Breeding your mystery snails is the next level of keeping these amazing creatures. And it can be very fun and rewarding. But where do you start? How do you ensure your snails reward all your hard efforts with the coveted pink clutch of eggs?
I’m not holding back in today’s post! I’m sharing everything I’ve learned from other breeders and my own experience in breeding. So keep reading to find out!
The 5 Steps to Breeding Mystery Snails
1. Decide on Your Colors
An important question must be addressed first: “What colors do you want to breed?” Some colors of apple snails can be mixed to create different colors. For example: Golden x Wild or Blue can give you Jade.
If you only want to create primarily one color, stick to all the same parents. Mixing a bunch of colors can give you surprise clutches, sometimes with a rainbow of babies inside! (I talk more about colors at the end of this post.)
2. Create Your Breeding Group
Mystery snails DO have a specific gender (unlike Ramshorn snails). This means you need a male and female to reproduce. Sexing mystery snails can be done by looking “under the hood” of the shell to identify their reproductive parts.
Personally? I’ve never had any luck with that and other experienced mystery snail breeders find it to be tricky as well. To properly sex the snails this way, they have to be at just the right angle hanging far out of their shells. It’s easy to get it wrong.
That said, sometimes when they’re in the breeding mood (and if the snail is light colored) you can see the difference between male and female snails:
See how the female has a darker area in the spiral at the top, whereas the male’s is lighter? This method can work sometimes, but like I said, they have to be in the breeding mood.
So, instead, you can place a group of 6 or 8 adults together in the color(s) you want. The larger number ensures you should get some males and some females in your breeding group.
Tip: To reproduce, mystery snails need to be approximately quarter size or larger.
But good news: Small snails can grow pretty quickly. Mating behavior can be used to determine the genders of your snails, though males will attempt to mount other males. So just because there is a male trying to mount another snail does NOT mean that snail is a female! (The snail on top is always a male.)
3. Set the Right Breeding Mood
Raising the temperature has been shown to stimulate breeding. But wait! Do not raise the temperature too quickly; you don’t want to shock them. Ideally, raise the temperature 1 degree every 2 days until the temp reaches 73–78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Personally, I don’t go more than 74 degrees as the heat always seems to stress my snails.
Now, it’s time to feed! Apple snails need lots of food to help induce breeding behavior and develop eggs. Food containing calcium and protein (such as Snello) should be fed daily and veggies should be available around the clock. The better the food, the bigger your clutches will be.
Remember: With all the heavy feeding, you need to make sure your water quality remains perfect.
(This may involve more aquarium maintenance.)
Bad water stresses snails and discourages breeding.
Finally: After breeding, mystery snails lay their eggs above the waterline so they have direct access to oxygen—they will DROWN if left underwater!
You will want to lower the waterline by at least 2″ so the females have a place to deposit their eggs. Don’t forget to keep a lid on so there is some humidity buildup inside the tank.
*Humidity is important!*
Tip: Some find doing water changes with slightly cooler water helps stimulate breeding.
Snails will mate for 1–6 hours at a time. During mating, the male mystery snail will crawl along the back of the female until they position themselves over the right shoulder of the other snail. Once there, they “do the deed.”
Some females will continue on in their daily activities, eating and scooting around. Others curl up. Still others try to shake off their shelly suitor.
Note: Males CAN kill females by over mating with them. It may be necessary to separate them if they are breeding too frequently (only once is necessary to get the eggs). Please don’t pull the pair apart, though; wait until they aren’t mating.
Once done, at this point you can separate the female (if desired) to a hatching tank with other “pregnant” females (I call mine “the harem”). Males can go to a bachelor’s tank to be enlisted later when needed.
5. Hatch the Eggs
I get this question a lot: “How long until my female snail lays her eggs after mating?”
It can depend on the water temperature. At warmer temperatures, they will lay sooner. But generally, 2–4 weeks. Once you see your first clutch, make a mental note not to move it for a couple of days. If you do, it could kill them because the clutch is too fragile and you can crush it easily
But: After that time, you can use your fingers to gently slide it off or use a razor blade. This is done to transfer the eggs to a hatching container (incubator) if desired. You can also leave it in the tank as is if there are no predators that will eat the babies when they hatch.
A very beneficial technique is to use a breeder box hatchery for raising the newborn babies. This prevents the tiny snails from being accessed by fish (and the more concentrated space makes it easier to find food).
As the fertile clutch gets riper for hatching, it will start to turn whitish and darker, almost moldy looking. This is the baby snails chewing through the eggs. Once hatched, the babies are very very tiny and so cute. Babies with dark spots mean their bodies will be dark. Neat, right?
Keep in mind:
Breeding mystery snails can result in HUNDREDS of babies, so you’d better have space to raise them and know what to do with them all when they get bigger!
Finally, remember that not all clutches are always fertile. Females can lay dud clutches if they haven’t mated with a male.
How to tell if a clutch is a dud?
Some signs can include:
- Weird odor
- Pink or red stain underneath it on the paper towel
- Smaller, poorly formed eggs
- Won’t hatch no matter what
Further Thoughts on Colors
Now, one curious topic is on what parents make what colors of offspring. There’s a really helpful color chart here that shows likely results between combos of parents.
(Just note that it may not be 100% accurate due to unique genes of your snails.)
If you have a scientific-oriented mind, you can also make your own punnett squares using the genetic loci of each color of snail. Here’s a key showing which snails have which loci (I think I’m saying that right?). Then you can go to this nifty site to enter the “coordinates” of your parent snails and see if any of the results match the snails on the key.
I do not claim to be an expert on the topic of snail genetics. Or punnett squares, for that matter, probably obvious by now, LOL! So, please don’t ask me “what will I get if I cross X color of snail with Y?”
Wrapping it Up
Breeding mystery snails can be a fun and even profitable pastime. So, what about you? Have you ever bred yours, and if so, do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!
Featured Image Credit: Adam_Nau37, Shutterstock