“ What is the essential food for snails? Or What do snails feed on? 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 snail especially those produced in commercial quantity like, [Giant African Land snail] (Achatina achatina), Achatina fulica and Achatina marginata. You can learn how to start your own snail farming business
How do snails eat?
Feeding activity 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 esophagus.
Snails do not possess any set of teeth like mammals do. Instead, snails possess specialized food processing organ, common to all mollusks.
They eat using a radula, a rasping, tongue-like organ, covered with thousands of tiny tooth-like protrusions called denticles.
What do Garden Snails Eat? Categories of Essential Food for Snails
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.
1. Calcium Supplements
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 good sources of calcium for snails.
2. Leaves and Vegetables
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 its fruit, flower, and fruit peels) stand out as essential food for snails.
3. 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. 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 favorite snail food).
Edible flowers for snails include; rose, cauliflower, hibiscus, paw-paw, and sunflower.
6. Non-Chlorinated Water
Place a shallow dish filled with spring water for your snail to drink from, and bath 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 waste that contains 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.
Foods that are Dangerous to Snails
1. Contaminated Foods
Any food that has been treated with pesticide are potential snail killers. 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. 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. 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.
In conclusion, It is good practice to ensure you wash all food before they are offered to the snails. This is important because some insect larvae may be hiding in the food without your knowledge. In addition, remove all uneaten snail food from the pens daily as it will spoil quickly. Spoilt food will attract fleas, lice, mice, rats, and diseases.
To facilitate cleaning, the snail food should be placed on a flat dish or a concrete slab constructed within the pen. All dishes (both feed and water dishes) should be heavy enough as they will tend to tip it up as the snail move over them.