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to as Pilidae). The Ampullariidae are divided in several genera. The genera Asolene, Felipponea, Marisa, and Pomacea are the New World genera (South America, Central America, the West Indies and the Southern U.S.A.), while the genera Afropomus, Lanistes and Saulea are found in Africa. The genus Pila is native in both Africa and Asia. How to recognise an apple snail: basic guide to discriminate between apple snails and other freshwater snails. One of the most characteristic features of apple snails is the tube like organ (siphon) used to breathe while staying submerged. If your snail has such organ it's definitely an apple snail. The shell opening (aperture) of the apple snails increases quickly with Pomacea bridgesii (effuse) every whorl. This gives them a globose (round) shell shape. The eggs of most apple snails are laid above the water level. If your snail laid her eggs above the water, you can be sure it's an apple snail. If not it can still be an apple snail (some apple snails do lay their eggs in the water). The long labial tentacles on each side of the mouth are present in all apple snail species. The shell door, common in the Prosobranchia sub-class, enables the snail to close its shell when the body is retracted.
Apple snails are exceptionally well adapted to tropical regions with periods of drought alternated with periods of excessive rainfall. This adaptation is reflected in their life style: moderately amphibious and being equipped with a shell door enabling the snail to close its shell (to prevent drying out while hiding in the mud during dry periods). A typical adaptation of apple snails is the combination of a branchial respiration system comparable with the gills of a fish (at the right side of the snail body) and a lung (at the left side of the body). This lung/gill combination expands the action radius of the snail in search for food. Many apple snail species deposit the eggs above the waterline in a calcareous clutch. This remarkably strategy of these aquatic snails protect their eggs against predation by fish and other water inhabitants. Another predator specific adaptation in the apple snail genera Pomacea and Pila, is the tubular siphon at their left side, used to breathe air while they stay submerged, thus making them less vulnerable to snail eating birds. Apple snails inhabit various ecosystems: ponds, swamps and rivers. Although they occasionally leave the water, they remain mainly submerged. In spite the fact that many snail species are hermaphrodite (being male and female at the same time) apple snails are definitely not: they have separated sexes (gonochoristic) and a male and a female are needed for reproduction.
The apple snails are popular aquarium-pets because of their attractive appearance and size. When taken good care of some apple snail species can reach a large size (15 cm / 6 inch diameter in case of Pomacea maculata, sometimes faulty referred to as Ampullarius gigas). Apple snails are in fact the biggest living freshwater snails on earth. The most common apple snail in aquarium shops is Pomacea bridgesii (spike-topped apple snail). This species comes in different colours from brown to albino or yellow and even blue, with or without banding. The body of these snails also shows great variation from black to yellow and grey. Another common apple snail is Pomacea canaliculata, this snail is bigger, rounder and is more likely to eat your plants, which makes it less suitable for most aquaria. These snails also come in different shell and body colours. The Giant ramshorn snail, Marisa cornuarietis, although not always recognized as an apple snail due to its discoidal shape, also ranks the popular aquatic pets. Occasionally, the Florida apple snail (Pomacea paludosa) is found in the aquarium trade and are often wild collected from ditches and ponds in Florida. The giant Pomacea maculata, raremy makes its way into aquaria. With tropical fish expeditions, sometimes other apple snail species are collected and offered for sale. Apple snails are often sold under the name Golden mystery snail and are given incorrect names like Ampullarius for the genus instead of Pomacea and species names like gigas instead of maculata. More info about this can be read in the species section of this website. Apple snails that are found in the aquarium trade don't make high demands when it comes to water quality: they can live very well in clear, streaming, oxygen-rich water as well in still water, with rotting organic waste, containing almost no oxygen. In general one should apply the same rules for water quality as with fish (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate etc) and the water should not be too soft. Like most snails, apple snails prefer calcium rich water. If the calcium concentration in the water isn't high enough (soft water), they aren't able to build a strong shell and become susceptible to shell damage, but even in good conditions, some snails still get little holes in the shell surface, especially in the older parts of their shell. This is a naturally occurring process and as long it's only at the surface, you shouldn't worry too much about it. In the 'snail disease' section, you can see an example of a snail with a damaged shell. Young and healthy snails are somewhat protected against this as the outer layer of the shell consist of a protein layer that
A common aquarium pet
prevents a breakdown of the shell, but damaged shells and shells of older snails are quite vulnerable to shell detoriation. Warning! If the tap-water in your area contains copper and/or other metals, use one of these water preparation products that catch away those metals bofere putting the snail in the water. Apple snails are very sensitive for these compounds (especially copper). You won't be the first one loosing a snail due to this snail-toxic substances in the water. If you see that the snails become completely inactive or if the snails, especially the little ones, try to leave the water after a water change: get a product to treat the water (like aquasafe or for those with access to a lab: use EDTA or something similar). When there are many apple snails in a tank, the water tends to become cloudy because apple snails have a large amount of microorganisms in their intestine, which help to digest the food, and which are expelled with the faeces. These micro-organisms (amoebocytes) should not cause any harm to the fish and can even serve as a food source for young fish. Fresh food (lettuce etc.) are more likely to induce this micro-organism based clouding of the water. If the snails are fed with dry fish food, the water will stay cleaner. It is a good idea to do regular water changes if you have many creatures in one tank, just like one would advise with fish, to maintain good water quality and to avoid accumulation of toxic substances and waste. By the way, apple snails are good indicators for the oxygen-level in your tank. When there isn't much oxygen in the water, the snails will regularly come to the surface to inhale fresh air through the breathing siphon. Only when there is enough oxygen for them in the water, they don't need their lung and solely depend on their gill. Apple snails are most active during the night, which already indicates their preference for the darker places of their environment. During the day, they remain mostly in the shadow of plants and creep away in the bottom and/or mud. When the dark comes in, the apple snail becomes more active and crawls around in search for food, a mating partner or a good place to deposit eggs. Keep in mind that there is a large variation in activity levels amongst the different apple snail species. For example Pomacea canaliculata, the common channeled apple snail or better known as the Golden apple snail (incorrect! 'Golden' should only be used for yellow Pomacea bridgesii snails), is relatively active during the day and often risides close to the water surface. Pomacea flagellata, the Mexican or Maya apple snail, hides in the bottom during the day. The well known Pomacea bridgesii (mystery snail, spiketopped apple snail, golden apple snail) fits in between of these two activity levels. Apple snails don't need artificial illumination like TLtubes, but as you probably want to observe them, a standard aquarium light-lid would suffice. If you keep the snails in sunlight, like happens with an outside pond, the shell of the snails become covered with algae, giving them a green and hairy look. This might look scary, but it's harmless for the snails. Suggestion: If you would like to raise baby apple snails, it would be a good idea to provide enough light, so that some algae can grow in the aquarium. Little apple snails have a better chance to survive the delicate first weeks after hatching if they have access to algae as food source. Light dependent growth has been observed by Pomacea glauca. If the snails were kept in a completely dark environment, their growth decreased, compared with animals that were kept in a 12 hour/day light environment.
Apple snails are highly depending on their smell sense. With their smell sense they are able to locate food and recognise other snails of their own species, which is important to find a good mating partner. It's therefore not surprising that apple snail have a well-developed smell sense. The vision of the apple snail on the other hand is rather weak (poor ability to form images and bad image quality) and functions merely as a light direction detector. The tactile sense is well developed as can be seen as the snail walks over a small object or encounters an obstacle. The hearing capabilities of the apple snail are worthless, even more: they are completely deaf.
The Shape of the Shell in genus Pomacea: Calculate your snail's shell volume:
= 1/3Pi * (Shell width/2)^2 * Shell height
The shell of most apple snail species is oval, subglobosely or globosely conic, while some species (like Marisa cornuarietis) have a rather discoidal shell (flat shell). Apple snails have a dextral shell (shell opening at the right like in the picture above) except the apple snails from the genus Lanistes who have a sinistral shell (shell opening at the left), although there are reports of sinistral animals in the other genera
When a snail grows, the shell has to be enlarged to fit the snail's body. To accomplish that, a snail gradually extents its shell by adding new parts at the shell opening. The growth process is carried out in two stages: In the first stage the thin, transparant and organic outer layer (periostracum) is created, on which the calcified inner layers are deposited in the second stage. The shell material is secreted by specialized cells of the mantle. Apple snails can grow their shell very fast under the right conditions: peak rates of 0.5 cm (0.2 inch) new shell a day do occur. The computer animation above illustrated the growth of a shell. The oldest part of the shell is located at the top, while the most recent part is located near the shell opening (aperture). When a new shell part is added, small vertical lines (transverse stria) are formed on the surface of the shell. The thickness and regularity of those lines varies with the environmental conditions, the age of the snail and the species. They provide information about the environmental conditions during the snail's life (similar to what the grains of wood tell us about the life of a tree). The operculum or trapdoor of apple snails grows in a similar way as the shell: a new material is added in a circular fashion. The result is a concentric operculum with the oldest part in the center. The operculum is only enforced with a calcium layer in the genus Pila, the other genera have a horny operculum. Due to the way snails solve the growth problem (enlarging their shell), they always have to carry the whole construction with them, even if they do not inhabit the oldest whorls. Crustaceans and insects, for example, use another option to overcome the growth problem: they regulary shed their whole skin when they grow and replace it with a larger one. The advantage of that method above the snail-grow method is that they do not have to carry around obsolete body parts. On the other hand, a crustacean or an insect is a very vulnerable when it has shed its old skin and the new skin still has to harden
The digestive system of apple snails is adapted to feed on aquatic plants. Roughly it can be in five regions: the intake region (mouth and buccal cavity with radula and jaws), the pre-digestion region (oesophagus with salivary glands, lateral pouchs and crop), digestion region (three chambered stomach with the associated digestive gland), uptake region (intestine) and the excretion region (rectum and anus).
The mouth of the apple snail is a vertical slit opening, located between the labial tentacles and leading to the buccal cavity. Food is located with the labial tentacles and when needed gathered from the water surface with foot.
The buccal cavity, a muscular cavity with a set of calcareous jaws, 2 radula knobs and the radula (rasp tongue), is situated behind the mouth opening. The radula lies on top of the radula knobs (odontophores) and is covered with several rows (26 to 53), each consisting of 7 renewable chitinous teeth. When the radula knobs are moved from each other, the radula is bend and stretched, this spreading the teeth on it, which provides the grasp function. After the food has pulled into the buccal cavity, the strong, calcareous jaws cut off the piece near the mouth opening. When the snail eats, the buccal cavity if brought toward the mouth opening and then a complex mechanism of grasping and cutting starts.
There are several parasites that have snails as an intermediate host. However, apple snails are relatively resistant to many of these parasites, which are often host specific and do not regenerate in other hosts like apple snails. However, at least one parasite (Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a nematode, also know as the rat lungworm), uses the apple snail as an intermediate host. This parasite has the rat as its main host, but humans can be infected when raw snails are consumed. In rare cases this infection can cause eosinophilic meningonencephalitis resulting in severe neurological disorders and even death. But don't worry if you got your snail from a pet shop, the only way the snail can be infected is by living in water were infected rodents (rats or mice) live. And even then, you have to drink the water or eat the snail or your water-plants (on which the parasites attach themselves after finishing their life cycle in the snails and wait there for being eaten by their main-host). If you suspect your snail from being infected, just keep them away from their main host. This breaks the life cycle of the parasite, and you will get lost of them. Beware that it can take a long time, because many parasites are able to have several generations in their intermediate host. Better thing to do is waiting until the snail has laid their eggs and go on with the young, uninfected snails.
Are apple snails an intermediate host for (fish) parasites?
The apple snails are not difficult when it comes to food. Feed them fish-food (food for pond fish, it comes in a big box, consist of big pellets and is inexpensive), cucumber and lettuce. Apple snails consume a lot of aquatic plants and algae and can be very useful in eliminating your algae. In the literature there is an article mentioning that their apple snails stopped reproducing when they where put on a diet, which consisted solely of water hyacinths. They didn't describe if it was the kind of food, or the fact that they could only eat one type of food that caused it. Maybe it might be a good idea to have some variation in their diet. This mainly depends on the species, most species are likely to consume your plants to some degree, while other species don't. Have a look at the Care to find out how to feed your apple snails.
What exactly should I feed my apple snail? I place romaine lettuce at the bottom. Is that good enough?
Do Apple Snails eat aquarium plants?
Apple snails are rather lazy animals, they only creep around if they need to. In other words, when they are hungry or want to reproduce themselves. If they have plenty of food, they will show almost no activity (why should they?). In the case this inactivity sounds familiar to you and you worry about their inactivity, just reduce the amount of food for a week and see if that makes any difference (also check them at night!). Apple snail aren't very selective when it comes to food and some meat is always welcome to them, but healthy fish are simply to fast for an apple snail to capture and to hold. However, if a fish has died the apple snails will certainly consume the remains quickly, sometimes giving the impression that a fish has disappeared and killed by the snails. While fish are fast, other snails aren't and it has been described and observed that at least some apple snails predate on other snails. For example Pomacea canaliculata is know to eat Biomphalaria perigrina (Planorbidae) snails by crushing parts of their shell to expose the softer tissues and Marisa cornuarietis has been observed to eat Bulinus truncatus by putting its proboscis inside its victim's shell. Similar predation practices are described for Pomacea flagellata (on Planorbidae and Lymnaeidae) and Pomacea haustrum (on Planorbidae). In total absence of food even the cannibalism has been observed, mainly on young snails. Also beware for eggs of others snails and fish, they are an easy target for a hungry apple snail!
My snails are inactive for most of the time. Am I doing something wrong? The temperature is OK and the fish seem to be healthy.
Do apple snails eat fish or other creatures?
One of my snails has lost a part of its tentacle. Will it grow back?
Yes, maybe it won't get as long as it was before, but snails have a remarkably ability to repair their body. They can even regenerate a lost eye within 25 days. The regenerated body parts are often somewhat smaller than the original Unfortunately the snail won't survive without the shell. In a normal healthy snail, the body is firmly attached to the shell with the columellar muscle. When this muscle breaks or becomes detached, the snail can loose its shell. Such a situation can be considered lethal, as the shell is vital for the survival of the snail. Without the structural support from the shell, the mantle cavity collapses and both the lung as well the gill function is impaired with suffocation as possible result. Furthermore the shell protects the weak and vulnerable part of the snail, and without this protection, the snail becomes and easy and defenceless target for fish and other predators. Is your snail actually loosens its shell, one should consider to put the snail asleep. The easiest and one of the more animal friendly methods is to place the animal in the freezer at 0° for about 12 hours. Another option is to completely crush C the snail with a heavy stone or hammer. This brutal method is not for the faint of heart and the freezer method is preferably. When the conditions are good, the apple snail species Pomacea maculata can get as big as 15 cm/6 inch diameter. Other species don't grow that big, but there is a big variation between them. Rather expect them to get 5-8 cm/2-3 inch diameter.
My snail is out of its shell. Will it survive?
My apple snail keeps growing. How big can I expect them to get?
Are apple snails hermaphrodite?
No, apple snails are not hermaphrodite like some other snail families (mainly land and freshwater species). This means you'll need a male and a female to get baby snails. A sex change from male to female has been described for some Pila and Pomacea apple
snails. In case of Pila snails, the male needs a preparatory aestivation period to become a female, while the Pomacea snails can possibly change sex at all times. The frequency at which this sex change occurs is not certain. A relative easy (?) way to determine the sex of an apple snail is by taking the snail out of the water, keep it on it's back and wait until the animal comes out of its shell. At that moment you have to take a look at the upper part of the right mantle cavity. Close to the edge of the shell, you can see the penis sheath starting (take a look at the anatomy to get an idea where to look for). Some experience might be needed for this, but once you have seen the difference between the male and the female snail you'll find it less difficult to determine the sex of an apple in the future. Another option is to wait until the snail copulate. When they're mating, the male snail creeps on the shell of the female and puts his penis in her. At that point you know that the one on top is the male and the other is the female. The third way to differentiate the sexes is based on the fact that male snail have a rounder shell opening (aperture). In the case you are the lucky owner of several apple snails, you can compare the aperture height/width to determine the sexes of your snails. There also is a fourth way: killing the animal and having a look at the inside. But I guess you prefer to keep your snails alive Well, apple snails can be very inactive for days (see answer above this one) and if they have a lot of air in their lung, they float (sounds logical isn't it?). Floating of an apple snail doesn't indicate that there is something wrong or that he/she is dead. To check if the snail is alive, take it out of the water and see if you can get it moving by touching the shell door. If the shell is closed completely, then you can be sure that the snail is alive because once the snail is dead, the muscles are relaxed and the shell door stays at least partly open. Another way to check the snails is by looking at the heartbeat (only possible with young snails and snails with a thin shell). To do this, keep the snail in front of a strong light source so the light shines through it and look at the heartbeat. Have a look at the anatomy section to see where to look for. The apple snail's life expectancy mainly depends on the temperature of their environment and the general life conditions. At lower temperatures, the apple snail can get over 3 years old and records of apple snails of ten years old have been reported. Lanistes nyassanus has an estimated life span of 5 to 10 years in Lake Malawi, Africa. At a temperature of 25° they will only live 12-16 C, months. At higher temperatures, the snails are more active because their metabolism increases with the temperature, but this also speeds up their life cycle and thus shortens their life expectancy. So you can elongate your snail's life by lowering the temperature. A general rule: keep the temperature between 18 and 28° (65-82° It is suspected that at least some apple snail species need C F). an aestivation period in the mud to avoid burning-out. Many (also non-apple) snails eat the body of a dead snail and so do some fish like the Siamese algae eater. Not to forget the enormous army of bacteria and other micro-organisms that is heading towards the dead snail and helps to decompose it quickly. But at the other hand it's also good to realise that an apple snail body mainly consist of water and decays quickly, without leaving much behind. Also, remember that the apple snail is attached to its shell with a strong muscle (the columella muscle). Once the snail is dead, this muscle weakens, breaks and the body comes out of its shell Yes, apple snails can be consumed like escargots. They seem to taste somewhat similar. In fact there are restaurants that serve apple snails and they are often offered in Oriental markets.
How can I see if a have a male or a female apple snail?
My snail is floating around for a day now. Is he/she dead or what? What should/can I do?
How old do apple snails get?
I noticed an empty shell in my aquarium. Do other snails or fish eat the body of a dead snail?
Can I eat my apple snails? And any suggestions how to prepare them?