Snails for the most part are able to usually reside with goldfish in the same tank. They are actually one of the only things that are able to live peacefully among goldfish. In fact, having a snail around also helps keep your tank clean since snails are natural decomposers, they are more likely to eat all of the food and algae that collects at the bottom of the tank. There is always the possibility that a hungry goldfish may eat the snail though, so it really is up to the owner of the aquarium on whether or not they want to take this risk, however generally speaking goldfish do not normally feast upon snails as long as they are fed regularly.
Not all snails are hermaphrodites. However the majority of snails are. Snails are able to reproduce differently than almost any other type of creature because they are equipped with both male and female reproductive organs. This is especially consistent among land snails and most marine snails as well. The only snails currently known to not have adapted this attribute yet include some freshwater and marine species such as the Apple snail and the Periwinkle snail. These two types of snails still have separate male and female species.
All snails are considered to be sexually mature by the time they reach the age of one. This is because the life span of many species does not often last for more than 5 to 7 years, allowing for a faster growth rate of the species. This make up of the snail will include their reproductive organs that are located on the side of their body. This is close to the top of their body as well, which allows for easier abilities to mate and for the baby snails to grow.
In biology the term hermaphrodite is used to describe organisms that have reproductive organs associated with both the male and female species. Many taxonomic groups of animals such as invertebrates do not have separate sexes. Therefore, in these groups hermaphroditism is a normal condition and simply a way of life for these creatures. This enables a form of sexual reproduction in which both partners can act as the “male” or the “female”.
The great majority of pulmaonate snails, opisthobranch snails and slugs are hermaphrodites. This hermaphroditic trait is also found in some fish species and to a lesser degree in other vertebrates. Most plants are hermaphrodites as well. Historically speaking, the term hermaphrodite was often used to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism in individuals of gonochrist species, especially human beings. This word hermaphrodite entered the English lexicon during the 15th century and is derived from the Greek Hermaphroditos, a combination of the names of the gods Hermes (male) and Aphrodite (female).
Self-fertilization is also obviously a common practice among snails. For snails that do mate, since they are hermaphrodites they mate differently than other types of animals. When it comes time for them to mate they begin to produce a mucous covered calcerous beforehand that pierces the skin of their mate. Sometimes this is also referred to in snail terms as a “love dart”. The mucous contains a pheromone that makes the female reproductive canal less hostile to sperm. All hermaphroditic snails are able to lay eggs. They can do this as mentioned above by “mating” with themselves or by reproducing with a mate. Many have been known to breed sexually as often as possible. Snails that are not hermaphrodites can only reproduce sexually and usually give live birth rather than lay eggs.
The population of giant carnivorous hermaphrodite snails is on the rise in places like New Zealand. These carnivores can live up to 20 years of age and also lay eggs that resemble small bird’s eggs. They dwell on damp forest floors and forage for their food at night, mainly preying on earthworms. However they have also been known to eat slugs from time to time using the row of sharp, backward facing teeth that they are equipped with to grab their prey and devour it using digestive enzymes. Because this species of snails are hermaphrodites, any adult snail is able to mate with any other adult snail. This species has been a victim to endangered habitats and natural enemies in older years, but the conservation efforts in areas such as Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand are proving to be quite beneficial in bringing their numbers back up.
Aquatic and algae eating snails are of course able to breathe underwater as they reside here and breathe using their gills. Terrestrial snails such as your average garden snail however cannot breathe if placed under water and will most likely drown. I.e. not all snails are meant to live underwater. Aquatic snails on the other hand are very fast, active creatures when it comes to being in the water; however they are very slow creatures when on land. They will also die in about a week’s time if they do not have water.
Those snails that are designed with gills can often be found living at the bottom of ponds. Those that do not have gills and are in water will have to come to the surface often in order to breathe and it is for this reason that they often reside on the surface of the water.
Snails also have a thin skin that is permeable for water. On one hand this means that aquatic snails can also breathe through their skin. However it also means that they have to face the loss of water through their skin. These snails also breathe by using their gills (as mentioned above). These gills are located in the pallial cavity and resemble a double comb, with a stem and feathery protrusions that are responsible for the general process of gas exchange. Gas exchange is the absorption of oxygen from the water and the diffusion of carbon dioxide into the water. These gills are called cetenidia. Some species of snails are also designed with a secondary set of gills. These gills are located in the groove between the foot, mantle and shell.
Snails are among some of the most common natural decomposers which also consist of creatures such as bacteria, worms, slugs and fungi such as mushrooms. Decomposers are the last stop on the food chain and they tend to eat the things that no one else wants to. They may eat many dead things from the ground in order to get nutrients. These dead things that decomposers such as the snail eat are referred to as “detritus” meaning “garbage”.
If decomposers such as the snail did not do their job the producers would not get the nutrients that they need and would die. All living things would start to starve and eventually die if we did not have plants. Therefore decomposers play a crucial part in the food chain and are often referred to as being nature’s recyclers since they help keep the nutrients moving along the food web.
Decomposers such as the snail are equipped with very small bodies so that they can break down large pieces of dead things. If they did not decompose the ground would be covered with junk and the world would be a dirtier place than it already is. Snails can be found in places like the forest. Whenever something dies here, these decomposers break the decomposing material down in order to provide nutrients for the soil.
Since terrestrial snails are indeed natural decomposers, it comes as no surprise that they have a direct and positive effect on the forest’s health as well as the soil’s richness. In general, these snails are an important food source for animals such as birds which consume the shells of snails to help add calcium to their diet. They are also an important source of food for several species of salamanders, mice, shrews, wild turkey, grouse and a few songbirds. Overall snails are essential to the ecosystems in which they reside.
Most snails are indeed born with a shell; this shell is known as a protoconch. The word protoconch literally means “first, earliest, or original shell” and is often used when referring to an embryotic or larval shell of some classes of mollusks. However starting off this shell is transparent and soft to begin with.
This requires snails to need a lot of calcium. This consumption of calcium then helps to harden their shells. In fact the very first thing a newly hatched snail often does is eat its own casing of its egg in order to absorb calcium and ensure good health, nutrition, and hardening of the shell. Some snails have even been known to become cannibals and eat the shells of their unhatched siblings.
Over the next three months or so the snail’s shell begins to thicken up and typically begins to grow into a spiral shape. However snails are also known to have different shaped shells and some come in rounded, flat, pointed or high spiraled shapes, it just depends on the species. When growing into a juvenile snail it will also eventually acquire the full adult coloration and an opening will be added to the shell. The part of the shell that the baby snail was born with typically ends up in the middle of the spiral. When some species of snails become too big for their shells they may abandon it and use one from another animal or a previous snail that has shed its shell.