Post by muddydragon on Oct 18, 2014 13:50:30 GMT
Are you prepared for winter?
The onset of colder weather is a dangerous time for our heat-loving snails. So here’s some preparation you can do.
The most basic and important is heating and tank temperature.
Check your heat mat(s)
Are they all working? Disconnect the thermostat for a while and see if you can feel heat radiating from your heat mat. Do any seem feeble? It may be worth keeping an eye on them. Replace any faulty heat mats.
It’s always worth having a spare heat mat or two in-case one of your heat mats fail. Always check your spare works after purchase.
As the weather gets colder, your current heat mat(s) may struggle to cope with the lower temperatures and you may find the tank temperature is dropping. You can check this with a thermometer but also keep a close eye on your snails’ activity, do they show signs of slowing down or have they attempted to seal themselves in? If there are problems with the temperature they may be resolved by the following points: “insulation” “extra heating” & “thermostat”.
One of the best ways to improve tank temperature is that of insulation, it will also save on your electricity bills!
If your tank is on a hardwood floor surface or similar consider placing it on a section of carpet or similar material to help insulate from cold floors.
Insulate the back of the tank and the heat mat. Various things can be used I find foil faced polyisocyanurate insulation board to be the best as it is easily cut and has a foil front. Although good, I find that expanded polystyrene tends to moult after a while and nothing is more annoying than those little expanded polystyrene balls floating around the place! You can also place extra insulation on the short edges of the tank. (leaving only the front un-insulated).
Insulate the top, this is one of the most useful things you can do (hot air rises!), obviously this can cause complications with ventilation that is on the top of tanks, hence it is advisable to only leave the top covering insulation on overnight (or whatever time period is coldest in your house). Insulation that can be draped over the front I have found to be best, such as an old duvet and duvet cover. (do not panic if you forget to uncover them one day they will not suffocate, but try not to get into the habit of doing so).
If your tank is still struggling to maintain temperature after insulating the tank it may be worth considering extra heating. You want to maintain a temperature gradient in your tank so be sure not to cover the entirety of the back of the tank, I would aim for around a third. However you can add to the heated end by placing another heat mat of the short side.
These turn your heat mat on or off depending on the temperature in your tank (you set which temperature you wish to aim for) and help maintain a steady tank temperature. I find these invaluable all year round (no need to worry about fluctuating temperatures). In winter these are especially important as temperatures can fluctuate widely with central heating turning on and off (such as off at night) and occasional warm spells. I would really consider investing in one of these for each tank.
With increased levels of heating you may find your tanks dry out quicker, keep a close eye on tank humidity and increase spraying as needed
It is worth making sure you have a good stock of dried and/or frozen food for your snails, if there is heavy snow you want to make sure you can still feed your snails if you can’t get to the store.
Unfortunately winter often brings power-cuts with it. This has the problem of meaning that your tanks will no longer be heated. If you have an old fashioned boiler or method of heating your house you may be able to just turn the heating up but for the vast majority of houses a loss of electricity means a loss of central heating too. Short power cuts are usually not much of a problem but longer periods of power loss often occur so be prepared for the potential necessity to manually heat your tanks. If you have a gas hob then it is likely that you can easily heat some water and create hot water bottles for your tanks (make sure you have enough receptacles to hold the heated water). If you have a non-electric fire you can move the snails into the same room as the fire and heat that room (but do not leave the fire on unattended overnight!). If you have an electric stove it may be worth investing in chemical heat-packs which can be activated in the case of power-cuts. Manual heating by any of these methods can be risky as the temperature is not as regulated so be sure to keep a close eye on tank temperature and experiment with the best method of heating.
Evacuation (also useful info for travelling with your snails)
Sometimes you may need to leave your house due to prolonged periods of heating/electricity loss, flooding or another reason. In these cases you are going to want to evacuate your snails with you. It’s worth having an evacuation/travel kit prepared for your snails in case of emergency. Try to think how much you could realistically fit in the back of your car/in the back of taxi or how much you could take with you on a train (remember you will have other items too).
• Large plastic boxes (large enough to house your snails but do not need to be ideal size as they are only temporary houses). Plastic boxes will be easier to transport being light and stackable (and easy to store!). Remember to have enough boxes for all your snails. You can use these boxes to store the rest of your kit.
• Substrate. In an emergency your snails can go without substrate but it is preferable to have substrate. Dried compressed substrate such as coir blocks are ideal and easy to transport then can be made up once you arrive at your destination
• Food. You can’t be sure how long it will be until you can get fresh food so it’s worth keeping some dried food in your kit. Make sure to check this semi-regularly to ensure it has not gone off or become infested.
• Heating. You can either keep spare heat mats in the kit or rely on removing your heat mats from the tanks before leaving - assess how easy it is for you to do this before you rely on this option. It may also be worth having some chemical heat packs in case you need to take your snails on a non-heated leg of the journey (e.g. walking to a train station).
• Calcium. If you expect to be away from home for only a few days then this isn’t vital, but is preferable to have if you have space, especially in-case of any accidents during transport.
• Transport carrier for the snails: (the most important). You want a way to easily and safely transport your snails. The best method is similar to posting snails. If you have just a few snails an ice-cream tub or similar may suffice, simply fill the tub with sphagnum (and food slices if they are likely to be in their traveling container for more than a few days). For larger numbers of snails I find compartmentalised boxes/cases ideal especially those with a handle, such as a tool organiser. (see example below which I have used for snails both when I had to evacuate the house I was renting in London for a week over winter due to a prolonged electric failure and when at university travelling home on the train during the holidays)
Example of a transport carrier for snails (a second layer of sphagnum would be added on top of the snail)