Snails are usually considered disasters in a plant tank, but with
dense planting and good plant growing conditions, the right type of
snail can be very useful by consuming dead plant material and
detritus. Any damage they do cause will be compensated for by
fast plant growth.
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Most snails do best in harder/alkaline water. If the hardness/ph
drops below a certain point, their shells will start to dissolve
and/or grow improperly (the behavior seems to be based on species).
Malaysian trumpet snails seem the hardiest, showing little adverse
effect from soft water. The Ramshorn snails shell will start to
dissolve, and gaps will form in the new shell growth. Mystery snails
will form gaps. Most of these problems can be corrected by hardening
the water, and the snails will recover, although exterior shell damage
(from dissolving) will remain.
The Malaysian snail, Melanoides tubercularia, is an interesting
creature in that it lives in the substrate during the day and only
comes out at night. Its shell is a perfect cone shape and gets to
about 2 cm long. It is a livebearing snail and reproduces quite
readily. It is considered beneficial to a plant tank and doesn't seen
to harm plants, even in large populations. They are hard to find for
sale, but usually come for free on plant shipments. If desired, Clown
loaches will keep them and other snails well under control.
Ramshorn snails are very common and come in various sizes. Their
shape is as their name suggests. The smaller varieties (under 1 cm)
are not too damaging to a plant tank, although they seem to relish the
tender leaves of the Hygrophila family.
The other type is the dark and light brown striped Columbian Ramshorn
that can grow big as large as 2 inches in diameter. The stripes run
the length of the shell with a pattern of random width light-dark-
light stripes that stays constant throughout the snails life. These
snails are extremely prolific and have a terrific appetite for
Pond snails are football shaped snails under 2 cm in length. They
are to be avoided, as they will happily eat all your plants.
One of the most beautiful kinds of snails are the Mystery snails. These
snails have a shape similar to the Pond snail, but their spiral is
rounder, and they grow much larger. They can reach tennis-ball size if
well taken care of. The come in many varieties. The snail's body can
be dark, or almost albino (very light with a bright orange speckle
pattern). The shell can be dark, bright orange, albino, or
multi-colored striped (length-wise like the Ramshorn). The Apple snail
variety typically has the multi-colored stripes, with a dark body. In
general these snails don't eat living plants. They prefer algae and dead
plant/animal material (canned spinach will get you a very large Mystery
To guard against unwanted snails, use a weak potassium permanganate
solution. The Manual of Fish Health recommends a concentration of 10
mg/l as a 10-minute bath as a general disenfectant for aquarium
plants. Then rinse them in running water. This kills snail eggs and
parasites and might guard against algae spores.
Alum is also useful. Get "Alum U.S.P." at the drug store. Soak the
plants in a gallon of water that has up to 10 teaspoons of Alum. The
Alum kills microscopic bugs. Longer soaks (2-3 days) will kill snail
eggs and/or snails.
End of Disease FAQ.
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