Outbreaks of nuisance snails are one of the most common problems encountered in planted aquariums. Though much maligned, snails are perfectly normal in tanks with live plants and can even help with algae control. The problems occur when the snails reproduce and become out of control. Throughout our blog posts, we’ve gone over a number of methods of controlling snails through predators and removal methods, but as with any problems, the problem can be avoided with preventative measures.
A common way of cutting down snail populations is to dip new plants, killing snails and snail eggs before they enter your aquarium. We have here a few different “recipes” for these dips. Keep in mind that while these have been used successfully by many aquarists, sensitive plants may still be damaged. You can try your chosen method on one plant before using it on all of your new plants. These are also all solutions that are to be utilized in a separate bucket, tub or sink – NOT in the aquarium!
Just as salt will harm snails or slugs on land, it will dehydrate snails in the tank (and yes, even things underwater can be dehydrated!) Use aquarium salt or kosher salt to make a solution of one cup per gallon of water. Do not use table salt or iodized salt as they have other chemicals and preservatives not suitable for your aquarium or plants. Once all the salt is dissolved, rinse the plants in the saltwater for about 15-20 seconds, holding the roots above the water. After the saltwater rinse, rinse the plants again in fresh water before planting in the aquarium.
Alum (Aluminum sulfate) can be found in most grocery stores in the spice aisle. Dissolve 1-3 tablespoons per gallon of warm water and soak the plants for at least 2-3 hours, or up to 24 hours in milder solutions. It can be effective in removing snails, but is slightly less effective at getting rid of the eggs. As with the salt, rinse the plants in dechlorinated water before putting in the aquarium.
Not the powders or gels or Ultra Concentrated Colorsafe Stainbusters – just regular old chlorine bleach. This is one of the more severe solutions, but it can be very effective if used carefully. Since bleach can be harmful to some surfaces, it is a good idea to protect your work area and to wear gloves to protect your skin when using this method. Mix a solution of no stronger than 5% bleach (this translates to 1 part bleach to 19 parts water, or just over ¾ cups per gallon of water). Soak the plants in the solution for no more than 2 minutes for sensitive plants or 3 minutes for hardier ones, then submerge and rinse them very thoroughly in dechlorinated water. If the plants still have a bleach smell after rinsing, soak in water with dechlorinator before rinsing again.
Potassium Permanganate is a common ingredient in medications for parasites and bacterial infections. It can be found pet stores as well as in some hardware stores. A strong oxidizer, it is sold to remove iron from appliances like water softeners. It will react to any organic compounds – including your skin. Wear gloves and protect your work area against stains. Avoid using Potassium Permanganate around hydrogen peroxide, Formalin or any other substances containing formaldehyde or alcohols They can react and form a noxious gas.
Mix enough Potassium Permanganate with warm water to form a dark pink/purple solution. Since the concentration of the Potassium Permanganate varies depending on the source – aquarium medications, crystals from the hardware store, etc. – it is difficult to give a precise measurement for the solution. For most aquarium medications, it shoukd be about twice the recommended dosage of the medication. Soak the plants in the solution for 10-20 minutes before rinsing in fresh dechlorinated water. The dechlorinator will neutralize the Potassium Permanganate in much the same way it does the bleach. The well-rinsed plants will then be safe to plant in the aquarium.
Potassium Permanganate Solution image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Benjah-bmm27