Published on Friday, 20 January 2012 11:33
In the last couple years there has been a popularity explosion in those who keep invertebrates. There are an ever growing number of hobbyists dedicated to just invertebrates, with a greater number of hobbyists that are setting up invertebrate only tanks. While you may not want to go this far, there are many options that can work in already established tanks. As the popularity increases more and more species of invertebrates are being found and brought into the hobby.
Snails are often thought of as a bad thing in most tanks. Once we look more into them more I hope people change this perception. Common snails or pest snails are most frequently experienced by the hobbyist. Pond snails, ramshorn, and Malaysian trumpet snails (MTS) have the reputation of taking over a tank. These snails will only breed if they have a supply of food. If you are over feeding then you will have an ample supply of them. Ramshorns are the largest of the three and come in multiple colors from red to purple. MTS are good for stirring up the substrate. All three are plant safe. There are several species of apple snails that are pretty common in the hobby. Some will eat plants others will not. Pomacea diffusa (previously bridgesii)/mystery snails get to be the size of a golf ball. There are countless numbers of shell and foot (body) colors. They don’t eat plants and will lay eggs above waterline so it’s easy to control their population by removing and destroying their egg clutches. Asolene spixi (zebra apple snail) snails stay small and have a neat black and white striped pattern. These can be pretty plant safe though some have hybridized with the Columbian Ramshorn (Marisa cornuarietis) and will devour a planted tank. Pomacea canaliculata (the channeled apple snail) will eat plants and algae and are great in an unplanted tank. Nerites are becoming more popular every day. These snails are common in the saltwater side of the hobby. Many can be transitioned to full fresh water. There are two key features of these that make them one of the best snails out there. First, since they are mostly found in salt water, they require brackish water to breed for their young to develop. There are many of them that work their way into the streams and lakes but still have to go back to breed. Secondly, they are the best plant safe algae eaters around. There are several species available for the fresh water aquarium with a range of unique shapes and colors. Many tanganyikan and other cichlid keepers are finding out how helpful these are at keeping the algae at bay where other common options won’t work. Another newer snail to the hobby is the assassin snail. These snails eat other snails, mostly the pest snails and reproduce slowly. For that reason many people find these desirable.
There are two major groups of dwarf shrimp in the hobby with a couple others worth mentioning. Neocaridina are a very hardy shrimp and easy to bread. In general they can take a large range of PH and temperatures. There been several selectively breed strains out there. They get to be about 1 ½ inch and will hybridize with each other. Since they were selectively breed, when they cross they often revert back to their more natural brown color. The most common and well known neocaridina is the cherry shrimp (RCS). This bright red shrimp is a great starter shrimp best kept in a species only tank of 5-20 gallons. These along with the other neocaridina can be kept with small fish. Anything too large will be able to eat them. With these small shrimp it’s important to cover the input of any filters. There are several others neocaridina such as the yellow shrimp, snowball shrimp, blue pearl and the wild type. As time goes on I suspect we will see more colors. Caridina shrimp group is much larger with new ones being added all the time. Some do best in hard water others do better in soft water and they tend to be more challenging to keep and breed then the neocaridina. Most have the ability to hybridize with each other so best not to keep them together. The most common caridina shrimp is the crystal red shrimp (CRS). These can come all the way from almost full white to almost full red but the more natural is white and red stripes. They even have a grading scale based on opacity of color and type of striping. Crystal black shrimp AKA bee shrimp are close to the CRS. They are white and black striped. Both do best in softer, cool water with a more neutral pH. Tiger shrimp are another soft water neutral pH shrimp. It has a clear body with black stripes like a tiger. These have been in the hobby for some time with many people working on selective breeding. There are now several out such as the blue tiger and black tiger. Dark green shrimp (caridina babaulti) from India are a great caridina species to try since it does best in hard water. There are countless other ones and new ones coming in it seems every couple weeks. Amano shrimp aka Caridina japonica get larger than the other dwarf shrimp at about 2 inch. Their specialty is hair algae. As a low order breeder, they do require brackish water for their larvae to develop into shrimp. There are several Sulawesi shrimp. These are small about ½ inch and very challenging to keep.