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Feeding and Watering

Most snails eat a wide variety of food, some species more than others. Most fruit and vegetables will be taken. Certain 'hard' vegetables like carrot and potato benefit from being slightly parboiled and allowed to cool down completely before being given to the snails.

They also like tortoise food - either dry or soaked in water. If you live in an area where you're likely to be snowed in in the winter, it's handy to keep a jar of this stuff for emergencies - it keeps for ages, and the snails don't mind it one bit!. They will also eat raw meat like mince.

Snails also like a drop of beer, they are attracted by the yeast and it is actually quite good for them, in small amounts.

Water isn't necessary for the snails as long as their surroundings are humid enough, a bowl of water is recommended as the snails will drink from it and also like to 'bathe' in it. The heavier the bowl the better as they will tend to tip it up! It must also be shallow so they can't drown. You do not have to provide drinking water - as long as you keep the snails damp, by spraying with (warm in winter!) water about twice a day, depending on how quickly your substrate dries out, they'll get all the moisture they need from this and their food, but they do appreciate a small bowl of it in their tank. (If you're using a heat mat, remember the substrate will dry out much faster, so you'll need to 'water' your snails more often). Little rock-effect drinking bowls that are sold in reptile shops are ideal; they are graduated so that your snail will not drown, and flat so the snails will not tip them up. For more information on suitable water dishes click here.

You need to provide fresh food and water every day or possibly every other day if the food doesn't spoil quickly. Don't leave spoiled food in the tank because the environment in the tank will encourage mold and fungus to grow and will attract other pests such as flies and mites. If you are having this problem click here.

Important: You MUST wash all food and forms of calcium before they are offered to the snails.


Cuttlefish bone

Snails MUST have a plentiful supply of calcium to build and repair their shells. Keep a piece of cuttlefish bone in their tank at all times. Cuttlefish bones are cheap, costing between 20p and £1 per bone and can be found at just about any pet supplies store. It's worth buying them in bulk because they are cheaper that way.

Keep a washed cuttlefish bone in the tank and you will see them rasping away at it. Large, growing snails can demolish it in no time. Other sources of calcium include: egg shell, calcium supplements from pets shops, oyster shells, natural chalk and baby milk powder.

You may find that cuttlefish begins to go soft and slimy. To slow this down I recommend a number of things. Firstly, putting the cuttlefish on a small plastic tray or piece of polystyrene (like the bottom of a foam cup) the cuttlefish bone won't get damp from underneath.

Breaking the cuttlefish bone up into a few pieces and supplying what they need obviously prolongs the life of your cuttlefish because it's not all left in a humid tank. It is important to leave enough in the tank for them at all times and if the pieces are smaller, enough for all of them to get close enough to eat them. A few babies in a tank would take months to consume a full cuttlefish bone so using a full one is unnecessary.

Swapping the pieces every few days and rinsing and drying the old ones helps a lot. Over time the bones will become very brittle but they will last a lot longer. Having said all the above, don't be stingy with calcium. The points above are just tips to prevent it being wasted.

Snails can also absorb calcium through their foot and you may witness your snails sitting on pieces of cuttlefish.

Too much calcium can result in internal stones that can be harmful. If you're feeding as part of a mix, the recommended amount of calcium is 12% for optimum health and growth, although one study showed 20% to best. However, it is likely the speed of growth was more important in that study than the snails' health. What is does show is that up to 20% is likely to be safe.

There are alternatives to cuttlefish they may accept:

Calcium Supplements

You can buy calcium powders and liquids from pet shops. It costs about £3 (€4.40) I'm not sure how economical it is compared with cuttlefish, but if you actually powder one yourself, you realise how little powder that produces. It may even be cheaper. What remains to be known is whether other sources contain other shell building substances that snails can use.

Powdered Oyster Shells

Unfortunately I haven't been able to get it in powdered form, only crushed which is of no use as pieces larger than powder are way too hard and sharp. It was used in this study and was found to be the best source of calcium out of the ones tested, perhaps because it is 99% Calcium carbonate as oppose to 80-85% in cuttlefish bones. If powdered costs the same as crushed then it much cheaper than the cheapest cuttlefish bone I have found.  Update: I have found some finely powdered oyster shell and the snails absolutely love it. Not as fine as I'd hoped but much finer than the bird grit you get from pet shops. They tend to pass large amounts of it out but they prefer it to cuttlefish if both are presented.

Natural Chalk

A good source of calcium. I don't know where to obtain it and I imagine it is expensive.


Click here to learn what it is. You'll see it mentioned on snail farming websites. Where you obtain it from I have no idea. I assume it is powdered before use because snail farms make a mix.  Update. Dolomite is an unsuitable type of calcium because it is contains magnesium which retards calcium absorption.


You should be careful not to mistake this for lime which is caustic. The natural rock is what you need. Where you get this from I don't know.

Egg Shells

Remove the inside skin, and wash the eggs throughly. If you wish to crush it, you may find baking the shell in the oven makes it more brittle. Not a particularly good source but better than nothing if your snails won't try the other sources of calcium.


Used in this study, although is was found to be the least effective source of calcium. However, if you have a snail refusing other forms of calcium I would say it is worth a go. I don't know where you could get it from.

Bone Meal

Used in this study. Bonemeal is used as a plant fertiliser so you must be careful that what you get hasn't got added chemicals. I thought about trying this but decided against it, until I know more.

Update: "Bonemeal is not recommended, as it may contain contaminants" - Taken from www.osteoporosis.ca.

I realise this info is targeted at osteoporosis sufferers but it does seem to indicate the possible prescence of contaminants. Although the aforementioned study itself reported no deaths it seems likely that these contaminants are harmful to snails. It just doesn't seem to be worth the risk unless you can guarantee a "pure" supply, if such a thing exists.

Food Lists

The list below shows some of the foods they will eat. This is not a comprehensive guide, all snails have different tastes even within species that are not known for eating a particular substance. Try different foods out, if they don't like it they won't eat it. In the wild snails probably eat whatever they can get and in doing so probably have a mixed diet. It seems reasonable that this should be emulated. If your snail seems to only eat apple, it is more than likely because it is always on offer. It may not necessarily dislike other foods.

Note: Raw food has a higher nutritional content than cooked or processed foods.

Fruit: Apple, Apricot, Avocado, Banana, Blackberry, Butternut Squash, Dragon Fruit, Grapes, Kiwi, Mango, Melon, Nectarines, Orange, Papaya/Paw-paw, Prickly pear, Peach, Pear, Physalis, Plum, Raspberry, Satsuma, Sharon fruit, Strawberry, Tomato

Vegetables: Aubergine, Bean Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Courgette, Cucumber, Green beans, Kale, Leek, Lettuce, Mushroom, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Pumpkin, Spinach, Sprouts, Swede, Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato, Turnip, Watercress, Dandelion leaves, Common Plantain.

Other: Hemp, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, chicken mash (for laying hens), Snail Mix, Oats and other seeds need to be soaked first. Seeds are best served crushed or ground. Raw eggs, brown bread, milk powder, some raw meat. Wet or dry cat treats/dog biscuits, tortoise food.


For a list of plants African snails have been found on in the wild click here.

For a list of the calcium content of various fruit and vegetables click here.

Dangerous Foods

  • Foods that that may have been treated with pesticide or contaminated by vehicle fumes, e.g. homegrown fruit and vegetables and dandelions.
  • Millet and Pasta can cause bloating (water-retention) through internal blockages and can result in the death of a snail. I'd avoid overly starchy foods, like rice also. These foods seem largely undigestible.
  • Salty foods - like most animals, snails do need small amount of salt to survive but salt is obviously dangerous in anything but tiny amounts.

There has been some discussion on the Cybersnail mailing list regarding high amounts of oxalates in certain foods like spinach. There is some concern because:

"...Oxalic acids bind with needed nutrients and pretty much makes the needed nutrients inaccessible to the body. The main nutrient that seems to be depleted is calcium..." (Taken from: http://www.iguanaden.com/diet/oxalic.htm - link dead)

However, snails may actually be able to detect oxalates and avoid plants that contain high amounts of them:

"...and a land snail Eremina desertorum. All three species eat only those parts of the leaves where calcium oxalate raphides are absent, suggesting that it is an effective defensive chemical." (Taken from: http://springerlink.metapress.com/app/home/contribution.asp?wasp=dfdq68fqupcxxjd18g8h&referrer=parent&backto=issue,7,20;journal,96,97;linkingpublicationresults,1:104273,1 - link dead)

A mixed diet would seem to be the best solution, feeding foods that are particularly high in oxalates sparingly.

For more information on oxalates click here.

For a list of the comparative oxalate content in vegetables click here.

There are some people who think that particularly acidic foods like citrus fruits can be bad for snails. However, there are pictures on the web of snails being fed on oranges, tangerines, satsumas etc, so the jury is out really. Not to mention that apples, tomatoes and kiwi fruit are also acidic. Similar to above, it may be that excessive amounts of acidic food can be detrimental to the snails health. As always, it is best to err on the side of caution and be less generous with particularly acidic foods. With a good variety of food on offer, the snails will not suffer any ill-effects.