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A Few Words About The Interesting Assassin Snail

The words “assassin snail” can conjure up an image of a giant snail that devours everything in its path, a snail whose rampage can only be stopped by the U.S. Army. There is a snail, Anentome helena, that is called the assassin snail, but you need not fear it unless you happen to be another snail. The assassin snail is not all that large as snails go. Most of these snails never exceed an inch in length, and as a rule, are normally under an inch in length. This snail is an attractive little animal.  It has a brightly colored shell that has a pattern of black and orange, or black and deep-reddish orange concentric spirals. There are actually 8 or so species of this snail. No one seems to know the exact number, but Anentome helena seems to be the most well known and sought after species, together with Clea helena.

It's Best To Keep Moving - This little snail is definitely a predator. It will take on almost anything that moves slower than it does. That would include most snails, since the assassin snail moves relatively fast for a snail, especially when it is hunting for something to eat.

Anentome helena is definitely a friend of aquarium owners, especially those who have snail problems. Snails can do a lot of good in helping to keep aquariums clean, but they tend to multiply, and after awhile will make as much of a mess as they clean up, if not more. Aquarium snails tend to be mostly common pond snails, and they can be difficult to get rid of unless one wants to dump out everything in the aquarium and start over from scratch. Their eggs are either hidden among the plants in the tank, or are somewhere in the sand or gravel. Even tiny just-hatched snails can be hard to find.

That is where Anentome helena comes in. Put a few of these little critters in your aquarium and after a week or so you'll begin finding empty snail shells scattered here and there. None of the shells will belong to an assassin snail, as they are not known to eat their own kind. You won't be missing any fish either. Anentome helena might eat a fish if they could catch one, but that's unlikely to happen. The snail will sometimes eat a fish that is dead and decaying, and it will also eat fish flakes, although it prefers live food. It won't harm plant life either, at least not as long as there is other food for it to eat. As long as you are feeding your fish, the snails will survive quite fine on the leftover crumbs.

Since these snails don't prey on one another, there's no problem in keeping several of them in the same tank. You don't have to worry about placing two or more males in the same tank either, which is something you often have to be careful about with some fish and some other pets as well. At least there do not seem to be any published reports about fights between rival assassin snails. They don't appear to have an appetite for brine shrimp either, or other live or frozen fish food. They may swipe one or two on occasion, but certainly don't attempt to compete for food with the fish in the tank. If there are no snails left to dispose of, Anentome helena will usually get along quite fine on fish flakes and any decaying protein they happen to come across. While they are quite often observed climbing on the walls of the aquarium tank, including above the water level, they are just as apt to be out of sight if the sand or substrate in the tank is thick enough, as they like to burrow through the substrate in search of food.

Many Snails Are Bisexual – Not This One - If you want these snails to multiply, you have to have at least one of each sex in the tank. Once that is accomplished, they will happily do so. There is more than likely a number of aquarium owners who have put two or three of these snails in a tank, but have never seen any eggs or baby snails. Many snails are hermaphrodites, and some snails and other animals are capable of switching sexes should the need arise. Not so with the assassin snail. A male is a male and a female is a female, and they will remain just that. If you want to breed them, you have to get one of each sex. Unfortunately, there is not a lot in the literature that explains how one goes about sexing them. One has to rely on the odds. Throw enough snails in the tank and you should end up with both sexes being present.

Assassin snails can usually be purchased for under $5 each. They aren't fussy about the water they're placed in, but they don't much like to have the water changed if it means a drastic change will occur in the pH. Many fish don't like that either, but an experienced hobbyist usually knows how to deal with that situation.



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