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Old 06-07-2014, 06:07 AM   #1
MABJ
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Default 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,
Mark

Last edited by MABJ; 06-29-2014 at 06:30 PM.. Reason: .
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Old 06-07-2014, 06:30 AM   #2
Raymond S.
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I am sure that there are different species of each type of snails so not saying that all of them within any group do this...but some Trumpet snails do not limit their eating to dead plant matter. I had a tank full of vals which trumpet snails killed by eating off the roots thereof. They also have aten through the stems of Java moss as it seems they like the algae that sometimes gets on there but fail to stop eating when they reach the bottom of the algae. I seem to see/find many small pieces of the Java Fern cut from the main part and laying on the bottom of the tank only when I have trumpet snails in a tank. I am just assuming that is where those small pieces came from.
FWIW....I have never heard this about Malaysian Trumpet snails.
The ones which did this were "collected" from natural sources in southern Louisiana and in Arkansaw where I now live.
But I appreciate your thread as many do panic over something which, for example might keep the algae off of the leaves of an Anubias plant.
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Old 06-07-2014, 06:32 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
I am sure that there are different species of each type of snails so not saying that all of them within any group do this...but some Trumpet snails do not limit their eating to dead plant matter. I had a tank full of vals which trumpet snails killed by eating off the roots thereof. FWIW....I have never heard this about Malaysian Trumpet snails.
The ones which did this were "collected" from natural sources in southern Louisiana.
But I appreciate your thread as many do panic over something which, for example might keep the algae off of the leaves of an Anubias plant.
Thanks for your comment Raymond. I'll try to find out more about that type you heard about, but I'm glad it wasn't the common MTS you see all around.

If I find anything I'll be sure to post it here.
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Old 06-07-2014, 12:15 PM   #4
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I think this is a great post on the snail topic. I know and believe what you have said and I know many, many people feel the same way. But for me, they all just creep me out except my assassins and nerites. I now have a breeding population of assassins in one tank that originally suffered from pond snails (no more) and of course, the nerites won't breed.

I recently did a tear down of another tank because of a "million" MTS that my assassins were ineffective against. My replacement tank for this tear-down is now just silk plants, and one very large anubias on driftwood I was able to keep after quarantining it to make sure no snails were hitching a ride.

I also find the assassins ineffective against the mini ramshorns, which I suffer with in another tank. These I squish weekly when doing a WC but it's becoming a losing battle here too. I fear another tear down may be in my future. I love my live plants and hate the pest snails and have not been able to get to that stable population of snails. My fault, perhaps, but the fish gotta eat.

While my silk plant tank still looks nice, it's not the same. Pond snails I can take care of with the assassins. But the MTS and ramshorns will always creep me out because of the numbers I have had to deal with.

Thanks for your post anyway.
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Old 06-07-2014, 01:16 PM   #5
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Odd, I keep ram snails because of how slow they breed. But I had that trumpet snail
over popuation issue and in a tank where there was virtually no fish feeding.
Put in a Khuli Loach and the problem went away. Because it was only one, he stayed hidden durig the light on time. But for that reason he had no left over fish food to scrounge...took a while but he won.
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Old 06-09-2014, 11:05 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
Odd, I keep ram snails because of how slow they breed. But I had that trumpet snail
over popuation issue and in a tank where there was virtually no fish feeding.
Put in a Khuli Loach and the problem went away. Because it was only one, he stayed hidden durig the light on time. But for that reason he had no left over fish food to scrounge...took a while but he won.

Ok so my question is this. How does kuhli loaches have any connection with controlling snails? I had about 100+ bladder snails and added in 10 kuhli loaches not because of the theories of them eating snails but because I've always loved them. To my knowledge, kuhli loaches don't eat snails and will definately choose to dig around with fish poop for little particles of food rather than eating snails. Unlike clown loaches. I've watched my kuhlis for hours and had never seen one eat any snails. They even move the snail aside with their mouth and then continue to dig. Now I have 200+ bladders and came down to assassin snails.
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:42 PM   #7
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Thanks for your comment. I know some people will forever dislike snails. In order to control those populations you're struggling with, definitely assess how much you're feeding. I can help you with that if you like. After all, they're only thriving because you're providing them the tools to thrive


Raymond, I'd advise against ever adding a creature which is only serving as an end to a means. For what do you do with the loach when he runs out of snails?
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:36 PM   #8
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Very interesting info thank you. My motto is if I didn't knowingly put you in my tank your not welcome. I never panic though.
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:30 PM   #9
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I love my snails, I tend to keep red rams horns in most if not all of my tanks. The only reall annoyance I have with snails is their tendency to attack my water lily blossoms (barclaya and such). And their youngs habit of dying in my canister filters.
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:23 PM   #10
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Greaser and algae, thanks for your comments.

Greaser, I used to feel that way until I realized you can't control it. I've had everything from planaria to Copepods, nematodes, hydra and the like. Once you fight the forces of evil planaria, you come to appreciate the simplicity of snails haha.

Algae, you might put a sponge over your intake. I don't find I've had the issue of them dying in the back of my canisters.
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:14 PM   #11
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Greaser and algae, thanks for your comments.

Greaser, I used to feel that way until I realized you can't control it. I've had everything from planaria to Copepods, nematodes, hydra and the like. Once you fight the forces of evil planaria, you come to appreciate the simplicity of snails haha.

Algae, you might put a sponge over your intake. I don't find I've had the issue of them dying in the back of my canisters.
I agree once you get them in the tank its hard to get rid of them. For me the only fight is the preemptive fight, get them before they make it to the tank. I always check my plants well, especially the roots and do whatever I feel necessary like bleaching, quarantining ect to keep them out. This is why all my tanks are snail free.
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Old 06-07-2014, 08:47 PM   #12
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I started my first planted tank in December 2013. With my first plant additions came my first pond snails. I am one of the "Oh no what do I do to get rid of them!" I wanted a "perfect" tank and didn't want snails. Well I educated myself about them through the internet and as you have stated they keep themselves in check. I have a population the ebbs and flows.

I would however, like to add a decorative snail that would not attack my plants. I was thinking of adding some ramshorn snails but I have read conflicting reports about them eating plants.

Thanks for your help in shedding some light on this misunderstood aquarium inhabitant.
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Old 06-07-2014, 09:07 PM   #13
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Thanks a lot for you contribution, Lab Man! I've personally never found the mini ramshorn variety to do anything but once in a while chomp on moss. Anything they eat is likely already dying from something.

You'd most likely be safe!
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:40 PM   #14
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I like this post! Originally I freaked out about having bladder/pond snails (they have black shells with gold specks), and some actually died randomly, but now I'm starting to love them. They cleaned ALL of the green algae on the glass, I have a ton of little babies and egg sacs on the tank, but I've just stopped feeding in the tank (letting the neon eat the copepods), and hoping the levels go down. But in general, I can't believe how spotless they keep the glass! On top of it they ate my small hydra population. I just threw in a handful in my 40 to take care of the algae on the glass. Their eggs are unsightly, but they are workhorses!!
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Old 06-07-2014, 11:25 PM   #15
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I have pond/bladder, ramshorn, and mts. I have no problem with any of the and some some in every planted tank. I even have a 40+gallon trash bin I soak driftwood in and am trying to grow an "exploding pond snail colony" in by throwing in leftover veggie scraps from my pleco tank (why? Because my husband has a dwarf puffer tank and snails are a great meal). They do not explode in population even with excessive food for me, but they are great for (very slowly) eating algae and dead plant matter. They are also fun to watch sucking bio film off the surface of the water. The ramshorns are a lovely clear shell with leopard like spots on it, and the pond snails turn black in the soak bin and get white stripes from calcium deposits from hanging out with their shells out of the water (on barely submerged rock) giving them a very cool look.
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