Other common names: GALS; African Land Snail; East African Land Snail; Giant West African Snail; Giant African Snail; Agate Snail; Ghana Tiger Snail
Scientific name: Achatina achatina
The Giant African Land Snail is the largest species of land snail in the world, and is native to warm, humid forests of western Africa. Achatina achatina can grow a colorful shell as long as 30 cm. / 11.8 inches, and for this reason has become a popular and desirable exotic pet. Unfortunately, captive Giant African Land Snails have sometimes been released into the wild, and they have become an invasive pest in parts of Asia and the United States.
Special Note - Achatina achatina and the other two species of Giant African Land Snail (GAL) are illegal to own in the U.S. and Canada and no import or export of these snails is allowed. Check your local regulations to see if they are legal in your country before acquiring one. They are considered agricultural pests and are also considered a devastating invasive species.
Appearance / health:
Adult snails reach up to 3 inches high and their shell length can be up to 10 inches. The shells are cone shaped and twisted primarily a brown color. Shell color will be dependant on diet, and can be seen as a tan like color, olive green, and other various colors. The shell is banded with the primary color and with a lighter shade of the primary color.
Behavior / temperament:
All species of snails are docile and are slow moving. Handling may be done but wash and keep hands moist before doing so and always wash after. The base of the shells are especially fragile so be careful when picking them up. In some parts of Africa, these snails are used as a food source. In countries where these are legal as pets, they are low maintenance, fun to watch, and make great pets.
It’s recommended only to keep 1 snail at a time. One snail may be kept in a tank no less than a 10 gallon. Larger tanks are preferred. A secure lid is needed.
Temperatures should stay between 70-80F but can fluctuate down to 65F at night and to 85F for short periods. Heat can be achieved by using under tank heaters or heat strips available at any pet store (reptile section). Humidity should be kept around 60-70%. Substrate should be soil or compost kept between 1-5 inches deep to allow the snails to burrow. Substrate and tank contents should be misted and kept moist. Full tank cleanings will need to be done weekly (substrate changes, décor cleaning, etc). Keeping a water dish is not necessary if the tank is misted and moist enough. If providing one, make sure it’s a very shallow, easy to get in and out of, bowl. Add tank décor such as wood, bark, rocks, side laying flower pots, and other items that will allow the snail to climb on and hide in.
GALS need a varied diet. Fresh fruits and veggies will make up most of the diet. Offer dark leafy lettuce, apples, cucumber, kale, spinach, tomatoes, grapes, bananas, and many others. Do not feed head lettuce as they hold no nutritional value. Calcium supplementation is needed to keep shells strong. This can be achieved by providing a cuttlebone inside the tank (cuttlebones are usually found in the bird section in pet stores).
GALS will breed readily with no help from the keeper if kept in pairs or more. GALS are hermaphrodites (possess both male and female organs), so even if two females or two males are kept together they can still breed. Since these are considered an invasive species, breeding them is not recommended so adults should be kept singly. They can produce thousands of eggs quickly and most keepers will become overwhelmed. NEVER RELEASE ANY UNWANTED PETS INTO THE WILD.
Fantastic, pets, sheer size, fascinating creatures, gigantic creatures
escapes, hundreds, slime marks, invasive species, little baby snails
mild flavour, chickenwire cage, snail eggs, spicy sauces, nice humid residence
Giant African Land Snails
Hi :) I bought two of these snails at elementary school, the 5th graders were selling them (I was in the fourth grade) and basically it felt like it was not an option to not buy them from those kids so I did.
I had no idea how to care for them but I asked my friends and then went to a pet store and grocery store to buy them all they would be needing. I fed them well and yep they pooped a lot so cleaning was a daily task as the smell was at times intolerable. I handled them for sure but that had to be done carefully. Also I noticed that sometimes I was not exactly enjoying the sliminess effect and they wanted back to their snail buddies.
All was still easy until I noticed the tiny eggs. This couple had made kids in the strangest way I had imagined possible and their little ones followed suit when they grew up.
Then I bought more terrariums, wood and other supplies for enjoyment and lots of food for them as they kept making more African Giant Snails to-be (the size of an adult one is impressive, I had one who was truly huge even for a Giant snail) and they did have interesting personalities.
I watched their behavour a lot when I had the time.
I took them outside in the summertime and supervised them and that was refreshing, especially when they came across the wild small snails :) this brings back interesting and smelly poo memories, thankfully I am by nature very curious about how different individuals behave and pick up on nuances/changes in behaviour.
The terrariums I liked cleaning thoroughly, organizing them artfully and so they would have as natural a habitat as possible and space. Given fresh food and seeing them all happily "snailing" around in their terrarium gave me a good feeling..
They do require a whole lot more care than I imagined and did some weird/cool tricks climbing, ate a lot, had individual food habits also and dug a lot of course. I gave them away later on as I did not have the time or the energy to look after them properly..
From Sanna Aug 8 2015 9:01AM
Giant Africa land snails
I am not at all sure that snails can be considered pets, but in my case, I go to some lengths to protect the giant snails that live on my property. To be sure, they were not always present, but somehow they have spread into my area years ago, and since they are here now, they are entitled to my protection.
Not that I keep them in vivaria, or anything like that, but to protect them from being collected to be served in the oriental restuarants in my town, I have built a large enclosure with inward sloping walls so they cannot escape. I have no problem with snails getting eaten, but then they must be eaten by their natural predators- not by people in restaurants at prices that would make your hair stand up. Nevertheless, snails of all species are destructive, and since none of the measures I have taken to protect my garden against them have ever been successful, there was nothing for it but to perform a snail patrol every morning.
The purpose of the patrol is to locate all the snails I can find and then place them in the enclosure, where I feed them. At this moment I must have close to a thousand adult snails, and about a gazzillion little ones, so to control their numbers, I let my geese and ducks into the enclosure twice a week to feast on the litle ones. This might sound cruel, but the ducks and geese would have eaten them anyway, but the purpose of keeping the snails is to prevent vagrants collecting and selling them to the oriental restaurants.
I don't suppose this counts as keeping snails as pets, but feeding them, and keeping off the dinner table is some kind of reward in itself, as is watching them devise ways and means to escape from their enclosure. Not one that I know of has ever managed to escape and I am sure this only motivates them to try harder, because they never stop trying. I often observe them trying to escape, and never let it be said that snails are stupid- if one attemt at a given spot does not work, they will move on to another spot to try again. If that fails as well, they will try another spot, and so on until lunch time rolls around.
I feed them twice a day, and as soon as I place the food on the ground, they will instantly cease their escape attempts to feed. This is usually followed by a short siesta, after which they will all attack the wall in a solid body, which makes me think that snails have a means of communication; how else is it possible for a thousand snails to stop feeding at the same time, and then to engage in the same activity (trying to escape) at the same time?
Speaking for myself, I would not consider keeping snails as pets in the conventional sense becuase there is nothing to distinguish one snail from any other. Even my chickens have distinct personaities, and I would find it hard to communicate with something that is better suited to a group awareness.
But then again, if you are pressed for space, and have the time and inclination to clean off their slime trails, it might not be bad idea to keep snails. They don't eat much, they don't take up a lot of space, and even if you gave it a name, you don't have to invest much time in a snail. Thus if you need something alive to share your life, and you do not have the space, or the time for something that has fur or feathers consider a snail, but be sure to check out your local laws, since keeping giant African land snails is illegal in some countries..
From reinier1 May 12 2015 9:46AM
Dull, boring, but actually pretty fascinating - Giant African Land Snails
I loved the idea of Giant African Land Snails and when a friend offered me the two adults that he had, completed with plastic vivarium-style tank, I jumped at the chance. It wasn't long before I realised they weren't all they cracked up to be...
They don't do a lot except leave slime marks around the tank. On top of that, they seem to poop a lot and it looks pretty disgusting. You'll need to clean the tank out pretty regularly, although that's all simple and easy enough. It's not like these creatures are going to dash off anywhere fast, is it?
Handling them again, is simple enough. They don't run off or jump. They do, however, suction themselves to whatever flat surface they are pressed against so if that's your hand, it's pretty much stuck. It took two people to remove the slimed-on snail from my palm. Then there's that slime again.... Ew.
They sleep / hibernate a lot. I had them for around six months before I gave them to a home that would actually appreciate them, and I think I saw them awake and out of the shell just the once. Maybe twice. Despite this, something else happened.
These snails created a lot of eggs. Eggs means babies. Babies mean more Giant African Land Snails. You can't throw the eggs out because they'll hatch out in the wild and create an epidemic. The last thing you want is an epidemic of giant snails. To be fair, they are every bit as gross, slimy and disgusting as the name would suggest. I read online that you'd need to boil the eggs to ensure they were all dead. I couldn't do this and I'm not entirely sure why, but I left the task to my housemate who apparently disposed of them accordingly for me.
They are fascinating creatures on the other hand. It was fascinating to see them recoil into their shells, eat their way through various leafy greens, and generally slime their way around, even if most of the time I didn't actually see the motion in progress, but if you're not a fan of slime, or massive snail poop, this isn't really the best pet for you.
Giant African Land Snails do make for very interesting pets but they aren’t made for everyone. If you want a pet that doesn’t do much, creates eggs that you’ll need to boil dead, and suction-sticks to every surface you place them on, the Giant African Land Snail is the right pet for you!.
From ukwordgirl Mar 29 2015 3:50AM