Monday, December 28, 2009

The Adventures of Mister Sinister : Snack Time

My son has two apple snails, Frisky and Mister Sinister. They are fascinating little creatures. I read that they will eat vegetables - kale, lettuce, spinach, etc, so I tried giving them some lettuce and then some kale. Frisky and Mister Sinister ignored it completely and continued to crawl all over the plastic plants. The other day, I noticed Frisky by the kale (which I had anchored down with a little gravel) and as I came closer for a better look I noticed he was under the edge of it, like he was hoisting it up with his shell. He wasn't eating it, he was uprooting it! A little while later I noticed the kale was floating at the top of the tank. All I can guess is that he wanted that nasty stuff out of his tank! Now! OK. I get it. They prefer algae covered plastic and fish flakes. I won't waste time with that anymore.

And did you know that apple snails have gills and a lung and that they can survive out of the water for several days, or even weeks? And that they are more active at night? It's all true.

And to illustrate the facts, the following tale happened one evening. I had turned out the lights in the kitchen and before going up to bed I sat at the kitchen table to watch the aquarium for a minute or two. I will often do this and just watch and listen for a few minutes to the soft sounds and gentle movement of the water, fish and snails. It's very relaxing. This is what I saw:

The fuchsia coral glowed softly in the tank. The filter motor hummed, a quiet undercurrent to the soft burbling issuing forth. Several guppies swam lazily back and forth. A ghost shrimp skittered by. All was quiet in the aquarium. From behind the coral, a beady little eye peaked out and scanned the tank from left to right and back again. Sensing no immediate danger, Mister Sinister slowly crept out from behind the coral, gliding across the bottom of the tank. He quickly reached the front wall of the aquarium and slid up it like a helium-filled balloon, graceful and smooth. As he neared the water line he slowed and gazed down across the tank below. All was as it should be in his domain.

He then raised his siphon and poked it out of the top of the water, breaking the surface tension and sending circles outward. He stayed there for a moment, siphon raised as if testing the air currents, then slowly he slid up, above the water line.  As he pulled himself off the surface, the water snapped back into place like a rubber band and undulated for a moment before stilling again. Mister Sinister stopped, as if listening then continued his upward journey. He disappeared behind the top plastic edge of the tank, but within moments, the top flap lifted ever so slightly and a tiny appendage poked out. A tiny, dim light shone forth and scanned the room from left to right, then down along the outside of the tank to the floor.

Mister Sinister crept over the top of the tank and began the descent down, following the light trail. He reached the bottom of the tank and turned, gliding across the top of the table on which the aquarium rested. Without pausing he slid over the edge and down and soon reached the floor. There was no sound except the continued hum and burble of the filter. The light again scanned the room from one side to the other, and then settled on the pantry door. Mister Sinister followed his light trail across the floor, to the pantry and disappeared beneath the door. A faint light shone out softly from the crack in the bi-fold doors. After several more moments of silence, a sharp crinkle and crackle reverberated through the room. The noise continued for several moments, then stopped. What replaced it was the sound of crunching. Mister Sinister had found the potato chips! (And I thought salt was dangerous for snails!)

After a seemingly endless time, the crunching ceased. There were several more minutes of crinkling and rustling, then silence. Before too long, the light shone out from beneath the pantry door, shining across the floor toward the tank. Mister Sinister, covered in a thin dusting of crumbs like new-fallen snow on a sidewalk, glided out from beneath the door and across the floor.

He reached the aquarium table and slid up the side, then up the side of the tank. As he reached the top, he turned and scanned the area around the aquarium. Seeing nothing out of order, he lifted the lid and slid over the side. The light darkened and went out and he slid down under the surface of the water, leaving a trail of chip flotsam and jetsam like a capsizing ship. As he slid quickly down the side, the guppies swarmed upward to gobble up the crumbs. They continued to snack as he slid across the bottom of the tank to his usual spot behind the coral.

Now I know why he never eats the kale and romaine I put out for him! He is full of something tastier!


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