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troy.telford

Dalek-Level Snail Extermination?

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About a year back, I made a mistake with my tank:  I decided to add some live plants, but didn't disinfect them first.  The plants I didn't disinfect introduced a population of snails to my tank.  From what I've read, they're either Pond Snails or Bladder snails; I can't really tell which.

 

I repeated the mistake of not disinfecting them again in January, and have been (and will be) dealing with the consequences for a while...

 

Until my fish's infections & possible parasite infections are taken care of (and probably an additional month's time for everybody involved to 'rest'), I have no intention of acting on my snail 'problem'.

 

I want to discuss & think about until then... and I hope this will be a thoughtful discussion.

 

Let's get one thing out of the way:  I want the snails gone. Not mitigated, or have their population kept in check by a predator - I want them gone, exterminated, eradicated, full stop.

 

I realize that the snails aren't harmful, and that there are positive aspects to their presence. I accept they are natural, and have benefits to the aquarium.

 

That said, if I wanted snails, I'd get snails that can't self-reproduce, so I could control the population.

 

My brother has a tropical tank with the same problem (mea culpa, I think), and he wants the snails gone as well... (his problem is far, far worse than mine, but he's new to the hobby and was massively overfeeding. 6-year old kids probably contributed to that... :no: )

 

Mechanical removal is a start, and my fish, at least, help with that, but the curséd things self-fertilize, so one egg is all it takes to re-populate the tank.

 

I really don't want do break down the tanks, sterilize them (and the filters), and then re-cycle the tanks. (Especially as I only have my small quarantine tank, so I'd have to cycle with my fish).

 

I've read a lot of people get assassin snails to cull the herd, and others use loaches to eat the snails.  From what I've read, that seems to be the limit of their effectiveness - the predators keep the pond snails in check, but don't actually exterminate them.  (Is that accurate?) in both cases, it adds to the bio-load of the tank.

 

I've read that there are medications (some ich treatments, fenbendazole, copper-bearing medications) which will exterminate snails. Obviously, this comes with a level of risk to the tank's population (and is certainly more dangerous than the snails themselves). Let's assume that's something I (or my brother) is willing to live with.

 

So what options for exterminating the snails are the least harmful to fish?

Edited by troy.telford

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Move the fish. Borrow a puffer. Snails -- POOF! :lol

In all seriousness, though, be careful of anything that will cause a mass snail die-off. Rotting snails will destroy your water quality in no time at all, making ammonia levels deadly for your fish.

The best way is the dreaded tear-down and cleaning, IMHO.

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This is a story of two tanks:

In my tank, they're not really much of a problem:

  • When I change the filter cartridges in my HOB filter every two , I've seen between 7 & 8 very small snails (1-2 mm). I've never seen any snails in my actual tank, only in the filter.
  • Because of this, I'm not convinced there would be much to worry about with a snail die-off.

 

By brother's tank, on the other hand, is a different story:

  • Lots of snails
  • He's changing the water 50% daily (He got a new tank, and decided to do a live cycle with small tropical fish).
  • He removes snails daily

 

In both cases, I'm not very concerned with rotting snails, because the snails are physically removed when found, and we're already watching the water quality.

 

We're both primarily concerned with eggs & ending reproduction.

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I've not tried killing snails before, just tried keeping them alive. I think my goldfish kill them *cry*

The medications you listed all cause problems for snails, but I think it depends on the type of snail to how they react. Some are more sensitive. You'd have to research doses. Even prazi is supposedly harmful. One of the mods would have to tell you which is least harmful to goldfish.

I personally would just keep the tank/filter clean for a while. Since they're just in your filter, clean it weekly. I know I've read of people using a piece of lettuce or something the snails would like, then take it out when the snails get on it.

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Assassin snails.

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I think my goldfish kill them *cry*

 

I'm pretty sure my goldfish eliminate any snails they can physically reach, if they are large enough to see.

 

 

Since they're just in your filter, clean it weekly

 

I know the eggs can be found outside the filter, as I managed to 'infect' my brother's tank with a decoration.

 

I don't see how the snails would be limited to just the filter, and cleaning it has no lasting effect (I tried that for a few months and finally gave up); the snails always return.

 

I suspect I have snails pretty much everywhere in my tank, but are too small for me to see. I only start seeing them when they approach a millimeter in size.

 

 

Assassin snails. 

 

Do they attack millimeter and smaller-sized snails (which can still breed)?  Can I just throw one in my HOB and expect it to exterminate all of the snails and eggs?

 

What happens when you remove the assassin snail? It will not be a permanent resident.

Edited by troy.telford

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I opened up my SunSun canister to clean it, took out all the media trays, and there were THOUSANDS of snails living in it. Teeny tiny black snails. I scraped them all out and flushed them.

 

Manual removal is the best. Luckily it sounds like you have large snails, so you can see them, I can't see mine in the tank to remove them :-(

 

There are "Snail Traps" but I don't know how reliable they are. Loaches only do so much, if the snails are too small they aren't going to bother. 

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I've literally re-written this post for a couple of hours, each time having an 'Aha!' moment and starting over.

The more I think about it, the more I realize RanchuDressing is right... (love the name BTW, even if I don't get its meaning)

There's a whole lot less risk in picking up my fish & moving them to a smaller/cycled tank for a few days than there is in using a selective poison (i.e. any of the treatments I mentioned earlier).

I'm no biologist, but I know enough about gardening to think of any potential snail killer like it's an insecticide: The two dominant insecticides (Neonicotinoids and pyrethrins) are highly poisonous to insects (and fish), but are relatively nontoxic to mammals and avians. The thing is "relatively nontoxic" is still slightly toxic.

So... how does this sound for a plan:

I've never broken down a tank before, so let me know if/where I'm not thinking things through

  • Setup my 20 gallon QT tank, do a "fishless cycle" to establish the bacterial filter in it.
  • Pick a weekend for the teardown & buildup. (After the QT tank's nitrogen cycle is established)
  • Take my fish out of my main tank, perform some sort of dip to ensure there's no chance of snails moving over
  • Transfer the fish to the cycled QT tank. It's way to small for them, but they hopefully won't be there for long.
  • Pull out any aquatic plants, and disinfect them the way I should have to begin with (chlorine and/or potassium permanganate bath). Put in dechlorinated water in the sun.
  • Drain my main tank.
    • Sterilize the main tank: Use oxidizers like chlorine bleach, potassium permanganate, and hydrogen peroxide in successive treatments.
      • At least one water rinse between chemicals
      • Really rinse out the tank.
    • Sterilize my aquarium canopy (glass).
    • Sterilize any filter equipment: The canister, hoses, filter media
    • Sterilize any decorations, let them dry out for a few weeks in the desert heat.
    • Move my tank's stand a bit (I really should pull it out another 4-6 inches from the wall)
    • Sterilize all of my water changing equipment, similar to the tank.
  • Refill my main tank
    • Put in new substrate (which I want to do anyway; I want to ditch the gravel)
    • re-plant the tank (with disinfected plants)
    • let it run at least overnight (or x days...)
  • Transfer my fish from the QT tank to the main tank, and transfer the HOB filter from the QT tank to preserve and/or speed the establishment of the biological filter in my main tank.
  • Watch both water parameters
  • Nervously watch for a snail outbreak...
Edited by troy.telford

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After the cycle is established, I'd first hit the tank you're nuking with the hottest water your water source can produce. Let it sit for about 30 minutes.

When you empty it, there should be a large number of dead/disabled snails already draining out. You can also hit the filter with scalding hot water and drain it separately, so you can see the results. Stir it around and rinse a couple of times to dislodge anything hiding that's already been killed.

Then after that, yes, bleach would be a good option. I do not use any solution percentages, I just dump a bunch of water in and a bunch of bleach.

You can let it sit as long as you'd like, I'd also just throw in all submersible equipment into the tank so it can all disinfect at the same time.

The plants can sit in PP for rather extended periods of time.

Bleach, only some plants tolerate it well. If you have thinner/delicate plants, I advise that you do not use bleach on these.

I killed off all of the snails I once had with only hot boiling water and stirring my sand around, but bleach will probably work to ensure they're 100% gone, as I believe it will stop the development of egg sacs.

Edited by Chai

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How 'bout following the hot water with some hot garlic butter? Escargot...

Actually, I love the idea of hot water. Any danger of the aquarium glass cracking?

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Always a danger, but not likely if you are careful. Let the tank come to room temperature before hitting it with the boiling water to be safe.

I would suggest taking the sand out and cleaning it in a bucket if possible. Rotting anything can screw with your tank and fish.

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also, do not add cold water once you dump the hot water out as the change in water temperatures can crack the glass as well.

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How 'bout following the hot water with some hot garlic butter? Escargot...

Actually, I love the idea of hot water. Any danger of the aquarium glass cracking?

I honestly didn't even think of the dangers of cracking when I did it. I did start off with hot and then REEEEEALLLLLYYY hot water once the tub had become scalding hot.

I rinsed the sand very very thoroughly with hot water multiple times, almost until it was clean.

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I have an occasional issue with limpets (also brought in on plants).  I've found that when I slack on the filter maintenance, or am not perfect about vacuuming under every piece of driftwood every time, their populations explode.  If you're extra super clean, there won't be so much organic matter for the snails to eat, and the population will take care of itself.

 

I would suggest an assassin snail or two for total eradication, but I definitely feel that if you're having mega-snail issues, there must be enough in the tank for them to support such a population.

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I have an occasional issue with limpets (also brought in on plants). I've found that when I slack on the filter maintenance, or am not perfect about vacuuming under every piece of driftwood every time, their populations explode. If you're extra super clean, there won't be so much organic matter for the snails to eat, and the population will take care of itself.

I would suggest an assassin snail or two for total eradication, but I definitely feel that if you're having mega-snail issues, there must be enough in the tank for them to support such a population.

I would not suggest assassin snails if you don't want any snails bc if there's enough resources these snails can populate fast too (I also find they grow slower and are more difficult to find in a tank)

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I was told over a year ago by someone on this forum never use hot, hot, water while disinfecting a/my tank for the seams of the tank could possibly come undone.   Then you'll have a leak. :)   

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I'm just curious why you don't want any snails? 

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I don't want pond/bladder snails for some of the same reasons most people don't want mice or rats in their home: they are uninvited, invasive, optimistic feeders that breed as much as is possible. When they eventually die, they rot, hurting the air/water quality.

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Ok thanks.

 

It seems people have differing views on snails. I find them to be a great source of free food. I noticed you said you were feeding your fish about .33% body weight per day, yet they continue to grow. Maybe they are snacking on the snails. I know I try to keep a supply of the little guys in my tank but my crew of fish eats em up so fast they are gone in no time. I also don't quite understand what you mean by opportunistic feeders... Do you feel like they are outcompeting your goldfish for food? They don't really eat the same food, and even if they did, the goldfish would easily be able to take whatever food they wanted before a snail could get to it. 

 

I'm not trying to convince you to change your mind, just offering the other side.

Edited by DieselPlower

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I have assassin snails (they are actually whelks) and they completely eradicated the huge and fast producing pond snail/ramshorn populations in my trop tank.  Completely.  

 

I had a huge infestation of those pests despite always inspecting, rinsing, and PPing my plants before adding them to the tank.  It took about 3 months to get rid of them completely as I recall--I put 8-10 assassins in my 100 G tank.  They themselves reproduce, but much more slowly.  Once the snails are gone, they just eat fishfood. Now, a year or more later,  I have a heap of assassins, but I rarely see them as they dig into the sand and tend to come out only at night.  When I leave Korea, I have no doubt that my LFS will be happy to take them all and resell them, as they are real problem solvers in planted tanks and hard to find.  The only downside is that I had to remove my beloved nerites, which kept my tank crystal clear, to keep them safe from gangs of assassins. (They just went in the  goldfish tank.)

 

That said, doing it over, I'd remove the fish if I could and try a puffer for a month first next time. (Of course, I guess I'd then have a puffer that would need to be set up its own tank and the end of this, unless I could find a "loaner puffer".)

 

Prior to turning to assassins, btw, I broke down the tank and PPed it and plants again, but snails came back anyway.  Frankly, I have my doubts about the full effectiveness of PP when it comes to snails/eggs (not sure which are surviving the PP treatment, my guess is the latter), but moved to PP from bleach some time ago as bleach treatments caused too much damage (killed) the less hardy plants. I tried alum, too, on new plants prior to putting in the aquarium, but haven't enough experience with it to really speak to its effectiveness in killing snails/eggs--it doesn't seems to hurt the plants, though. 

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I've read a lot of people get assassin snails to cull the herd, and others use loaches to eat the snails.  From what I've read, that seems to be the limit of their effectiveness - the predators keep the pond snails in check, but don't actually exterminate them.  (Is that accurate?) in both cases, it adds to the bio-load of the tank.

 

Two years ago I had the same problem.  I purchased 8 assassin snails on line (ebay).  It took several months, but these snails exterminated every one of the pond snails.  They are small, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length.  Some died, but I have at least 3 or 4 still living in the tank.  The bio load is negligible, I think, since the number of multiplying pond snails far outweighed the few assassins.

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