February 20, 2010

Ode To A Snail

More than you ever cared to know about this particular snail.

It all started two years ago when I visited my sister. I noticed she had a very pretty fish, but she felt blasé about it. I told her if she ever got bored of it I'd adopt it. I'd been petless for some time and a fish sounded good- after all, it would come with all the ingredients I needed, and I'd had plenty of time to forget about why I swore off fish the last time.

Well, a couple of months later I got that fish. I brought him into work and bought a live plant for the tank. Some weeks later half a dozen tiny ramshorn snails were crawling around. An egg sack must have been on a leaf. Out of curiosity I left the snails alone, wondering if they'd be beneficial for the tank ecosystem. I started noticing I didn't need to clean the tank as often, and eventually stopped cleaning it at all. The plant looked healthier than ever and the fish didn't seem to mind his tankmates.

Then the snails started reproducing. Six individuals turned into 26, which turned into 56. Soon I was on craigslist finding homes for my surplus of snails. But each time I gave away a round of snails this one stuck out, and him I always kept. Soon he was much bigger than the rest and moved much quicker than any snail I'd seen. This snail became a "he" (even though snails are probably asexual and was really an "it") and I kind of called him my big snail. I became fond of him.

Then, soon after I moved into my studio, the fish died. I would have closed up shop if not for my big snail. So I went about acquiring some new fish to try maintaining the order of the ecosystem. The snails kept breeding and I kept finding people on craigslist who wanted them. Life went on as usual.

Not sure what that weird appendage is...

Then one day I accidently gave away all the other snails. I'd always purposely kept a few so they could continue breeding and cleaning the tank, and every time more snails would come out from the rocks. But once I really did give them all away, except for my big snail. After a few days I began the search for new snails. The pet stores weren't helpful. I could buy a snail for $2 but it wasn't a ramshorn and probably wouldn't breed. Finally someone on craigslist offered me snails and I went to pick them up. Alas, they weren't ramshorn, but I figured they'd last until I found one.

Never did find another ramshorn. Odd how they just appeared on my plant, yet are difficult to purposefully find. As time went on my two new snails reproduced into the million or so I have currently. They don't do as great a job as the ramshorn did, so I keep most of them (giving a few away here and there to friends with fish). My big snail never seemed to mind the tiny little snails clinging to his big, round shell. They almost seemed friends, these two snail species.

Then, last week, my big snail started to obviously deteriorate. He stopped moving around so much, his shell has signs of wear, and he was on what I viewed as his back, antenna still. Using chopsticks I righted him and he moved on to the plants for what would be his last meal. The next day he was belly up again, and one last time I righted him. When, on the third day, he retreated within his shell I knew it was over. His flesh was dark, his antenna motionless. By night time his body had withered so much it could no longer be contained inside the shell, and he floated up.

I will miss my big ramshorn snail. He was great entertainment, as great as watching a snail move can get, and he almost even had personality. I will keep his shell as a reminder of and tribute to my big snail. I hope he's having a swimmingly good time in the big pond in the sky.

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