How to Feed a Snail and What do Snails Eat and Drink?

Essential-food-for-snails

Have you been thinking of what snail food to feed your snails? Or perhaps you are asking, What is the essential food for snails, or What do snails eat and drink? 

Whatever the question may be, I have seen it many times before.

These questions constitute a large part of the email I have been receiving lately from Agro4africa readers.

Well, snails eat quite a variety of food and they are easy to feed too.

There are some variations among different snail species as to what they eat and how they are fed, but our concern will stay with the feeding of land snail especially those produced in commercial quantity like, Giant African Land snail (Achatina achatina), Achatina fulica and Achatina marginata.

READ ALSO: How to start snail farming business in Nigeria.

How do snails eat?

Feeding activity for snails depend on the weather, and snails may not necessarily eat every day.

Wet season (or irrigation) encourage feeding since the moisture makes it easier for the snails to move about.

Generally, Snails are nocturnal animals. This means that they are primarily active at night.

They look for food during the night or in the very early morning hours. When looking for food, they use their powerful sense of smell.

Snails are vegetarian and they can eat a wide variety of foods: vegetables, fungi, tubers, algae, and fruits form part of the essential food for snails.

Young snails can eat about twice as much feed as mature snails, and they prefer soft leaves and shoots.

Snails eat solid food by scraping or cutting it away with their radula (a part of snail anatomy used to chew up food) before the food enters the oesophagus.

Snails do not possess any set of teeth like mammals do. Instead, snails possess specialized food processing organ, common to all molluscs.

They eat using a radula, a rasping, tongue-like organ, covered with thousands of tiny tooth-like protrusions called denticles.

What do Snails Eat?

Generally, Snails need carbohydrates for energy, and they also need protein for growth.

In addition, snails require a large amount of calcium (Ca) deposits in their environment for their shells, as well as other minerals and vitamins.

List of the best foods for snails

  1. Calcium supplements
  2. Leaves and Vegetables
  3. Tuber crops
  4. Fleshy fruits
  5. Flowers
  6. Snails drink Non-Chlorinated water
  7. Household leftover foods

READ ALSO: How to hatch snail eggs – Modern farming methods

1. Snails need calcium supplements for their shells

Snails must have an abundant supply of calcium to build and repair their shells.

Always keep a source of calcium close in the snail housing at all times.

Calcium powder, cuttlebone, shells from dead snails, natural limestone, bone meal, and wood ash are all good sources of calcium for snails.

2. Leaves and vegetables are snails’ favourite

Snails will eat the leaves of the following plants: Apple, broccoli, cocoyam, spinach, kola, cassava, onion greens, okra, eggplant, celery, parsley, loofah, turnip, mushroom, carrot, barley, chamomile, beans, cabbage, and paw-paw.

Paw-paw leaves (as well as its fruit, flower, and fruit peels) stand out as essential food for snails.

3. Snails also eat tuber crops

Cocoyam, cassava, yam, sweet potato and plantain.

Tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, though low in protein. (Cassava must be of a very low cyanide content).

4. They love soft fleshy fruits

Fruits are rich sources of minerals and vitamins but are low in protein.

Fruits that form part of the essential food for snails include; Aubergine, Paw-paw, Green beans, artichoke, mango, banana, eggplant, apricot, pear, oil palm, fig, tomato, peach, orange, pumpkins, ripe cherries, watermelon, cucumbers (a favourite snail food).

5. Some flowers are edible for snail

Edible flowers for snails include; rose, cauliflower, hibiscus, paw-paw, and sunflower.

6. Snails drink non-chlorinated water

Place a shallow dish filled with spring water for your snail to drink from, and bathe in. Replace the water every 1-2 days.

Ensure you do not supply chlorinated water because chlorine is harmful to snails.

7. Other essential food for snails

Some household wastes like peels of fruit and tuber, banana, plantain, watermelon, damaged fruits, yam, and cooked foods like potato, rice, carrot, and beans.

You must, however, be careful to avoid the household wastes that contain salt.

Note that raw food has a higher nutritional content than cooked or processed foods.

In addition, specially formulated snail feed or meshed chicken feed can be fed to snails.

8. Feed snails with formulated food

Besides vegetables and tubers, snails also feed on concentrated or formulated feed.

Making formulated feeds for snails involves the combine of basic ingredients such as groundnut, soya bean, bean, maize.

This ingredients must be combined at different proportions to meet the standard for feeding snails.

Here are the reasons to feed snails formulated feed

It’s okay to feed snails feed formulation because of the following?

  • Formulated feed helps to improve the performance of snails
  • It is easy to store for a longer period unlike vegetables and fruits
  • Snail feed concentrate saves time and energy
  • With formulated snail feeds, you can meets specific nutritional demands of snails.

Things to consider when formulating feed for snails

When formulating the snail feed concentrate, here are some of the things to consider;

  • You must know the state (health and reproductive state) of the snail.
  • It’s important to know the cost of each ingredient.
  • You must also know the nutrient requirements of the snail.
  • Finally, you must be certain that there is the availability of the feed ingredient.

How to formulate snail feed

The formulation of snail feed is very simple and the feed composition will depend on the protein requirement of the snails.

For instance, to formulate a feed of 32% protein requirements using wheat offal, millet, and guinea corn.

You will first note the percentage of protein present in each of the ingredients so that you can determine the quantity to use.

In the case of wheat offal, millet and guinea corn;

SNIngredient usedPercentage of
protein present
1.Wheat offal17%
2.Millet10%
3.Guinea corn11%
Total38% protein

From the table above, the combination of wheat offal, millet and guinea corn will give us a snail feed with 38% protein concentration.

But what we want is a feed with 32% protein.

So, we will do a little calculation to arrive at the contribution of each ingredient to the feed.

  • Wheat offal 17/38 * 32 = 14.32%
  • Millet 10/38 * 32 = 8.42%
  • Guinea corn 11/38 * 32 =9.26

Therefore, you need 14.32% wheat offal, 8.42% millet and 9.26 guinea corn to formulate feed of 32% protein requirements.

Precaution for formulating snail feed

To get a well-formulated feed the following precautions needs to be taken.

  • Ensure that the ingredients are not damp.
  • After formulating the feed, make sure that you keep the feed formulation in a dry place.
  • Also, note that the feed must be ground to powder.
Image: A snail crawling over vegetables

Some harmful foods you should never feed snails

1. Do not feed snails contaminated foods

Any food that has been treated with pesticide are potential snail killers.

Also, homegrown foods that have been contaminated by poisonous gases (like vehicle fumes) are not good for snails.

Snails will always avoid plants that have hairy leaves or those that produce defensive toxic chemicals. You should be careful not to provide your snails with such.

2. Avoid feeding snails starchy foods

Starchy foods like rice, millet, and pasta are not easily digestible and they end up blocking the internal digestive system.

This internal blockage can cause swelling and hence, result in the death of snails.

Salt should be generally avoided as they are dangerous to snails.

3. Never give snails chlorinated water

Some water sources like tap water may contain chlorine that’s harmful to snails.

If you don’t have access to non-chlorinated water, you can leave tap water out in the sun for 48 hours to remove chemicals.

Ensure you use a very shallow dish to supply water to the snails to prevent them from drowning.

4. Avoid giving your Snails Salty Foods

Snails can only survive in an atmosphere that is cool with a substantial amount of moisture.

But salt can cause them to dehydrate quickly.

Therefore, you must avoid feeding your snails with salty food since it is very harmful to them.

Salty foods will dehydrate your snails, thereby limiting their chances of survival.

In fact, many cooks use salt to wash off the slime from snails to show you how dangerous salt can be to them.

Best practices for feeding snails

It is good practice to ensure you wash all food before you give them to the snails.

This is important because some insect larvae may be hiding in the food without you knowing.

In addition, remove all leftover snail food from the pens daily as it will decay quickly.

Decaying food will attract fleas, lice, mice, rats, and diseases.

To facilitate cleaning, place snail food on a flat dish or a concrete slab constructed within the pen.

All dishes (both feed and water dishes) should be heavy enough as the snails will tend to tip it up as they move over them.

Conclusion

This post gives you a fair idea of what snails eat and drink to survive. 

Because snails are omnivorous in nature they feed on virtually all variety of food.

Some of snails best food range from vegetables to fruits, tuber crops, concentrated feed and many more.

They eat almost all human consumables with few exception.

Generally, snails can eat up to 4-6% of their body weight within 24 hours.

Therefore, it is very necessary to feed them properly because it aids reproduction capacity and increase their size.

If you like this post, please share with friends on social media using the icons on your screen.

Someone you know may need this information too.

Thanks.

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95 Comments

  1. Good day, thanks for all guides you’ve given here for free, it’s really helpful and am glad I found it.
    Pls am trying to setup a little pen for snails but don’t know if there is a particular type of sand to be used in filling the pens, please kindly help with the type I can use and secondly, I found some small snails in my compound and wanted to raise them but was told that it won’t grow to marketable sizes, how true is this? Thanks

    • Hello Onyi,
      I’m glad you found this article helpful.
      As for the type of soil to use, loam soil is best. You can find the soil in a garden near you. It’s usually black in colour.
      To answer your final question, you need to know that the species of snail you are rearing. I always recommend you get your parent snails from a farmer near you.
      The best snails for rearing are the Achatina achatina and the Achatina marginata species.

  2. Hello there, this your educative programme is very enlightened. God bless you. I used big tyres to try to rear the snails and it was doing very fine; bringing out young ones in numbers. Unfortunately, I discovered the next time I checked that soldier ants entered the cage and killed them in numbers. Pls how can I prevent this in future because my area is prone to soldier ants as it’s close to swamp? Pls you can send reply to my personal email. Thanks.

  3. I have a snail farm of 500 snails. I have just harvested maize from my farm can I feed my snails with ground dry maize or should I boil them and pound them?

    • Ground to powder and mix with little water to form a paste. However, it’s best to feed them concentrate feed instead of just ground maize.

  4. Love all that I have read here, thanks so much for your patience in answering questions. God will continue to bless you and all yours. (Amen)

  5. Hi,
    learnt from a farming group called Green Farm but wanted to know more.l am just about to start my own small farm in my compound and hope the tips here will go a long way to ensure my success.
    thanks
    best wishes
    Eno

  6. Agro4africa ,you are doing great. I wished I had this opportunity some years back. God bless you more. I am extremely motivated and energised to start doing something after being frustrated by people hired in different ventures.
    Kindly, let me know the best specie of snail and how much a hundred of will cost.
    Thanks in anticipation of your earliest response.
    Regards.

  7. Thank you for your educative and motivative articles and honest replies to comments and questions. May God strengthen you for empowering Nigerians. PLS sir, what is the name of the very big snail from BENIN area, also Achantina Achantina from Osun state? And how can one source breeding stock for it? PS I need a reply I want to stock my farm in Abuja with 120 0f each
    Don.Chucks

    • Hello Don Chucks,
      Thanks for your compliments.

      The Big snail from Benin and Osun area are definitely the Achatina marginata var. ovum or western species of Achatina marginata.

      The Achatina achatina species does not do well in Nigeria.

      It’s best you go for either the Achatina marginata var. suturalis (my best recommendation for a quick recoup) or you go for the Achatina marginata var. ovum.

      If you want to stock your farm, I can supply to you in Abuja within 3-4 days after receipt of payment.

      Please send an email to agroforafrica@gmail.com with details of your request and your preferred pick up point.

      Thanks.

  8. Thanks for the enlightenment I truly appreciate
    I picked some up from the back of my compound I have been trying to nucture them I built a small place for them but I allowed them to still be on the natural Earth surface I don’t know if it’s right and pls does earth warms attack them?

    • It’s okay to leave the snails on ordinary soil, however, you must make sure you drill a barrier into the soil around the snails.

      This is important because the snail are able to dig the soil and escape if the barrier you placed around them is just on the surface of the floor.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers.

  9. Thank you so much for the needful information on snail ,my question is ,I just start snail farming in my house using plastic rubber to keep them ,is it good like that and also if found out that they lay eggs almost everyday can I put it in the same pen

    • You are welcome Tajudeen.
      About your snail farm, If you are keeping the snails for personal use, then the plastic rubber is okay since you are going to eat them sooner or later.
      As for the eggs, you must pick them out using a plastic spoon and plate and incubate them separately.
      learn more about hatching eggs in this article; https://agro4africa.com/hatching-snail-eggs/

  10. Hi Admin,
    Please can I start a commercial snail farm, using an empty two bedroom flat.
    I Intend to use a ground floor two bedroom apartment in my compound.
    Please advise if the idea is worth, since the apartment is fetching 500k annually is rented to a tenant. Using a hutch box type of snail pen in all the available spaces in the flat. Am I likely going to turnover more than 500k annually from what the snail proceed from the two bedroom flat. Trying to use what I have to archive what I enjoy & love doing most. ….SNAIL FARMING.

  11. Admin, your lectures on Snail Farming has been wonderful. I stay in the urban city of PHC. I have plans to start snail farming this year. I want to start with my flower beds, by increasing the height with blocks and construct the cover with angle iron frame and wire mesh. Will use green color cotton net to cover the top as to create darkness inside the pen.
    But my concern is how can I be able to clean the snail fasces on daily baises. Is it possible to locate all the fasces of the snails or should I bring out all the snails for pen cleaning on daily baises.

    • Hello Austin,
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading all my articles on snail farming.😊

      And I’m happy you have decided to start snail farming immediately.

      So, from your narration of the steps you want to follow to start your own snail farming business, I see you already have a clear cut strategy.

      The only input I will make is this, you don’t need to clean out your snail pen every day like you would do to a chicken coop or other livestock.

      This is because snail droppings are very small and over time they tend to mix up with the soil.

      Usually, the cleaning of the snail pen can be as easy as turning the soil with a hole so that the whole thing mix up with the soil to form manure.

      For an intensive system, you may need to treat the soil every 4 months and change it entirely after 18 months

      In your case, you have a growing plant in your set up that will make use of the manure.

      That’s a very brilliant idea.

      If you are ever going to do a cleaning in such setting, it would be to till the soil to incorporate the dropping into it.

      Otherwise, the plant will do the cleaning biologically as it tries to absorb nutrients from the manure.

      I hope this makes sense? 😊

  12. Love to start the farm it like now I have a little one am learning so wish to know more about it the food s that I will not be able to lose it

    • Good to hear that you’d like to start your own snail farming business.

      Do make sure to visit a snail farmer near you to see what he is doing.

      Cheers to your success 🥂

  13. U r such a darling for freely giving us such helpful info…
    I’ve sourced d net for so long yet those i found won’t divulge any info without asking for consultation fees.

    I’m really gratful that u hv come up to encourage us.

    Meanwhile i want to start up a farm in benin..

    I sent u a mail already..

    So pls do well to reply me.

    Tnx a lot

    • Thanks alot for this article Sir. I saw few 23 young snails at my back yard and am planning to keep them. Can bitter leaf or scent leaf serve as food for them. Cos I have both of them in my backyard too. Thanks.

  14. Thank you for your educative and motivative articles and honest replies to comments and questions. May God strengthen our as you empower Nigerians .PS what is the name of the very big snail. From BENIN area? And how can one source breeding stock for it? PS I need a reply.

    • Thanks for your comment @Aram

      The big snail from Benin is the Western species called Achatina marginata Ovum.

      I can supply you with the breeding stock.

      Our minimum order quantity is 100 pieces of snails.

      Please send an email to agroforafrica@gmail.con with details of the number of snails you wish to buy, your address and your phone number.

      We will process your order immediately

  15. I just started snail farming with 65 snails I picked from my compound. How do I get calcium supplements to feed them to achieve a very rapid growth?

  16. Thank you for your motivating post. How do l keep my pen slime free. How many young snails will be kept in 1m x 1m pen. Is it good to remove all sand in the pen then replace with a new one.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Onyeaghala.

      To keep you pen slim free, you have to really depopulate the pen.

      A 1 x 1 pen can hold between 30 – 40 large snails.

      The size of young snails varies with months.

      Just used you instinct to estimate the number of young snails that should be in a pen.

      It can be up to 100 for really small snails

  17. thank you very much for this valuable information,may God bless u . Pls how can i find market for my fully grown snail. Thanks in anticipation.

    • Hello DPO, thanks for asking this very important question about snail marketing.

      If you read through all my introductory articles, I always mention that your market is the first thing to find.

      For instance, there maybe a lot of snail consumption in Lagos or in the south south region of Nigeria.

      However, you leave in an area where snail meat is a taboo to the indigenes.

      So, you see! You will produce so much snails without an idea of who will buy from you.

      That’s why a market review is core when starting snail farming.

      You can check then local markets to see how people patronize snail sellers.

      That is if there are any snail sellers at all.

      I hope this helps✌️

    • I will advice you take out all your snails and treat the soil very well before replacing them.

      You may also want to change the soil if need be.

    • I will advice you take out all your snails and treat the soil very well before replacing them.

      You may also want to change the soil if need be.

      I will publish an article on how to prevent pests and insects from entering your snail farm.

    • Sir, your post l read last night as it concerns how to care for snail and feeding was educating, motivating and wonderful. How will l remove snail slim in my pen. How many young snails will 1mx1m pen contain.

  18. Thank You, Am New To The Snail Farming, Just Starting Nd I Have 81 Medum Snails Nd 7 Big Snails = 88 Achatina Achatina, I Would Like To Know More. Thank You

    • I’m happy to hear from you Israel.

      I have written extensively on snail farming, please do well to visit the snail farming category and get answers to many questions you may want to ask.

    • Sure, it is highly recommended to place plantain leaves on one side of your pen so that the snails can crawl underneath it in the day time.

      Snails are a nocturnal animal, meaning that they are more active at night or in the dark.

  19. thanks so much for the enlightenment on snail farming. God bless u. can I have ur no for further discussion on feed purchase?.

  20. Thanks, your articles are all helpful. I followed your instruction on how to hatch my snail eggs and I have seen the result, thanks for this. Now please what can I feed my baby snails to facilitate rapid growth.

    • Excellent, Taiwo.

      Good to know that you followed the hatching instructions for snail eggs provided here on Agro4africa.

      Baby snails need to form strong shells, therefore, you need to feed them with more calcium supplements whilst providing vegetables, fruits and other food for them.

    • Hello Olumide,

      You can buy calcium stones from the market or ground eggshells.
      Dry bonemeals can also supply calcium too.

  21. Thanks so much for explaining things to us. Please what are the things that can cause snails to die? Secondly, is earthworm good for snails?

    • Thanks so much for the information provided. My questions:
      1. Can I begin my snail farming with snails picked from around my house
      2. Can snails be few with orange peels after sucking out the juice and removing the outer cover?
      3. What other local leaves do snails feed on…..Moringa leaves and strm, ewedu leaves and stem, spinach and other green vegetable leaves and stem??

    • Thank you very much for your comment @Olayinka,

      To reply to your questions.

      1. You can begin your snail farming with snails picked around the house. However, you must ensure that the snails you have picked are viable snails as recommended in our article on How to Start Snail Farming business.

      2. You can feed your snails with the leftovers of orange after sucking the juice.

      3. All the leaves you have mentioned can be fed to snails, but you must ensure that they are soft and succulent for the snails to feed on. Also, you must ensure that they are free of any form of insect larvae which may harm the snails.

    • Hello Admin, please i have about 300 snails i picked from my compound last two week and i constructed a small peg for them and put all of them together both the big ones and the smaller ones,and right now i am feeding them with the necessary food which i read from here in internet,please what next do i do to let them grow well and multiple for a commercial purposes. thanks and look forward to urgent response. Chuka Ken

    • Great start @Chuka,

      The next thing to do is to separate the snails according to their sizes so that they do not predate on themselves.
      I don’t know the size of your pen nor the sizes of the snails, so I can’t recommend the number of snails you should set aside in each pen according to their sizes. Just use your instinct to provide enough space for the snails to move around.

      PS:
      There is one tiny problem… What species of snails have you harvested from your compound? If you don’t know the species, I will recommend you take some to a nearby farmer to help you identify them or you could send some clear pictures to agroforafrica@gmail.com for identification.

    • Thank you, sir, for ur teaching, I really appreciate,
      PS: I want to know if I can train my snails inside a sack bag and if I can give them gari, thank u

    • You are welcome Ogechi.
      PS:
      It’s not advisable for you to rear snails in a sack. Sacks tend to wear and tear with constant exposure to sunlight, water and the soil.
      As for feeding the snails with garri, that too is not advisable. Even though garri is made from cassava and contains carbohydrate, snails prefer to eat fresh food that is moist too. Garri is too dry for snails to feed on.

  22. I really commend all your efforts and gestures in taking your time over every questions asked. I also find your article well informed in helping and encouraging some of us in putting more interest in snail farming.
    May you continue growing in wisdom and fulfilled destiny by His Grace.
    Thanks.

    Pst Ayoola Gbenga.

    • Thank you very much Pst Ayoola Gbenga.

      A comment like yours is the motivation that keeps us going.

      I really appreciate sir.

      Thank you.

    • God bless you abundantly as you share your knowledge freely. I highly appreciate. I recently went into snail farming and following you has helped me a lot in the right direction. Thank you.

  23. Please I really need need about 200pieces of Achachatina maginata, how much can it cost
    Please I really need the reply urgently

  24. I love your patience and eagerness to answer questions. please why would earth worm be introduced in the snail pen.

    • Hello Barnas, Thanks for your compliment.

      To your question…

      Earthworms will only be necessary if you are operating a free-range snail farming business.

      The essence of the earthworm in a snail farm is to loosen the soil and to enhance the growth of vegetation.

      Cheers.

  25. Thank u admin for your Useful Information,pray God increases your knowledge👏👏 please the feed supplement u talked about for example the B.M, Oyster shell and all that, do i have to grind them b4 giving to the snail. Will appreciate your answer

    • Thanks for the compliment.🙌

      As for the shells, you have to grind the for easy consumption.

      Ground Oyster shells, ground snail shells, bone meal and ground poultry shells can be fed to the snails.

      Hop you find this helpful?

  26. may the good lord bless u sir and enlarge u the more ijn. there are small long animal that looks like snail,white and long. that you see in their pens. what is it and are they harmful?

    • That’s another species of snail.

      Even though it does not harm your snails in anyway, you don’t need them in your farm.

      It’s even shocking… How did they get into your pen in the first place? Lol.

      Please check your snail pen to ensure that they are not entering your farm from the wild.

      Many other stuff can creep into your farm just like they did.

      Take out everything that’s not like the specie of snails you have in your farm.

      Also, keep records of the number of snails in each pen you have on your farm. By doing this, you can track what’s happening to your snails.

      I believe this answers your question.

      If you have more questions, please ask, and I’ll see how I can be of help to you.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mr. Akintayo.

      We can supply 1000 pieces of Achatina Achatina to you.

      Please send your name, location, phone number and order quantity to agroforafrica@gmail.com and you will hear from us immediately.

    • Your snails will not have all the nutrients it requires for proper development and growth.

      Please find a good mix and give the varieties.

  27. Thank u admin for taking time to answer the questions. Pls i want to know if there is anything i should do other than feeding to enhance my snails to lay more eggs.

    • Ensure your snail house is always clean and slime free.

      Ensure the snail farm is always moist so that they don’t aestivate.

      Feed them calcium. Good for shells.😉

  28. I have a serious challenge. I notice some white ants/insects in my pen. They used to be few but they have multiplied and it seems the mortality rate of my baby snails is high. Do you know the insects? Can I use sniper to kill them?

    • Please don’t use SNIPER.

      Evacuate the snails and change the soil asap.

      Change the soil in your pen, thereafter always clean the snail’s faeces on daily basis or introduce plenty earthworm into your pen because those white small ant-like insect do reproduce rapidly in snail faeces.

    • Cover them with enough soil and minimize moisture where the eggs are.

      Hope you don’t expect 100% hatching? Only 20-40% of the eggs may hatch. If you’re lucky, it may be more than that.

  29. I found your article useful n helpful to build my snail pen and also get actively involved in snail farming. I hope you will continue to encourage people like us for future involvement. Thank you again

    • Thanks for your honest reply Isharufe.

      It is our duty here @ Agro4Africa to encourage farmers. We won’t stop doing that.

      Thanks again.

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