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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Snail Behavior

Related Articles: Snails and Freshwater AquariumsInvertebrates for Freshwater Aquariums by Neale Monks, Assassin Snails and Sulawesi Elephant Snails. Keeping Clea and Tylomelania in the Aquarium by Neale Monks, Fresh and Brackish Water Nerites by Neale Monks, 

Related FAQs:  Freshwater Snails 1, Freshwater Snails 2, Freshwater Snail Identification, Freshwater Snail Compatibility, Freshwater Snail Selection, Freshwater Snail Systems, Freshwater Snail Feeding, Freshwater Snail Disease, Freshwater Snail Reproduction, Snails by Species: Mystery Snails, Apple/Baseball Snails, Malaysian/Trumpet Snails, Ramshorn Snails,


Mystery Snail Aggression (not mating)    11/7/12
My son has a small 3.5 gallon tank with two Mystery Snails that I purchased a couple of months ago. A small black one and a larger yellow one. The black one was much more active than the yellow and I witnessed the black one "mount" the larger yellow one. This led to a web search in which I concluded they were mating and dropped the water level down 2" for it to lay eggs and lights out at night. Anticipating this I began to monitor the tank. A couple of weeks went by and nothing had happened. Now the larger yellow snail (the 'mountee") has grown rapidly, seems almost constantly active, and is mounting the smaller black snail. Still no eggs and I am totally confused as to what the sex of either of them is. Aside from that confusion the black snail is now very sluggish and every time I see it go up to the side of the tank and almost reach the top to get air the yellow one races up ahead of it and gets on top of it knocking it off the glass and down to the bottom. it seems to be totally different behavior from mating. One the yellow one knocks it down it goes on it's merry way. That is until the black one gets almost to the top again for air. I am afraid it is going to drown the other snail. I blocked it with the net a moment ago so the black one could get air but time after time it does the exact same thing. I need your insight as I have not been able to find the answer on my own. Can you diagnose a snail as a psychopath? Thanks, DeAnna
<It's just a dumb, clumsy snail. Don't worry about it too much! Snails often clamber over one another, and while this may knock the smaller one off the glass, no harm is done. Cheers, Neale.>

Golden Apple snail, beh., hlth.       9/26/12
I was looking for a similar case but I found none so I decided to ask. For the last two days my golden mystery snail has not moved. She's not closed up. She's laying on her side with her body exposed but still attached to the shell. I took her out and poked her but she didn't react. However when I pulled gently on her door shell her body didn't pop out and felt firmly in place.
<Possibly dead or dying.>
I noticed she hasn't added calcium to her shell on her new growth and her foot looks almost translucent. I have cuttlebone in there for my snails.
<How hard is your water and what is the pH? The cuttlebone may not add enough calcium to the water if you live in a soft water area.>
I have two other snails. One a blue and one a black mystery snail. The latter male and the former female. There have been caches above the waterline from both the golden and the blue since last spring and all through the summer. My blue and black are just fine. Don't seem bothered by anything. My levels are fine. The temperature in the tank is between 75-80. No ammonia. I also have a baby Molly in the tank and she seems happy as can be, too. Can you explain this behavior to me or have any suggestion of what to do? It seems to me like she's sick.
<It isn't normal snail activity. Could just be old age since this snail seems to be the only animal suffering from the illness.>
Thank you,
Nicole Duhamel
Re: Golden Apple snail     9/26/12

I don't have the equipment for my water hardness. But I do leave crushed coral bags in there for added alkalinity and calcium.
<That should do the trick.>
Assuming I purchased them from the pet store at about the same age she would be the middle child.
<Hard to tell relative age.>
Her shell is also the only one suffering from deterioration.
<Maybe something that happened to this snail before you purchased it.>
She cracked the tip of her whorls a while back but it didn't bother her.
She also had green matter on her shell. Though she was the only thing in the tank with it growing on her I figured it to be some kind of algae and managed to wipe most of it off. It didn't grow back and now this.
<Probably algae.>
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I'll watch her until I'm sure she's gone. I just hope it isn't contagious or anything. Do you think if should separate her from them or leave her?
<Probably wise. That molly might nibble on the body if allowed to.>
Thank you,
<Welcome and good luck.>
Nicole Duhamel
Re: Golden Apple snail   9/28/12

She's passed away now so if anything happens with my remaining snails I will ask you then.
<Sorry to hear that. I assume you've removed the snail from the tank.
Hopefully it was a one-off thing.>
Thanks again,
Nicole Duhamel

apple snails, beh.   11/08/11
hi I have an apple snail and recently bought another one ..the older one keeps covering the new one and wont let go .??? is it ok and normal
<Is normal. Likely mating. Cheers, Neale.>

floating snail   10/28/11
The snail that is causing me concern is a small brown one (I dont think its Ramshorn). It has been floating for weeks now. It doesnt stink and is mostly tucked in. Yesterday I packed it up and was going to go the pet store to try and determine if it is dead or alive but he/she tucked itself in further so it must be alive. I put him/her back in the tank but no attaching so far. How long can it float and survive? The tank is about 6 weeks old so Im still trying to get the nitrate/nitrite down. The ph and ammonia are perfect. Or do I just worry too much?
<What sort of snail is this? It isn't normal for snails to float. But they will go dormant if stressed, and if there's an air bubble in there, they may well float about. Small snails can die and not produce much smell at all, and their shells are very light and often float if there's air inside. Try putting the snail in a container of fresh, dechlorinated tap water at room temperature and see if it springs back to life. If your aquarium is too hot or too cold, too boisterous or otherwise unpleasant (to this snail, at least) it might settle down in a container of its own. You can then decide what to do. That nitrite is still not zero while ammonia is, I assume, zero, would seem to suggest your tank is cycling. Delicate snail species like Apple Snails and Nerites will not tolerate this, and may react by going into a dormancy state. Cheers, Neale.>

snail circling bottom of tank. Full moon?  06/26/11
Hi Folks,
My Beloved water snail is on the bottom of the tank circling on the sand.
It doesn't eat and is generally inactive.
It has recently laid eggs.
What do you think the problem may be?
<... what re the species here, system, water quality/conditions/tests? Bob Fenner>

Ivory Mystery Snail, beh.   9/14/09
To the Crew,
I have a small 1/2 inch Ivory Mystery Snail. We have a large snail shell, in the tank for decoration. Our little snail has climbed in and hasn't come out for a day. Can it be stuck?
It's been in there before, but never that far. We can see the end of it's shell way in there but don't know what to do. Any thoughts?
<Try and get the Mystery Snail out. Animals can suffocate inside shells, and I've even lost a Corydoras that way.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ivory Mystery Snail 09/15/09
Thanks Neale,
It was finally able to get out on it's own. We'll be sure to remove the large shell from our tank.
<Sounds wise.>
Thank you for your quick reply.
<Happy to help.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Mystery Snail Mating... beh., sys.  - 03/06/09 I bought two gold mystery snails the other day and tossed them in my 10 gallon tank with some zebra Danio. A few days later I noticed they were mating. After a few hours I returned to find that one snail had buried itself under the gravel almost completely (see attached photo) (you have to zoom in on the center under the bridge). Is this normal? What is going on? I thought they laid their eggs above the water line. Should I dig the snail up? Thanks for you help! Coleman My info: 10 gallon tank, over the back filter, water temp at 74 degrees, live Micro Sword Grass (Liaeopsis novae-zelandiae), pH 6.8 - 7.4, lighting on timer for day and night modes. <Greetings. Your Pomacea is likely attempting to aestivate, i.e., to enter its normal resting phase. In the wild, Apple snails live a life that involves a few months of dormancy each year. The reason they don't survive in tropical aquaria for more than a year is because aquarists deny them this. Kept active for more than 12 months they usually "burn out". So what should you do? Ideally, you'd remove the snail, place it in a container with some wet mud, and let it snooze for at least a month somewhere, taking care that it (and the mud) stayed damp. You could then try and wake the snail up by placing the snail in a bucket and partially covering it with water from the aquarium. Don't cover it with water or throw it into the aquarium just yet, or it will drown! If the snail starts moving about (this may take some hours, because it's in "suspended animation") you're good to go, and can put the snail in the aquarium. The alternative is to leave the snail in your aquarium even though its resting. Sometimes this does no harm, but sooner or later, Apple snails do die when kept going all the time, which is why you never see the full sized (tennis ball sized!) specimens in pet shops or home aquaria. By the way, your pH variations are insanely dangerous, and need to be looked into. Remember, one "step" on the pH scale means a ten-fold increase in acidity or alkalinity. So while 6.8 to 7.4 doesn't sound much, it's actually a huge change, and quite possibly one that is stressful to your fish and snails. Review the carbonate hardness of the water, and check that you're doing sufficient water changes to dilute the nitrate and organic acids in the water. A 10-gallon tank is really too small for Danios, so I'm concerned you have an overstocked, under-filtered system. Cheers, Neale.>


Snails Reproducing or Fighting? 11/20/08
<Hi Sanea>
I purchased a gold mystery snail and a black mystery snail about five days ago. They are in a 10 gallon tank with two platy fish and three mollies.
Yesterday I found the gold snail (the larger of the two), on top of the black snail, with a portion of its body on the body of the black snail. The black snail seemed to try to close itself up inside of its shell, but was unable to do so because the gold snail remained attached. The gold snail tried to twist and tended to turn the black snail onto its side. I got concerned that the twisting was going to rip the shell off of the black snail, so I separated the snails. After separating the snails, about two minutes later, the snails were on the glass of the tank and the golden snail was on the shell of the black snail again. Once again the golden snail was twisting the shell of the black snail and really looked like it was stretching the membrane that attached the shell to the snails body. I detached the snails from one another again out of fear that the weight of the larger snail would kill the black snail, by tearing the shell off. My question is, are these snails mating or trying to kill each other?
<Mating would be my guess... most animals haven't quite perfected the art as well as humans. Some "conflicts" arise... sometimes it looks like fighting. Nothing to worry about though...>
I thought snails were peaceful creatures.
<So are frogs generally... but have you seen them during mating season?
Breeding tends to make even "peaceful" animals a bit aggressive.>
If they are harming one another, do I need to separate them? If they are mating, will the fish in the tank eat the babies? These fish ate the molly babies earlier this week.
<The fish will likely eat the eggs before you ever even see them. If you're interested in breeding snails, you'll have to put them in a separate tank. Otherwise, the eggs aren't bad fish food. ;-)>
Sara M.
P.S. This is a nice site for Ampullariidae:

Snail hanging out... FW, Env.  6/17/08 Hi, <Sig> I have a freshwater snail and he is hanging out of his shell and there is not much movement. <Bad signs> A little movement, but not really much. I had a Betta and an algae eater <Yikes... what sort of algae eater? Not a CAE I hope/trust. See the Net, WWM re Gyrinocheilus> and the snail- Cecil. The Betta wasn't looking to <too> good, so I had the water quality checked and it was fine and then that night the algae eater died. The next morning the Beta died. I found out that I fed the Betta too much, and that the fish excreted too often and that was that. <... is this "system" filtered? Heated...?> I got rid of half of the water in the tank, per the fish store and it tested fine and now the snail is hanging out of his shell. Long email I know, but I wanted to give you all of the info! Is Cecil dying? Thanks! sig <I suspect so. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/bettasysart.htm Bob Fenner>

Apple snail odd behavior   5/10/07 I have two apple snails in a 28 gallon bow front tank. There are other residents there also but, the snails are troubling me with the behavior I am seeing. One is slightly larger than the other both are blonde in color. The larger of the two seems to be quite active moving all over the tank very quickly. The smaller one seems very shy and will come out after it has been laying still for a long time. If any of the fish brush against the smaller snail it will close up and lay still for a very long time. Well, the question I have is about the larger snail seeming to "attack" the smaller one. The larger snail seems to come almost completely out of its shell, wrapping itself around the others shell covering it up almost all the way holding on very tight. When I see this happening I separate the two but the larger one will hang on for a moment before I can coax it loose. Is the larger of the two trying to hurt the smaller one? <Mmm, no... is trying to mate with it> I have even went as far as moving the small one to another tank where it seems to come out and move around quite a bit more and seems less shy when I have taken it out of the tank with the larger one. My husband and I have gotten on several websites trying to sex the two and find out why this hanging on to each other type behavior is happening. I don't want any of the animals I have in my tank to get hurt especially by another resident of the tank as there is no where for the aggressor to get away from the aggressor except to hide and seem unhappy. I have had these types of snails in the past and have never experienced this type of behavior. Could the larger snail being trying to hurt the smaller one? Is there a mating dance going on? <Yes> Is there an easier way to tell which sex they are? <Not as far as I'm aware> I feel I am not doing these two justice by not knowing what to do for them to make it comfortable for them to co-exist. I would appreciate any help you can offer to figure this out. <Best to keep them separated> I currently have three tanks going and am just a novice at the fish game. I have the 28 gallon, a 29 gallon with a very territorial/aggressive African cichlid who lives alone after killing his mate. <Do not put snail/s here> The 10 gallon has a king's crown Betta, a couple of small mollies and two small Rasbora (spell?) and one very young female rainbow angel ram. The African cichlid has only allowed a Pleco to live in his tank without trying to kill it. I really want my fish to live in a happy environment as well as my two little snails. Thanks for listening, my husband just called me a motor mouth so I will end this now. Any suggestions you can make for my snail issue would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks, Mona J. <Bob Fenner>

Snails Won't Come Out Of Shells  - 10/13/06 We have two snails from a pet store in a 5 gallon tank with a Betta.  The Betta appears to have eaten the two long feelers on both snails, but both continued to thrive or so it appeared.  One has gone into its shell and doesn't seem to come back out to eat. Now the second one seems to being doing the same.  What causes them to do that? < Doesn't sound like they are happy. Their sensors are probably damaged and they need time to regenerate them. They probably come out and move around under the cover of darkness.>  What other info can I give you to try and solve this or is this a common thing that store bought snails tend to die? < They live a long time when well cared for. Your Betta has made them into mobile banquet blocks. This will make it difficult for them to come out during the day time and eat.> I have no clue as to the type of snail, they actually seemed to have a healthy appetite since they would come to the top when my wife was feeding the Betta (male). and she seen them funnel the food into their mouth thanks Timothy B. < Isolate the snails in an unheated bucket of treated water and see if they come out without the Betta being around.-Chuck>

Apple Snail Mystery   2/13/06 I was reading some of the messages on your forum hoping to find some information about my problem with an apple snail I have had since early January 2006.  He is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and has taken to giving off tremendous amounts of slime and mucus.  He seems to be otherwise okay. I have separated him from the aquarium (10 gallon) in a bowl by himself.  He doesn't seem to be very active and doesn't appear to eat much.  He is not dead because he does come out and move around some, but not like the other smaller apple snail I have.  Any ideas what the mucus production is about? Mike (new aquarium owner) <Could well be "something" chemically about the system is bothering this snail... too high pH, alkalinity, salts... metal... These animals are in many ways more sensitive than fishes to such challenges, changes. Best to treat, store new water before using, and to be very regular re water changes (not add water simply to replace evaporated). Bob Fenner>

Shocking, Vicious Snail 7/23/05 Ahoy, mateys... <Aye be gar, actually, I be Bob, what's up?> I have a tale of two snails to impart: I bought two large "Mystery Snails" from a pet store that shall remain Unnamed. <Perhaps that's their mystery?> They are chocolate-brown in color, and bigger than my thumb. Wait, I have very small hands (see?), so they are, if you are male, bigger than YOUR thumb. These snails have roundish shells. Please hold up your thumb: Yes, bigger than your thumb. <Can't type while looking at me digits> To continue: One snail is chasing down and nipping the other snail. I clearly see it nipping. I might have seen the glint of a fang, even (okay, exaggerating). The Victimized Snail jerks around, and pulls everything in, but the other snail is relentless. I keep moving him/her/it away with the handle of the net, but the chase begins anew the moment of re-emergence. <Bizarre> "Googling" about "snails aggression" and "aquarium snail aggressive" and so forth yield only advice about being aggressive in removing infestations of snails. Let's no go into what searching for the terms "aggressive snails sex?" turned up. This has gone on two nights and I'm getting no sleep. Any help would be appreciated. Here is a lovely Virtual Box of Chocolates in appreciation:   [__] Thank ye, Snowie <Am looking out to see if there's a full-moon... don't know what this is... maybe a shortage of calcium? Reproductive behavior? Bob Fenner>

Dead Snail 7/4/05 Hi my name is SuzAnn and I have two apple snails blonde in color. Anyway one has been floating for three or four days way out of it's shell and teenie weenie bubbles are forming around the front of the snail . The bubbles are in some form of thin slime. Is this snail dying? < Unfortunately your snail has passed away and needs to removed quickly so its decomposing body doesn't add to the ammonia and nitrate problem.-Chuck>

Floating Snail I have a snail that has been floating on and off for the last couple of days. When it is floating it is closed up inside of it's shell. Is something wrong with it? <Hopefully not> What would make it float? <It may be looking for food> I'm not sure what kind of snail it is, but it is not cone shaped. It is round. I have four larger gold fish in the ten gallon aquarium with the snail. I do not feed the snail anything extra because I thought there would be enough algae, and left over fish food. Do I need to supplement feed the snail? <Likely not> Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. I've never had a snail before. Thanks, Lonnette <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsnails.htm and the FAQs file (in blue, at top) re these snails. Bob Fenner>

Re: snails floating Halloo I have a 2 gallon fishbowl with one Betta and 3 snails (brand: unknown.) These snails have a peculiar behavior lately of floating on the top. If I pick them up they retract, and they otherwise seem to be happily doing their job (slithering around, cleaning the bowl.) Is this a precursor to something bad? Thanks -- KN <Likely nothing wrong here. Some snails are more amphibious than truly totally aquatic... they may be looking for more food, perhaps going to the surface for more oxygen. But the Betta is a "facultative aerial respirator" (breaths atmosphere), so not to worry re the latter for its sake. Bob Fenner>

Shy Snail? - 03/27/2004 I recently bought a snail for my 20 gallon freshwater tank. I have a few other fish in tank that are about a year old. I noticed today the snail was tucked in his shell and wasn't eating, is this normal for a snail to stay in it's shell all day long? <Mm, possibly, but certainly isn't a good sign.  Check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH, to be on the safe side.> I don't know much about snails, if there is a certain temp. for water...etc. <To be honest, I don't know, especially without knowing what species you have.  Try looking here:  http://www.applesnail.net/ .> Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated. I just hope he hasn't passed on. <Me, too!> Hoover, was so much fun to watch. <"Hoover"?  What a fitting name!  My most recent acquisition, an L-260 Pleco, has been named "Suckhead" :) > Yes, we named all the fish including the snail. <Understandable, of course :) > Please reply.  Sandra <Done.  Hope you can find the answers you're looking for!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Snail Missing Antennae 7/4/04 Hi, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I took a good look through your website (great) but didn't find my question answered. I just got a 'zebra snail' for my aquarium, and he's doing a great job in it so far, but when I got him he had lovely, long tentacles, and I'm afraid my Betta has bitten them to about 1/4 their proper size. My question is... do they grow back? I'm considering moving the Betta out for a couple reasons, and if I knew the tentacles would grow back that would encourage me to do so. (If they won't grow back then the damage is done). <Yes, they will grow back.  I have never heard of a Betta doing this though.> Thanks guys! Lynn <Good luck with your snail friend.  I'm a snail-lover too!  I have an apple snail the size of my fist!  ~PP>

Apple snail question Hi, is it normal for a fairly large apple snail to spend most of her time in a corner inside her shell?  She comes out when I drop bits of zucchini in for her to eat but spends almost all of the rest of her time inside her shell in the back of the tank.    I guess I just want to know if this is something I should be concerned about, or if its perfectly normal behavior and I should just let her do her thing. < Snails usually come out to forage for food. If you are feeding the snail well then there is really no need for your snail to be out and about. To be sure try not feeing the snail for awhile and see if it comes out looking for food. I think the only problem is your snail is fat and happy ( and lazy)-Chuck> thanks, ~Anna Lethargic Snails? - 11/01/2004 Do freshwater snails hibernate or something similar?   <Well, kinda, yeah.  Their metabolism will slow dramatically in extreme cold....> We have 2 apple, 2 rams horn and 2 cone shaped snails in our tank.  Everyone was very active and moving about the tank.  Two days ago we noticed that everyone was just hanging out in their shells and not moving.  It has been two days and the only movement has been the fish around them or the bubbles.   <The likeliest culprit here is poor water quality - what are your readings for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH?  Has pH changed recently?  If ammonia or nitrite are above zero, even by a tiny bit, that would cause the snails to close up shop and hide; high nitrate may do the same (nitrate should be less than 20ppm).> My husband says they are dead and wants to get rid of them.   <Pull one out of the tank - if it smells like the devil himself has come for a visit, the snail is dead.  You will KNOW, immediately, if the snail smells dead.> I  can't figure out what would kill them all in one evening.   <I'm not confidant they're dead yet - check 'em and see.  My best guess is still water quality.> We did add 3 new fish, but we did not add the water they came in.  Any ideas? <Possible ammonia spike from the new additions....  How many and what kind of fish in how large a tank?  Another possibility is that you might have a fish that is picking on/harming the snails.  Keep an eye out for this, and do get back to us with a list of your livestock, and the readings on your water tests - I hope we can nail this down for you, so you can fix it and not have the problem again in the future!> Thank you... Snail less in Seattle <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Snail question Hello,          My son and I just read your web page on snails and wondered if you could answer a question for us. We have a 10 gallon tank with a couple Catfish sharks and a Pleco. One day we found we had a visitor in our tank, a small Ramshorn (we think) snail (stowaway on a plant). Well we decided to keep "Gary" and now we have Gary's 1-100 in our small tank. I often manually remove several when the population gets too high but over all we enjoy all of the snails. Our question is this, often there are times when there are several snails in a big ball (about 5+ snails) the corner of the tank. We would like to know if you know if there is a reason they do this and or is it normal. We are just worried that its not a normal thing and there is something we can do to help them. We have thought of several reasons to this "snail ball" (hungry, cold, snail fighting :)  ) but we just don't know a lot about snails to know what's going on. Any help could give us would be great. < More than likely they are feeding on a piece of left over food or a dead fish. If you want to thin then out you can place a wafer food pellet on the bottom and after  a while you can remove the snail ball.-Chuck> Thank you for your time, Monte and Logan Chaney

Snails and Plecos Dear WetWeb Crew,      We have a 30 gallon tank with one snail (1 to 1-1/4" inches in diameter), one Pleco (1-1/4"), <Tiny!> one Bala shark, two Hatchetfish, two blue Paradisefish, two Rasboras, two tiny frogs, one brown Knifefish, and one glass catfish.  After the blue paradise fish battled each other for dominance (about 2-3 weeks), the tank has been harmonious for the past two months or so.      Question: Our snail is behaving erratically; several times, he(?) has just "closed up shop," and floated around the tank.  Then he re-adheres to the side, and behaves normally for awhile.  He spends most of his time now floating, with his shell half-closed.  He started doing this (we think) shortly after we observed the Pleco eating algae off of his shell.  (The algae was there when we got him two months ago, and has not seemed to have caused any problem thus far.) Concurrently, we noticed the snail appears to have suddenly grown about 1/8" of new shell right above his body, not touched by any algae. <What you describe so well is likely simply "natural" behavior... a way that these snails "get around" quickly... compared with going at a "snail's pace" via their "feet"... and no problem with the small Pleco cleaning off its shell. Bob Fenner> A question on snails Hello, I just purchased a snail from a local pet store, unsure what kind it is, the shell is brown with white, yellowish stripes and it is about the size of a quarter. <Sounds like a Ramshorn. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsnails.htm>   anyway I have put the snail in my 10 gallon fresh water tank to eat algae on my tank.  I have 3 painted tetras, a rainbow shark and a platy in the tank with plastic plants.  When I put the snail in the tank he did not move for hours, I then figured out that he was upside down, so I flipped him up right.  The next thing time I looked in the tank he was flipped upside down again so I flipped him back upside right. <No need to flip... will do this on its own... if it is alive. Bob Fenner> but he or something keeps flipping him upside down.  Is this normal and should I just leave the snail alone or what?  I am confused, This has happened several times now.  Thanks Kathy  

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