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.