One thing you’ll likely read or hear a lot about when creating an aquarium with snails, fish, shrimp, and other critters, is drip acclimation. It’s an important process, and one that can have fatal results for your new water-dwelling friends.
Let’s find out more.
What is Snail Acclimation?
Acclimation is the process of letting animals get used to their new surroundings. It can apply to humans heading to foreign lands, dogs and cats moving from one climate to another, and aquarium life being introduced to new homes.
Snail acclimation is literally the process of getting the snail comfortable and ready for their new home.
Should I Acclimate Snails?
Yes, you should always acclimate a snail to its new surroundings before introducing it. The shock of the move is enough to kill your new aquarium pet before they even get the chance to make themselves at home.
The quarantine and acclimatization process are designed to make the move as smooth as possible for your fragile new pet. You should not rush to get them straight into the tank. If you skip the vital preparation stages, you’ll face consequences such as:
- Unwanted species
- Population booms from extra/unwanted snails
- Unwanted chemicals, altering your tank’s parameters
- Dead snails
- Sickness or death to other tank inhabitants
How to Acclimate a Snail to a Tank: Drip Acclimation
You should always start introducing a new inhabitant to a tank by quarantining them. This is vital to ensure that no unwanted critters or their eggs get into the tank, damaging the fragile ecosystem.
This is the process for acclimating snails:
You will need the following items to successfully drip acclimate snails and other new aquarium tankmates:
- Jug/container – large enough to hold double the water in your snail’s travel bag (if there is 500 ml in the bag, you’ll need a container big enough to hold 1 liter of water).
- Length of airline tubing (or similar).
- Clamp/valve to control flow through tubing (a knot will work if you don’t have one).
- Surface to place the jug close to your aquarium.
Start by emptying the contents of your snail’s travel bag into the jug or container.
Next, place the jug close to the tank, on a table or similar. It should be stable and not at risk of toppling or being knocked over. It will need to stay there for approximately 30 minutes or longer.
Your length of airline tubing should be long enough to sit in the water of both the tank and the jug. There will be a transfer of water between the two.
You will need to use the clamp or valve to control the flow of water to just a drip. A steady flow will mean the snail is brought to the tank’s temperature too quickly.
With one end still in the tank’s water, suck on the airline tubing until water comes almost to your mouth. Do not swallow any water that gets into your mouth; spit it out, and then wash your mouth out.
Dangle the tube into the jug where the snail is waiting. If you have sucked water through enough, it will start to trickle (or drip, depending on your control method) though. Tighten the knot if it’s flowing too quickly and lighten the knot if it’s not dripping quickly enough.
The water should flow into the snail’s jug at around 2 to 4 drips per second.
You will know need to wait until the water in the jug has doubled. (E.g., 500 ml has turned into 1 liter.)
At this stage, empty half the water in the jug (500 ml), then start the process again – allow water to drip from the tank into the snail’s jug at around 2 to 4 drips per second. You may need to suck on the tube again.
Once again, you will need to wait until the water has doubled in the jug. When it has, the snail should be comfortable with its surroundings.
Do not pour the snail and water into the tank. Some of the snail’s original water will probably still be in the container, which means parasites, potential disease, tiny eggs, and other unwanted guests could still be present.
Physically remove the snail from the jug, place it inside the tank, preferably on a surface (such as ornaments or reef), and pour the water from the jug away.
How to Acclimate a Snail to a Tank: Float Approach
Some aquarium enthusiasts advise against the drip acclimate approach for introducing snails into freshwater or other tanks. Instead, they use a floating approach. It is a much easier method, and it’s a lot less hands-on.
With the snail still inside, place the travel bag still full of water into the tank. You must ensure it is tied up and not leaking first, to avoid parasites and other bugs getting into your fragile ecosystem.
The bag will float on the top of the water, aided by the air inside. The water inside the bag will slowly change to match the water outside, which slowly allows your snail to get comfortable.
It’s best to check that the water in the bag and the water in the tank are at the same temperature before you release the snail into its new home. It should take around half an hour to an hour but can take much longer with large temperature differences.
Once the two temperatures are the same, once again, do not pour the water from the bag into the tank. Remove the snail with your hand (if possible) and then place them in their new home.
How to Acclimate a Snail to a Tank: Stick-to-the-Side Approach
This is not a recommended approach for introducing snails to new aquariums but can be done as a last resort – and a literal last resort. It must only be performed on snails that have the ability to spend time above water.
Remove the snail from the bag and stick it to the side of the glass, inside the tank, and above the waterline. Alternatively, place the snail on top of something, like an ornament with a top above the waterline.
The snail must be above the water so it can slowly get used to the ambient temperature. When it feels comfortable, it will move down into the water.
How Long Do Snails Need to Acclimate?
Seawater snails take longer to acclimate than their freshwater counterparts. For example, adding a Malaysian trumpet to a tank of brackish water (a mix of fresh and salt water) would take longer than introducing a ramshorn snail into a freshwater aquarium.
There are a couple of different acclimation methods for snails and other tank life. One is drip acclimation, and the other is known as float-and-pop acclimation.
Drip acclimation takes around half an hour to an hour.
Float-and-plop acclimation takes approximately an hour.
Bigger temperature differences between the water in the snail’s travel container and the water in the tank will require longer.