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Freshwater Snails: Life Cycle & Mating

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

If you've ever had an aquarium, you may have experience with freshwater snails. In this lesson we will take a look at their life cycle, as well as the different mating habits.

Snails, Snails Everywhere

When you think about freshwater snails (which are simply snails that live in freshwater), you might picture the small snails that people often have in their aquariums. Snails are a common aquarium addition because they eat algae and keep the tank clean. What you may not have realized is that there are around 5,000 different species of freshwater snails! They can all be found classified under the scientific class Gastropoda. As you might imagine with such a huge number of species, they can be found in many places around the world in freshwater lakes, streams, ponds, rivers and, of course, aquariums.

There are about 5,000 different species of freshwater snails.
Freshwater snails

Similar Life Cycles

Despite the staggering number of species, the life cycles of all freshwater snails are fairly similar. They lay their eggs in clumps, usually attached to plants or similar surfaces in the water. Some species do lay their eggs out of the water, and the juvenile, or young, snails go back into the water after they hatch.

Snails can lay eggs multiple times a year, sometimes as often as once or more each month. Depending on the species, there can be anywhere from 5 to 200 or even 600 eggs in a single bunch. For example, the Chinese mystery snail can lay up to about 100 eggs at a time, but Ramshorn snails will usually only lay 10 to 12.

The eggs typically hatch after 1 to 5 weeks. Once again, this depends on the species. It also depends on environmental factors, such as how warm or cold it is. A juvenile freshwater snail looks almost exactly like a very small adult. In some cases their shell may be less curly, but in general they look almost exactly the same.

To recap, the life cycle of a freshwater snail goes like this: egg-> juvenile-> adult.

Freshwater snails lay their eggs in clumps.
Freshwater snail eggs

Mating

There is a significant difference between species when it comes to mating. Freshwater snails are split into three groups as far as mating methods. The first two groups are made of hermaphrodite snails, which have both male and female sexual organs.

In one group we have hermaphrodite snails that reproduce asexually. This means they can lay and fertilize their own eggs, and do not need a second snail to be present for reproduction. Other freshwater snails are hermaphrodites, but either reproduce sexually or only reproduce asexually under certain conditions. For example, a snail in this group might typically reproduce sexually, but if there are no other snails around they are able to reproduce asexually.

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