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Many kinds of aquatic snails make excellent additions to an aquarium. All snails have spiral shells that get bigger toward the opening as the snail grows. The snail secretes new shell around the opening and moves in, abandoning the narrow reaches at the tip of the spiral in which it lived as a youth.

The muscular part of the snail that protrudes from the shell is the foot. Its mouth is on the foot right where a human’s foot has a couple of toes. Because of this interesting structure, snails are called gastropods, which means stomach (gastro) foot (pod). The snail scrapes algae from the surfaces over which it travels. A few snails in your aquarium will graze on the algae that grows on the sides and make it possible to see what’s going on inside.

Snails lay gelatinous globs of nearly transparent eggs. These may be stuck to plant material or the sides of the aquarium. After a couple of weeks, they will hatch, and the tiny larvae will swim freely around the aquarium. Soon they begin to grow a shell, which weighs them down and makes them pedestrian. You may find your aquarium swarming with tiny snails. Snails are quite cooperative about providing opportunities to observe their life cycle.

What to do when they arrive. Immediately upon arrival, open bag and place in cup or similar upright container to prevent tipping. Rinse snails with dechlorinated or spring water prior to transferring to aquarium. Snails will feed on algae or decaying plant matter naturally found in the aquarium.

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