MP. & C. Piednoir
Trumpet snails Melanoides tuberculatus.
In the song “El Condor Pasa,”
Paul Simon wrote, “I’d rather be a
sparrow than a snail.” Sure, flight
and larger size seem like an obvious
argument for preferring the former, but
perseverance and success are admirable
traits as well, traits that are common to
many species of the humble snail. In fact,
to be obnoxious and list two more quotes,
preachers and evolutionary biologists
even agree on the survival skills of the
snail. A 19th-century preacher, Charles H.
Spurgeon, stated that, “By perseverance
the snail reached the ark,” and Charles
Darwin noted the only living animals he
found in a brackish stretch of water in an
uninhabited desert were aquatic snails.
Take that, sparrows!
In the aquarium hobby, there is one
species that stands above all the rest as
a snail of perseverance. The red-rimmed
melania or trumpet snail Melanoides
tuberculatus is a hardy and common species
of snail from Southeast Asia found in
thousands of aquaria, probably numbering
in the millions.
Trumpet snails are in the family Thiaridae
and are naturally found in subtropical and
tropical areas of Asia and Africa. They have
a third and very descriptive name as well—
the Malaysian livebearing snail. These snails
can reproduce both sexually and through
parthenogenesis, starting at a size as small
as 10 millimeters! Instead of eggs, these
snails give birth to as many as 70 live young
at a time. With a reproductive strategy like
this, you might guess that they can increase
in numbers rapidly. And you’d be right.
From birth, these snails have their first
two whorls and are ready to take on the
world (or your aquarium). They don’t grow
too large, usually not much more than
an inch, but they can exceed two inches
in deep waters in nature. Their prolific
existence is also not limited by salinity. They
thrive in freshwater to extremely brackish
conditions. Many other freshwater snails do
poorly with salt, and many saltwater snails
do poorly with water that is too fresh.
This also isn’t the most finicky of snails
when it comes to diet. Algae, detritus,
and excess fish food are all on the menu.
Because of their subtropical range, they
can deal with temperatures dropping
well below room temperature, even
Such a tough animal seems like it could
be a great or dangerous thing to have
in an aquarium, but the fact is that the
trumpet snail is both. With the following
knowledge you can decide if you want
to try keeping them, taming them, or
avoiding them all together.
The good side of keeping these snails is
their hardiness and appetites. Few water
conditions are hated by these critters, and
few meals are passed up. Algae and excess
fish food are scourges of most aquariums,
and both of these are relished by trumpet
snails. It is much healthier for wasted
food to be converted into more snails as
opposed to extra nitrogenous waste for
your biofilter load.
The best part about their feeding habits
is the fact they avoid eating live plants.
Another thing appreciated by some live