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FAQs about Cone Snails

Related Articles: GastropodsSea SlugsMollusksAbalone

Related FAQs: Marine Snails 1Marine Snails 2Marine Snails 3, Marine Snails 4, Snail ID 1, Snail ID 2, Snail Behavior, Snail Selection, Snail Compatibility, Snail Systems, Snail Feeding, Snail Disease, Snail Reproduction, MollusksSea SlugsAbalone

ID Please.  Think I know what it is – Cone Snail.  Possible Whelk – 2/28/12
Hello Bob and Crew!
<Hello Mike, Lynn here today.  What’s up?>
Was looking at new corals just in from Australia yesterday
<Beautiful!>
…and noticed his feeler out.  He came from under a chalice!!!! 
<Sneaky snail!>
Only his shell is a little more on the black side from photos I
<Is there some text missing here?  No worries, the snail does not appear to be a cone snail, but instead possibly a Whelk (Superfamily: Buccinoidea), Strombus (Superfamily: Stromboidea, Family Strombidae), or Murex (Superfamily Muricoidea) of some sort.  That covers an awful lot of ground!   Unfortunately, I can’t see enough detail to narrow the ID further or tell you with any certainty whether the snail poses a threat to your livestock.  It could be a carnivorous predator and/or scavenger, or something similar to a Columbellid (Superfamily Buccinoidea, Family Columbellidae) that grazes on micro-algae. I would test this snail by offering a meaty bit (shrimp/fish/clam, etc.) and see how it reacts.  If it takes the bait, and you choose to keep it as a scavenger, do keep it well-fed, watch for damage to livestock, and remove if/when necessary.  Please see the following links for examples of the above-mentioned groups:
Superfamily Buccinoidea:  http://www.gastropods.com/Taxon_pages/SuperFamily_BUCCINOIDEA.shtml
Family Strombidae: http://www.gastropods.com/Taxon_pages/TN_Family_STROMBIDAE.shtml 
Superfamily Muricoidea:  http://www.gastropods.com/Taxon_pages/SuperFamily_MURICOIDEA.shtml 
Also, do please check Bob’s article/photos at the following link, as well as the related links/FAQ’s at the top of the page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gastroart2.htm >
Thanks!
 <You’re very welcome!>
Mike Snyder
<Take care, Lynn Z>
www.thecoralshop.com

Conus Aquarium 2/15/11
<Hello Bill>
Can you guys help me with live Conus. I know how to set up the aquarium (I think) but can't find the mollusks.
<I do not know of any place that sells them, Bob may know. Likely no demand for them, they are all venomous to one degree or another and the sting of some species have been fatal to human beings.
James (Salty Dog)>
Bill Tatham <<Write the usual e-tailing suspects or have your LFS put in a special order... some species are offered for sale on/off by marine livestock wholesalers. RMF>>
Re: More re: Conus Aquarium   2/15/11

Any suggestions on a "livestock wholesaler"?
<e for you. Try Dr.s Foster & Smith.... com>
Also (I am new at this) what is an "LFS"
<... Bill, this is all posted on WWM... Learn to/use the search tool, indices. Livestock Fish Store. B>
Thanks,
Bill Tatham

Re: bristle worm eating sea slug... Stocking cone snails 7/14/05 Thank you for the quick reply. I continued searching and came  across a website which said these type of snails will eat  Bristleworms. Conus regius & Conus  dominicanus If this is true, would they harm other  creatures too. I prefer not to use fish as I like my Featherduster worms. <... I would not put Conids in a non-specialized marine system. Use your search tools, their scientific names... Bob Fenner>

Hebrew Cone (Conus ebraeus), Poisonous? Yes!  Degree of toxicity... ?   5/13/07 Hello crew, <Hi Jana, Mich here.> I am trying to find on the Internet how poisonous the Conus ebraeus is? <Well it does kill it's prey, primarily Eunicid and Nereid Polychaete worms, by injecting them with conotoxin, a potent neurotoxin that disturbs the ion channels involved in neuromuscular transmission, typically resulting in paralysis.>   I found information on other cone shells but not on this particular one. <Yes, I too am having difficulty finding anything specific to this particular species.  There are more than 600 members of the Conidae family and only 30 documented cases of envenomations by Conus in humans, some resulting in death.  The most toxic is reported to be Conus geographus, though C textile, and C marmoreus are also associated with an increased of mortality.  I have been unable to find any reports describing the degree of toxicity of the conotoxin associated with C. ebraeus, but it is certainly something to take seriously and the effect of the conotoxin would likely vary between individuals.  Also worth noting is current research on members of this family for the treatment of pain and conditions such as Parkinson's.> Is it found in Australia and how poisonous is it. <The distribution of Conus ebraeus occurs in the Indo-west Pacific and Eastern Australia as far south as Sydney. Many thanks, kind regards, Jana. <You're welcome.  Mich>

Predator in my tank Hello, I am have 300litre reef tank which I am still learning to build, I have a major problem, my fishes go missing in the tank!! I lost a clown and a Anthea. Last night I looked really hard and seemed to find the body of my fish in between my live rocks and next to it was a black snail like creature which was feeding on my fish!! Can you please tell me what on hell this is and how can I stop it from attacking my fish. I think he lives in the rocks and is very shy, he only creeps out at night. Please advice. Thank you, Regards, Prem Kumar <Yikes... there are a few such predator groups... likely a Cone Snail species here... that can/will feed on good-sized fishes by night... while they are settled down "resting" on the bottom. It must need be removed... carefully... as these animals have a potent toxiglossal mechanism (a poisoned dart so to speak). It may be baited out with a meaty food item by night... when you can net it out... or you may have to systematically dismantle, remove the rock/decor till you find it. Bob Fenner>

Cone Snails--Steer Clear (6/3/05 I am a chronic pain patient. I now have the cone snail venom medicine in me called Prialt. (just approved by the FDA December 31, 2004) <I hope it is helping you.> I am fascinated by these snails and want to get one or a very small group. <I would only keep one of these if I had a death wish. Prialt, like Botox, is safe because it is so dilute and weakened. Like botulinum toxin, some cone snail toxins are among the deadliest toxins on the planet.> I have 20, 30, 50, 100 gallon tanks (although not in use because of my pain problem, 11 back surgeries). <yikes!> Anyway, do you need a permit? <Probably not, just a death wish.> If so, how do you obtain one? <not sure> And how would you go about obtaining a group? I am very well read on care, feeding and safety. <If so, you should be able to find some, but I strongly advise against it--see what Dr. Ron Shimek says about them in "Marine Invertebrates.> Thanks, Brent Ryther, Salt Lake City. <If you really want more info on the possibility of keeping these extremely dangerous creatures and how to get them, you might want to speak to Brad at The Aquarium in Sandy (fantastic new store) or Randy at Mountain Shadow Marine in Centerville. They know a lot about marine aquariums. Steve Allen, Taylorsville.>

Nassarius? or Conus? Predatory 3/22/04 Greetings Crew, <cheers> A little help with an ID. I was sold this (picture attached) as a Nassarius snail, but it is about 11/2" long and I watched it consume a 1" Astraea snail, shell and all and take it underground, granted I think the Astraea was dead anyways, <hmmm... not necessarily. Many gastropods are predators on others> but I am also missing a 3" Blue Mandarinfish, I haven't seen him in three days?  I have or had two of these supposed Nassarius snails (I've only seen one for about a week), a dozen small Hermit crabs, a sally lightfoot crab, and a sand shifting snail. <it is clearly not a Nassarius... and the radula at the front end indicates that it is a meat eater... predator of some sort>   Also these guys go under the sand bed pretty quick with only a small tube sticking out of the sand bed, and pretty much stay there, unless they are "hunting", one did come out one other time, crawled up to the top of my tank glass leaving some stringy slime and then back down and underground again.  Any Ideas?  Thanks for your help and your site. Sincerely, John <this is clearly not a reef-safe snail to me... although I'm not sure what species it is (not too hard to determine with better pics or your time browsing through shell-collectors web-sites for IDs. Nonetheless... some killings could have been avoided if you would have/will put this and all new creatures into a proper QT/isolation tank first before adding them to a display - very dangerous. Some such snails will selectively kill all of the Astraeas in mere days/weeks. Please do review/read our articles on the importance of QT and correct ID before buying my friend. This snail looks nothing like a Nassarius and gives/gave no reason to be suspected as such/safe. Best of luck! Anthony>

Re: Conus on 3/22/04 WWM FAQs Anthony: I saw the picture of a snail someone had mistakenly thought to be a Nassarius in today's FAQs. You suspected it's a Conus sp. It sure looks like one to me, too. <actually, the person writing the query thought it was a Conus sp. if not Nassarius... I do not believe it is either, but did not have a good reference handy to peg the shell. I suggested the chap look it up on a shell-collecting web-site (those guys are so good! at obscure shell IDs). Nonetheless, I did say/recognize the shell as a predatory species with its modified radula (proboscis). Likely just a predator on other gastropods... small fishes at best> If so, is it not potentially deadly to humans? <there is a "textile" species of Conus that is fatal to humans. I am not aware of a single recorded sighting/killing of an aquarist by this snail though. Afflicts divers and coastal human activities> I sure wouldn't want one in my tank and would strongly recommend extremely careful removal to avoid any contact that could result in a lethal sting. The question would then be what to do with it. <contacting a public aquarium for use as live... or again, one of the shell collectors to put it to some kind of use would get my vote, rather than simply destroying it> Am I mistaken about the danger of this specimen? Steve <quite correct my friend... those textiles are scary lethal they say. May account for some drownings by swimmers. Anthony>
Being and Educated Consumer 3/23/04 Hello Anthony, and or crew, <howdy!> Thank you for your response to my last question.   <always welcome my friend> The Astraea that was consumed was lying on the sand bed for three days, I thought I would leave it for the hermits, I am new at this, but have learned that the Astraea is a good algae eater, but it is also quite clumsy, <hmmm... no harm in being new. Welcome to this wonderful hobby! As to the Astraea being clumsy, though... not really. Its more a matter of being put in an unnatural aquarium/system - point blank: they do not occur on/near soft sandy substrates in the wild (other gastropods do and are better suited of course). As such, when they fall to the sand, they are poorly adapted to right themselves or return to familiar hard substrates. They are excellent algae eaters, but for your sandy tank, it would be better to use Turban/Turbo species form the Pacific... or better still...tank raised (and easy to reproduce at home) Trochus or Strombus species like from IPSF.com... or glean some free Stomatellid or Cerithium snails from a member of a local aquarium society> also I did try to research the Nassarius snail, and some pics I seen had the same little scope thingy sticking out of the sand, <yes... they do have a modified radula/proboscis which indicates (in any snail) that they are not algae eaters. In the case of Nassarius... they are harmless detritivores (still no algae though)... but most such snails with that "schnoz", are predators> I did notice that the shell was different, but I didn't think that the shell told all, <the shell does tell all, my friend> because I heard of a giant Nassarius, <just a silly trade/marketing name <G>> but have been unable to find photos...   One thing I don't understand is how a QT could of helped, <it would have illuminated for you an animal that wasn't eating algae or dead meaty foods and indicated to you that it was a predator before it started killing things in your display. QT is to be used for so much more than disease control/screening> I have one set-up and ready to go, but what would the snail have shown during the QT process that would have helped?   <I'm grateful to hear that you have a QT ready my friend. Please do remember one rule if none other... everything "wet" goes through QT for 4 weeks without exception (plants, algae, sand, rock, fishes, snails... everything!) and you will have peace of mind and a much more successful tank/enjoyment of the hobby... not to mention fewer deaths/illness in the long run> The ID was my problem, I was told that Nassarius snails are good, I went to the LFS to buy some Nassarius Snails, I would never of thought they would sell me something as something else, <it is natural to feel/believe this indeed... but caveat emptor. Being an educated consumer is the best/only way to buy live animals. Know what it is, what it eats/needs and how big it is before buying any live creatures> that lesson learned, but on the other hand I did search for Snail ID's on this site, and got some question and answers, but no pictures of Giant Nassarius snails, or any snails that resembled my snails, <understood... yet for all of our best efforts and the enormous size of the site, we are not all-knowing <G>> believe me I have been spending hours reading articles on your site, which is good, because I'm learning a lot, but it is hard to remember everything I read, because there is so much, I want to be a responsible reef keeper, and I am trying to do what's right for the life in my tank, all I want is a good clean-up crew, and everything I have tried has failed, the Turbos I bought landed on the bottom of the sand bed as did the Astraeas , and that was with drip acclimation, <'twas the source/animals... and not the species that failed you here. No worries... do try the species again if you like... or better still, the Strombus or Trochus species [note: avoid most Strombus snails like conch that get too large (over 3")... and stick with the small species like those at IPSF.com]> the Nassarius snails well you know, and now I have a dozen hermit crabs, which I was told is reef safe, and now have read that they could become a problem, and one sand shifting star, that I have learned eats the live sands good stuff, <yes... and that starfish needs 100 gallon tanks minimum to have a chance at surviving anything close to a full lifespan. Yours may starve... do consider removing> I have no problem with chemistry, I have a 75 gallon reef ready tank, with about 99 lbs of LR, and a 5" DSB with a sump, and a SeaClone skimmer that I also know is not good (now).  So I have a 75 gallon reef ready tank with 99 lbs. of LF, a 5" DSB of aragonite LS, a protein skimmer that is worthless, a sump, good chemistry, good flow, a dozen hermit crabs, and a sand shifting star, What should I do now?   <no biggie... it will be fine. You can simply adjust or increase water flow and improve skimming alone and that will take care of most any nuisance growth you will encounter by optimizing nutrient export> I don't mean to sound so sour, but $3000.00 into a hobby trusting some people that should know what they are selling (LFS), and some mistakes on my part when I want to do good, I am just plain hurt and frustrated, Please help me right this ship!  Please!! <consider it this way, mate: you would not buy a $3K car or other big expense just on the first salesperson's word and good name, right? You ID the car, make, history... check under the hood, ask friends for opinions (people that are not trying to sell you stuff ;)), etc. Just be an educated consumer across the board. Things failed here because you bought the snail without a correct ID, and you did not QT it ta' boot. We have all made this mistake and most of us learn from it. You will too. But that isn't the LFS fault. To some (large) extent, the burden is ours re: information gathering to make informed decisions.> I should also note that my tank has been up and running since 2/10/04. <let me strongly encourage you to find a local or regional aquarium society to visit and perhaps join my friend. Fish clubs are some of the very best places to get free, accurate and unbiased information from people with shared interests as you and no desire to sell you anything/no bias. In some cases, the info is far more reliable than what you can find on the Internet (random unqualified postings). Do a keyword search of your home town/region for clubs and also check the big message boards like ReefCentral.com which have long lists of clubs/forums. Best of luck! Anthony>

Re: Nassarius? or Conus? On a good path 3/23/04 Anthony and crew, <howdy!> Thank you so much, you are completely right, and you gave me a ton of information that is going to help, I have been trying to be an educated Consumer, my problem is I was being educated by the wrong people, <truly understood, my friend... most of us have had this experience.> but that has changed, not only have I found you, but I have also bought your book, and the Conscientious Marine Aquarist, along with a few more, and I'm joining a local club, and have joined a couple sites...    <excellent... all wonderful to hear> So I'll be taking a step back and reading for a bit.    <one of my fave sayings - "Its greater later". Yes... agreed> I took the two snails to a LFS I found that has a consultant from Shedd Aquarium, I might have found a good LFS, anyway, they think that they were a type of olive snail and took them for me, and gave me some true Nassarius snails and two Turbo snails, what a difference in what I had and what a Nassarius is.. wow!   <heehee.. yes. Indeed> And I also got rid of the Star....   Thanks for your help!      <all the best to you and your enjoyment/success with the hobby and beyond. Anthony>

Snails Here's a new one for you. Last night around 11:30pm I was watching a show on Discovery about the ten most venomous sea creatures. Low and behold number ten was a snail (I don't remember the name). This snail had a long snout and poisoned its victims with a sort of barb then sucked them from their shell. Now for the real kicker - this morning I found something similar in my tank. It has black shell with a white striping pattern and a long snout. The fleshy part of the snail also has this black and white pattern. My question is: could the snail I have be a snail/crab/fish eater too? Possibly the same family? Should I remove it before it immediately? >> Hmm, small doubt you're referring to some of the Cone Snails (e.g. Conus geographicus, family Conidae)... have a few books, and shells of the family in my collection... but of the more than 300 species described, none as you detail (maybe the Hebrew Cone?, Conus abraeus). Anyhow, I doubt if this is a toxic species, and if it were in my tank, I'd leave it there.... More likely, if you are losing animals mysteriously, that a crab, serpent star, mantis shrimp, bristle worm species... involved. Bob Fenner



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