I recently set up a 5 gallon aquarium and germinated lotuses in it from storied seeds.  I purchased two Japanese “trapdoor” snails to eat the aquarium’s algae.  They just had a half-dozen live young, so I am sort of a grandfather of snails.

This covey of snails swiftly ate all of the Lotus tank’s algae, to my surprise.  But the trapdoor snails  had a reputation for depleting algae, while not molesting other plants.

The responsibility for feeding all these hungry infant snails in an algae-less aquarium now weighed heavy on my shoulders.   Fortunately I have several hundred pounds of algae in my backyard ponds. Not even trapdoor snails can eat algae that fast.

Unfortunately my algae reserves are under 32.1 F degree water. (A Struggling rain lily is in the middle of the pond)

Fossil evidence of algae is about 1.7 billion years old, while snails did not evolve until about 580 million years ago.  This allowed algae a billion-year head start.

The term algae is used informally to describe a large group of simple organisms that feature chlorophyll, and lack sterile cell covering over their reproductive cells.  (from Wiki) 

So I went out to gather algae for my snails in freezing weather.  I had to carefully identify a clump of algae, and scoop it with my bare hands in 32 degree water and splash it into a bowl. 

The stuff’s incredibly slippery.  Gaia’s best polymers are at work. There’s a jellylike substance attached to the long twines of green algae.

This gel attached to the algae is the same texture as frog egg sacs, but I don’t see any eggs. 

As partial mitigation for being a slave to the Snails, I found that gathering the pond algae to be interesting.  I took algae samples from a pond with few fish, from a pond with lots of fish, and a pond with no fish.

In the pond with few fish, some of the algae hung in long strands below the spent lily pads, like beards. 

I thought I’d seen tiny critters in this algae, but pictures were elusive.

That’s a suspected segmented larva in the photo’s center. I hope it’s not a mosquito.

The pond with many fish had very little underwater algae.

In the pond with no fish, algae coated every underwater surface.  There were some snails in that pond that hitchhiked their way in on purchased plants, but I don’t see them at work, and they are doing a poor job of  removing any algae.

I combined the gathered algae from the ponds and took it back inside.

I put this handful of algae in the tank, but it was gone in 3 days.

After the snails made short shrift of my first offerings, I went back outside, reached into the frigid water, pulled a few algae-ridden dead lily stems loose, and put those into the Lotus tank.  The snails began picking the stems clean, as if eating the meat off of baby back ribs.  

Yum Yum.

The trapdoor snail got its name because it has a tough plate that seals the edge of the snail’s shell when the snail hunkers down.  If you see the trapdoor closed on your aquarium snail, something’s wrong with the water.  They are early warning systems of unhealthy conditions.

The aquarium trade uses “trapdoor” or “mystery” as generic terms for several similar species of snails, such as Viviparis Malleatus, the Japanese Trapdoor Snail, aka the Chinese mystery snail or black snail. 

These are also called mystery snails because their live-born babies seem to come from nowhere,  and that’s mysterious.  Their scientific classification is a little mysterious, also.

According to Wiki, “Taxonomy of the introduced populations of Oriental mystery snails is confusing and there are many scientific names in use.”

One variety was originally sold in California food markets 200 years ago. Now it’s an invasive species in many states.  But at least they are edible.

Oregon prohibits one type it deems the “Chinese and Japanese Mystery snails,” species Cipangopaludina chinensis and japonica.  That could be the variety cited above.

However  Oregon Fish & Wildlife states the banned snails’  shells are uniform in color without stripes.  My own trapdoor snails have cute, multi colored shells and were sold as Viviparis Malleatus.

Oregon already has 124 different species of native snails and slugs.  There are far too many slugs. 

I will happily gather algae from the icy ponds for the Snail Overlords’ breakfasts.  But they will always live inside. I am their slave, but also their captor.

Now it’s your turn.

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a nature refuge.

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What have you noted in your area or travels? Any pretty birds at the feeders?

Please post your observations and general location in your comments. I’ll check back by lunchtime.

/s/ Redwoodman

  • March 6, 2019