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. To help you see the value in these amazing creatures, we put together a list of our top 7 freshwater snails that we enjoy keeping. 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. Crushed coral in the substrate and filter media can also help buffer up the pH. 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. Normal for snails to stay still while they rest, but if one of them hangs out of its shell, or has a foul-smelling odor, it is best to remove it from your tank.
To keep your aquarium safe for snails, avoid snail-eating predators such as certain loaches and pufferfish. Some snails can escape from the aquarium, so be sure to have a tight-fitting cover, craft mesh around any openings, and lower the water level as needed.
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 are not fussy about water parameters and can handle a wide range of pH and temperatures.
Because they can fertilize themselves, many people call them “pestsnails”. The eggs look like tiny, white dots encased in a blob of clear jelly and can be found on the tank walls, plants, and other surfaces. 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. Once the food sources dry up, the snail population will stabilize. 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 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. They can also die if there isn’t enough algae in their tank. Supplement their diet with canned green beans, blanched zucchini slices, and Zoo Med Nano Banquet Food Blocks.
Unlike most snails, nerite snails have a very high salt tolerance and are used to breeding in brackish water. 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
The Planorbidae family’s beautiful snail has a shell that looks almost like a ram’s 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. They are simultaneously hermaphrodites, which have both male and female sexual organs. 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 can be used with plants like larger Pomacea species, such as the Peruvian and giant apple snails. There are many varieties available, including ivory, yellow gold and jade as well as blue, brown, purple and magenta. They are very active and fast for a snail. You might also see them sitting near the water surface. They will then open their breathing siphon and inhale water to reach 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. The shell of a snail is able to reveal that the female has two holes in her shoulders while the male has only one. When the female spawns, she climbs to the surface and places a bunch of eggs above the water. The large egg cluster can easily be removed to reduce their population.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail (MTS)
Melanoides tuberculate is a mostly nocturnal snail with a 1-inch (2.5) shell that is pointy, elongated, and brown. 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 are similar to the nerite and can adapt to living with brackish water.
While Malaysian trumpet snails are not hermaphroditic, they have a rapid breeding rate because females can create clones without the presence of 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 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. Many aquarists use them to get rid of smaller snails, like bladder, ramshorn, and Malaysian trumpet snails. 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. They lay single eggs in transparent, square-shaped egg capsules. 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). 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. One baby may appear every 4 to 6 weeks. The young can take many years to reach sexual maturity and grow up.
Snails are such amazing clean-up crew members that help further break down organics into nutrients that can be utilized by aquatic plants.
To get your own aquarium snails, check out our recommended list of online fish retailers.