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The Conch: An Excellent Addition for a Reef Tank

Snails

Often times, we associate a Conch with either awesome tasting fritters and snail salad that we would order at a fine restaurant by the shore or purchase the large shell as a souvenir from a vacation to Florida to listen to the seashore, or taking it one step further, connecting and associating the two with the Conch Republic in Key West. What many of you don’t know is that a Conch affords one an excellent opportunity to add a great invertebrate to your reef tank’s clean up crew, that will constantly forage your substrate providing an effective aeration alternative while cleaning your substrate as well.

Their are different species of Conch in the wild, however only 2-3 are available with any sort of consistency. Also, the size attained by many of these giants should deter marine enthusiasts from purchasing one of these for their tank, leaving them to be viewed and enjoyed in their natural environment. The Conch is part of the Strombid family that is combined with Vase, Harp and the Spider shells(snails). Most of these are highly predatory in nature and therefore their carnivorous nature should also reflect ones decision to purchase most of these strombids for their aquarium.

The best species of conch for a captive environment are the Queen(gigas), Crown(Melongena Corona) and Fighting(alatus) conch, with the Crown being the smallest of the Conch snails. One of the largest and sometimes available in the hobby is the Horse Conch(Pleuroploca gigantia) and the Mangrove Conch which are often times confused with the more reputably smaller and less aggressive other conch species listed above. Adding one of these predatory carnivores to your tank would prove detrimental as they would consume other snails, urchins, sea stars, hermits and other beneficial life forms!

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The available and beneficial conch snails available to us afford us a unique style of cleaning the benthic area of our marine biotope. They are also great aerators in that their constant grazing and stirring up of the substrate consistently replenishes beneficial dissolved oxygen back into the substrate where many benthic, cryptic and microscopic worms, bacteria etc. rely on it for their success.

It is best to offer a conch a large tank of say 50 gallons or larger to ensure that it has an adequate chance of reducing the possibility of starvation. They will feed on algae, uneaten food and detritus, hence it is best to give these snails plenty of space to forage for food. It is also beneficial to have a deep sand bed consisting of fine grain sand to allow them to burrow for food while minimizing the chances of them injuring themselves or having a hard time being able to scour the benthic areas of your tank for food. Conch snails will not do well in a tank housing large amounts of live rock that inhibits a conch from suitable amounts of sandy areas required for its survival.

As with any snail species, and invertebrate for that matter, it is best to maintain a constant salinity, alkalinity and pH level. Other than that, everything else is pretty much common sense as they represent a fairly easy and compatible bottom dwelling snail. These can be a long lived and hardy animal offering you many great benefits not to mention the enjoyment of housing one of these in a reef aquarium.

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Yes, they do make great fritters and scongilli, however, they can be an essential focal point in your attempt to diversify your benthic population in your marine tank! I would definitely give them a chance to win your heart and give them your approval as a mainstay in your aquarium.