The truth about snails.
Hello all, I wanted to say hey: I haven't seen some of you in a while, and I'm happy to be done with school and ready to embrace life. (Cough and get back to shrimpin')
So one thing I repeatedly see here there and everywhere is "oh no! Snails, what do I do?!"
Well I intend to tell you what they're about, help you identify them and learn to decide if they'll be good or bad for your personal goals of your tank.
1. Let's start with what I call "The hasty judgement."
This is usually what people do when they first see or notice a snail they didn't originally purchase: they freak out. They don't know how it got there, but chances are it's a bad thing. This is false. No matter what snail is running around your tank, it is not a bad thing straight away. Go through some thought processes and read some information. Talk to knowledgable people.
2. Next thing to address is the frantic forum post from the above freakout, and the responses these posts can garner:
I see many, across all forums, that I'd classify as frantic forum posts about snails. Take a deep breath, like I said, take your time, there's nothing urgent, unlike if this were a dragonfly nymph. These posts are usually superfluous and can be avoided or forgone with a bit of research or an inquisitive private message.
Akin to the forum freakout is the ignorant response. Usually something along the lines of "Snails is bad, kill before they multiply." Don't listen to these. Instead take the above avenue, ask insightful questions and do proper research. Even searching "snail help" on this sight's search function or google will get you more information than making a frantic forum post.
3. Now that we got out of the way the first reactions to a snail appearance, let's establish how they made their way to your tank.
Many people purchase snails for their tanks. The very same snails you're finding for free. They most frequently come in on plants, decorations, substrate or even transferred filter media. They can come from sneaky adults (like Malaysian Trumpet Snails in substrate) or as eggs, like we talked about on plants. Egg sacs usually hatch 8-12 babies based on what I have seen from my snails, and not all typically survive in a balanced environment.
4. Time to help you decide what type of snail is in your tank.
There's four main types of snail you'll see come in through egg or by a small baby sneaking in somehow.
There's the Ramshorn, so named for its shell which is curled like a ram's horn. They have fleshy pink/nude bodies with eyes on a distinct rounded head. Their shell almost looks like an @ symbol, and they are usually tan, but come in a pink albino variation, blue, and tiger spotted. They also come in two common sizes. Mini and regular. Regular variations grow no larger than an 1/2 of an inch to an inch, and miniatures stay the size of a large pea.
Next are pond/bladder snails. Simply put, these are the most common and likely most hated of the snails. And for little reason other than they have a wide variety of foods they'll eat. These stay small, growing only a bit larger than mini Ramshorns. The easiest way to tell these snails apart is a football shaped shell with a distinct little spiral at the end of their "bladder" shaped main shell. They're usually brown/tan in color with a nude colored body.
The last of the most common snails are MTS or Malaysian trumpet snails. These are the easiest to tell what type of snail it is, but sometimes the hardest to spot. They are black bodied with cone shaped spiraled shells, and can become as long as 3/4 of an inch. They're sometimes so hard to find because whereas the previous two snails I detailed hunt for food above the substrate, these hunt for food below the substrate.
Last are assassin snails. These are pretty well coveted snails, but I've seen their eggs transferred unknowingly in the past. These are easy to spot, as they have tan and black spiraled shells, grow large and are sold on just about every freshwater invertebrate site there is.
5. Let's get into the basics of and merits of these snails.
The most different of all of them would be assassins. Their diet is snails and protein basically. Ramshorns will eat protein if available to them, some types of algae, mulm and detritus. Bladder snails will eat all of what Ramshorns eat and more. And MTS will eat mulm, detritus and plant matter that is dead. They don't eat algae so far as I know.
Each of these snails can serve a purpose in your tank, based on their diet and how they might fit into your ecosystem. I personally have two types of snails in each of my tanks.
6. Answering the dreaded question: will they mass reproduce and be the deadly bunnies that will crash my ecosystem?! Perhaps. That's on you, not them. They will reproduce to the extent of the food they're given. In this manner, they are FANTASTIC pets insofar as they tell you how much or how little you're feeding your tank. If your snails are getting food enough to keep a stable population, your shrimp are likely getting a perfect amount of food and your ecosystem doesn't have much food going to waste. If their population dwindles, you should feed more. If their population explodes, look at the food imbalance and find a way to fix it.
7. Deciding if you should keep your new pet or not:
Have you ever thought about having snails? If not, consider these things: they control excess food, and if you have no excess food, their population will take care of itself. They can be a food source. They are intriguing little pets, whimsical to watch, and they have a great reproduction cycle, so at any given point when someone looks at your tank, you can show them how life exists. From the empty shells to the egg sac on your plant leaf to the baby just growing through to adulthood.
If your answer is a resounding no: no snails. Don't purchase something to eat them, because just like New York now has a problem with coyotes brought here to eat deer, you'll have an issue once your new predator runs out of food.
Consider these options: If you remove all adults and RAOK them, you have eliminated all sources of new snails for a while. Just squish the little ones as they grow with tongs. They make a fantastic meal for shrimp.
Alrighty, that's all I think I have to say for now on the subject. There will be no questions. Are there any questions? (Reference from The Office)
Seriously, let me know if you need pictures, frankly disagree with what I'm saying or have something to add. If you've been helped by the topic, perhaps ask for it to be stickied if you think others will be helped by it.
Much love from NY,
Last edited by MABJ; 06-29-2014 at 05:30 PM.