A New Enthusiasm... For Snails?

It may have taken two years of owning one, but I think I've finally become a snail enthusiast. Giant African Land Snails (GALS), to be specific.

At the moment I only have little Avery (named after Avery Brooks who played Cpt Sisko in DS9... because the two I had briefly as a child were Data and Riker);


He's a bit camera shy... and asleep right now, so this old pic will have to do till he wakes up.

Avery is an East African Land Snail, an Achatina fulica, the ones you'll almost always find in pet stores. There is a massive variety though and I'm hoping to get a couple of other species. Yeah, they will likely breed with each other. They are hermaphrodites and lay rather a lot of eggs, which is why I have been wary of getting others... up until now.

Last week he buried himself in the substrate. I figured it was because he was cold. The weather has turned pretty bleak up here in Edinburgh very quickly and the heat mat I ordered took FOUR WEEKS to arrive (thank you, Parcelforce). Thankfully, it did arrive the very next day along with new toys for his tank, new substrate, food and water bowls... he has a whole new setup apart from the tank.

I started pulling out the old plastic dishes and found a few eggs on top of the substrate. I now realise he's done this before, only previously I've assumed they were bits of polystyrene that had got into the organic potting soil I was using (gotta be careful with snails and soil bought from garden centres; they often whack in pesticides and such... so be forewarned). I mean; he's been on his own for years. They couldn't possibly have been eggs, right?

*sigh*

Not only are they hermaphrodites, but they can store sperm for years... AND they can self fertilise. Guess what I found in the hole he'd made; about 200 eggs!

Thanks, Avery.

I boiled all but four of them. I couldn't even begin to rehome 200 snails. Four I can keep though, and if he's going to be laying eggs anyway I might as well get him (let him make) some friends. I'll just have to be more vigilante... imagine if I'd not got the new substrate and heat mat for another couple of weeks. I'd have woken up one morning to a massive litter of teeny snails crawling out of the ground... and I couldn't boil them once they were, you know, formed and everything.

********

Snails are not exactly well known as pets so very few pet shops keep them, even the specialist exotic ones. Even fewer have items specifically designed for snails. Fortunately, they're pretty easy going little beasts and many people keep them in clear plastic storage containers (with air holes added). Avery lives in a big seed propagator. It has adjustable air vents, lets in plenty of light, keeps in the warmth... he seems happy enough in it. It isn't very high; just tall enough for him to go clambering around on the roof but low enough that when he falls off (and he does sometimes) he won't damage his shell. All the accoutrements in there are designed for reptile and tortoise tanks; food bowls, wooden tunnels, plastic plants (I'm not too great at growing plants).

There are also very few books written on the subject of keeping them as pets. A lot written for farming snails for food and others written from a biologist/ecologist point of view. Fortunately, the internet is here to help. There are loads of sites, but I recommend starting with PetSnails.co.uk and their forum... the forum has given me the bug XD

Because they're relatively new pets, even the big enthusiasts are still working things out, especially when it comes to best feeding practices. It doesn't help that individual snails, even within the same subspecies, can be very different in their food preferences (amongst other things). Avery only ate cucumber when I got him. I managed to wean him onto other things after a few weeks; carrot, lettuce, tomatoes. After joining the snail forum above though, I've been out to buy seeds and fish food for him; hemp, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin. He now has his own 'care tank' hehe;











I'll be experimenting with different mixtures of seeds over the next few weeks, to see what stuff he (and any future friends) prefer. For now he favours sesame seeds on their own or with the fish flakes >_>

But yeah... snails XD

I should say that it is not legal to keep GALS as pets in some countries. In the right conditions they are voracious eaters and breeders. European countries are mostly too cold or too dry for them to survive in the wild so they are generally legal here. America is a big no-no as are islands in the Pacific.
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