Common Name(s): Giant African Land Snail, Giant African Snail
Scientific Names: Lissachatina fulica (previously Achatina fulica)
Adult Size: Up to 8 inches long and 4 inches wide
Lifespan: Up to 10 years but normally 5-6 years
Giant African land snails are not your typical pets, especially in the U.S. These invertebrates are not native to the country and can cause serious harm to the ecosystem. Because of this, there are laws involving these large snails, so it's important to learn the details surrounding them before attempting to purchase one as a pet.
Can You Own a Pet Giant African Land Snail?
While you may not immediately think about whether a pet snail is legal to own, the reality is that there are some serious concerns surrounding this species of snail.
Unfortunately, giant African land snail are not legal to own in the U.S. While they may be legal in other countries, such as the U.K., in the U.S. they are considered a destructive and invasive species. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service states that this species of snail can destroy over 500 different species of plants as well as cause damage to plastic and stucco structures. Additionally, the giant African land snail may carry parasites that can cause meningitis in humans. For these reasons, it is not legal to have these snails as pets in the U.S.; and in the U.K., they are illegal to be released into the wild.
Because of the serious reasons why giant African snails are illegal to own in the U.S. it is not ethical to keep one as a pet. These snails can not only destroy plants that are important to the ecosystem but can also cause meningitis, a life-threatening disease. It is unethical to keep such a dangerous creature that can put lives at risk.
Things to Consider
The obvious thing to consider regarding a giant African land snail as a pet is the potential for it to harm plants, structures, and even humans. While these snails are large and easy to handle, they can be very destructive. Other snails that are not as dangerous make better pets.
Giant African Land Snail Behavior and Temperament
Giant African land snails are like other snails in that they are quiet and slow moving but they are much bigger than the garden snails you may have seen outside. Despite the damage they can cause, these snails do not bite, but always wear gloves to handle them; they can carry dangerous microorganisms. They are nocturnal so they are active and do their eating at night.
When kept as pets in areas where they are legal, giant African land snails should be kept in secure aquariums. A 10 gallon aquarium is ideal for one of these large snails and a screen top is a necessity for preventing your snail from climbing out as well as for ventilation. The enclosure should be placed in indirect sunlight to prevent the snail from getting too warm. Their ideal temperature range should be high 60 to mid-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It should also be misted regularly to prevent the snail from dehydrating.
Specific Substrate Needs
Giant African land snails shoud have a natural substrate in their enclosure. Compost, soil without chemicals or fertilizers, moss, and dead leaves are good options and will help retain moisture as well. Consider a naturalist enclosure with plant growth for your snail as well!
What Do Giant African Land Snails Eat & Drink?
These snails have big appetites and should always have plenty of fruits and vegetables to feed on. Their food can be dusted with calcium powder to aid in their shell's health or a cuttlebone can be placed in the enclosure. Any food that is not consumed within 12-24 hours should be removed to prevent mold from growing. A very shallow dish or a few dishes of clean water should also be available at all times.
Common Health Problems
Injuries are the most common type of health problems giant African land snails experience. Your snail can endure mantle prolapse from incorrect handling. Other issues these big snails may experience include mites, dehydration, skin issues, and calcium deficiency which can lead to shell malformation. Ensuring the environment is appropriate for a snail, that it has access to enough calcium, and doing what you can to prevent injuries can decrease the likelihood of health problems.
If the enclosure is an appropriate size, snails do not need additional exercise time. Giant African land snails will move about their enclosure on the ground as well as the glass or plastic walls.
A giant African land snail is about the size of an adult human fist and can grow to be up to 8 inches long and 4 or 5 inches wide. It is the largest land snail in the world.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Giant African Land Snail as a Pet
Giant African land snails are illegal because they can damage ecosystems and structures as well as pass disease on to humans. They may be quiet, easy to care for, and make unique pets, but they can be very dangerous.
Purchasing Your Giant African Land Snail
If you live in the U.K., it may not be a problem purchasing a giant African land snail, but you will not be able to legally purchase one in the U.S.
While giant African land snails are hermaphrodites and capable of reproducing on their own, they typically still need a second snail. If you house two or more snails together, it is very likely that you will soon have hundreds of snail eggs, so consider this prior to having two different sexes together. You may need to research culling of eggs if this occurs.
Similar Invertebrates to the Giant African Land Snail
Since it is not legal to own a giant African land snail in the US, you should consider other similar pets including:
How long do giant African land snails live as pets?
While some of these large snails can live up to 10 year, most live to be about 5 or 6 years old.
Are giant African land snails legal to own in the U.S.?
No. Due to the damage they can cause to plants and buildings as well as the diseases they can spread, giant African land snails are illegal to own in the U.S.
What do giant African land snails eat?
Giant African land snails eat a lot! Fresh fruits and vegetables along with calcium supplementation are consumed on a daily basis by these snails.
Giant African Land Snail. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed June 14, 2022