Top 7 Helpful Snails for Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
Aquarium snails are not for everyone, but many people love them due to their important role in the underwater ecosystem. As detritivores, they help to clean up and break down organics in the tank, such as leftover fish food, dying plant leaves, algae, and even deceased animals. Here’s a list with 7 of our favorite freshwater snails. These snails are safe for aquarium plants. But, one caveat:
General Care Tips For Snails
Snails need calcium to develop their shells. This is why they prefer pH higher than 7.0 and GH higher above 8deg (140 ppm). You can douse the snail’s water with mineral supplements like Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium if you find cracks, pits, or holes. The pH can be lowered by adding crushed coral to the substrate or filter media. Plus, you can feed calcium-rich foods, like Shrimp Cuisine, Crab Cuisine, and Zoo Med Nano Banquet Food Blocks.
Most snails are very sensitive to salt, so you may need to take them out of the aquarium before treating your fish with sodium chloride. It is normal for snails to not move when they are resting, but if you find one of them is hanging out of its shell or has a putrid odor, remove it from the tank to prevent the water from fouling.
To keep your aquarium safe for snails, avoid snail-eating predators such as certain loaches and pufferfish. Plus, some snails are known to escape out of the tank, so make sure you have a tight-fitting lid, cover any openings with craft mesh, and consider lowering the water level if needed.
1. Bladder Snail
The common snail is a member of the Physidae physidae and is well-known for its brown, bulbous shell with speckled marks. Their size is less than one inch (22.5 cm), making them easy to reach all the corners and crevices of your tank. Bladder snails may be mistaken for larger pond snails. These snails can grow to 2-3 inches (5-8 cm), and they love to eat aquarium plant. They don’t care about water parameters, and can tolerate a wide range in pH and temperature.
They are often called “pest snails” because they can also fertilize themselves. They look like small, white dots covered in clear jelly. These eggs can be found on tank walls and plants. If you experience a population explosion in bladder snails, you may be feeding the aquarium too much. Reduce the food intake, manage algae growth, and use gravel vacuuming to get rid off excess organics. The snail population will stabilize when the food sources run dry. The full article contains more information about managing your snail colony.
2. Nerite Snail
The Neritidae snail family is well-known as being the best freshwater aquarium fisherman. They can even eat green spot algae. They can grow to a length of 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3-0.8 cm), and come in many varieties, including olive, red racer and horned-nerite. They are prone to escaping, so keep a tight lid on your aquarium. You should also ensure that there is enough algae in your tank to prevent them from starving to death. Supplement their diet with canned green beans, blanched zucchini slices, and Zoo Med Nano Banquet Food Blocks.
Neriites snails are able to breed in brackish water, unlike most other snails. They may leave white capsules that look like sesame seeds, but they don’t hatch in freshwater. Therefore, there is no reason to be concerned about them breeding out of control.
3. Ramshorn Snail
This stunning snail belongs to the Planorbidae Family. It has a unique shell which looks similar to a ram’s coiled Horn. They can grow to as much as 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) in size and come with a wide range of colors including brown, pink, gray-blue and gold. These lovely gastropods will happily clean up your aquarium by consuming any algae, fish food, and melting plant leaves they come across. Like the bladder snail, they are simultaneous hermaphrodites that possess both male and female sexual organs at the same time. They look similar to bladder snail eggs, and are covered in transparent gelatin.
4. Mystery Snail
Pomacea bridgesii a South American snail is popular. It measures between 2-2.5 and 6 cm in diameter. They are not dangerous for plants unlike larger Pomacea species like the Peruvian or giant apple snail. There are many varieties available, including ivory, yellow gold and jade as well as blue, brown, purple and magenta. They are relatively fast and active for a snail and display many fascinating behaviors, such as climbing to the top of the tank and “parachuting” down. You may also see them rest near the water surface, extend their breathing siphon, and inhale water to pass over their gills.
Mystery snails are not hermaphroditic, and males and females can be sexed by holding the snail’s shell so that its foot is vertical as if it were climbing up a wall. You can see the holes on the shoulders of females and males when the snail opens its shell. The female spawns by climbing up to the surface of the water and laying a number of eggs. Their population is fairly easy to control because the large egg cluster can be removed if babies are not desired.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail (MTS)
Melanoides tuberculate is a nocturnal snail that has a 1-inch (22.5 cm) long shell. It’s pointy, elongated brown and is usually nocturnal. They spend a lot of time in the substrate waiting for dark to emerge and then burrowing. Many people like them because they regularly turn over the sand or gravel, which can help mix in mulm for plants to use as nutrients and prevent cyanobacteria from covering the ground. They can survive in conditions unsuitable for other snails and are very resilient. Like the nerite snail, they have a high tolerance for salt and can be acclimated to live in brackish aquariums.
While Malaysian trumpet snails are not hermaphroditic, they have a rapid breeding rate because females can create clones without the presence of males. The eggs are incubated in the mother’s brood pouch, and once hatched, the mother releases live young that look like miniature versions of the adults.
6. Assassin Snail
Anentome helena is a 1-inch (2.5 cm) snail from Southeast Asia that has a pointy, textured shell with beautiful brown and yellow striping like a bumblebee. The assassin is a carnivore and specializes in eating snails. It burrows in the ground, and comes out when it finds prey. These snails are often used by aquarists to rid small snails such as bladder, ramshorn, or Malaysian trumpet. Assassins can also take down larger snails. If all available snails have been eliminated, they will also opportunistically feed on fish food, worms, and deceased animals.
Assassin snails aren’t hermaphrodites, and they have a slower rate of reproduction than other snails. Each egg is contained in a single egg capsule, which are translucent and square-shaped. Since they are so useful for keeping pest snail populations under control, local fish stores are often willing to buy any extra assassin snails you produce.
7. Rabbit Snail
The Tylomelania genera’s rabbit and Sulawesi genus snails hail from Indonesia. They enjoy higher temperatures between 80-86degF (27-30degC). Similar to Malaysian trumpet snails, they have long and pointy shells, but they grow much larger, reaching up to 3-5 inches (8-13 cm) long. They have brown to black shells, antennae that look like rabbit ears, and colorful or patterned bodies. While they usually consume fish food, blanched vegetables, and soft algae, they may start to nibble on plants with softer leaves and stems if not fed enough. However, they seem to do fine with tougher, thicker plants like anubias.
Rabbit snails can be peaceful, slow-moving and difficult to reproduce. They don’t have any hermaphroditic characteristics and they give birth to live snails. This is similar to Malaysian trumpets snails. One baby may appear every 4 to 6 weeks. The young can take many years to reach sexual maturity and grow up.
Snails make an amazing team member for cleaning up organics. They can further breakdown organics into nutrients that can then be used by aquatic plants.
To get your own aquarium snails, check out our recommended list of online fish retailers.