A few years ago, I started a freshwater aquarium in my living-room. I saw this as a hobby I could share with my kids. Responsibility of pet care, in-tank births & deaths, and the beauty of aquatic life offers lessons daily. Emma loves the tank, and Peter is really starting to take notice lately as well. Of all the creatures that live in our tank, the family favorites have to be our 4 Mystery Snails – one ivory colored, one black, one blue, and a gold one. Our gold snail is named (of course) Goldie. Goldie offers round-the-clock entertainment. She is comical. She is rocket-fast (for a snail). She performs death-defying feats (imitating the Acapulco cliff diver), and she is always visible, due to her bright orange shell & the constant need to be in the limelight.
Four days ago, Goldie was nowhere to be seen. This is unusual, but not unheard of – there is a large castle-on-the-rocks sculpture in the tank, and any creature can hang out inside the castle, unseen for any length of time. As the days pass, Goldie does not come out, and a flashlight shining through the castle windows reveals no Goldie inside. Hmmm. Emma misses her, and wants to know where she could be hiding. The answer is always “in the castle”, but it has become clear that she is not in there. Her shell is too big & orange to hide for this long. I planned to implement the standard “Plan B” on Monday – when the kids are in school, I will stop at Petsmart & pick up another golden mystery snail.
Today’s cleaning/furniture rearrangement session revealed a startling & horrifying finding; Goldie was on the floor – dry & sporting a dust-bunny jacket. Fortunately, Emma did not see what I had found on the floor. I dusted Goldie off and poked at her trap-door. It felt leathery. Poor Goldie. She may have been there for 5 days before the grusome discovery this morning. Remembering that my brother told me of how his snails love to climb above the waterline in his tank, I wondered if there is any chance that Goldie could be alive, and waiting to dazzle us with another one of her unbelievable circus stunts. I scooped some aquarium water into a cup and dropped Goldie’s lifeless body into the cup. No luck. Goldie just sort-of got wet, but no movement, as I assumed.
As I left for a performance this afternoon, I looked in the cup. There she was… climbing up the side of the cup – ready for her next death-defying escape. I poured her back into the aquarium, told Emma that Goldie’s back, and watched with amazement as she climbed and explored – as if nothing ever happened!
Mystery snails have one more trick up their shells: Even if their ponds were to dry out, they just bury themselves in mud, close their shells up tight (they have a trap door which is called an operculum) and they go to sleep until conditions are better again. This is something like hibernation but is actually called aestivation. But, unlike hibernation, this sleeping state can actually last for years. Mystery snails are good survivors! They can even survive in polluted water and waters low in oxygen.
Welcome home, Goldie.