Tag Archives: mystery snail

Baby Snails!

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They are hatching as I write, plopping without a sound into the water from the egg sac above.  I can’t even post a photo; the tank has way too much algae, result of me insisting that no one disturb the snail eggs.  Or the pregnant guppies.

The baby snails are a translucent white, all of them; their colors won’t come in till later.  I think they’re the progeny of a gold snail and a black one, so it will be fun to see what sort of rainbow we get.  They’re about the size of a matchhead.  They remind me oddly of tiny toenails; that was what popped into my mind when I saw them scattered about the glass.  And then I noticed that they were moving.  New life!  Mazel tov.

All this unfettered reproduction in the house makes Tony a bit edgy, and of course I have no idea what to do with a slew of baby snails.  So far I count eight snaillets, but there were three egg clusters in all, laid at different times, so you can bet there are more to come.  In fact, just this evening I suddenly thought There are a hell of a lot of snails in that tank, and went on to count five full-grown snails.  We started with three.  So the shtupping and the toenails have been going on longer than I thought.

We have three pregnant guppies who have looked on the verge of popping for over a week, but the guppy fry have yet to be born.  The silvery guppy mama is so swollen she can hardly swim, so it won’t be long now.  And I have thirteen guppy fry, born on New Year’s Eve, in a little fry cup.  One of them looks like a cull — meaning a runt, one which probably won’t survive.  But the rest, if I let them get big enough before I put them into the main tank, look like keepers.  The generation of fry previous to that (of which three survived) included one little girl, who is of course pregnant already.  And did you know a guppy can get pregnant again within a few hours of giving birth?

Meanwhile, the snails shtup on the glass as their toenail babies glide past so slowly you have to really stop and look to see the movement.  To be honest, there’s something a little obscene about all this fertilization and birth going on in my tank.  Imagine running an analysis on that water!  Twenty percent snail semen, ten percent placenta.  But I sort of like it.  Through all the bullshit of daily living, there is always fucking.  There is always birth.  There is always life.

Dorky Dilettante.

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Anyone who knows me well knows that the thing I love probably more than anything else — more than the NHL, more than Elvis Costello, perhaps more even than salted caramel mochas from Starbucks — is a research project.  I dive into them at the drop of a hat, and it’s impossible to stop me.  Anytime a question of information or trivia comes up in a conversation, and no one in the group knows the answer, I will inevitably frown and say Shit. Now I have to go research that. Because I truly do have to. I can’t help it.

This week, for instance, it started with the mystery snail eggs. One day last week I found a white sort of honeycomb-looking thing in my tank, sort of oval shaped, an inch and a half long. I knew immediately it was some sort of egg formation, but from which animals in the tank? Not the guppies, because they’re live bearers. I suspected the corydora catfish or the algae eaters, as cats are known to be egg layers. But none of the images I found looked right. Finally, at my wits’ end, I Googled honeycomb thing in my aquarium. This is how completely clueless I was. One of the links which resulted mentioned mystery snails, and I thought Hmm, I’ve got some of those.  I quickly concluded that mystery snail eggs were indeed what we had.  The water level in our tank was down a couple of inches from me forever sucking out water for the guppy fry, and as it transpires, these snails lay their eggs above the waterline.  If the tank is full, there is no space above the waterline and therefore no eggs.

The floating pod I found wasn’t viable, but I knew the snails had been fucking like bunny rabbits.  I knew this because just the other night Tony had wondered What the heck is that long thing coming out of the big snail?  And here we had thought they were playing piggyback all this time. Sure enough, I refrained from adding water to the tank and within two days there was another clump of eggs, and then another. I wondered how long they would take to hatch, the conditions under which the eggs must incubate, and what the babies would be like when they were born. I had absolutely no clue about breeding and husbandry of these things — I just plopped a few pretty snails into my tank to help keep it clean — but at times like these, my mom gene kicks in. There are living things in my care, and I need to know what to do for them. It’s automatic.

In the space of a couple of hours I’ve learned all about the anatomy of pomacea diffusa, which was once believed to be a subgenus of pomacea bridgesii but is really a separate species. I’ve learned how to sex the adults, both by the easy eyeball-the-shell-formation method and by the more tricky make-them-open-up-their-parts method. I know what the babies will look like: tiny snails, right from the time they crawl from their shells. I know that the mystery snail, also commonly known as the apple snail, is native in different subgenera to both South America and Asia, and that it is used in Taiwan for escargot. (Perhaps this is an idea for what to do with the baby snails. Beach Hippie Escargot!)

I know a bunch of stuff about a bunch of stuff which is absolutely useless except in my limited world — none of it will ever make me a dime, not my snail lore nor guppy rearing minutae nor hockey trivia nor my compulsion to keep statistics on matters so irrelevant as the win percentages in the endless games of gin rummy I play with Tony. (He’s kicking my ass.)

But damn it, the shit is fun. Every day I stumble across some piece of absolutely wonderful knowledge I hadn’t had before, just because I wondered about something and decided to research something instead of letting it go. I’m unemployed, and unemployed girls who fail to keep their minds and hands busy end up getting into trouble. So I read the job ads and send out resumes morning and afternoon, every day. I bake, and devise cool household and cosmetic things, and swear and rearrange and clean and putter. I do lots and lots of ultimately pointless research. What I’m not doing is lying around watching the Three Stooges in my pajamas all day. And if you ever develop a burning curiosity about the sexual apparatus of the apple snail, I can tell you everything you might wish to know.