Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ramshorn Snails in the Aquarium: Good or Bad?

Ramshorn Snails as Pets and Pests - Guide on care, controlling population, pictures & forum
Snails in an aquarium are not to everyone’s taste, a lot of fish keepers regard them as a nuisance that gets out of control, other keepers believe that there are good points out weigh the bad points so therefore they should be included in the tank. I have an open mind on this as I have kept them and still do but I can see both sides to the argument.

Ramshorn snails can include a variety of species of snails that all get classed as one breed in the aquarium trade, the differences between the snails is negligible so many keepers are quite happy with this general classification. Their shells are planispiral, this means that they are similar to a coiled piece of rope or a rams horn, hence the name that they are given.

They all belong to the Family Planorbidae which is the largest family of aquatic pulmonate gastropods; they can be found on most continents throughout the world. They are lung breathers, having no gills they have a large pulmonary sac for the gaseous exchange, this is found on the outer whirl of the shell, and if you shine a light through the shell it should be possible to see the air filled space. The air is collected and trapped by large folds of skin. Another distinguishing feature is that they only have one pair of tentacles which host an eye at the base of each. It is reported that the Planorbidae species can be hosts to pathogenic nematode worms but whether this is correct I cannot say.

Normally these are found with two different skin colorations, either black or red. The red coloration is the color of their blood, unlike other snails that have a green coloration (this is caused by the presence of hemocyanin), these snails blood actually contains hemoglobin. The lack of melanin in the skin reveals the redness. Their shells can be found in a wide range of different colors, opaque right through to a dark brown or black, and with a mixed collection of these I think that they are very pleasing to the eye.

Introduction to the aquarium is often by them being brought in with aquatic plants as clusters of eggs or even juvenile snails, but they are also sold to keepers who purposely wish to use their tank cleaning abilities and prize them for this.

As I have just stated they will rid the tank of algae, also cleaning surface algae of the plants, in general they will not actually eat healthy plants apart from the delicate species such as cabomba or anacharis.

They will travel about digesting rotting leaves or even any fish carcasses that have been missed so they are to me classed as part of a good clean up crew. [...]

In a previous post about Guppies, I had linked to some posts by a Guppy breeder who had mentioned Ramshorn snails as providing beneficial infusoria to the aquarium environment, which lead me to want to know more about them.

Read the rest of this article to find out more details. I've been allowing Ramshorn snails in my tanks, and so far, so good. Some of the plants have had problems with algae on the leaves, I'm hoping they will help manage that.

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