Bladder Snails: A Left-Handed Potential Pest

Bladder Snail

I’d like to introduce you to quite a complex gastropod today. It’s unique in many ways, divides opinion across the globe, and is commonly confused with other gastropod species, such as the pond snail. It’s time for us to take a look at the bladder snail… which isn’t at ‘bladdery’ as you might think!

What Are Bladder Snails?

Known scientifically as Physella acuta, bladder snails also go by a bunch of other names. These include:

  • Acute bladder snail
  • Tadpole snail
  • European physa
  • Common bladder snail

If you have these in your tank, you’ll probably already have noticed that they have a habit of floating and swimming around, which is quite unlike other freshwater gastropods.

What Do Bladder Snails Look Like?

One of the most interesting things about this snail is, it is left-handed. Not that a snail has hands, of course, but where most snails have an aperture on the right-hand-side, when holding it with the pointed bit to the top and the aperture facing towards you. The bladder snail is known as a sinistral one. The aperture is on the left-hand-side instead.

Many people get the bladder snail confused with other species, especially pond snails. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference, though. Bladders are usually a lot smaller, the shape of the snail is considerably different, and even the color is different.

Bladder snails usually have a creamy-yellow tinge to the shell. Pond snails, on the other hand, adopt a browner hue.

How Big Do Bladder Snails Get?

This isn’t a big species of snail by any means. Bladder snails usually only grow to around 0.5 inches (1.27cm). Every now and then, you might find an individual that reaches 0.6 inches (1.52cm).

How Long Do Bladder Snails Live?

As with most pets, the better conditions you keep your snails in, the longer they will live – but cleaner isn’t always better in this case.

Being a snail that feeds on mess and waste, more if it in the tank will mean a healthier and longer-lasting gastropod. Illness, predators, and aggressive tankmate attack can reduce the length, but it is generally accepted that two years is a good age for the bladder snail. They usually don’t live for a lot longer than that, apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Should I Keep Bladder Snails in My Tank?

The answer to this question will very much depend on who you ask.

For some aquarium owners, bladder snails are a definitive pest, and very much unwanted. Others, on the other hand, like to include a couple of them for cleaning purposes. Just like other home-tank snails, these will help to keep things clean if everything is setup correctly.

If you have a decent understand of how to care for this gastropod species, and keep the population under control, it can be a welcome and good addition to your tank. If you don’t, however, you will likely face problems.

Bladder Snail Temperature and Care

This snail is very adaptable, especially compared to others. Most gastropods are very sensitive in changes to their habitat, particularly when it comes to temperature and other water parameters. The bladder snail can cope with up-and-down temperatures and varying water types and qualities. Small periods of very hot and/or very cold weather don’t seem to affect it at all.

Longer periods of temperature extremes prove more difficult for this species to survive.

The ideal temperature for this snail is 64°F to 84°F (17.5°C to 28.8°C).

Bladder Snail Tank Size

Bladder snails are adaptable and can live in even the smallest and most cramped of conditions. (Not that I recommend that approach, of course!) Ideally, you will want to have a larger tank with only one or two snails in it – and you’ll also keep an eye on the population.

Experts believe you can home bladder snails in a one-gallon tank, but as always, bigger is better.

Bladder Snail Food

This species can make up part of the cleanup crew of a tank, eating leftover food, decomposing plant material, fish poop, and even decomposing animal material. Providing your tank has enough of these materials to feed the snail, you shouldn’t need to add any more food. If you do, algae flakes, and a little extra fish food will do the trick.

Are Bladder Snails Harmful?

Bladder snails can be harmful, and they are classed as such in some parts of the world. In the UK, for example, they have been given the title, “invasive species”. They are not natural to the UK, although they have been introduced there.

Unfortunately, bladder snails adapt well and breed prolifically in (preferably) running water, such as rivers and streams. They can survive in most freshwater habitats. Once established, they then compete with native snails and other forms of wildlife for food, shelter, and other resources. In turn, this can decimate native populations of several species.

Bladder Snails Breeding

The snail world can be quite tricky when it comes to breeding. The snails you don’t want to breed, will breed prolifically. The ones you do want to breed, won’t do what nature intended them to do. Frustration rises. We’ve all been there.

Bladder snails can breed at a staggering rate, for a wide number of reasons. The better the living conditions and the more accessible food is, the faster the population of this gastropod will grow.

Without intervention, a population of one can soon become a population of tens, hundreds, and maybe even thousands.

Are Bladder Snails Asexual?

Bladder snails are what is known as a hermaphrodite. This means that a single snail can either be male or female. Some snails can change from one sex to another repeatedly while other species can only switch or choose once.

Bladder snails are self-compatible or self-fertilizing hermaphrodites, which means they can create their own eggs, create their own sperm, and do all the hard gestation and egg-laying work themselves.

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