Dipping Plants to Eliminate Snails
Outbreaks of nuisance snails are one of the most common problems we encounter from aquarists with 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 multiply out of control, usually due to overfeeding or another excessive source of food for the snails. 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 before it begins with a little preventions.
A common way of cutting down snail populations is to use a dip or bath for new plants to kill 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 can still be damaged. You can try your chosen method on one plant before using on all of your new plants at once. These are also all solutions that are to be used 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 underwater as well (and yes, even things underwater can be dehydrated!) For this method, 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 – this has other chemicals and preservatives that are 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 this saltwater rinse, rinse the plants in dechlorinated freshwater before planting in the aquarium.
Alum (Aluminum sulfate) can be found in some grocery stores with the salts and spices. It is one of the milder solutions used. Dissolve 1-3 tablespoons per gallon of warm water and soak the plants for at least 2-3 hours in stronger solutions, 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 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 in medications as well as in some hardware stores – it is a strong oxidizer and is sold to remove iron from appliances like water softeners. As a strong oxidizer, 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 and any substances containing formaldehyde or alcohols – they react and form a noxious gas
Mix enough Potassium Permanganate with warm water to form a dark pink 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 this solution. For most aquarium medications, this tends to be about twice the recommended dosage as a medication. Soak the plants in the solution for 10-20 minutes before rinsing in fresh dechlorinated water. The dechlorinator will de-activate the Potassium Permanganate in much the same way it does the bleach and the well-rinsed plants will then be safe to plant in the aquarium.