The beautiful Rabbit Snails from Sulawesi make fascinating additions to the home aquarium. These inquisitive gastropods from the genus Tylomelania have been found in numerous different colour forms and many are still awaiting formal description. The long, ridged, conical shells vary in appearance, as does the colour of the snail’s bodies, which can be anything from bright orange, yellow, cream, black with yellow or white dots, black with yellow tentacles, and other combinations in between. The eyes are small and set underneath the tentacles on the long, tactile snout.
The areas that these snails inhabit in the wild have a slightly unusual set of water parameters, in that the water is soft, yet alkaline. This can be a little tricky to recreate in the aquarium, and many aquarists opt for keeping them in steady conditions not too far off the natural parameters but in slightly harder, alkaline water. Of much more importance seems to be their temperature requirements; these snails need warm water. The water temperatures in Sulawesi vary slightly from island to island, but never drop below 26 deg C even during the wet season, so ensure that these balmy conditions are maintained in the aquarium.
These snails are great for peaceful community tanks containing small warm-water species of fish and shrimp, and they will often breed if conditions are to their liking. Avoid keeping them in aquaria that contain loaches, pufferfish, any large/aggressive fish, and any pushy species that will outcompete the snails for food; these snails cannot survive on leftovers alone.
Ensure the tank is well filtered/oxygenated and that regular partial water changes are carried out, at the same time carefully siphoning away any mulm that can accumulate from the snail’s waste products. Acclimatise them carefully, as you would do for fish, and you should find that they soon begin exploring their new surroundings. Some of the snails come from areas with hard substrates, and some from softer substrates, so try to provide both options in the aquarium. Sand is much preferred over gravel and is easier to keep clean. Additionally, some species will munch on soft leaved plants, and some won’t, so if in doubt, choose robust greenery, however, be sure to leave large areas free of vegetation so that the snails can move around with ease.
Their rather unique, jerky fashion of locomotion is fascinating to watch, as they heave their large shells along behind them. Tylomelania snails do not particularly enjoy bright lighting so be sure to create numerous shady hidey holes with the arrangement of the décor, and diffuse any strong light with floating plants. Never use treatments containing copper in the snail aquarium. May also be seen on sale as Elephant Snails.
Offer a variety of foodstuffs, including meaty and vegetable fare e.g. sinking catfish pellets, algae/Spirulina wafers and tablets, crushed flake/powder foods, sinking carnivore pellets, sinking granules, cucumber, courgette, blanched spinach etc. Be sure that the snails always receive adequate amounts of food and are not having to resort to scraps/leftovers.
Rabbit Snails are ovoviviparous, and have bred in the home aquarium. During fertilisation, the male passes a spermatophore to the female. The embryos grow in the female’s brood pouch, where they feed on the nourishing substances within. When the embryos are suitably developed, they are transported from the groove in the shell lip inside a soft whitish egg casing, and as they are expelled into the water, the white covering dissolves and a fully developed young snail emerges. Rabbit Snails do not produce huge broods, often releasing one sizeable youngster at a time as they become ready, at intervals.