Making a calcium source out of snail shells

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Making a calcium source out of snail shells

Postby Zerox on Sun Aug 05, 2007 3:14 pm

After my experiment was a success, I thought you guys here might appreciate me posting this, with details. It may not be as effective as calcium tablets or whatnot, but it's certainly good enough if you're unwilling to fork out (or are finding it difficult to find) calcium things.

Collecting the shells: First of all, you'll want snail shells. Lots of snail shells. Type of snail doesn't matter. I collected mine from pieces from Song Thrush anvil sites in the garden, one of the richest sources. If you live somewhere without these, may I suggest the following alternatives:
Digging. often if you dig, lots of old snail shells turn up in the soil.
If you live near the shore, you may find things such as old limpet, whelk and mussel shells (mussels being the best choice, for the thinner shells).
Collect more shells than you think you'll need, when ground down, the result will be far less than you'd expect. I used around 15 3cm width shell's worth, and barely got anything. Collect plenty! Any excess can always be kept for use later.

Grinding: You'll off course need to find a way tog rind the shells into a finer mix, but before this, wash them thoroughly, giving a good rinse with tap water (hot/cold, though hot is preferred), and allow to dry out afterwards, depending on the method to be used for the grinding. I tried to find a pestle and mortar, but being unable to find one, a very effective substitute can be made from a smooth, round stone (about maybe 6-7cm wide, this will vary, pick one that's a size comfortable to hold) and some sort of plastic container. Now grind the shells thoroughly, and you can stop when most pieces are around 2-3mm across, particularly since it is not worth the effort getting them smaller (mainly if using a pestle and mortar, though do not hesitate to get the pieces smaller if you can). You may also want to try a blender with some water in, though mind that if you are using any especially thick shells (limpets, whelks etc.) you may want to grind them down manually a bit first, so they do not damage the blender. Try a few bashes with a hammer. Other methods are widely available, see what you can think of.

Final preparation: Now, put all the shell pieces into some sort of bowl, and put the tap on it. Lots of small dusty pieces will probably be among them, and you don't want these clogging up the tank water or anything. You may need to regularly stir up the shells at regular intervals to make sure all the dust is removed with water flowing over the edge of the bowl. When the water becomes and remains clear, even when all the shell pieces are stirred up, empty the bowl of as much water as possible without dropping the shell pieces out (they will, when most water is gone, stick the the bottom somewhat, so almost all the water can be drained easily). Then allow to dry out completely, so as to prevent tap water entering the tank. Put the dried pieces into a saucer or dish, then carefully put into the tank. Snails will use this as a pit stop to collect calcium.

Other tips: If you do not want to wait long periods of time for the shells to dry out etc., then use tank water, or just plain tap water that you have allowed to mature for at least 24 hours so harmful chemicals are removed. For the dust removing stage, you can use rain water from a water butt outside, if you have one, or pour gently out of a bottle with one hand and sue the other to stir up the shells, though this may be more laborious than using it straight out a butt (this should be safe, unless you live in a really heavily polluted area, the rainwater will contain no chemicals that should harm your tank)

I think that's pretty much it for now.

If anyone else has good suggestions for homemade calcium sources, including snail shells or not, I may add them here (and as a result possibly change the thread title).

I hope you guys find this useful :D

...oh, and I'd appreciate you guys trying this, to see how well it really works. Kinda hard to tell with just one snail, though she seems to like it.

EDIT: After some closer observations, it seems she dislikes crawling on it now, probably because of larger pieces, though smaller snails, like the MTS's, readily dig in it and so on. I instead suggest keeping the dry shells near the tank, and perhaps weekly or something put some pieces in onto the substrate with their food.
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