How long have you been keeping fish for? If your answer is more than 2 or 3 years, then you might be a little fed up with small fish and want to try something new. Anything new doesn’t have to mean big and sensitive fish like discus or alligator gars. A simple creature like a snail can also be a new and exciting addition to your freshwater tank. One such popular snail is the ramshorn snail or ram’s horn snail.
In this article, we will be looking at the basic guide of the ramshorn snail. You need to know several things before adding this snail in your tank and I have discussed all those things here in this article. This guide includes diet, advantages, disadvantages, diseases, and breeding of this snail.
Introduction To Ramshorn Snail
Ramshorn is a family of air-breathing freshwater snails. The scientific name Planorbidae represents the whole family rather than a species. The snail’s curved shell represents a ram’s horn. As a result, it gets the name. The term ramshorn snail is used for aquatic pulmonated gastropod mollusks of the family Planorbidae.
In the aquarium trade, the ramshorn snail represents all snails with planispiral (flat coil) shells. Ramshorn snails can be kept as pets but can sometimes appear in your tank unwantedly. Nowadays, snails are becoming quite popular in home-aquariums and ramshorns can be a great choice.
Origin Of The Snail
The snail historically existed only in North Carolina. It originated mainly from four areas in the Cape Fear River Basin. Greenfield Lake, Orton Pond, Sand Hill Creek Pond, and McKenzie Pond are the major areas of its origin. Although today you can get them in almost any pet shop, it is impossible to find them in their natural habitat. This is mainly because of excessive trading and an increase in invasive predators. It was last seen in its natural habitat in 2004-2005.
How Did A Ramshorn Snail Get In My Tank?
Despite never buying one, you might notice them one day unexpectedly roaming around in your tank. This might strike you as a surprise but it is not a big deal. The only reason behind their unwanted presence in your tank is a live plant. Since these snails lay sticky eggs in clusters, there is a possibility that one of the plants that you purchased came with eggs. After a few days, if the egg is not consumed by other fish then you will see a baby snail roaming around in the tank.
Sometimes the snail might itself attach to the plants rather than eggs. So, to avoid any snail surprises, it is important to rinse the plants properly before adding them to your tank.
The snail appears in two different skin colors, black and red. Their blood has a lot to do with their body color. The snail with dark body color has blood with greenish hemocyanin. Their dark skin pigment is called melanin. Others with red bodies have hemoglobin in their blood. The red skin is the color of their blood which is visible because of the less opaque skin.
These snails are extremely small with the maximum size being about an inch. The great ramshorn can sometimes reach 1.6 inches.
The snail has one pair of tentacles and the eyes lie at the base of these tentacles.
Their shell resembles a spiral shape created by a rope or a ram’s horn. The color of the shell can vary widely. The shell can range from being translucent to having different shades of browns and black color. Blue, spotted and red shells are also quite common because of breeding in captivity.
The shells have a hole at the center and sometimes you might notice some skin emerging out. The ramshorn snails don’t have operculum on their shells. This is a small lid that acts like a trapdoor and is present in most freshwater snails. The absence of operculum allows these snails to breathe oxygen. This also has other benefits like helping the snail get away from predators which we will discuss later.
The ramshorn snail is commonly available in captivity. You can purchase them from any fish store at a cheap price. The snail doesn’t have a fixed market value and the price depends upon the size of the stock that the seller has.
In the wild though, these snails are rare and are considered by many as extinct too. But they won’t completely disappear from the earth until the fish-keeping hobby continues.
In a healthy tank with suitable conditions, this snail can live for around 1-3 years. As the snail grows its shell becomes less transparent and grows wider. This is one reliable way to guess the age of a ramshorn snail.
Benefits and Disadvantages Of Keeping Ramshorn Snails As Pets
Before keeping a ramshorn snail there are several pros and cons that you should be aware of. Neglecting these facts can surely hit you hard in the future.
Benefits Of Keeping Ramshorn Snails As Pets
- The positive side of keeping these snails is that they are detritivores. This means that they carve decaying plants, animals, and other organic matters including detritus, remaining food particles, and fish poop. So, they reduce the mechanical filtration load on your filter by keeping your tank clean. As long as these snails are present in your tank, you won’t have to worry about floating wastes and foul smell.
- Adding invertebrates to any tank is an exciting new challenge. These snails add a spark into your ecosystem and make your fishkeeping experience more exciting.
- These snails prefer dead leaves and rotting tips over live plants. So, having them in a planted tanked doesn’t put the plants at high risk.
Disadvantages Of Keeping Ramshorn Snails As Pets
- The main problem with keeping these snails is that they can multiply quite quickly and invasively. These snails are hermaphrodites and reproduce asexually. So, even one snail in your tank can produce multiple snails within months. The main reason behind this is the abundance of edible food for them in the tank.
- Now, you might think that the more snails you have, the better filtration is achieved. But things aren’t always that easy. These snails neglecting their feces as food creates another huge problem in the tank. Although you can handpick the unwanted snails and remove them from the tank, it only needs a small one to start the cycle all over again. I will discuss the ways to control their infestation in the below sections.
- Another disadvantage is that most snails carry flukes and disease with them. This is because they are kept in a poorly managed environment. Especially pond-raised snails can carry dangerous flukes and parasites.
Social Behavior And Tankmates
Ramshorn snails are peace-loving creatures. This is something they have adapted to because of their inferior status in the food chain and small size. Because of this they often become the target of aggressive fish and face bullying and threats in the tank. Fish like bettas, cichlids, goldfish, loaches, Pufferfish, and Crayfish either show aggressive behavior towards the snail or eat them. Apple snails and assassin snails are also great threats to ramshorn snails.
You could use these snails as food for your fish but you should avoid aggressive fish in you want to keep them. The absence of operculum in their shells has a lot to do with them being eaten by predators.
The suitable tankmates for these snails would be calm and small fish likes Tetras, Gourami, Livebearers, Danio, Rasboras, Discus Fish, and Small Shrimps.
How Does A Ramshorn Snail Get Away From Predators?
Ramshorn snails have their unique way of getting away from predators. However, this method is only applicable when they are floating on the surface. Because of the absence of operculum in their shell, these snails can hold air inside their shell. This allows them to float freely and upside down on the surface.
When they sense any disturbance in the water, they immediately release the air and sink to the bottom. This is how they make themselves safe from predators. This method can only help them get away from surface predators and won’t work with fish most of the time.
How Well Do They Get Along With Plants?
If you are keeping only these snails in your tank, then plants will contribute a lot to their diet. But this doesn’t mean that they are not compatible with plants. Instead, they reduce unwanted plants like algae in your tank by eating them.
Snails mostly devour on plants with soft leaves and stems. So, any plants that have hard parts are safe from these snails. For example, a plant, like Anubias Barteri is completely safe in a ramshorn tank. You can also prevent them from destroying your aquatic vegetation by feeding them regularly with vegetables, commercial supplements, and maybe dead fish.
Things To Consider While Buying A Ramshorn Snail
You must pay close attention to this snail before buying or else you might end up with an unhealthy one. One major thing to consider is that the pond-reared ramshorn snails might carry parasitic flukes. So, if you have expensive fish in your tank, you better avoid the snail.
A proper way to differentiate a healthy snail is by observing its movement. A healthy snail always keeps on moving, wiggling, or eating. A healthy snail has a crack-less shell with uniform color or pattern.
Since these snails have a short lifespan of 2-3 years, it is better to buy a young one. A young snail has transparent or translucent shells whereas old shells get more solid. If the snail is kept in a dirty tank with sick looking or dead tankmates, better avoid it. Also, ensure that the snail has both tentacles emerging from the top of its head.
Caring For The Ramshorn Snail As Pet
As a responsible fish-keeper, you have to take care of any species in your tank, even if it is unwanted. I have prepared a basic care guide of the ramshorn snail that you might find very helpful.
The ramshorn snail is not that demanding regarding the tank size. Any small tank from 5 to 10 gallons or even larger than that would be perfectly fine. Sometimes people even go for tanks smaller than 5 gallons. The only thing that affects these beings is tankmates. As long as the tank has calm fish of small size and a secured lid, a ramshorn snail will survive easily.
Plants having hard leaves and stems are safe from these snails. The green plants and bright colors on the snail can bring life to your aquarium. A ramshorn snail loves to enjoy and explore so you can install caves and rocks and other commercial decorations. The snail will also clear algae from the decorations.
A normal community tank light will not affect this fish at all. Instead, the light will help in the plant’s growth which is beneficial for the snail. So, install lights that favor other species in the tanks.
Ramshorn snails are detritivores, meaning they will devour on waste and detritus in the tank. Their diet consists of dead and decaying fish and plants. They will eat anything that fits in their mouth. If you are keeping them in a species only tank with no plants, their diet should include flakes, pellets, bottom feeder tablets, algae wafers, and calcium-rich supplements.
Although these snails act as filter feeders, it is important to clean the aquarium regularly. You should remove any dead fish before ammonia levels increase. These snails will as help in fighting algae overgrowth by eating them.
Importance Of Calcium In Their Physical Growth
Calcium plays a vital role in the growth of these snails. The presence of calcium in the water and the food especially helps in the shell growth. Shells are important assets of any healthy snails. So, feeding them with food rich in calcium and mineralizing the water with calcium helps them remain healthy and thrive properly. An insufficient amount of calcium in their diet makes them lazy and drowsy.
The chicken eggshell powder can be a good and easy source of calcium for snails. Crushed corals, calcium blocks, and cuttlefish bones are other major sources of calcium.
Like any other aquatic creature, snails also prefer specific water parameters. Maintaining these parameters results in healthy snails with solid shells.
These snails a temperature of about 70°F – 78°F. The too high or low temperature might affect their shells. But they can adapt to different temperature ranges.
pH And Hardness
These snails prefer slightly basic water because acidic water can leach their shells. So, maintain a pH of about 7-8.
The water in the tank can be hard 5-15 DH. This is because they thrive in hard water with the rich calcium content.
Having crystal-clear water in their ecosystem is quite important. This allows them to move freely and explore the tank. Having a clean tank also prevents them from parasites and bacterial infections.
The tank must be properly aerated and oxygenated. Since they are air-breathing snails, they come at the surface to breathe. So, having an air-pump is not necessary.
Maintain Water Parameters
While keeping this or any type of snails, you must be careful about nitrate and ammonia levels. You should use water test kits to ensure that the levels are always at 0ppm. You should also take the necessary actions to reduce acidity in the water.
Another major concern regarding snails is copper. Copper can be fatal even in a small concentration. So, you must take necessary actions to reduce the level of copper at all costs.
A weekly water change, of about 10% is important for these snails as any other fish. Regular water change, water tests, and necessary treatments will surely help your snail thrive without any diseases.
With these snails, you won’t have to worry about the disease they will get. But the infections that they bring in the tank can be a big concern. In fish stores, they are kept in harsh environments with lots of flukes and diseases. When you introduce such infected snails in your tank, your whole tank gets affected. These flukes can cause stress and other physical infections ultimately, leading your fish to death.
So, before adding any snail to your tank, it is better to put them in a quarantine tank for about a month. You can add copper-free anti-biotics in this tank, to make sure that the snail doesn’t carry any infections.
Ramshorns are hermaphrodites and can reproduce asexually. Even a single snail can give birth to more than a dozen eggs at a time. These eggs appear in clusters of 12 eggs all over the tank especially on plant leaves and stems. After several days baby snails will be visible inside the egg. After hatching out, baby snails will immediately start looking for food and are on their own.
You won’t have to worry about the babies’ diet. They will eat anything they find.
If the tank is predator-free and has a proper environment then all the snails will emerge out healthy. This can also create a huge problem in your tank.
Controlling The Overpopulation Of Ramshorn Snail
It is important to have control over the growing population of snails. This creates stability and ensures that no creature dies of starvation. Here are some effective ways of controlling the invasive ramshorn snail:
This is the simplest way to remove unwanted snails in your tank. You can find them sticking to glass, leaves, and decorations. After removing them from the tank you could leave them in a nearby pond, sell them or feed to your bigger fish.
Using food baits like lettuce or cucumber can be effective in bringing them to the desired spot. After these snails climb on the food or specific area, you can remove them easily. But before baiting these snails, you should starve for almost a day. You can cut off their diet by only feeding the fish and immediately removing any uneaten food. This starves all the snail population in your tank and attracts all of them to any kind of food baits quite easily.
Introducing fish like bettas, loaches, and cichlids in your tank can eliminate all the snails within days. This is the easiest method if you already have these fish.
Another popular predator for these snails is the Assassin Snail. These snails are specialist predators and the ramshorn is a perfect meal for them. Assassin Snails don’t t breed as invasively as ramshorn and are a lot easy to control.
Reducing Food For The Snail
The main reason behind snails being invasive is because of your habit of overfeeding them. If you see too many snails, that is probably because of you. So, stop feeding them entirely or reduce the amount of food by almost half. This will prevent the snails in your tank from reproducing.
Treating Newly Bought Plants
Most of the time these snails appear unexpectedly in your tank. They stick themselves to the plants, hatch, and eventually multiply in your tank. So, before adding any new plants in your tank, you should treat them with snail poisons in a quarantine tank. Another method is to soak the plants in a solution of water and chlorine bleach for 10 minutes. This solution must have 20 parts of water and 1 part of bleach.
All in all, ramshorn snails are a great addition to freshwater tanks. Their vibrant colors hardy nature will make your fishkeeping experience more exciting. But you must be careful before adding them and take necessary precautions. I think I have included every information regarding these snails. If you are planning on keeping these snails than you should be ready to do so.
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