Archachatina marginata attain their sexual majority at about 10 to 18 months and lay 4 to 15 eggs on average. These are quite big (1 to 2cm/0,4″ to 0,8″)
The less you disturb the eggs, the more they are likely to hatch. They’re indeed very fragile and need a lot of humidity. They will start to hatch after 3 weeks of incubation.
Snails are safe and easy to handle, which seems ideal for kids. However, make sure you wash your hands before and after any manipulation to avoid any disease transmission.
Caution: When you remove the top of your vivarium, make sure there is no snail on it because they could fall and get hurt. So be vigilant when you open your vivarium!
To catch a snail without rushing it when it’s stuck on a side of the vivarium, get your hands and the snail wet, then pass a finger under its head and gently pull its shell. If it resists just don’t insist and try again later.
The best way to hold a snail is to keep it in the palm of your hand with its head turned to your wrist. This way you can hold the shell with your fingers and easily watch your snail coming out of its shell.
For the smaller snails, you should slide them gently so they let go. And then for the tiny snails, it’s better to place some food nearby and wait for them to step on it so you can grab the whole thing because they’re very delicate.
Special thanks to Snailykasus for all their pictures and if you want to see more about these snails go visit their website: Snailykasus
Don’t hesitate to ask me questions in the comments. Also, don’t forget to follow me on this blog and on social media so that you don’t miss any of my articles. See you next week for a new article!