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 pests harmful to my fish tank? Although they have the unfortunate nickname “pest snails”, they are actually very useful and a natural part the aquarium ecosystem. They eat algae, clean up uneaten fish food, break down fish waste, and help feed the snail eaters in your fish tank. They won’t harm your fish or plants but will eat any sickly leaves or dead animals to keep your aquarium clean.
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. These 5 proven methods will help you keep your aquarium snail population in check.
Method #1: Less Food
Fish keeping veterans know that the easiest way to lessen the number of snails is to feed less fish food. Despite their rapid reproduction cycle, snails can only create new babies if they have enough sustenance. Therefore, only feed enough food that can be completely consumed by your fish within 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 not only eat leftover food but also consume algae and other dying plant matter. When cleaning your fish tank, make sure you prune and remove any algae. Use an aquarium siphon for gravel vacuuming to remove any mulm and other organic debris the snails may eat.
Method #2: Manual Removal
Slowly starving the snails can take a while, so speed up the process by physically removing snails whenever you get a chance. The simplest technique is to just use your hands and pick them out one by one. For small snails, you can use a siphon hose to scoop them into a bucket. If you’re passing by and spot some snails on the aquarium walls, try using a snail catcher to easily scoop them up without getting your hands wet.
The Dennerle Snapper is a clever tool that allows you to capture small snails on fish tanks 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. You can attract snails with delicious vegetables. Place a piece of cucumber or zucchini, carrot, or lettuce in the aquarium overnight. The snails will then be able to eat the vegetable the next day. 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 trumpet snails (also known as MTS) are very resilient and have been known to survive in dry, used gravel for many months.
How can you humanely kill snails after they are caught? Give your extra snails away to snail-eating fish, give them to hobbyists with snail eaters, or crush them.
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. Almost all freshwater pufferfish – from the tiny pea puffer to the massive Mbu puffer – love to eat snails, and the crunchiness of the snail shells can help grind down puffer teeth and prevent them from getting too long. Many loaches – such as clown, zebra, yoyo, and dwarf chain loaches – can use their pointy snouts to poke into snail shells and slurp out 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’re determined to ban pet snails, keep in mind the old saying, “An ounce is worth a pound of prevention.” You should inspect all new plants and remove any eggs and snails. 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. The time it takes for snail eggs (depending on the species and water temperature) to hatch can vary from one week to the next. It is important that you have patience.
Although this quarantine plan may not be bulletproof, it is better to take a steady and slow approach than resorting to chemical treatments such as bleach or aquarium salt. It can be difficult to find an exact dosing concentration that is strong enough to kill snails and snail eggs but won’t harm more sensitive plants like vallisneria or cryptocoryne plants.
Bladder and ramshorn snails lay egg sacs that contain multiple babies, whereas Malaysian trumpet snails give birth to live young.
If you’re interested in some clean-up crew members besides snails, don’t forget to read our article for the top 10 helpful animals we recommend in freshwater tanks.