Invasives Blog

The Life cycle of the golden apple snail and its ability to grow and reproduce quickly makes it an incredibly successful invasive species.

Golden apple snail, Pomacea canaliculate, is widely considered one of the most invasive invertebrates of waterways and irrigation systems. The snails are able to spread through irrigation canals, natural water distribution pathways, and during flooding events.

Apple snails
Golden apple snails. Image: CABI

They have voracious appetites with aquatic cultivated crops such as rice and taro particularly vulnerable to their feeding. They make rasp-like cuts on host plants and damage is rapid – a large adult snail can consume a blade of rice in 3-5 min.

Snails live around one to two years in tropical climates. Due to the warm temperatures the snails do not hibernate and reproduce throughout their lifetime.  They spend most of their time in the water making them hard to detect. Their eggs, which are bright pink and laid just above the waterline, are more visible.

Life cycle of the golden apple snail

Day 1

Apple snail eggs
Golden apple snail eggs. Image: CABI

Female golden apple snails lay their eggs just about the waterline on plants or structures like rocks, logs, or walls, usually at night. The individual eggs are small (2 -3 mm) and round and bright pink. Each egg cluster contains around 500 eggs. The egg cluster gradually changes shade, becoming paler as the eggs get closer to hatching.

Day 7 – 14

A week to two weeks after the female snail lays the eggs, they hatch. The number of days depends on the temperature – the warmer it is the shorter the incubation period.

Newly hatched snails are tiny, with shells of approximately 2 millimetres in diameter. The snails grow rapidly and drop from where they hatched in into the water below. Once in the water, the newly hatched snails feed on algae and organic detritus.

Day 15 – 25

Golden apple snail
Golden apple snail. Image: CABI

Around two weeks after hatching, the snails develop into juveniles. Once its shell reaches approximately 1.5 centimetres the juvenile snail will start to feed on young rice seedings and other aquatic plants. The snails attack the base of rice seedlings and other aquatic parts and then devour aerial parts.

Day 45 – 60

Golden apple snail
Golden apple snail laying eggs. Image: CABI

After about 45 days, the snail shells reach around 2.5 centimetres in diameter. They are now fully grown and able to reproduce, restarting the cycle.

View the life cycle of the golden apple snail

Read more about the golden apple snail on the Plantwise Knowledge Bank and the Invasive Species Compendium

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