Certain my Apple/Mystery snail babies will not breed, any thoughts?

  • #1
I had a (approx) 4 gallon custom acrylic betta tank with dividers that I experimented with, and in the end the water bowed the sides and the dividers wouldn't protect my lethal little killing machines from getting at each other.
However, a new chapter opened when I discovered various colored snails at walmart. I felt sorry for them (as we all do for walmart critters) and purchased one little yellow snail. Little did I know, that's what I've come to recognize as an Apple snail.

apple snail.PNG

This site was incredibly helpful for raising this little guy:
Who grew into a BIG baseball sized behemoth. Over the course of that time, I acquired a a blue colored mystery snail. one with the typical dark striped markings (black mystery snail), and a reddish one. The big yellow daddy ate the red one and I learned that he must've been male, because lo and behold the other two snails began laying egg clutches, and he mated with them constantly. I was away in Japan when this first began, and my mom thought they were killing each other (like what had happened with the red snail) and tried separating them with a chopstick. When I returned, I was a snail grandma.

baby snails.jpg

The first few egg clutches failed, as a water change (even with dechlorinator) killed the little ones, but holy man did they stink. I started buying plants, moss balls, anything for them to be happy, and I owe it to the snails for my interest in planted tanks. My betta loved the snails, he would heard them, and so I hoped to raise some of the babies.
I moved, and a water change proved that there was more chlorine in my new location, papa apple snail died, I aborted one egg clutch (I just didn't have time at that point, and no friends wanted them) I finally kept two egg clutches which she continued to lay for three more months before dying herself. I let nature decide as the abortion scarred me (scrapped the egg clutch off into the garbage thinking this is something all snail-keepers must come to terms with), and pretty soon I had about thirty marble-sized snails. My small 2.5 tank actually fostered healthier snails than the larger one, and it was interesting to see how their growth varied. I struggled getting them enough nutrition and calcium after fighting to survive against their hundreds of siblings their whole life, too much food and their shell grew too fast, but any other amount made a less-than pretty shell. I fed them algae wafers, weekend feeders, turtle block (calcium), carnivore sinking wafers (thought it might ward off cannibalism) and sinking crab pellets. Of course they ate leftover betta food (which is a mixture of dried bloodworms, flakes, and pellets) and got zucchini, cucumber, lettuce, broccolI leaves, and cabbage.
My puffer fish trimmed his teeth down on a few very weak-shelled snails, and now I'm down to about 10 golf-ball sized snails. None of them have produced eggs, and I'm just wondering if the equation is all wrong, sort of like how horses and donkeys can mate, but the mule they produce is sterile. Or perhaps, due to the same conditions in which they were reared, they are all female?

Pictured below are MY male apple snail and female black mystery snail. They are the same species, Ampullariidae. So supposedly their offspring can mate, but perhaps not?

apple snail and mystery snail.jpg

Bellow are the babies, and it's hard to see their coloration, but they look just like their mom, or black mystery snails. This is them from a while ago. I don't have updated pictures of them as their shells clearly demonstrate the struggles of raising snails in a non-natural habitat. Some of them do not have fully formed siphons (air intake tubes) yet are among the biggest snails. Some of them eventually formed siphons and developed the pretty orange iridescence on their skin. Some have random darker patches on their skin, like age spots on humans. Some of their shells are very yellow, like their dad's, but all have stripes.

snail offsrping.jpg

1. Do you think that the breeding has something to do with their infertility? As far as I know, this shouldn't have anything to do with it.
2. Are their conditions not ideal for breeding? (They've all been moved to a 25 gallon community tank recently, but has their environment determined their decision not to breed?)
3. Is it anatomical? Could they have all been born female (hence the reason they've stopped killing each other) or did I happen to only raise females up until this point? I haven't tried sexing them yet (they are too shy and I'm too impatient) but perhaps since some have deformed siphons, that other parts could've been deformed as well.

Just wanted to present their odd conundrum, and see if any snail-keepers out there have had any experience with this, or could offer a likely solution as to why my snails don't breed or if they ever will breed. There's plenty of space at the surface, food, and other snail pals, but it seems I may need to introduce a new snail or two to my population.
  • #2
Judging by the picture of the 2 adult snails, I believe all your snails were Pomacea diffusa (commonly known as mystery snails). Pomacea canaliculata (most often referred to as apple snails) are much bigger and have a 'mottled' foot. Mystery snails' foot is either dark or light, but the dark can have white 'spots' on it and the light usually has yellowish spots. The foot of a Cana snail is more brown and white.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, I will give you my opinions. First, I doubt your yellow snail killed your blue snail. Most likely, the blue snail just died and the yellow was eating the dead snail. From the picture, your female 'black' snail looks like a magenta (striped purple), but it could just be the coloring of my screen.

Okay, as for breeding. I have noticed with my snails that they need very clean water and lots of food in order to breed. They also seem to breed/lay more often if their tank is warm. You don't say how old the 'babies' are, but they need to be at least 4 months old for males and 5-6 months old for females before they will reproduce. I don't think genetics has anything to do with the fact that they aren't breeding since your yellow snail is most likely the same breed as the other snails. I have never heard of Canas and Diffusas cross-breeding, I don't think it's possible. Canas can be very aggressive, so if your yellow was a cana he would have killed all the others. They (canas) get about fist-sized, you'd know it if you had one of those. They would be at least double the size of your other snails, which are most definitely diffusas (mystery) because they are colored. Only diffusa and bridgesiI come in colors other than yellow and brown.
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  • #3
All the offspring are over a year old at this point, so they should be breeding.
They are all in a 25 gallon tank with plenty of food and airspace, and the temp is set to 79.

Thanks for the info! I agree they are all technically mystery snails, although I've seen that name swapped with apple snail so often that I'm not sure which term to use. All diffusas in there, for sure.

I guess I will just have to continue to wait, and hope for an egg clutch before they all die. Sadly my snails don't seem to live beyond two years of age, so I've got about a year before I will be forced to restock. PetCo has them, but they are a bit more than what I paid at Wal-mart, who no longer carries them.
  • #4
Mystery snails are a type of apple snail, but most people refer to the Canas as 'apple' and the Diffusas as mystery.

Mystery snails don't live long, from about 6 months to a few years. Warmer temperatures makes their lives shorter. Maybe try lowering the water temperature? It surely couldn't hurt. I have a lot of 'baby' mystery snails in a goldfish tank that is unheated and generally less than 75 degrees. One of the 'babies' laid eggs a few days ago in that tank...sigh...
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  • #5
I wouldn't mind a short lifespan if they were propagating normally, as I like to keep them in a warmer tank so they move around. I've noticed that they usually don't move around as much in unheated tanks, and I really like to watch their snail antics and siphon dances. Sometimes they're more interesting to watch that the fish. I wish I had your problem, I'd love to have generations of snails laying eggs, and be able to breed them for coloration.
I had a rabbit snail which was reproducing by parthenogenesis- sadly none of three snail babies survived, and the rabbit snail eventually stopped laying and died. It was a $10 snail, a gift from my brother, and I wish I could've helped to propagate the species.
I took your advice, and placed 6 snails in a colder 2.5 gallon tank with under gravel filter and Whisper 3 gallon filter. I will post any updates if I become a snail grandma again. ^_^

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