Cleaning my rabbit snail aquariums takes some special consideration. While mystery snails and ramshorns will happily mob food at one end of the aquarium while I carefully clean, this isn’t always true of rabbit snails. Rabbit snails eat until they are very full, and then can sleep for a few days. When resting, they often burrow under the aquarium gravel and hide behind the sponge filters. Females also do this right before giving birth to a baby.
To keep them as safe as possible from injury, I very carefully rake the gravel with my fingers and remove every single rabbit snail I can find and place them gently in a bucket. Then I can safely gravel vacuum their aquarium and put them back as soon as the debris settles again.
I also squeeze the sponge filters in a separate bucket to break up the bio-film and make sure they aren’t clogged and that water is still flowing through them well and replace filter media as needed.
It is a home-made gel food that often yields superior results to store bought food due to the added calcium and higher quality ingredients.
Which ingredients do you need to make it?
This is the fun part, depending on your skill level and time it can be as simple as calcium (without vitamin D3) fish food, vegetable baby food and gelatin or agar powder to bind it all together. Or you can make it more complicated with ingredients to suit your own personal snail raising/keeping needs. A very basic recipe can be found here: Snello for Noobs without Great Kitchens. *Note: It is best to use calcium carbonate powder rather than tums since tums have extra ingredients that are not useful for snails and could possibly be harmful.
Utensils and such:
a microwave safe glass measuring cup to heat the mixture
pot holder (the mix is HOT when it is ready)
a spatula to smooth the mixture into molds of your choice
trays or molds to pour/spoon the mixture into Some ideas include:
water bottle ice cube trays. These work best for aquariums with a large number of juvenile and adult snails as they reduce food competition due to greater surface area.
a square tupperware type container can also work. Line the bottom with parchment paper to easily lift out the snail jello and then cut into whatever size pieces you like.
The below gives you a general idea how I make snello. There is plenty of room for experimentation and different ingredients to give your snails more dietary variety if desired.
Basic Recipe Blend ingredients after each ingredient is added until smooth before adding the next one.
1 table spoon of agar powder per 8oz of snello mixture. I start with 2 table spoons in 4-6 oz of water and then add more agar at the end of necessary.
Choose a 10 oz package of frozen snail-safe vegetables. Some good vegetables are: sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, peas, green beans or butternut squash.
Add a protein source 2-4 table spoons. This can be fish food flakes, frozen fish food, freeze dried copepods, krill, shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia or tubifix worms etc.
Optional: add a teaspoon of spirulina and/or kelp powder. These enhance color, offer an iodine source and other trace minerals.
Add up to 1 table spoon of calcium carbonate powder per 8oz of mixture. *you may want add only a teaspoon per 8 oz of liquid mixture if you have other sources of calcium like cuttlebone or wonder shells in your aquarium to reduce the risk of overdosing the snails on calcium.
Blend well one last time and then check how much liquid you have. My batches range anywhere between 16 and 32 oz depending on what has been added to the mixture.
Heat in the microwave until bubbling. This takes 4-6 minutes. It will be HOT. Use a pot holder to remove and set on a heat safe surface. Stir well with a spatula and then spatula or spoon it into your chosen molds.
Let sit on the counter for 25 minutes or until cool. Smaller molds cool faster, larger molds take the full 25 minutes.
Gently pop out onto a double layer of paper towels. Let sit for 15 minutes. This step helps to absorb extra water as the snello usually acquires extra moisture from the ice that forms on it after it has been frozen.
Portion out into the amount you will use in 1-2 days and freeze. I put portions in sandwich bags and then double bag in freezer bags or place in freezable plastic containers. Then I just take out what I need the night before and it thaws in the refrigerator over night.
My Example Recipe: Sweet Potato Snello
1 table spoon of agar powder per 8oz of snello mixture.
The final mixture amount can be anywhere from 16-32 oz so I start out with 6oz of water with 2 tablespoons agar powder, blended in a blender for 1 minute on low to evenly disperse the agar.
1 organic 10 oz package of organic sweet potato chunks. Rinsed until thawed, then added to the agar water mix and blended until smooth.
3 table spoons omega 1 freshwater flakes (choose fish food without copper added as copper is toxic to snails)
3 table spoons of freeze dried arctic copeopds.
2 squeeze packages of 3.5 oz organic baby food; mixture of pumpkin, mango, blueberry and apple. If the blender sounds like it is having trouble blending, I will add a couple more ounces of water. The idea is to have the mixture be very thick but still blend smoothly.
2 heaping table spoons of calcium carbonate powder. I don’t sweat adding the max amount possible because my snails have free access to Weco wonder shells and bird cuttlebone so they can access more calcium if they individually need it rather than risking overdosing them on it by force feeding it to them.
1 teaspoon of kelp powder
1 teaspoon spirulina
The final amount of liquid mixture was 32 oz so I added 2 more table spoons of agar powder and blended one final time.
Heated the mixture for 5 minutes and 30 seconds until bubbling (4-6 minutes may be required depending on amount of liquid and microwave wattage)
I used a spoon to place the mixture into the water bottle ice cube tray cells and then used the spatula to smooth the mixture and move extra mixture to the next tray/mold.
I let the mixture sit on the counter in the molds for 25 minutes.
Popped the pieces out after this time and let them sit on paper towels for 15 minutes to absorb extra water.
Then placed individual day portions into sandwich bags and then into freezer bags or freezer safe plastic containers to help guard against freezer burn.
I usually leave out one day’s worth ( in the refrigerator) after making it so I don’t have to thaw for the next day’s feeding.
People ship snails in many different ways and I am not saying this is the only way it can be done safely. It is the method that I feel gives the snails the best chance of arriving to their new homes, alive and well, with as little stress to them as possible.
All land snails and aquatic snails have shells that are made up of calcium carbonate. Without enough calcium in their diet, their shells are thin and prone to fracturing. They also seem to need higher amounts of calcium to breed well. Water conditions such as soft water or Ph swings can also cause shell erosion. For this reason all aquatic snails do better in hard water rather than soft.
The pink ramshorn snail on the left, in the photo above, had free access to calcium supplements in its aquarium. The snail on the right did not have access to the calcium it needed and the shell damage is obvious.
boil a cuttlebone intended for cage birds and it will sink to the bottom of the aquarium where the snails can eat it
Add a small 3 day or weekend “vacation” feeder block. These are basically calcium sulfate mixed with some fish food pellets (The large ones can throw water chemistry off so I just add a small one every week or two in my large aquariums and replace as it is eaten or dissolves). Be careful to choose a brand that does NOT have copper in the ingredient list as copper is poisonous to snails. I personally like using Omega One.