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Pet World Visit
Introduction. Ramshorn snails are the most identifiable of all the aquarium snails. Named for the curled horns of a male sheep or a dodge truck, these little guys pop up mysteriously in many supposedly "snail-free" aquaria. Ramshorn snails often come in under the cover of plant leaves. They hatch out too small to see at first glance. They soon grow to a noticeable size -- as much as an inch in diameter.
Ramshorn Snails at First Glance. At first you notice their curlicue shell. Upon closer observation you can see their antennae -- unless they're in a tank containing nippy little guppies or other small fish looking for a quick snack. Most fish are constant browsers and do not hesitate to nip the snails' bite size antennae. Ramshorn snails quickly learn to adhere tightly to the glass to avoid being nipped.
Why the White Patches? Age and low pH take their toll. Snail shells tend to dissolve eventually. Usually the whiter the shell, the older the snail. Some aquarists try to aid their ramshorn snails by adding crushed coral or cuttlebone to the aquarium. We'll cover another way to help your snails build stronger bodies and stronger shells. Oddly enough, the diatom algae they eat are also high in calcium content. (You could also buy a brown colored Sharpie and paint in the faded spots -- even better than the hair restorer in a spray can. I've never tested the toxicity of Sharpie ink, so you're on your own there.)
No Operculum. You won't see one of those "trap doors" that slam shut to protect many snail species. If out of the water for extended periods of time, ramshorn snails will dry up and die. Contrast that with a Malaysian trumpet snail which slams shut and can be resuscitated weeks or even months later. Mystery snails can live a week out of the water.
Red Ramshorns. A couple decades ago, red ramshorn snails were more popular in the aquarium hobby. We don't see them much anymore. However, they're still out there in the gene pool -- as the picture above indicates. I've tried to pull out the redder ramshorns in the past and line breed them to re-acquire the red ramshorns. I know they still exist in other parts of the world, but I want my own. My red ramshorn line-breeding attempts in the past have been unsuccessful. Seems like the harder you try to raise snails, the quicker they die (or maybe that's just me.) The reddest ramshorns I've seen in the past, lived in clear or white shells. Unfortunately, I have no current pictures of the reds, they still exist only in my mind.
"Red" Observations. Ramshorn snails or Planorbis rubrum seem to have Red in their scientific name. "Rubrum" usually refers to a red coloration. Theoretically, the red ramshorns contain no melanin, the black pigment. They are red because of their red blood cells. Perhaps the reds are weaker like many deviations from the "norm." Who knows?
Calcium Additives. Ramshorns need a source or two of calcium to build and strengthen their shells -- young ones especially. They pretty much hatch out naked and naïve about the ways of the aquatic world. They soon learn that even small fish consider baby snails a taste treat.
Tank Mates. Most fish will devour baby snails. Some fish love to crunch up the adults or slurp their tender bodies as an appetizer. With fish in the same tank, you'll never see all your ramshorn snails can be. Constant pick, pick, picks by the fish cause your ramshorn snails to clamp to the glass.
More Calcium Comments. Ramshorn snails put a lot of calcium into their shells. The feeder blocks mentioned earlier contain lots of calcium. They can add it to the insides of their shell but can't add it to the outside. However, calcium in the water increases the pH which makes their shells hold up longer.
Snail Killers. Give 'em the finger. Squoosh 'em. This handy method works great on snails under 1/4 inch. As they grow larger, this method becomes much more painful. Use the blunt end of a rubber-handled screwdriver (flat blade or Phillips optional). You can nail many more of them this way. Nail them with a screw driver. Yeah. Paronomasia at work.
Nearly Last Words. I'll add some egg pictures after the ramshorns get down to their main business. I fed them flake fish food just now and I'll be back to capture more details next year (tomorrow). LA.December 31, 2010
Coöperative Egg Layers. Two days later one helpful ramshorn laid a small clutch of eggs on the front glass. Anywhere else and they'd be too hard to photograph. I secured the dime with rubber cement.
Closer to Last Words. We'll track all these egg cases to come up with a more exact gestation period. That first egg case with Roosevelt's picture has already disappeared. Perhaps the larger snails are eating them.
Last Words. Final gestation results are in. At 78 degrees Fahrenheit over a dozen egg "cases" hatched in less than a week. The baby snails are miniscule -- way too smal to photograph. No doubt the larger ramshorns will eat some of them. The majority will join the ranks of the aufwuchs (as the Germans say) and be snacked upon by organisms lurking on a higher rung on the food chain ladder. LA
Laster than Last Words. Well, seems the camera can see better than the (excuse the expression) naked eye. To the left you can see the soon-to-be-hatched eggs. To the right you can see a two or three-day-old newly hatched ramshorn snail. LA
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