By Melody McKinnon
P. diffusa Apple Snails are popular among planted tank enthusiasts because they don’t eat healthy plant tissue. Their gorgeous shell shades of gold, pink, purple, ivory and tan make them even more appealing. As the weather warms, Apple Snail egg production often increases and aquarists begin to find clutches above the water line.
Clutches can be left where they’re laid to hatch into the tank. However, there’s more room for error with this method. The clutch can’t be too close to the light or it will dry out. The tank must be humid and warm, yet the clutch cannot be too wet. To improve your chances, you may wish to use one of the following methods of hatching the clutch.
First, the removal. Wait at least 24 hours before attempting to move the clutch. You can gently wiggle the clutch from side to side, not really attempting to move it at first, just applying light pressure. It should loosen and pop right off. Don’t worry about if you damage an egg or two – there can be upwards of 300+ eggs in each clutch so you can spare a couple. If you prefer, you can also use a thin, flexible card.
Hatching Method 1 – One of the easiest methods is to use a ‘breeding trap’ designed for brooding fish. Position the breeder trap so that there is ample space above the water line, very little has to be below it. Float a piece of styrofoam on top of the water. You may wish to place elastics around the styrofoam or use toothpicks to keep the clutch slightly raised. I use elastics along with a bumpy meat tray on top of the styrofoam. This allows for air circulation and prevents rot from laying in too much moisture. Place the cover on the breeding trap, and keep an eye on the clutch. If it appears to be too dry, you can use your finger to lightly moisten it once per day, or mist it lightly. Warmth is also crucial, so a heated tank or one which has the light on for extended periods is advised.
Hatching Method 2 – You can use a container as a snail hatchery, or opt for a small fish tank set up to maintain high humidity levels. Use the same method of floating the clutches on styrofoam as described above, filling the container about half way. Some put small air holes in the lid, but I personally have had better results without the holes. I check the clutch once/day to let in fresh air. Place the container in a warm spot, such as on top of an aquarium light, on a warm appliance such as a refrigerator, or even on top of a computer tower.
Hatching Method 3 – Wrap the clutch loosely in a thin layer of damp paper towel. Place it in a container or bag of air and place the bag or container in a warm spot. Frequently open the bag/container for air exchange and check for signs of hatching. The photo shows a bag of several clutches incubating on an aquarium light.
Many breeders use varying methods, but those are the basics. Warmth and humidity are your number one concern, closely followed by ensuring that the clutch does not stay too wet.
Hatching takes an average of 2-3 weeks. You will notice the clutch growing and the shade will change. Typically they will appear white or very light on the surface as they approach hatching, and you will see dark spots beneath the surface – those dark spots are your snailbies!
Following is an example of the various development stages of P. diffusa clutches:
The clutch on the top left is closest to hatching, closely followed by the clutch on the top right. The Clutch on the top middle is the most recently laid.
When the snails begin to hatch, you can gently swish the clutch through the water to help the newborns along.
I find that hatchlings do much better in a small tank/container with a bare bottom & airstone for the first month of life. It makes it easier for them to move and find food. Then I transfer them to a grow-out tank with a bare bottom and low current until they are large enough to join the community. The environment must be kept clean for healthy growth and shell development.
Applesnails grow rapidly, necessitating a diet rich in nutrients, calcium and other minerals. We feed our growing snails seaweed, blanched greens, blanched zucchini, freeze-dried krill, fortified frozen shrimp, and dehydrated Bottom Bites. Fish food preserved with ethoxyquin should be avoided.
Please note: There can be many, many snails in one clutch. Please ensure that you are able to provide optimum growing conditions for so many snails before hatching a clutch. The snails will usually lay in spurts, leaving you clutches every few days for a number of weeks – that’s a lot of snails! If you are unable to care for them all, you may wish to dispose of the clutches by freezing them as early in the clutch development as possible, then throw them out.
To find homes for your snails, utilize auctions and classifieds, approach a reputable store or offer them at your local fish club auctions. You can usually find homes for them by giving them away or ship them at cost if all else fails. NEVER release snails into the wild!
Melody McKinnon holds 52 certifications revolving around nutrition, biochemistry, general sciences, business, marketing, and writing. She is an accomplished aquarist who focuses on endangered fish, genetics and fish nutrition, including the production of her own line of natural fish food. Melody is also the Journal Design Editor and Community Manager for the American Livebearer Association. You can find her blogging at http://www.AllNaturalPetCare.com and http://www.PetfoodIndustry.com.