Although snails appear to be simple and primitive creatures, they are complex organisms that live according to their own laws. Most aquarists consider snails as a secondary object among aquarium animals, because they infest themselves and it is extremely difficult to get rid of them.
Although, these organisms are quite interesting objects to observe.
Amateur aquariums, as a rule, are inhabited by mollusks belonging to the Gastropods class, which includes a fairly diverse and numerous public (no less than 80 thousand species), which are settled in almost all corners of the Earth. Most often, well-known ampouleries, red fizy and coils from the Americas live in home aquariums.
Snails that live in the ground — melania — often grow in our aquariums.
The mollusk is enclosed in a special protective shell, mostly consisting of limestone, due to which the mollusk feels protected. If you look at a snail, you may feel that the shell for it is an unbearable burden, due to which the mollusk is slowly moving.
However, all shells rarely exceed 40% of the total weight of the animal. It is in the shape and color of the shell that scientists determine which species the animal belongs to.
During systematic studies pay attention to the shape and geometry of the spiral, as well as the location of the vertex.
By the ways of breathing snails are pulmonary and gill. Pulmonary snails (fizzy and coils) periodically rise to the surface to take a sip of oxygen. Depending on the composition of the blood, and in snails it varies, different times of oxygen consumption.
However, despite these anatomical features, the intervals between breaths of air are quite large intervals.
Gill snails (melania) have adapted to the consumption of oxygen, getting it out of the water, respectively, they do not need to rise to the surface and take a sip of atmospheric air. Most of the time these snails are in the ground and crawl out of it only in cases where an unfavorable environment has formed there.
Some experienced aquarists determine the gaseous state of the substrate.
But you should understand that these snails behave in a similar way if they feel a sharp change in atmospheric pressure, change the hydrochemical parameters of water, or there is a shortage of food. Therefore, this indicator can not be considered reliable.
Scientists have experimentally established that a single snail needs 100 microliters of oxygen for 1 hour. This is an order of magnitude less than for the same time period required by one small fish.
Accordingly, even if snails occupy your aquarium, they will not be able to make a tangible competition to aquarium fish.
Under natural conditions, fats and coils are settled in shallow areas of water bodies, where there is stagnant water, good lighting from the sun, and a large amount of algae, which are their main diet. These snails do not disdain to feast on carrion, and if there is a shortage of food, they can begin to feed on the tender and young leaves of aquatic plants.
In aquarium conditions, snails perfectly feed on any artificial food, and sometimes they do not disdain with dry food and under-eaten food of aquarium fish. In this case, the snails are nurses, as they eat the remnants of organic matter, and the water in the aquarium does not spoil.
But if you are told that snails eat fish excrement, then do not listen to this nonsense. Even those snails that feed on detritus will never agree to feast on such a treat, giving free rein to bacteria. Therefore, you should not indulge yourself with the hopes that if you fill the aquarium with snails, they will save it from metabolic products in a couple of days.
Like other living organisms in an aquarium, snails also fertilize the soil in the course of their life. If there are too many of them, then the probability of silting up the ground increases, which is not good.
You should also not believe in the statement that thanks to a large population of snails, the water in the aquarium becomes softer, since the dissolved calcium is spent on the construction of shells for mollusks. Live clams actually consume calcium salts.
But dead mollusks eventually begin to lime water and aquarium soil.
I would like to note the high plasticity and endurance of snails. It was found that snails can exist in a fairly wide temperature range and strong changes in the hydrochemical parameters of the aquarium water. The optimum temperature for shellfish is considered to be from 20 to 26 degrees Celsius.
In the event of a drastic change in any parameter, the cochlea quickly adapt to new conditions. And due to the property to close its shell, some mollusks are able to survive even in the most critical moments (being outside the aquatic environment or overheating).
If you take a coil or a fizu out of the water, they will curl up and fit safely in the upper tip of their sink, where they can lie for a couple of hours without any threat to their lives. When the mollusk is in the water, the body straightens and takes on a natural shape.
The most terrible enemies of snails in the aquarium are the fish. However, this applies only to large cichlid species, tetraodons, and some members of the labyrinth family, which have a large mouth and powerful jaws that can split a shell.
To eat snail meat is not against other aquarium fish. But it will be possible to do this only if the mollusk is not very careful – it stretches far the leg of its shell or antennae.
In aquarium conditions, this is extremely rare. Despite the awkward appearance, the snails very quickly hide in their shell at the slightest danger.
The massive death of snails can begin if a snail leech from the genus Glossiphonia, which occurs in almost all natural water bodies, enters your aquarium. Adult leeches extremely rarely get into aquariums, but youngsters can be brought into the aquarium with food from a natural reservoir, soil, plants and other snails.
The risk of introducing these leeches into your aquarium increases during the summer months, when small leeches become independent, but not yet adults. If for mollusks these parasites are formidable enemies, then they do not cause any harm to the fish. Accordingly, there is no need to actively deal with these parasites.
When the snail population is completely destroyed, they themselves will die without food.
Despite the general physiology of the mollusks, snails from different species also have many differences. For example, fizy like sections of water with bright and intense light. Because of their immobility, these mollusks can disappear for days on the chosen part of the aquarium.
Having settled in dense thickets of Riccia and other aquatic floating plants, the physiologists move beautifully from bush to bush.
Coils live well in any layer of water, but avoid large concentrations of physical. They move very quickly along the reservoir.
And at the same time the grace of movement is not lost. Melanias inhabit the ground, regularly loosening it in search of food.
Due to the special structure of the oral apparatus, these mollusks are able to get food from the most inaccessible parts of the bottom. They do not like bright lighting, and reach maximum activity at dusk and at night.
They move around the aquarium in jerks, pulling at first the leg, and then pull the shell towards themselves.
The speed of moving melania is influenced by the composition of the aquarium soil: the larger and heavier its granules, the more difficult it is for snails to move. In addition, mollusks do not like and strong shallow soil, as it is poorly ventilated.
Mollusks differ in breeding mode. Despite the fact that the bulk of pulmonary snails have a common feature – hermatoproditism, it is not enough for one individual to successfully reproduce, because these snails have one interesting feature – cross-fertilization.
Coils and fizy lay their eggs in compact masonry with one common shell.
- Mud at nat is a curved “wiener”, which houses a couple of dozen eggs. They are arranged in layers in a gelatinous substance with a soft shell. Practically any surface can act as a substrate. Laying from the substrate is separated quite easily and the development of the embryo is in no way disturbed. Small snails crawl out of the egg shells after a month and a half, it all depends on the ambient temperature. If you remove the clutch from the aquatic environment, it will dry within an hour and all the snails will die.
- The coils prefer a rough and soft substrate and do not place their laying on the aquarium wall under any pretext. Masonry is a cake with an oval base, the diameter of which is 1 – 1.5 centimeters. The laying is strong enough and very strong, which allows it to cling tightly to the substrate. The number of eggs in the clutch varies from 10 to 20 pieces. If we consider laying under a magnifying glass, we can see that it looks like a honeycomb.
Larvae develop within a month. Quite an interesting detail – almost from its inception, embryos show high activity and regularly move inside the egg.
Over time, the activity of the embryo increases and after a week the larvae are completely similar to their parents. Eggs and only hatched snails, which have not yet strengthened shell, becomes a tasty prey for aquarium fish.
If there is an urgent need, then the excess snails can be removed from the aquarium with tweezers. If you need to increase the popularity of mollusks in the aquarium, you need to choose pieces of 6 adults and transplant them into a separate container.
It is better to place it in such a place that the water tank does not overheat or overcool. Every 2-3 days it is necessary to add a bit of dry food and rotting leaves of aquatic plants to this container.
In addition, several flat stones and a pair of large leaves of plants that will act as a substrate for spawning should be placed in the aquarium. After some time, tubs of eggs will begin to appear on the walls of the aquarium and on the substrate, and after some time the young snails will also appear.
After the youngsters grow up and strengthen their shells, they can be carefully collected with cotton wool from the walls of the aquarium and transferred to the general aquarium among dense vegetation.
Melanias are viviparous snails. Due to the fact that they spend most of their time buried in the ground, almost no one knows about their reproduction characteristics. In the absence of soil in the aquarium, these snails die.
It is physically impossible to control the population of these mollusks. Adult snails have reliable protection from aquarium fish in the form of a durable shell, and young individuals are constantly crawling in the ground and are not shown out.
Very often, the population of melania grows to unprecedented size.
Fighting an overgrowing population of melania without disturbing the rest of the aquarium’s inhabitants can be done in one simple way — regularly to catch the largest individuals. If you do not like snails so much that you are ready to remove all aquatic plants from the aquarium for a while, you can use a radical method: lower the temperature of the water in the aquarium to 15 degrees, or add copper sulphate to the aquarium water.
If the living conditions are suitable, the snails in the aquarium live up to 3 years, while reaching maximum sizes. The diameter of the shell in an adult coil can reach 2 centimeters.
In physical length of shells can reach a length of one and a half centimeters with a diameter of -0.5 centimeters. The older the snails become, the less attractive they look.
Many snails begin to break the last turns and spirals.
And now let’s return to our main question: are snails useful in an aquarium or extremely undesirable? The answer is not clear.
Shellfish are equal participants in aquarium life. If we talk about the general decorative aquarium, they are useful. The only exception is melania, and then for old frame aquariums, in which putty consisting of cement and drying oil was used.
In modern aquariums, where high-quality sealant is used, you should not worry about it.
The situation is somewhat different with mollusks in Dutch aquariums, where a large number of various plants. If there is a shortage of food in the aquarium, the snails are likely to start eating the tender leaves of the aquarium plants, which will significantly reduce its decorative qualities.
Also, mollusks in the aquariums, where their direct competitors – herbivorous hydrobionts live, will be superfluous.
It is also not desirable the presence of snails in aquariums, incubators and spawners. Mollusks will damage shell of eggs with their rough and sharp edges of the shell. But in reed snails are the orderlies of the aquarium, as they save you from the need to siphon the substrate after each feeding of fish.
Of course, they do not completely relieve you of this duty, but they certainly will give you some help.
As you probably noticed, there are practically no possible troubles from the presence of mollusks in the aquarium, but they also do not carry significant benefits. If there are no snails in your tank, so be it.
And if they still settled, you can watch their lives.