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Fast facts on Ampullaria sp.



by Francesco Zezza

Biotope: Almost cosmopolitan, with many species (Family: Ampullariidae) living in an area stretching from Southern U.S.A. and Central and South America up to Africa and Asia. They seem to prefer waters with moderate (to none) flow and are, so far, the biggest freshwater snails living on earth.

Common Name(s):  Apple Snails. Golden Apple Snails, Mistery Snails and more …

Tank: I keep (and have kept) them in tanks ranging from 75 to 300 liters with no (at least detectable) troubles. With all kind of possible aquascaping; see (below) the voice “Food” for troubles that could possibly arise in planted tanks.

Water chemistry: considering the wide part of the world these snails live in they’re not at all demanding. My experience says moderate to highly alkaline lukewarm/hot water does well, while too acidic environment (because of the lack of “salt” in the water itself) could lead to problems with their shell. Never allow water temp to drop below 18° C (65° F).

Spawning: After having mated under water many of them lay eggs (in calcified clutches) ABOVE the water level on, say, branches, swamp canes and alike

Food: All are absolutely NOT fussy, many (but not all of them) are “hard-core” vegetable eaters;  beware of this since they can destroy a beautiful planted tank in days (do make your test before). On the other hand they’re excellent scavengers. My actual Ampullarias – as said! - DO NOT feed on vegetables (see picture below, one specimen is patrolling the bogwood in the P. scalare tank) … but, even if yours do, never forget a certain amount of “animal matter” in their diet

Tank Mates: This is (under given circumstances) a tricky matter since many fishes can bite their long antennas/tentacles forcing them to stay retired in their shell which is NOT acceptable for their well-being

Peculiar Biology: These animals have also a rather odd biology with a top example being their respiratory system adapted to tropical environment (which may occasionally  dry up completely). Thus, each animal has lungs AND gills (to the best of my knowledge ONE EACH, but I’m not 100% sure). This fact allows them – for instance – to thrive also in water with an extremely low oxygen content and/or feed in aerial environment, too.

Others: Ampullaria snails have been introduced in areas in which they didn't exist originally, adapting extremely well to their new environment and are nowadays considered a pest in many places.

SAFETY PRECAUTION: Ampullaria Snails are said to be the possible (natural) carrier on some SERIOUS illness, for this reason extreme care should be taken in dealing / handling wild specimens (I agree that it is not that common, but better safe than sorry …) and it is better to buy only quarantined specimens coming from a reputable source.

Oddities: One of the “lullabies” Leonardo’s Grand-Grandmother (92 yrs old!) often sings to him refers to snails.. so, it was no wonder that when he spotted them in one of the fish shops I visit regularly he asked about them with curiosity … … to make a long story short four of them are now walking (snails do not swim!) in our tanks. This is the second time (ever) I deal – after a long break - with these animals.

A good book on Ampullaria snail: Apple Snails in the Aquarium: Ampullariids : Their Identification, Care, and Breeding. This book by Gloria Parrera and Jerry G. walls nicely covers all aspects of Apple snails keeping (including, if I correctly remember, some recipes to cook them … this latter aspect NOT being that common in pet books). I enjoyed it a lot.

My final tip: I would like to draw your attention to a matter which you should always keep in mind. ALWAYS keep your snails under surveillance. If one of them doesn't look well, you better remove it in a separate tank till it recovers. A dead specimen (like most invertebrates, -a fact marine tank keepers know pretty well) can turn – in hours – even the best kept tank in a “nastily smelling swamp”

Images of my actual Ampullarias

These are “NON-vegetable eating” specimens (four in all). One (out of two) of the long cephalic tentacles is clearly in sight (up).

A view (image shot in the Ancistus grow-out tank) of the “foot” while the snail is climbing the front glass of the tank …

Moving at the bottom of the tank looking for morsels of food (part of the operculum the brownish disc close to shell itself is in sight). These snails are an excellent addition to the (so called) “scavenger team”

Pictures (the second one being a close-up) showing (in my humble opinion) a mating pair. I’ll keep You informed on the matter … stay tuned!

Images of the shell of one of my previous Ampullaria

Rather big, isn’t it?!?!? This used to be a (furious) vegetable eater, four of them “heavily pruned” (LOL!) a well planted 300 litre tank in less than two days ... The story took place many years ago; the odd thing is that I can’t spot any (noticeable) difference when comparing this shell with the ones of the snails I keep now…

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