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Will longears eat snails?

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#21 darkwater

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Posted 27 August 2018 - 08:49 PM

I have several types of Sunfish and I believe I observe routine snail eating, but not certain.  Watching them do it right now. 


Pumpkinseeds and Longears will eat/play/both with invasive trumpet snails.  They will pick the snails up and if small enough suck the entire snail inside, swirl it around, and spit it out.  I've seen them pick up bigger trumpet snails and it looks like they are sucking on it and then drop the shell.  Sometimes they carry the shell from one place to another and drop it.  


I've never seen one of those shells move again but it's also hard to tell because they are small.  The fish themselves are not mature and the snails are too small for me to tell if they have been emptied.  I have also observed my sunfish doing this with small rocks.


I can't tell if the sunfish are pulling the snails out of the shells or just picking up empty shells just like they do small rocks randomly. But I have definitely observed them picking snails off the glass and then spitting them after some chomping.


Dollar Sunfish and Pumpkinseed will pick clean any tentacles sticking out of any shell in your tank.  I have mystery snails that were accidentally transferred into my native tank.  I let about a half dozen of them go to see what would happen.  They have no tentacles but have been going for over a year and routinely lay eggs which I have to remove.  There's no way I've gotten all the eggs out every time so I think they may eat small mystery snails possibly.

#22 darkwater

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Posted 29 September 2018 - 06:27 PM



A few clips of behavior I was describing.  Pumpkinseed picks up snail, chomps on it, spits it out, catches it, chomps some more, and drops it. 

It does this often and sometimes the Sunfish will play catch with them where one spits the snail out and another catches it.  The Dace get involved sometimes if the snail is small enough.  I've seen them volley one back and forth across the tank among each other.


When I stretch out feedings I definitely observe more snail "hunting" behavior among my Sunfish and I have a theory that they are now controlling the population.  For reference, I did have a brief and very annoying outbreak of trumpet snails after a tank reconfiguration and adding plants from another tank.  The size of the snail in the video is about all I see anymore and the population is small enough to be hardly noticeable.  


Is it possible the Sunfish are sucking these snails out of their shell and controlling the population?   Or is this some other behavior?  Not sure but I have possibly observed Sunfish picking up small rocks and moving them, but at that time the tank was configured more favorably to nest building which they did frequently but no longer do.



Edit: Upload failed, added link to Vimeo.  

Edited by darkwater, 29 September 2018 - 06:42 PM.

#23 gerald

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  • Wake Forest, North Carolina

Posted 01 October 2018 - 09:57 AM

I'd guess they are trying to crush the snails, but Melanoides shells are pretty sturdy, and their success rate may be low.  I doubt they can "suck" out the bodies without crushing the shell, unless they can get a grip on the snail's body or operculum with their pharyngeal teeth.  Very small ones they might just swallow whole and let their stomach acids do the job.

Gerald Pottern
Hangin' on the Neuse
"Taxonomy is the diaper used to organize the mess of evolution into discrete packages" - M.Sandel

#24 darkwater

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Posted 01 October 2018 - 08:53 PM

Good info.  I will try to get on video something I observed now that I am watching.  One of the smaller longears picked up a snail in its mouth and glanced it a few times against some driftwood and a rock before dropping it.  These snails are cone shaped of course and the longear grabbed it right where the shell opens, giving the appearance of trying to use leverage to pull the body out.  I took notice because it was a very quick motion and thought it was flashing until I noticed the snail in its mouth.  Will have to set my DSLR up on standby.  Could be purely random behavior from a bored fish but now I am interested.

Edited by darkwater, 01 October 2018 - 08:54 PM.

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