How I'd Do It ... but my wife won't let me.
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Methods, Phase (1)


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How I'd do it, but my wife won't let me.

An open letter to the breeders and distributors.

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(1) I’d cover every square inch of surface in this house with those inexpensive plastic aquaria usually called “Kritter Keepers,” size medium.  Just room temperature, no aeration, nothing fancy.Kritter Keeper

(2) I’d add no more than one inch of aquarium gravel.  Maybe less.

(3) I’d ask my local aquarium shop for recommendations on water.  I’d use whatever they use to fill each kritter keeper maybe 60 – 70%, leaving (of course!) enough dry space above the surface for egg laying.

(4) I’d put one ivory snail in each kritter keeper.  I’d prefer smaller, younger snails.  Not babies, but not big old adults, either.  Healthy young snails, right around maturity.  And I’d hold them out the water, aperture-up, disqualifying any with penis.

(5) I’d feed them Romaine lettuce.  The heads of lettuce you see on the grocery shelves worry me at bit, because they might have pesticides on them.  I think I’d probably have a big bucket of old snail water on the floor and rip off a bunch of fresh Romaine leaves and throw them in the bucket to wash them, maybe 24 hours before I fed them to my snails.

(6) I’d watch my snails every day and try to keep Romaine lettuce available at all times.  I’d also supplement with an occasional pinch of flake fish food, for protein.

(7) I would completely change the water at least weekly, maybe even more frequently, depending on what the water looked like.  Lettuce fouls the water.  My guess would be that water change will be the most important key to success in mystery snail culture.

(8) When one of my snails laid an egg mass, I would remove the momma, and all her aquarium gravel, to a fresh kritter keeper.  And I would add fresh water to the kritter keeper in which the eggs were laid, without gravel, back to the same level, or maybe even lower.  And I would wait for hatch.

(9) At hatch I would count all my babies and note their color phenotypes.  I might split them into a couple kritter keepers, depending on how many there were.

(10) I would not add aquarium gravel to containers of babies.  I would add fresh water, of course.  And a leaf of lettuce, maybe ripped up, and a pinch of flake fish food, ground fine.

(11) Melanin production – any sort of pigmentation, really – is typically later-developing, in snails no different from human beings.  So I’d be interested to watch over the following days (a week?  two?) as color phenotype became scorable.

(12) I’d watch for mortality, and water fouling, and change the water often.  I’d monitor the food supply, adding as necessary. 

(13) Maybe a couple weeks posthatch, I would make a final entry into my notebook on the yield of each egg mass.  And photograph results.

(14) And (assuming that I was in Phase I of the project) I would pair babies according to phenotype and begin to rear a second generation.

(15) To culture my second generation, I would purchase a 50-pack of 20 oz20 oz cups clear disposable drinking cups, with lids.  Looks like maybe $15 from  I would add maybe 3/4 inch of aquarium gravel, and fill with water to maybe an inch from the top.  Just put them on the table top – no temp control, no aeration, nothing fancy.  Add one pair of F1 snails, and a piece of a Romaine leaf.  And maybe a pinch of flake fish food, ground fine.

(16) I would check my F1 cups every day, making sure to keep lettuce available, and water fresh.  I’d remove the mortalities, and re-pair snails as necessary.

(17) At a shell sizes of maybe 10 - 15 mm, I would graduate my F1 pairs to kritter-keepers.  And culture just as I did with my parental snails.

(18) As my F1 snails approached 25 – 30 mm, I would expect to see at least some egg laying activity.  If the eggs appeared fertile, I would remove the pair of F1 snails (and their gravel) to two, separate kritter keepers, change the water in the keeper with the eggs, and wait for hatch.

(19) And count and classify the F2 offspring by their color just as I did for the F1, rearing to pea size, to make sure color phenotype was scorable.

(20) For any F1 pairs that had not yielded viable F2 at this point, I would perform a partner rotation.  I would leave all the F1 snails of one phenotype in their keeper, and move all the F1 snails of the other phenotype one aquarium to the right.  I might wait a week or so, and then try a second mate rotation, depending on results.

(21) I’d be very happy with 100 F2 offspring scored, in total, for all F1 pairs.  I’d quit entirely if I got 300.

Last updated 7 Nov 2018