Posted 2009.08.16 6.47 in Aquaria by Stephanie

WMDSThere comes a time when one must stop and consider the ramifications of having eleventy-million pest snails in their fish tank. Specifically, that time is when there are so many pest snails that they start taking up residence upon the other critters that you actually paid money for and gave names to.

Then, as adverse as I am to such concepts, it becomes unavoidable to realize that the pest snails have become a problem, and have outstayed their welcome. It is still a difficult choice, but when weighing the wellbeing of the three big cute applesnails that one has paid money for, given names to, and observed the development of their individual personalities, versus the aforementioned eleventy-million nameless identical tiny pests that have now invaded every nook and even the crannies… it becomes clear that something must be done. One realizes, it is time to deploy the Weapons of Mass De-Snailing.

In this case, the weapon is chemical – a 6% solution of copper salts. Copper is toxic to all inverts, and lethal to snails.

Of course, the first step is to evacuate the chosen few. Speed Racer, Little Buddy, and Big Blue (aka the Grey Lady), my three applesnails. They were relocated to a new 38-gallon tank that coincidentally had just been set up. Then the bithynia – technically pests but they are cute and reproduce slowly. As many as could be located (about 10 or 12) were evacuated to the Alpha Betta Base.

So with the few lucky snails evacuated it was time to deploy the WMDS. Scary stuff, in fact. The first step in the ‘directions’ was a warning that it’s a federal crime to use the stuff for anything other than de-snailing a freshwater aquarium. Ok… though it makes me curious what else you could use it for. Then the other warnings: Don’t get it in your eyes. I try not to get anything in my eyes, so no worries there. Don’t swallow it. Yeah, I’m expecting it to wipe out eleventy-million snails, I wasn’t planning on tasting it first. Don’t get it on your skin. Ok now I’m concerned – how nasty does it have to be that just touching it can be toxic?

Anyhow, with some trepidation and mixed feelings, I deployed the chemical weapon – 23 drops into the 23 gallon tank. Then I put the scary stuff away and watched. Nothing happened. After a few hours, it seemed like a lot of the pest snails had come out of hiding, but other than that, they weren’t doing anything odd. Maybe the stuff tastes good to them.


Planorbid - actual size, about 3mm long.

After a day, I tried a second dose – 23 more drops. This time, it seemed to affect the planorbids (aka tiny ramshorns). After a few hours, they had all vanished, presumably gone down into the gravel to hide or… well expire. No noticable affect on the physas though. There’s also a trumpet in there somewhere, and no idea of his status. And at least one bithyna who missed the evacuation orders. Haven’t seen him in a while either.

Today I’ll do a cleaning and water change, then see what happens. I’m prepared to accept that the 23 gallon tank may be uninhabitable by pet snails for 2 to 6 months. The Weapon of Mass De-Snailing instructions say to use it again after 2 weeks, so that any eggs that have hatched since all the grownups expired will get their own dosing. Then the weekly cleanings and water changes will gradually remove the toxins and things will eventually be normal again.

I’ve still got mixed feelings – I don’t like to see anything suffer and I hope that this stuff doesn’t hurt them…maybe just makes them sleepy and they fade away. That’s what I hope anyways.

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