Snails are vegetarian and willaccept many types of food. All snails will avoid plants that have hairy leavesor produce toxic chemicals, like physic nut (Jathropa curcas). Young snailsprefer tender leaves and shoots; they consume about twice as much feed asmature snails.
As they get older, maturesnails increasingly feed on detritus: fallen leaves, rotten fruit and humus.Older snails should be fed the same items as immature snails. If a change inthe diet has to be made, the new food items should be introduced gradually.
What Snails need in Food:
Snails need carbohydrates for energy, and protein for growth. In addition, they require calcium (Ca) for their shells, as well as other minerals and vitamins. Snail meat is low in crude fibre and fat; for that reason, these components are of minor importance in snail feed.
The Recommended food items:
Leaves: cocoyam, kola, pawpaw, cassava, okra, eggplant, loofa, centrosema, cabbage and lettuce. Paw pawleaves (as well as its fruit and fruit peels) stand out in many trials as goodsnail food.
Fruits: paw paw, mango, banana, eggplant, pear, oil palm, fig, tomato and cucumber.
Fruits are usually rich inminerals and vitamins, but low in protein.
Tubers:cocoyam, cassava, yam, sweet potato and plantain. Tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, though lowin protein. (Cassava should be the low-cyanide type).
Flowers:oprono (Mansonia altissima), odwuma(Musanga cecropoides) and paw paw.
Household waste: peelsof fruit and tuber, like banana, plantain, pineapple, yam and especially pawpaw, and leftovers like cooked rice, beans, fufu and eko.
Important Note: Householdwaste must not contain salt!
Recommendations on Natural Feed:
- Market Waste
Because snails arevegetarians, the cheapest way to feed them is by collecting rejected but recommendedfood from marketplaces. At the end of any market day, some perishablevegetables and fruits still useful for snail consumption can be collected fromthe dumping areas.
This would reduce the cost and labor of buying or cultivating vegetables and fruits only to feed snails.
Achatina achatina feeds mainlyon green leaves, fruits, tubers and flowers. Unlike other snails, it prefersleaves and fruits that are detached from the main plant. It also seems toprefer wet leaves to dry ones and appears to thrive on pruning’s of food plantsgrown in pens.
Providing A. achatina with amixture of foods, rather than only one or two items, will enhance its growth.Food attractiveness is important in the nutrition of this species. If the foodis appetizing (e.g. paw paw) or contains a feeding stimulant, the snails willeat a lot and grow quickly.
If food is unattractive orlacks a stimulant, however nutritious it may be, the snails will not eat muchof it.
A. achatina baby snails thrivebest on leafy vegetables. At all other stages, a diet made up of the followingingredients is recommended:
1. Cocoyam leaves contributefairly high amounts of protein (2.9%), calcium (60 mg/kg) and phosphorus (52mg/kg), and moderate amounts of thiamine (vitamin B 1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
2. Paw-paw fruit providesmoderate amounts of carbohydrates and high amounts of ascorbic acid (which is afeeding stimulant for many plant-eating animals, including snails).
3. The mesocarp (fleshy layer)of the oil palm is high in carbohydrates, fats and palmitate (vitamin A).
4. Supplementary vitamins: Otherfood plants known to contain moderate amounts of vitamins D, E and K should beadded; examples are sunflower and copra cake (vitamin D), wheat germ, lettuceand other vegetables (vitamin E), cabbage and African spinach (vitamin K).
5. Supplementary Calcium: Ifthe soil is not high in calcium, supplementary calcium will be needed. This canbe provided by sprinkling powdered oyster or snail shells or ground limestoneonto leafy vegetables.
6. Supplementary Minerals: Otherminerals can be provided by placing licking stones containing the mineral inthe pen.
7. Water: Cleanwater should be available to the snails at all times.
Studies on Achatina Marginata show similar feeding demands, with paw paw leaves and fruits leading the list. Other common and nutritious feeds are okra, coco yam (Diascorea spp.), banana, cabbage, and even cassava leaves of the low cyanide variety while the Younger snails are fed tender leaves.
Summary recommendations on NaturalFeed
- Snails can feed on a large range of food items.
- Looking for thrown-away surplus vegetables andfruits still consumable by snails is a good way to reduce feeding costs.
- Feed containing waxy or hairy leaves should beavoided.
- Paw paw leaves, fruit and fruit peels stand outas excellent snail feed in many feeding trials.
- Feeds should contain protein at a level of about20% of diet dry matter for optimum development. Paw paw leaves, fruit and peelsare a good source of crude protein.
- For strong growth and good shell development,powdered calcium sources from egg shells, limestone, wood-ash, oyster shells (crushed),or bone meal, should be added to the feed at a level of about 15 to 20% of dietdry matter. Crushed oyster shell calcium is best. Increasing the amount ofcalcium above 20% of diet dry matter results in thicker shells, not in moresnail meat. (Note: 20% Ca may seem like a lot, but remember this is aproportion of dry matter and customary snail feeds are made up mainly ofwater.)
- Snails need water! Most is supplied by the foodthey consume, but additional water must be supplied in the growing pens: awater-soaked sponge or a dot of cotton wool for hatchlings and juveniles, inshallow dishes (otherwise the snails may drown) for mature and breeding snails.