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Pond Snail Factoids

Origin

Hitchhikers on new plants.  Grows wild in U.S.

Size

Less than one inch

Temperature

Normal tank temperatures

Attitude

Eats day and night

Security

A shell that clamps to the glass.

Foods

Algae, fish food, zucchini and other vegetables, dead fish, aquatic vegetation

Supplements Calcium helps grow their shells.  Most algae contain calcium.

Water

Prefers hard water with elevated pH

Brood Size

Lays several eggs in one blob

Gestation 4 to 40 days depending upon temperatue

Breeding

Hermaphroditic

Longevity Two years
Threats Copper, low pH, dirty water, loaches, puffer keepers, cichlids, crayfish, turtles, birds

LA
A serendipitous discovery.  Not just an albino.

LA
Another "sport."  Possible albino.

Introduction.  The first physa above showed up in one of my planted tanks one day..  It's a thin-shelled version of the regular pond snail.  Unfortunately, I lost the strain.  I believe it was harvested by one of those dastardly puffer keepers who come in looking for free snails.  Puffers do like snails.  And puffer keepers do like free snails.  We let puffer keepers "free range" in the physa and ramshorn tanks.  They pillaged these guys.

LA
Tank planted with Aponogeton crispus, December 23, 2010.

Hitchhiker Eggs..  I ordered a pack of 25 wonder bulbs from Chicago.  Due to time constraints, I just dropped them in a tank and planted them the next day -- not noticing the three clusters of hitchhikers adhering to one of the aponogeton leaves.  (Note:  Don't bury your Aponogeton bulbs.  They grow better when only the roots are in the gravel.  They will prosper even when left floating in your tank.)

LA
Three (maybe four) blobs of physa eggs discovered December 24.  Sort of an early Christmas present.

LA
You can watch the eggs develop inside their protective blob.  December 25, 2010.

LA
Starting to hatch December 27, 2010.  I fed them crushed flake food.

LA
December 29, 2010.

So Where Do Pond Snails Come from?  Would you believe ponds?  They grow wild (but not too wild) in Iowa (we're a bit on the tame side).  However, no one goes out in the wilds of Iowa in search of pond snails.  And very few aquarium keepers in Iowa care to purchase them (certainly not puffer keepers).  Most pretty much depend upon the vagaries of fate   Like the egg blobs in the picture above.  Each blob contains a couple dozen potential little physas.  That's one reason these guys can rapidly overrun your tank.

LA
Part of a two dozen physa swag harvested December 24, 2010.  Not many breeders here.

LA
One of the few breeder-size physas in a sparsely populated 10-gallon laboratory tank

What Do Physas Eat?  Most sources say pond snails eat algae.  But I've found lots of them in algae-covered tanks.  I think they eat mostly fish food.  Aquarists that overfeed their fish can thank their pond snails for saving their fishes lives.  Without the snails they would have cloudy water at best and toxic water at worst.  Feed lots of extra food and you'll soon see lots of snails.  Physas will also eat dead fish, some vegetables (especially zucchini), feeder blocks, and your aquatic plants.

Feeder Blocks?  You betcha.  Most feeder blocks are held together with plaster (main ingredient lime -- calcium carbonate).  Physa shells need lots of lime.  Hard water helps, but feeder blocks mainline the lime.  Most snail fans recommend offering them a cuttlebone or crushed coral.  Feeder blocks taste better than squid bones.

LA
Lotsa feeder blocks on the market.

LA
Small feeder blocks I usually give to my plecostomids.

LA
With a few bags of these on hand, I can afford to give a few to the physas.

LA
Couple of pond snails at work on a feeder block.  This is one day's production.

LA
A little later.  Lots of digested food block surrounding the food block.

Shell Musings.  Mucho calcium goes into shell production  Pond snails get their calcium from their various foods including algae (especially diatoms).  They utilize it by adding to the insides of their shell.  They cannot repair external dissolved patches.  Low pH will eventually dissolve their shells.  Feeder blocks will especially help newly hatched snails.  Small snails need calcium the most to build their shells.  When capturing a pond snail to extricate it or whatever, you'll notice that the little guys (about 1/4 inch size) have very fragile shells.  You need good manual dexterity to extricate the little ones without crushing their shells.  Once they grow to a massive 1/2 inch, they have easier-to-handle tougher shells.

LA
Four 0.25-inch pond snails in the meniscus.

Surface Sailors.  Smaller pond snails can sail across the top of your aquarium -- not above the water but just under the surface -- hanging upside down.  You'll notice this sometimes when you have flake foods floating on the surface.  If your water is turbulent or has a fast current, you're less likely to see this behavior.  You might also want to know that they inhale oxygen at the surface.

LA
10-gallon lab tank assembled for further observations.

Do They Eat Algae?  Pond snails reputedly eat algae.  Not so much.  See below.

LA
So you think you have an algae problem?  I kind of like it.  See the pond snails on the front?

LA
I pulled these pond snails out of that tank.  Maybe they're not the best algae eaters?

LA
This guy was in there too -- plus several dozen trumpet snails.

LA
Pond snails like carrots.  One of their natural foods?

LA
Looks like there's a few ramshorn interlopers in this mob.

LA
They like their carrots.  

LA
Pond snails also like zucchini.

LA
And they eat holes in plants.

LA
While searching for pond snail egg blobs, I discovered they've been chewing the crap out of my Java ferns.

LA
Pond snail eggs about to hatch.  Three-day-old newborn to the left of blob.

LA
Same eggs even closer to hatch.  Two-day-old newby to close left of the one.

LA
Another egg blob hatching even as we watch.  Are you excited yet?

LA
Egg blob covered with snail feces.  Note the two long skinny worms top and bottom.

Do Pond Snails Eat Plants?  Yes.

LA
Converting a pond snail into fish food.

How Do You Get Rid of Snails?  Forget those snail killers in a bottle.  They usually just stun pond snails.  And if they do kill them, you need to vacuum their little carcasses out before they pollute your aquarium.  Then cut back on the excess food you were feeding your fish.  Crushing your snails works better than the commercial poisons.  The little guys you can crush with your bare hands.  The larger ones not so much.  They slice your fingers.  Use the rubber handle of a screwdriver.  If you use a plastic handle, some of the snails sorta slide (whoa, inadvertent alliteration) out of your deadly "crushing machine."

LA
These five egg blobs showed up January 4, 2011.  No telling how long they were there before I saw them

LA
Very hard to see on the front glass.

LA
Lots and lots and lots of hard to see egg blobs on the plants.

LA
Snails on January 23 -- 18 days old.  Finger tip quite a bit older.

Plenty More Where They Came From.  Pond snails stick their tiny transparent egg blobs everywhere -- often where you can't see them (even when you're looking for them).  Maybe their egg blobs aren't actually tiny when you compare them to the size of the snail laying the eggs?  The blobs must expand when released into the water.

PS:  Our lab specimens began laying eggs within three days of when I started feeding them flake food.  All these egg blobs hatched in under a week at 78 degrees Fahrenheit -- some in less than four days.  This gives them a running start on overrunning your tank.

LA
Every tank deserves a clown loach.  Nice rich colors and a great personality.

Last Words.  Pond snails make good tank mates.  They eat all that extra food you sprinkle in your tank to give your fish an extra little treat.  If you do cut back on some of your pond snails, be sure to cut back on some of your fish food at the same time.  The best snail eater on the market?  The clown loach.  See Loach Clown for more info.  Some of the other loaches have similar snail-eating skills.  The clown loach is the most skilled and definitely the most attractive.  Cichlids eat snails, too, but they also like to re-arrange your aquascaping.  LA


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