Pond Snails Volume II: Invasive Pond Snails and Natural Strategies for Control

Welcome back to the assorted works of a very busy Freshwater Biologist.  A couple of seasons ago I penned an article about pond snails and meanwhile a few invasive snails have begun to creep into natural (and artificial) waterways of the greater Midwest.  The snails below, as well as most aquatic snails, live and breed on the bottom of ponds and streams eating whatever plant and organic material they come across.

 

If you feel like you have too many snails in your pond, you may want to start removing the organic goop they call home.  A good aeration system and beneficial bacteria for your water garden or landscape pond is always a great investment to improve almost every aspect of the pond.

 

Here are some products that I use on my customer’s ponds with great success:

 

Sludge Remover

Liquid Bacteria

6lbs Muck Block

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The New Zealand Mud Snail:

                 

 

This critter is a tiny snail that is generally harmless…… Except for its ENORMOUS reproductive potential. This snail species, like many snails, can reproduce asexually (no fun at all) in great numbers.  This explosive reproduction can over balance the aquatic ecosystem’s ability to deal with them.

 

These wee villains will crowd out native snails and other fauna occupying that niche, creating a hole in the food chain.  This destabilization at the base of the food chain has direct consequences for the fish and wildlife we care about living in those same waters.  Snails are a food source for many animals and the New Zealand Mud Snail is a small unappetizing morsel that most creatures will pass over in favor of larger more nutritious prey. This can potentially lead to the collapse of the bottom of your food chain.  This is something you do not want…..

 

What to do if you have these tiny terrors? Luckily if you have a small pond/water garden or have control of the water level of a larger system you can manage these snails.  Drawing down the water during the heat of the summer or mid-winter will cook/freeze the Mud Snails in their tracks.  (In their tracks….cuz they’re slow….cuz they’re snails…).

 

There are also chemical controls for larger water bodies (copper sulfate, and several others) that can lead to eventual eradication.  Please consult with a biologist and your local DNR/Fish and Game Departments if you believe you have invasive Mud Snails.

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Apple Snails:

 

Next up is a nuisance that we brought on ourselves.  Over the past decades well-meaning individuals have released their Apple Snails from aquariums into local water bodies.  These small ponds and streams are perfect habitat for the Apple Snail, and they have taken advantage of the opportunity to thrive.

 

These snails only tend to be an issue where there isn’t a well developed fishery and wildlife presence.  Retention ponds, back yard landscape ponds, koi ponds, and slow moving ditches/canals are great places to find these lumbering brutes.

 

After some trial and error and a bit of reading, I have discovered a natural way to control the populations of Apple Snails.  They are large enough to be a valuable food item for carp (not ideal to have in your pond either), plus many land animals as well.  Herons and other wading birds, mallard ducks, and domestic duck breeds will feast on smaller individuals while turtles, racoons, mink, otter, and others will grab the larger ones.  If your pond does not have a great wildlife presence, consider getting a domestic duck or three to cull the herd a bit.  The more diverse you can make your pond/yard, the greater number of species of wildlife will show up.

 

A good aeration system is vital to small and large ponds alike.  There is no better tool in my repertoire. Full stop…..  In this case, an aeration system brings oxygen to the sediment layer, allowing the organisms that live there to be more efficient.  This reduces Muck (organic soft sediment) gaining you greater depth and diversity at the base of your food chain.

 

Aeration system 1                               Aeration system 2

 

Aeration system 3 – For shallow ponds and watergardens

 

Creating an environment where a multitude of different species may thrive will limit the impact an invasive creature (whether it’s a snail, plant, or other critter) will have.  This gives you, as a pond manager, the time to respond to invaders and thwart their advance into the aquatic territories we value.

 

Please feel free to contact me with questions about your pond.  Thank you for taking the time to read about our invasive snails… If you are looking for more, my blog has many articles pertaining to pond life, please read to your heart’s content.

 

 

Joe Cadieux

Senior Biologist / Owner

Midwestponds.com

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