Snails for Your Pond – Keep a Pond Cleaner With Snails
Snails are an important part of the ponds ecosystem. Let me stress that, very important. They do a good job eating up organic matter and help keep the water clear. I highly recommend them and are one of the first organisms I introduce to all my ponds (along with mosquito fish).
Only add snails that are 100% aquatic. You can get some from your local pond or buy them online. Pond snails are highly prolific so you should only have to add them once. Sometimes they multiply a little too fast which leads to an over-abundance of snails. This isn’t a problem for my ponds since I have natural predators that keep their populations in check.
An overabundance of native snails shouldn’t hurt a pond (at least, not in my experience). The pond will just look overly infested so it’s more of an aesthetic issue. This is why some people consider them a pest. As a result, invasive species can damage your beneficial water plants so be wary of what species you introduce. Removing excess snails manually is easy and it’s possible you’re local pet shop will buy them from you.
What do snails eat?
Snails are omnivores. They eat both plants and other dead organic matter that’s readily available to them. Snails will not prey upon your fish or frogs although they will feed on dead ones. I see them feeding on pine tree needles when the wind happens to blow them into the water.
Pine tree needles are high in vitamin C, but they’re also acidic. As such, it’s important to remove excess pine needles when finding them in large numbers. There’s not too much a snail won’t feed on. Certain species are parthenogenesis which means they reproduce without having a mate.
Acquiring snails for your pond
If you find snails locally, they’re probably native to your area making them legal. Still, be aware of illegal invasive species that are found locally too. This is so you don’t spread any illegal snails further than where they’re already found. Most likely certain species you find online aren’t legal in your state or province. The good thing is, most online pond supply stores have a list of prohibited snails in certain states. Florida apple snails thrive in warmer climates and are probably illegal in many northern states. You’ll be able to choose the right species online at pond supply stores.
Florida apple snail
Let’s touch on some invasive species of pond snail. Please refer to our invasive species page for more information on the subject. The apple snail is readily available at many pet shops. They get nice and large and do a great job of keeping the environment clean where they live. They’re also fascinating to watch due to their impressive size. It’s important to note that many species of apple snail are invasive. Awareness among Florida pond keepers is important since many species can survive the winter of a subtropical climate.
Apple snail vs the Florida apple snail
Only one species of apple snail is native to Florida. Coincidentally, it’s called the Florida apple snail. Do not release any other species of apple snail in any ponds, or waterways in the state of Florida. Florida has three or four invasive species of apple snail that have been established. They’re actually native to South America. While they’re usually found in freshwater, some species of snail can tolerate brackish water conditions.
The island apple snail
The island apple snail is a fine example of a destructive and invasive pest. They’ve been found along canals and rivers in south Florida. The biggest threat these snails pose is upon wetland crops. They’re highly opportunistic feeders with a voracious appetite. These snails consume everything from native and beneficial aquatic plants, fruits, vegetables and other native species of snail eggs. This makes them a major threat to the survival of the Florida apple snail.
It’s best to never release non-native species of apple snails into the wild. While they’re illegal to ship over state lines, they’re still available in pet shops. It seems as though the island apple snail is similar to the Cuban tree frog and brown anole. The Cuban tree frog has displaced our native green tree frog while the brown anole has displaced our native green anole. On a final note, identifying different wild species of apple snail is difficult due to variations in appearances.
Why Africa and South America?
It’s simple. Bigger land masses and greater food sources lead to larger predators. Take the boa constrictor of South America. The largest species of full-grown boa constrictors are found in places like Colombia, Peru, and Argentina. In Central America and other small islands off the coast, boa constrictors are much smaller by adulthood. Smaller land masses, less food.
Boas found on the islands depend on birds as their staple diet. Smaller prey, smaller snakes. The boa constrictors of Colombia, Peru, and Argentina all come from a large land mass and their food sources are greater. They enjoy larger prey and grow the size to show for it.
African clawed frogs are available in most pet shops. I strongly recommend against releasing these frogs into your pond. Although they’re small when first bought, these frogs grow to over four inches and have voracious appetites. Over the years, I’ve seen these frogs in an aquarium setting take out fish larger than themselves. Usually, amphibians and reptiles only take prey that they can fit in their mouth. That’s not the case with these frogs.
I once ordered bullfrog tadpoles from a mail-order company located out-of-state. They were actually African clawed frog tadpoles. Luckily I spotted their unusual appearance before dumping them in my pond. That would have been a disaster. I ended up bringing them to my local pet shop who were glad to take them off my hands.