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Pet World Visit
Dateline Des Moines, Iowa, August 14: Aqualand resides in an area surrounded by water (river, ponds, marshes, wetlands) so every so often neighborhood kids (and adult kids) bring in aquatic critters they "harvest" from the wilds of Iowa. Today, in several feeder tanks. I discovered a slough of trapdoor snails. (A slough is exactly 78.) They probably arrived yesterday after I left. They were just too large and too numerous to miss. Here's some of them.
In the Wild: Trapdoor snails get lots of sun in outdoor ponds -- particularly shallow outdoor ponds. As a result they grow a luxurious coat of algae. Trapdoors are reputedly prodigious algae consumers. Maybe. I'm not particularly impressed with their algae consuming talents. The smaller nerite snails easily out-eat them
Excellent Camouflage: It takes a trained eyeball to spot trapdoor snails in a pond. Their algae overcoat blends right into the algae-covered substrate. A trained eyeball learns to spot them. One of their main predators (raccoons) don't depend on sight. They work at night and depend upon their digital dexterity. They're also looking for mussels and crayfish. And they're even happier when they stumble across a snoozing koi or goldfish drifting in your backyard pond. And once they find one, they'll be back every night. They are kind of cute tho. Don't know about your neighborhood, but we've had a lot of rabid raccoons this year. One more reason (whoops, I almost said raison) to keep your pets indoors.
Some Trapdoors Clean Their Buds: Trapdoor snails are apparently fond enough of algae to eat it off each others' shells -- a little like chimps grooming each other. It's much more efficient to remove the algae yourself. It takes them a long time to find each other -- moving targets. When we add feeder goldfish to these aquaria, they accelerate the algae removal process.
Size Comparison: Here's a trapdoor snail plastered against the front glass. We used the old reliable FDR ruler for comparison. Since there's such a large batch of them, we can safely assume this guy is a good representation of their adult size. Note how his antennae are contracted inspite of the absence of "picky" fish or any fish at all. These trapdoors are in feeder goldfish tanks temporarily devoid of feeders. Usually, unpestered snails extend their antennae to the max. He's not used to his new quarters yet.
What's in a Name? "Viviparis" is the easy part. It means giving birth to live babies. No problem there. But "malleatus" means shaped like a mallet. Not exactly like any mallet (croquet?) that I've run across. No matter.
Good Barometers of Water Quality: Trapdoor snails (and other snails) make good indicators of water quality. In fact, any time you see lots of snails run to the top of their tank (except at feeding time), it's time to make a water change.
Dead Trapdoor Snails: If you spot a snail with a half-opened trapdoor, remove it immediately. IMnotsoHO nothing smells worse than a dead snail. They sort of liquefy and turn into a very smelly semi-gel. You can't even toss them in the garbage without bagging them first. A couple of hefty dead snails can take out a whole tank.
Highly Touted Algae Eaters: Nearly every article I read about trapdoors says they are ace algae eaters. That's why they recommend them for outdoor ponds. They say they don't like flake food and really prefer algae. This is not my experience. In fact, just like other snails, they start kicking out kids when fed fish food which contains much more nutrition than algae alone.
What about Those Babies? "Viviparis" means having live babies. Most snails lay eggs. The eggs of trapdoors hatch inside and the babies roll out to make it or break it on their own. Their shells are pretty fragile until they've been on the job a while. I would suspect they'd have problems multiplying in a koi pond.
Definitely not Tropical: Since trapdoor snails grow wild in Iowa, you know they are not tropical snails. They survive under a couple feet of ice. So they make good mixers with goldfish and koi. We keep them in our feeder tanks to keep their tanks scrubbed. And, when making 100% water changes on feeder tanks, we find the trapdoors can handle brand new tap water at whatever temperature it comes out of the hose. We do add a water conditioner when adding new water.
"Tame" Trapdoor Snails: When we order trapdoor snails from one of our wholesalers, they arrive in a much "cleaner" condition -- no algae. I don't know if they hand buff them or raise them in non-sunny locations. These "tame" trapdoors seem a little shyer than those from the wild, also smaller (about 2/3), less robust, and a little lighter colored. Maybe they're not even the same species? Just similar looking. The jury's still out.
Couple Months' Supply: Obviously a clutch of 78 trapdoor snails will last us longer than a month. We like to get a whole passel at once because they help us keep our feeder goldfish tanks healthier. If the feeders get overfed, the trapdoors come to their rescue.
Snails -- Your Fish's Friends: Snails belong on your tank clean up crew. They eat the fish food that beginners especially overfeed. Snail populations are usually triggered by consistently overfeeding your tank. Your snails help you keep your fish tank unclouded and much healthier. Overfeeding causes unsightly and unhealthy bacterial explosions which decrease the oxygen levels and increase the stress level. LA.
3600 Sixth Avenue
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