In very intensive farms the snails are fed a formulated snail feed mix containing all the proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins required for optimal growth. Snails are housed in boxes or trench pens.
Unless your snail farm is of the very extensive type, you will have to provide your snails with some or all the food they need for good development.
This will require efforts on your part in growing or collecting snail food, or cash for buying it. Therefore, you must know what snails eat and what they need.
Types of snail food
What snails eat
Snails are vegetarian and will accept many types of food. All snails will avoid plants that have hairy leaves or produce toxic chemicals, like physic nut (Jathropa curcas). Young snails prefer tender leaves and shoots; they consume about twice as much feed as mature snails.
As they get older, mature snails increasingly feed on detritus: fallen leaves, rotten fruit and humus. Older snails should be fed the same items as immature snails. If a change in the diet has to be made, the new food items should be introduced gradually.
What snails need
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.
Recommended food items
Leaves: cocoyam, kola, paw paw, cassava, okra, eggplant, loofa, centrosema, cabbage and lettuce. Paw paw leaves (as well as its fruit and fruit peels) stand out in many trials as good snail food.
Fruits: paw paw, mango, banana, eggplant, pear, oil palm, fig, tomato and cucumber. Fruits are usually rich in minerals and vitamins, but low in protein.
Tubers: cocoyam, cassava, yam, sweet potato and plantain. Tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, though low in protein. (Cassava should be the low-cyanide type). Flowers: oprono (Mansonia altissima), odwuma (Musanga cecropoides) and paw paw.
Household waste: peels of fruit and tuber, like banana, plantain, pineapple, yam and especially paw paw, and leftovers like cooked rice, beans, fufu and eko. Caution: household waste must not contain salt!
Because snails are vegetarians, the cheapest way to feed them is by collecting rejected but recommended food from marketplaces. At the end of any market day, some perishable vegetables and fruits still useful for snail consumption can be collected from the dumping areas.
This would reduce the cost and labour of buying or cultivating vegetables and fruits only to feed snails.
Achatina achatina feeds mainly on green leaves, fruits, tubers and flowers. Unlike other snails, it prefers leaves and fruits that are detached from the main plant. It also seems to prefer wet leaves to dry ones and appears to thrive on prunings of food plants grown in pens.
Providing A. achatina with a mixture 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 food is appetising (e.g. paw paw) or contains a feeding stimulant, the snails will eat a lot and grow quickly. If food is unattractive or lacks a stimulant, however nutritious it maybe, the snails will not eat much of it.