While the giant African land snail might seem like a fun exotic pet to keep, it's considered one of the most invasive pests in the world and is illegal to own in the United States.
COMMON NAME: Giant African land snail
SCIENTIFIC NAMES: Lissachatina fulica
ADULT SIZE: Up to 11 inches (shell length), 15 inches (body length)
LIFESPAN: Up to 10 years in captivity
Can You Own a Pet Giant African Land Snail?
Due to the risk of becoming a successful invasive species and being a serious agricultural pest, importation of giant African land snails into the United States is not permitted, and it is illegal to keep them as pets in the U.S.
Because it is illegal to own a giant African land snail, it's also not ethical to keep one as a pet. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the giant African Snail is a threat to both agriculture as well as human health, so owning one illegally is irresponsible and potentially dangerous. If the snail or its eggs were released in the wild, potential damage could include disease transmission and crop destruction.
Things to Consider
The U.S. Department of Agriculture strongly discourages people from keeping giant African snails as pets because of the environmental and health risks they pose. If you find one of these snails, it is recommended that you contact your local fish and game department or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Giant African Land Snail Behavior and Temperament
You should always wear gloves when handling giant African snails because they carry potentially dangerous microorganisms in their slime, including a parasite that can cause a form of meningitis that is harmful to humans. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a snail of any kind.
These huge snails are relentless omnivores and will eat everything they can. Fortunately, they're not carnivores. They are, however, extremely resilient, which is why efforts to eradicate them have proven difficult.
Giant African land snails can live in a glass or plastic 5-gallon tank with a secure, ventilated top. The tank should be placed in an area of indirect sunlight.
Specific Substrate Needs
Line the bottom of the tank with soil or compost with some leaves or moss to help retain moisture. Use a spray bottle to keep the substrate moist.
What Do Giant African Land Snails Eat and Drink?
Giant African land snails eat nearly constantly in the wild; they have voracious appetites.
In the U.S., the snail will happily eat at least 500 types of plants, including fruits and vegetables, ornamental plants, and tree bark. Because of its need for calcium to keep its shell strong, the snail will even eat wall plaster and stucco, damaging homes in the process.
Common Health Problems
Like other snails, giant African land snails are prone to estivation, which happens when it's in an enclosure or environment that is too dry. When this happens in captivity, the snail forms a membrane over the opening of its shell and seals itself inside,.
Snails also are susceptible to infestations of mites and flies. While most such pests are little more than a nuisance, some mites can burrow into the snail's body and make it lethargic and uncomfortable.
Most exotic pet veterinarians in the U.S. will not treat giant African land snails because they are illegal.
Exercise is not a consideration when keeping a giant African land snail. Crawling around their enclosure will suffice. Do not allow these snails to move freely outdoors because of the risks they pose to the environment and other people.
Giant African land snails grow from 3 to 11 inches long,
Pros and Cons of Keeping a Giant African Land Snail as a Pet
There are numerous other interesting species that can be legally and safely kept as pets, so there are no valid reasons to own a giant African land snail. A breeding pair is a worse idea yet because they are very prolific breeders. One snail can reportedly lay 1,200 viable eggs per year, with several hundred eggs in a single clutch.
If you own a giant African land snail, you must be extremely careful about disposing of the numerous eggs it produces. Infestations of giant African land snails can be a significant threat to indigenous plant life just about anywhere the animals live.
Purchasing a Giant African Land Snail
You can't legally purchase this animal in the United States. If you're caught trying to bring one into the country, you could be fined by the United States Department of Agriculture. However, if you discover one and bring it to the attention of the USDA, the agency is likely to be grateful for the assistance and you won't be penalized.
Similar Pets to the Giant African Land Snail
If you’re interested in a pet like the land snail that's more readily available and legal to own, check out these options:
Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that may be kept as pets.
Where do giant African land snails naturally live?
All species of giant African land snails originally lived in East Africa, but they have been transported throughout the Indo-Pacific Basin, including the Hawaiian Islands, where they are harmful to native plant life and people as well.
Can you domesticate a giant African land snail?
Snails can not be domesticated. They're not affectionate companion animals.
How long do giant African land snails live?
They live from 5 to 11 years.
- Angiostrongylus cantonensis FAQs. Centers for Disease Control.
Cowie, Robert H. Pathways for transmission of angiostrongyliasis and the risk of disease associated with them. Hawai'i journal of medicine & public health : a journal of Asia Pacific Medicine & Public Health vol. 72,6 Suppl 2 (2013): 70-4.