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Cyndrol

Worst pest you can have in your Reef Tank. Vermetid Snails!

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Cyndrol

Hello everybody. I have been strolling around a couple of hundreds of forum posts, youtube videos or scientific papers and wanted to talk about one, if not the worst pest you can have in your reef tank.

The vermetid snail.

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I have my experience with aiptasia, flatworms, coral eating asterina starfish and bristle worms, sea spiders eating zoas etc., but not a single animal comes close to the vermetid snail. The biggest difference between these kind of pests and others is that vermetid snails have no known predator. There are rumours that bumblebee snails eat them, melanurus wrasses pick at them (which is not true no single wrasse eats them as their hardy shell protects them from outside force), emerald crabs should eat them (which has never been proven). Some scientific papers say that Muricid snail eat them, but keep in mind that muricid snails are predators that hunt big molluscs and other parts of your cleanup crew. Bumblebee snails are too small to hurt bigger snails, but their reliability as vermetid eaters is questionable.

 

What makes them so horrible:

- Vermetid snails grow in every part of your tank. Your rocks, between your corals, inside your sump, on your powerheads etc. No place is save of them. Getting every single one of them out of your system without nuking your tank and basicly starting from scratch is impossible.

- The lack of natural predators makes them a trouble to deal with on your own. You need to remove them manually, but as I said before, if they are growing behind your reef or in places you cant reach where you have no chance in getting rid of them.

- They multiple insanely fast and grow really quick. One single snail can produce hundreds of eggs.

- They steal calcium out of your water that other corals need in order to build their tubes.

- Here comes the worst part: They destroy your corals...by spitting out a net made out of mucus. Small particles get traped inside that net and they retract it back to their mouths, eating it. The problem however is that this net is irritating other corals. They irritate the corals to the point where they refuse to open up and wither away or bail out. You would have to manually check every single corals day after day to make sure there are no snails next to them.

- Their calcified shells are very sharp able to cut your skin and making your bleed. Annoying when working on your tank.

 

What you are able to do:

- Bad news first: You will never get rid of them. Either give up your tank and start from scratch or accept that they are inside your tank now. Sounds hard, but you need to be prepared for the worst.

- Take pliers or any kind of sharp object, locate the snail and smash it until nothing remains of her. You need to make sure to completly destroy the shell. Dont give it a haircut by cutting off the top you need to completly destroy the snail otherwise it will come back.

- Glueing the opening of the snails tube shut will make it starve to death. Similar to the option above you still to manually find every single snail and close them off. If you have smaller kinds of vermetids, this will be a pain in the butt.

- If you are able to remove parts of your liferock where they are on, do it and completly kill that rock using bleach, hydrochloric acid or vinegar. Its the fastest way of dealing with them. They are immune to dips so giving them a freshwater bath or using hydrogen peroxid is completly useless.

- If you are keeping sps corals like pocillopora or acros get yourself a coral crab! They are keeping your coral healthy by cleaning off the snails mucus from your coral. That way the snail will not harass the coral and you dont have to deal with them. The crabs will not eat the snails, they only keep the coral clean and healthy. Studies have shown that coral crabs completly negate the negative effect of vermetid snails (NOTE: This only works for sps corals that are able to host coral crabs. Zoas, lps or softies that dont have similar protector animals are not safe)
 
Feel free to add anything to this post if I have missed important informations. Also feel free to add your knowledge or ways of getting rid of them to the discussion.
Im sorry if I made any spelling errors. English is not my first language lol
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Clown79

I have them, never had any issues with them killing corals nor really any closing ip of corals.

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SaltyGallon
50 minutes ago, Clown79 said:

I have them, never had any issues with them killing corals nor really any closing ip of corals.

Likewise. This post has made me think twice but I've never had any real issues with them - the population has naturally waxed and waned over time.

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Tired

They definitely don't grow to plague proportions for the vast majority of people who have them. They're a big problem when they do, but for most people, they just sit.

 

And you shouldn't be working bare-handed in your reef tank anyway. 

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mcarroll

I hate to say it, but this post is a solution looking for a problem to solve.

 

Vermitids everywhere in my tank....since long ago.  If they were going to be a problem anywhere, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't be here.

 

Other than the occasional hand-stabbing when I forget where I'm grabbing when I grab live rock is the worst I can say about them.  That only happens because I only grab my live rock about one time per decade....too much time to forget.

 

I can say that feeding powdered food really encourages them.

 

They seem to blend into the reef quite well though.  Corals grow right up around them, eventually covering them.

 

I have always considered them a harmless hitchhiker.  I hope nobody follows this advice and tears down their reef as a result of them.

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second_decimal

That’s a negatory ghost rider.. Vermitids are the worst. The stringers they send out irritate corals and they close up or are otherwise negatively affected. I had an Infestation and finally tore the tank down. Could not get them under control. Now, i always change plugs and when I do encounter them, I make sure I get the entire shell and the snail. Scrape everything off with a flat head screwdriver or by whatever means necessary. I hate those things. Right there with aptasia. 

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jservedio

Yup, I've got them in plague proportions and my corals just grow right over them. I've got several thousand and I've yet to have one casualty from them in a decade. Coral grows right over them.

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second_decimal

Could there be different types of vermetids? Or maybe it’s just the tank itself and the corals are strong enough to overcome the snails? 
 

Edit: it did not work that way for me. Corals did not grow over any vermitids lol.

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Nano sapiens
1 hour ago, second_decimal said:

Could there be different types of vermetids? Or maybe it’s just the tank itself and the corals are strong enough to overcome the snails? 
 

Edit: it did not work that way for me. Corals did not grow over any vermitids lol.

There are definitely different types of Vermetid snails!  These are just the known Genera from Wiki (who knows how many individual species)?

 

Genera

Genera within the family Vermetidae include:

Vermetinae

† Laxispirinae

  •  Laxispira Gabb, 1877 - Late Cretaceous, type genus of the subfamily[8]

Dendropomatinae

Subfamily ?

Genera brought into synonymy
 
  • Siphonium Gray, 1850: synonym of Dendropoma Mörch, 1861
  • Thylaeodus Mörch, 1860:[19] synonym of Vermetus Daudin, 1800
  • Vermiculus Lister, 1688: synonym of Vermicularia Lamarck, 1799
  •  

Considering how many different types there are, makes sense that some of us have/had issues with them, while many of us do not.

 

My personal experience with a smaller species:  I've had them in every reef tank over the last 35+ years (typically 1/8" diameter tube, ~1/2" height).  Mine are typically a non-issue and don't increase much (unless I feed small particle food too generously) and luckily their webs rarely irritate coral.  Easy to takeout with a small screwdriver.

 

I have seen much larger species and I can imagine that their nets could really irritate nearby corals.

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second_decimal

Thanks for bringing context... my tank was probably a little dirty so they all had their webs extended almost all the time lol. It Definitely bothered the corals otherwise I would not have cared so who knows what sub-genus I had. 

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jservedio

I will say I've yet to encounter one that did any more than irritate a little, and I've got them ranging from 1/16" or less diameter up to ones that are 3/8" across ranging from just 1/2" long or smaller up to 4" long.

 

This is what my overflow looks like every year before I clean it out. You can see there are several species there and at least 100 of them after pulling out a huge mass of them.

20191021_094623.thumb.jpg.d0047aefe54bce7ca0a8b37ea8b1248d.jpg

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Tired

Oo, you've got the big ones! I used to have some of those little maroon ones, in my first tank. Never seen ones that big in person, though. Too bad they bug things sometimes, they're pretty cool. Wonder if a giant-vermatids-only pico would be fun to keep. 

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jservedio
59 minutes ago, Tired said:

Oo, you've got the big ones! I used to have some of those little maroon ones, in my first tank. Never seen ones that big in person, though. Too bad they bug things sometimes, they're pretty cool. Wonder if a giant-vermatids-only pico would be fun to keep. 

I've got them all. Those actually aren't the biggest ones. The biggest ones are about twice the diameter and they form flat spirals on the rock.

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Reefing is a passion

Theses snails are terrible, they grew everywhere and stunned the growth of my corals. Bumblebee and emerald crabs slowed it down for awhile. However , after 6 months , I had to break down my tank and just left the corals on egg crates to clean my rock. In close to 20 years of reefing it has been the worst pest ever. Thanks for the post! 

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Edited by Reefing is a passion
Added pics

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