Top 7 Helpful Snails for Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
Although not everyone loves aquarium snails, we do love their vital role in the 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. We have compiled a list of the top 7 freshwater snails we love keeping to help you appreciate their amazing abilities. These snails are safe for aquarium plants. But, one caveat:
General Care Tips for Nails
Snails require certain minerals such as calcium to develop their shells. They prefer pH levels above 7.0 and higher GH levels 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. You can buffer the pH by using crushed coral and filter media. Additionally, calcium-rich foods such as Shrimp Cuisine, Crab Cuisine, or Zoo Med Nano Banquet Food Blocks can be fed.
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. They stay fairly small at less than 1 inch (2.5 cm), which makes them small enough to clean out the nooks and crannies in your tank. Bladder snails are sometimes confused with larger pond snails, which can grow to 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) and like to eat aquarium plants. They can be tolerant of a variety of pH levels and temperatures and aren’t fussy about water parameters.
Because they can fertilize themselves, many people call them “pestsnails”. They look like small, white dots covered in clear jelly. These eggs can be found on tank walls and plants. The aquarium may be overfeeding if it experiences a high number of bladder snails. Reduce the food intake, manage algae growth, and use gravel vacuuming to get rid off excess organics. The snail population will stabilize once the food sources are exhausted. This article has more information on how to manage 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 can escape easily so make sure to keep your aquarium closed. Also, if there is not enough algae in the tank, they can potentially starve to death. You can also supplement their diet with canned green beans and blanched zucchini slices.
The nerite snails, unlike other snails, have a high salt tolerance. They can also be used to breed in brackish waters. While you may see them leave white, sesame seed-like egg capsules on the tank walls or decorations, they won’t hatch in fresh water, so there is no need to worry about them breeding out of control.
3. Ramshorn Snail
This beautiful snail from the Planorbidae family has a unique shell that looks like ram’s coiled horn. They can grow to about 1-2 inches (2-5 cm) in length and come in a variety of pretty colors, including brown, gold and gray-blue. 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. Their eggs look similar to bladder snail eggs. They are small dots 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. You can find numerous varieties (e.g., ivory, yellow gold, jade, blue, brown, purple, and magenta) for sale at most pet stores. They are active and quick for snails and can display amazing behaviors like climbing up to the top of the tank or “parachuting” down. You might also see them sitting near the water surface. They will then open their breathing siphon and inhale water to reach their gills.
The mystery snails are not hermaphroditic. Males and females can be sexed simply by holding the shell of the snail so that its foot is vertical, as if it were climbing up walls. You can see the holes on the shoulders of females and males when the snail opens its shell. When the female spawns, she climbs to the surface and places a bunch of eggs above the water. Their population is fairly easy to control because the large egg cluster can be removed if babies are not desired.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail
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 most of their time digging in the substrate and waiting for it to darken before they emerge to hunt. They are loved by many people because they constantly turn the gravel or sand over to add nutrients to plants and keep cyanobacteria away from the ground. They are extremely hardy and can survive in uninhabitable conditions that would be fatal to other snails. They can adapt to living in brackish tanks and have the same tolerance as the nerite snail.
Malaysian trumpets snails aren’t hermaphroditic but they can breed quickly because their females can produce clones without the need for males. Once the eggs hatch, they are placed in the mother’s brood box and released by the mother to become miniature adults.
6. Assassin Snail
Anentome Helena is a Southeast Asia snail that measures 1 in (2.5 cm). It has a beautiful, pointed shell with brown and yellow stripes. The assassin snail, however, is a carnivore, which specializes in eating other snails, and it’s not like the other detritivores. Like the MTS, it enjoys burrowing in the ground and then comes out when prey is detected. These snails are often used by aquarists to rid small snails such as bladder, ramshorn, or Malaysian trumpet. However, groups of assassin snails are capable of taking down snails that are much larger than themselves. If all available snails have been eliminated, they will also opportunistically feed on fish food, worms, and deceased animals.
Assassin snails do not have the ability to reproduce and are not hermaphrodites. 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 Genus’ rabbit and Sulawesi snails are from Indonesia. They can withstand temperatures up to 80-86 degrees F (27-30 degrees C). Similar to Malaysian trumpets snails, their shells are long and pointed. But they grow larger to reach 3-5 inches (8-13cm). Their shells are brown to black, their antennae look like they have rabbit ears and their bodies are colorful or patterned. 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. They seem to be fine with thicker, tougher plants such as anubias.
Rabbit snails are very peaceful, slow-moving, and slow to reproduce. They are not hermaphroditic and give birth to live snails, similar to Malaysian trumpet snails. It is possible to see one baby every 4-6 weeks. However, the young may take some time to mature and become sexually mature.
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.