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. 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). Consider adding mineral supplements to the water, such as Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium, to any cracks, holes, or pits in your snail’s shell. You can buffer the pH by using crushed coral and filter media. You can also 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. Snails are known to be very still when resting. However, if one of your snails is hanging out of their shells or has an unpleasant odor, you should remove them from the aquarium to stop the water from fouling.
To keep your aquarium safe for snails, avoid snail-eating predators such as certain loaches and pufferfish. You should also consider changing the water level to keep snails from escaping.
1. Bladder Snail
This common snail comes from the Physidae family and is known for its brown, bulbous shell with speckled spots. 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 are sometimes confused with larger pond snails, which can grow to 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) and like to eat aquarium plants. They don’t care about water parameters, and can tolerate a wide range in pH and temperature.
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. You may be feeding too many bladder snails if you notice a large population. 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. 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 range from 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3-3.8 cm) and are available in several varieties – such as olive, zebra, red racer, tiger and horned nerite snails. 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. Cans of green beans, zucchini slices blanched, and Zoo Med Nano Banquet food blocks can be added to their diet.
Unlike most snails, nerite snails have a very high salt tolerance and are used to breeding in brackish water. 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
The Planorbidae family’s beautiful snail has a shell that looks almost like a ram’s horn. They can grow up to 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) and come in many pretty colors – like brown, gold, gray-blue, and pink. 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 are similar to bladder snail eggs and look like small dots coated in a mound of 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 safe with plants, unlike some larger Pomacea species such as the Peruvian apple snail and the giant apple snail. There are many varieties available, including ivory, yellow gold and jade as well as blue, brown, purple and magenta. 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 may also see them rest near the water surface, extend their breathing siphon, and inhale water to pass over their gills.
Mysterious snails do not have a sexual instinct. You can sex males and women by holding the snail’s body so that one foot is horizontal, like it was climbing up a wall. 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 mostly nocturnal snail with a 1-inch (2.5) shell that is pointy, elongated, and brown. They spend a lot of time in the substrate waiting for dark to emerge and then burrowing. 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 can survive in environments that are unsuitable for them and they are also extremely resilient. Like the nerite snail, they have a high tolerance for salt and can be acclimated to live in brackish aquariums.
Malaysian trumpets snails aren’t hermaphroditic but they can breed quickly because their females can produce clones without the need for males. The eggs are kept in the mother’s brood pouch and hatched by the mother.
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 is a carnivore and specializes in eating snails. 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. 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 are not hermaphrodites and have a slower breeding rate compared to 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). They look similar to the Malaysian trumpet snails. However, their long, pointy shells are much longer and can grow to as large as 3-5 inches (8-13cm) in length. They have brown-black shells and antennae that look similar to rabbit ears. Their bodies can also be 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. However, they seem to do fine with tougher, thicker plants like 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. We may see one baby appear about every 4-6 weeks, and the young take a long time to grow up and reach sexual maturity.
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.