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Lying just beneath the surface of many aquariums lies an hero that ofter goes unseen by the fish keeper. We all know the snails that we personally add to the aquarium but more often that you probably think, these little guys sneak into your aquarium by hitching a free ride from aquatic plants and bog wood.
The Trumpet Snail or Melanoides tuberculatus are very hardy and have shown a high tolerance to freshwater and brackish water. naturally found in the subtropical and tropical parts of Africa and Asia, with a temperature range from subtropical to nearly freezing. They are prolific breeders livebearers and give birth to as many as 70 live young each time. They have a tendency to live beneath your substrate eating excess fish food, detritus and algae so play a vital part in the clean up process.
With a adult size of under an inch, these snails pose no threat to live plants. Infant, they actually improve growth indirectly due to the constant sifting through the gravel. This process loosens the gravel which increases root growth so unlike a lot of other snails in the hobby, there is no nibbling of leaves or roots going on behind your back.
There is a down side to keeping these snails and that is when they over populate your aquarium. This happens when you constantly over feed your fish. Yes, these snails thrive on excess fish food and do a fantastic job of cleaning up after you but if you regularly over feed, they will turn this excess food source into more snails which pair that with the prolificness of their breeding (70 snails a time) you will quickly find your tank infested with them. They have been known to work their way into filter powerbeads and even as far as the impaler. because of their hard shells, your stuck with a horrible rattling noise until you locate the rogue trumpet and remove them, hopefully before you impaler is destroyed.
An example of over population - photo by eBay seller Hencher
Trumpet snails can and will often survive outside your aquarium so a sealed lid is advised. However, when you see your trumpet snails making a move for the surface, this is usually a good alarm bell to tell you that you have poor water conditions.
Over population being the biggest problem with these snails, you can either control the population by carefully feeding your fish and also my personal approach is to add a few assassin snails to help keep them at bay. You can remove them yourself or add snail eating fish like loaches but if you have other snails your happy with, the loaches (and assassin snails to some extent) are not picky and will eat all the snails regardless.
To find out if your aquarium has a team of these little trumpets, next time your lights are out, get a small flashlight and have a snoop about your tank. You will be amazed at what you see.
Reference taken from The Tropical Fish Magazine and personal experience