plants is the loosening of the gravel, which
is caused by these burrowing snails. Most
other snail choices (including pond snails
that sneak in on live plants) don’t have
these desirable qualities. Excess dead plant
material is also nicely eaten away by these
omnivores, adding to their tempting resume
as planted-tank additions.
Dream come true, right? Well, nothing
succeeds like success—and nothing
succeeds more like extreme success! These
snails are so good at eating and making more
snails that it’s nothing short of astounding.
Trumpet snails can find food everywhere,
from an inch above the surface of the water
to the bottom of the gravel bed. Their feet
hold strong in currents, and they move
relatively fast for a snail (see some time-elapsed videos on the Internet for amazing
evidence of this!). They can also endure the
nipping of small fishes and the crushing
jaws of moderately sized fishes (although
I’ll discuss specialized predators soon).
Primarily nocturnal, M. tuberculatus are most easily removed from the aquarium at night when
they are out in force.
But wait, is this a problem? It is if you
let it get too far. These numbers can get
so high that you have a whole new group
of animals adding to your bioload. What
is worse than that is what can happen to
your filter intakes. If you have powerheads,
these snails can rapidly clog up these filters
and even find their way to the impellers.
Once up against the impellers, you can get
a horrible rattling sound and even a broken
impeller. Also, you never know exactly how
many you have because of their proclivity to
hide in the gravel. Turning on the lights in
the middle of the night has brought a gasp
to more than one aquarist (they often come
out in force at night). Cosmetically, they can
get in the way of the look you want for your
tank. Not everyone wants a snail tank.
No pet store has avoided that dreaded
question of, “How do I get rid of these
snails?” Tales of snails surviving excessive
salt and even dried-up gravel abound.
Overheating, cooling, and molten lava all fail
to slow their progress. Okay, maybe not the
lava, but these are indeed amazing survivors
that just don’t go away without a fight.
What is the best remedy for a species
that is so tough and prolific? Is it a fight
that can be won? Is it one worth fighting?
First of all, it is possible, but you may
be better off just keeping the numbers
low instead of eradicating them. Low
populations give you the benefits without
the major problems.
Trumpet snails may leave the water to escape nippy tankmates (such as guppies) or go after food
items above the waterline.
If you want to eradicate them, there are
plenty of options here, too. You can empty
and bleach a tank, which is dramatic. More
dramatic (and possibly the worst decision)
is to use over-the-counter chemicals that
claim to specifically kill snails. Many of
these chemicals include copper, which is
actually toxic to just about any living thing.
Luckily for the fish, they’re bigger. That
means they won’t die at certain copper
levels, but it doesn’t mean they won’t feel
any sub-lethal effects. Another option to
affect snail success is water conditions.
When water gets to a certain level of
softness and low pH (below neutral), these
snails have trouble building their shells.
But the best solution out of all of these
choices is to feed your fish less! Excessive
feeding is cleaned up by these snails, but if
you abuse this benefit they offer, they’ll take
all that extra food and make extra snails.
Cut things back and the snail numbers will
follow suit. For the impatient, you can put
a large piece of lettuce in the aquarium at
night to snag large numbers of snails at a
time, speeding up the process.
Should you want a more gladiator-type
approach, there are fish that relish the
Tropical Fish Hobbyist www.tfhmagazine.com