Snails Nails and

Snails Nails and


By Jim E. Quarles

I am sure that at one time or another ninety nine percent of the tropical fish hobbyists have had a complete infestation of unwanted snails. You know those little small horn looking creatures that make such a mess in the tank, and multiply like electrons going through the world fastest computer! Certain fish will eat at them but they generally increase at a rate faster than the fish can rid you of them. Well that species of snail is indeed a pest. A little copper in the water will end the problem once and for all but massive water changes are required to remove 100 % of the copper. Plus, if you have a massive infestation, killing them all at one time could overload your filter system resulting in a lot of dead fish and a big mess to clean up. I just drop a few copper pennies in the tank and that generally will kill them off slow enough that you don't pollute the tank. Depending upon what kind of fish you have, some fish just will not withstand any copper treatment.


There are a few snails that do well in a clean tank arrangement, and can be very helpful in the control of algae. The giant Rams horn and the super large Apple snails make great additions to most tank setups. As a rule they will not damage plants if properly fed like your fish. But you should remember the snails are living creatures that need their own special requirements to do well and not damage your plants. I have found that any living thing not properly fed and cared for will turn to what ever food source it can find to live.

Snails are no different in this regard. They can a will eat and damage plants if not properly fed.


That many of the fresh water snails are of great medical importance? They serve as the intermediate hosts for different kinds of parasites, that can and do afflict both man and animals. Schistosomes, a type of fluke or parasitic worm is the most important parasites that need snails to complete their life cycle and more than 100 million people in America, Asia, and Africa are infected every year! Nematodes of the genus Angfostrongylus also afflict man severely, Angfostrongylus cantonerisis, is a parasite that produces eosinophilic meningoercephalitis and is transmitted by freshwater snails. Neotropical species that have been introduced in Southeast Asia and is currently spreading all over the oriental areas, has been the source of epidemics due to ingestion of raw snails. In oriental markets the snails are considered a delicacy worth culturing as a side crop in rice and taro fields. It now has been found that the damage these snails cause to useable crops far exceeds their food value. But of course as with most non-native introductions once started they become impossible to control or require great effort and expense to do so.


The apple snails, family Ampullaridae, (also known as Pilidae), are almost entirely confined to tropical and subtropical areas. They are found from central Mexico to the La Plata basin, and in the West Indies. They are also found in Florida and Georgia in the United States. In Africa it is found northward along the Nile into lower Egypt.

Apple snails have separate sexes, and subtle sexual dimorphism is evident in some species. Males have a short penis inside a heavy sheath. This is used to transfer sperm to the females.

The females typically lay egg clusters out of the water on stalks of aquatic or rocks, bridges or other hard substrates. The egg clusters very in form and color and can be white pink, orange, red, yellow or green.

It is interesting that apple snails have a long fossil history in the Old World. They can be dated back 37 to 54 million years ago. Fossils have been found in what now is the Sahara Desert, as well as the super cold mountainous areas of northern India.


Taking care of an apple snail is simple. As long as you give them clean, warm water, access to the air, and sufficient food. The water should be basic or at least neutral and preferably basic (alkaline). The snail's shells are calcium compounds bonded to a living organic membrane and acid water dissolves calcium compounds.


Very few hobbyist have much luck keeping apple snails for more then a year or so, or breeding them. This possibly is because they just don't have the facilities to let the snails estivate each year.

In nature many apple snails seem to live three to four years, but at least four months of each year may be spent buried in the mud, inactive and barely alive. Growth and breeding resumes with the coming of wet season rains. It seems likely that if an apple snail is kept constantly active in warm, wet surroundings, it simply bums itself out and can not spawn.

In considering the above factors the element that comes to mind with me and others is the challenge to do the impossible, keep and develop an aquarium breeding method for the golden apple snail. After all ,most of us in this hobby love a task that others consider impossible ( That is why we are considered slightly Nuts.)

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