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adamn 01-10-2013 12:27 AM

Dead snails in substrate
Hello all. Long time lurker here. I've gotten lots of info from this site, but now I have a question that I haven't found the exact answer for.

I recently moved across the country for my job. I tore down my heavily planted 55 and stored the eco complete in two sealed 5 gallon buckets. During the trip, the substrate ended up freezing :/

Well, here I am setting up a new 75. I dumped the old eco complete into the tank and immediately noticed the smell... I assume there's some dead snails in the substrate. I added 40 more pounds of new eco complete. Is all of this substrate bad due to the dead snails? I'm concerned that this will cause a ton of ammonia to be leached out of the substrate. I was planning on heavily planting this tank (with the plants from the old 55, which I have saved in a cooler. They're doing just fine.)



funkman262 01-10-2013 12:37 AM

Sorry to hear that about your snails. I love having them in my tank. The substrate probably should have been rinsed off before being put back into the tank. Have you filled up the tank yet? If so, you can check the ammonia reading. You don't mention having any fish, but unless the ammonia is incredibly high (I honestly have no clue what ammonia concentration would harm aquaria plants), you should be able to just set up the tank like normal, add the plants, and monitor the ammonia and nitrate to make sure they go back down to zero before stocking any fish.

cheesehead 01-10-2013 12:41 AM

Your substrate went anaerobic. It doesn't take much organic matter to smell - without oxygen, the bacteria in the substrate will making things like hydrogen sulfide instead of carbon dioxide. :eek5:

Rinse it a few times and then put in your plants. Do lots of water changes up front and you should be fine.

cheesehead 01-10-2013 12:43 AM


Originally Posted by funkman262 (Post 2196034)
You don't mention having any fish...

Oh yeah, there's that! I agree with funkman - put the plants in but don't add fish until you're sure the tank has cycled.

adamn 01-10-2013 01:07 AM

I just filled the tank for the first time now. I'll do some chem testing to see where the ammonia's at. It wouldn't hurt to go ahead and get my filters going, would it?

funkman262 01-10-2013 01:28 AM

I don't believe it would hurt to add your filters, but it would also be a good idea to add some airstones to keep the water aerated. It might also help to stir up the substrate every now and then to make sure it doesn't remain anaerobic as cheesehead mentioned.

GeToChKn 01-10-2013 01:36 AM

Bet the snails are still alive and you'll see them out. I took out substrate, dried it best I could but it was still wet, put it in a bag for like 3 months, gave it to my roomie, ran hot water over it to clean it off from the showerhead, put it in the tank, filled, out comes ramshorn.

funkman262 01-10-2013 01:37 AM

Yea, I've found ramshorn to be quite indestructible. Malaysian trumpet snails on the other hand, not so much.

lochaber 01-10-2013 05:31 AM

Yeah, I wouldn't be certain it's dead snails until you find the corpses. most likely, as said above, it's just other organic that went anaerobic (biofilm, mulm, whatever).

If you think it's snails, try screening the substrate, you won't get all of them, but you'll get the bigger ones.

And, as said above, give it a few rinsings/washings, that should help get most of the nastiness out.

adamn 01-10-2013 07:13 AM

Well, I went ahead and stirred up the eco complete with a full tank of water. I dumped that water and rinsed the gravel twice. The water was much clearer and the smell was down to more of a normal gravel smell. We'll see what happens from here. Interesting thing, my ammonia levels were 0ppm...

I'm pretty sure everything is dead within the gravel. It was left in my partially heated garage for about four days at ~55 degrees F, followed by spending 3 days sealed in 5 gallon buckets ~20 degrees F. At one point, both buckets were completely frozen. I found three onion snails in the substrate, all of which have remained stationary in my other 29 gallon tank for the entire evening. The MTS all look to be dead, as well as the pond snails and some ramshorns. Who knows, maybe they'll all disappear overnight haha. If not, I'll just watch my chem levels and go from there. I know my plants are ready to be out of their cooler though.

Patriot 01-10-2013 10:35 AM

What kind of snails are we talking here? If they dies the shell will just break down and become calcium for the plants.

adamn 01-10-2013 05:09 PM

It's a mix of ramshorn, MTS, and some common pond snails. I was more worried about the bodies themselves decomposing and yielding ammonia.

stevencaller 01-12-2013 08:29 AM

Do you know why there were so many dead snails in your substrate? have you used any copper medicine?

funkman262 01-12-2013 11:58 AM


Originally Posted by stevencaller (Post 2221154)
Do you know why there were so many dead snails in your substrate? have you used any copper medicine?

lol did you even read the thread or did you just see the title and went from there? The OP is ASSUMING that there are dead snails due to the fact that the substrate froze for a while and afterwards had a bad smell.

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