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 snails especially those produced in commercial quantities like, Giant African Land snail (Achatina achatina), Achatina fulica and Achatina marginata.
How to start a snail farming business in Nigeria.
How do snails eat?
Feeding activities 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 organs, 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 is the best snail food for the quick growth of snails?
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.
overall, here is the list of the best food which snails love to eat.
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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 their 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 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.
These 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.
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.
Some harmful foods you should never feed snails
1. Do not feed snails contaminated foods
Any food that has been treated with pesticide is a potential snail killer.
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.
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 exceptions.
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 increases their size.
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