5 Easy Ways to Get Rid of Aquarium Pest Snails
Bladder, ramshorn, and Malaysian trumpet snails are often called pest snails in the aquarium hobby because they reproduce very quickly and are difficult to remove once introduced to a fish tank. They can get into your tank by hitchhiking onto live aquatic plants, or in a fish bag purchased at the pet shop.
Are pest snails bad for my fish tank? Despite having the nickname of “pest snails,” they are actually quite useful in aquariums and are a natural part of the aquatic ecosystem. They eat algae, clean up uneaten fish food, break down fish waste, and help feed the snail eaters in your fish tank. These snails will not harm your live fish or plants, but they do keep your aquarium clean by consuming any dead animals or sickly leaves.
Even though they are known as “pest snails,” ramshorn snails are often kept by fish keepers for their cleaning abilities and beautiful color variations.
Despite these many benefits, some people do not like being overrun by so many snails that they start covering the glass and every surface in the fish tank. To keep your aquarium snail population under control, try one of these 5 proven methods.
Method #1: Less Food
Fish keepers who have experience with fish keeping know that the best way of decreasing the number snails is to eat less fish food. Even though snails have a rapid reproduction rate, they can only produce new babies if there is enough food. Your fish should only be fed enough food to last them for a few minutes. Also, smaller meals mean that snails will have less to eat. High-quality foods such as live, frozen and freeze dried foods are more likely that the fish will eat all of them, leaving little food for the snails.
This bladder snail is a hermaphrodite and can reproduce sexually and lay viable eggs even though there aren’t any other snails in an aquarium.
Snails eat leftover food as well as algae and dying plant matter. Make sure to regularly prune your plants and scrub off algae whenever you clean the fish tank. Use an aquarium siphon for gravel vacuuming to remove any mulm and other organic debris the snails may eat.
Method #2: Manual Removal
It can take time to starve snails. You can speed up the process by physically removing them whenever you have the chance. It is easiest to pick out the snails one at a time using your hands. For small snails, you can use a siphon hose to scoop them into a bucket. To easily grab the snails from aquarium walls while you are passing, use a snail catcher.
The Dennerle Snail catcher is a handy tool to catch small snails from fish tank walls.
Method #3: Snail Trap
Some species, such as the Malaysian trumpet snails, are nocturnal. They prefer to burrow under the substrate and it can be difficult to get them out of the tank. In those cases, attract the snails by using some delicious vegetables as bait. Drop a piece of cucumber, zucchini, carrot, or lettuce into the aquarium overnight, and by the next morning, the vegetable should be covered in snails for you to remove. Hobbyists may prefer to place the food in a DIY trap, which is a container that has holes that allow the snails to get in but not enough to let fish through. This will ensure that they cannot escape even after they are full.
Malaysian hornsnails (also known by MTS), are resilient and have been known for many months to survive in used gravel.
How to humanely kill a snail once you have caught them? You can either feed them to snail-eating fish (see the list below), or give them away to fellow hobbyists who keep snail eaters. Or crush them for a quick and painless death.
Method #4: Snail Eaters
Pest snails are actually in high demand if you own a snail-eating fish because they provide a lot of essential nutrients and enrichment for the animal to display its natural hunting behavior. All freshwater pufferfish, including the tiny Mbu puffer and the large Mbu puffer, enjoy eating snails. The crunchy shells of snails can be used to grind down puffer’s teeth and prevent them becoming too long. Loaches such as the clown, dwarf chain, yoyo and zebra can poke into snail shells with their pointed snouts and eat the insides. Oscars and turtles are also big fans of mollusks so make sure to get some. Aquarists may also use the services of an assassin slug, which is a 1-inch (22.5 cm) carnivorous snail which eats only other snails.
Assassin snails are Anentome helena and they eat all other snails, even larger ones.
Method #5: Quarantine
If you are determined to ban pet snails from your home, remember the saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Carefully inspect any new plants, and manually remove all snails and snail eggs. Some people run their plants under running water to help wash away any unseen hitchhikers. Then place the plant in a quarantine tank with light and fertilizers, and continuously remove any snails that appear. It can take up to four weeks for snail eggs to hatch depending on their species and the water temperature. This requires patience.
This quarantine plan isn’t bulletproof. We recommend a slow, steady approach to treatment rather than chemical treatments like bleach and aquarium salt. It can be difficult for you to determine the right dosing concentration to kill snails or eggs, but not to harm sensitive plants such as cryptocoryne or vallisneria.
Bladder, ramshorn and ramshorn snails conceive multiple babies from their egg sacs. Malaysian trumpet snails are able to give birth to young children.
We recommend the following 10 animals to clean up freshwater tanks: