With soil being a major partof a snail’s habitat. Soil composition, water content and texture are importantfactors to consider in site selection due to the following reasons:
- The snail’s shell is made up mainly of calcium derivedfrom the soil and from feed.
- Snails derive most of their water requirementsfrom the soil.
- Snails dig in the soil to lay their eggs and torest during the dry season.
Because of all these reasons,it is essential that the soil is loose and that its calcium and water contentis high. You must be aware of the fact that Heavy, clayey soil that becomeswaterlogged in the rainy season and compacts during the dry season isundesirable also very sandy soil is undesirable as well because of its low waterholding capacity.
Acidic soils should be avoidedbecause acidity would interfere with the development of the snail’s shell. Soilsthat are too acidic might be neutralized with lime to about pH 7.
Soils with high organic matter support the growth and development of snails. In general, if a soil supports good growth of cocoyam, tomatoes and leafy vegetables, it is suitable for snail farming.
Before introducing snails tothe site, the soil should be loosened by tilling because Snails need damp, notwet, environments. Although snails need moisture, you must drain wet orwaterlogged soil. Similarly, rain water must run off promptly. Snails breatheair and may drown in overly wet surroundings. A soil moisture content of 80% offield capacity is favorable. In the hours of darkness, air humidity over 80%will promote good snail activity and growth.
Most snail activity, includingfeeding, occurs at night, with peak activity taking place 2 to 3 hours afterthe onset of darkness. The cooler temperature stimulates activity, and thenight-time dew helps the snail move easily. Snails like to hide in shelteredplaces during most of the day.
In Nigeria for instance,shredded semi-dry banana leaves are put in the snail pens for the snails tohide under during daytime.
To maintain adequate humidityand moisture levels in drier locations, misting sprayers can be used (likethose used for plant propagation) if technically and economically feasible.
Snail shells are 97-98% calcium carbonate; therefore, calcium must be available to them, either from the soil or from an external source (ground limestone, egg shells and so on). Organic matter in the soil is as important as carbonates. Soils that are rich in exchangeable calcium and magnesium stimulate growth best. Calcium may also be set out in a feeding dish or trough so the snails can eat it at will.
Snails dig in soil and ingestit. Good soil favors snail growth and provides some of their nutrition. Lack ofaccess to good soil may result in fragile shells even if the snails havewell-balanced feed; the snails’ growth may lag far behind the growth of othersnails on good soil. Snails often eat feed, then eat dirt. Sometimes, they eatonly one or the other.
Eventually the soil in thesnail pens will become fouled with mucus and droppings. Chemical changes mayalso occur. The soil must therefore, be changed once every three months.