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Village Features

Snail tales

Posted on November 23 2010 at 1:46:39

Phoebe with her snails

Phoebe Biggs of Rednal introduces us to her trio of Giant African Land Snails.

I’m Phoebe and I am 13 years old. My “weird” pets are Giant African Land Snails. I have got three of them, called Trevor, Shelly and Junior.

I got my snails from my godmother for a christening present. I have had them for a year now and they are getting bigger each month.

Looking after them seems really easy. I keep them in a tank and put soil in there. The tank is kept on my bookshelf in my bedroom, facing away from the sun. I have changed the tank once because they have got bigger and the tank was small. They can grow up to the size of a grown man’s hand!

I spray the snails every day to keep them moist. They don’t drink but they get water out of the foods I give them – I feed them apple, orange, banana, broccoli, peppers, carrots and lettuce.  I change their food every weekend and I clean them out every month.

When they are inside the tank they slither up the sides but sometimes they are in the food bowl or the empty flower pot. When I want to get the snails off the sides of the tank I have to wet my hands and slide them off from underneath. If I pulled them by their shells, the shells would come off; they are that delicate.

When I pick them up they keep their heads in for a minute but once they have settled they will come out. They sleep with their heads in.

Before I go on holiday I clean them out, feed them fresh food and spray them. All the food has to be sliced up so they don’t fight over it. When I come back after a week I chuck the food away and give them fresh. Also I have to spray them because they would be bone dry.

The snails don’t need a specific temperature. During the winter I don’t spray them because they are cold as it is. I have to keep them in the house otherwise the birds will eat them.

When a snail lays eggs I scoop them out and see what my mom wants doing with them. I wouldn’t be able to cope with another 2,500 snails!

Bryn Morgan, of Townsend Veterinary Practice, offers some snail facts and tips:

Common species of African snail kept as a pet in the UK include the East African Land Snails (Achatina fulica), West African Land Snails (Achatina marginata) and Tiger Snails (Achatina achatina).

The snails live for about five to six years – although they have been known to live for as long as 10 – and are fairly easy animals to care for. They require a warm (18-29 C), moist environment, little space and will eat most of the vegetables and fruits eaten by people.

It is important to wash any vegetables given to remove any traces of pesticides which may be toxic to snails. A calcium supplement is also required to maintain shell strength and can be given in the form of a cuttlefish or other calcium supplement from the bird section of pet shops.

Although snails can meet all of their water requirements from their food, a water dish can be provided as long as it is shallow with sloping sides so that the snails do not drown.

Snails are hermaphrodites, so any two snails can mate and produce eggs, with the larger snail usually acting as the female. In rare cases, snails may even self-fertilise and produce eggs that are capable of hatching all on their own! African land snails can lay five or six clutches of 200 eggs in a single year – that’s a whopping 1,200 possible babies a year!

In the wild, these snails are usually active at night and spend the day underground, and in times of drought they have the ability to seal the opening to their shell and stay inside for up to three years without any loss of water.


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