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. The majority of these snails can be kept with aquarium plants. However, there is one caveat.
General Care Tips for Nails
Because snails need certain minerals like calcium for proper shell development, they tend to prefer higher pH above 7.0 and higher GH 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. 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. You should also consider changing the water level to keep snails from escaping.
1. Bladder Snail
The common snail belongs to the Physidae physidae group and is famous for its brown, bulbous, speckled-spotted shell. 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 may be mistaken for larger pond snails. These snails can grow to 2-3 inches (5-8 cm), and they love to eat aquarium plant. 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. 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. The snail population will stabilize once the food sources are exhausted. For more tips and tricks on managing your colony of snails, read the full article.
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 are approximately 0.5 to 1.5 inches (11.3 to 3.8 cm) in length and come in several different varieties such as olive, red-racer, tiger, 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.
Unlike most snails, nerite snails have a very high salt tolerance and are used to breeding in brackish water. Although you might see them leaving white egg capsules resembling sesame seeds on tank walls and decorations, they will not hatch in freshwater, so it is safe to ignore any concerns about them reproducing out of control.
3. Ramshorn Snail
This stunning snail belongs to the Planorbidae Family. It has a unique shell which looks similar to a ram’s coiled Horn. They can grow to as much as 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) in size and come with a wide range of colors including brown, pink, gray-blue and gold. 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. They look similar to bladder snail eggs, and are covered in transparent gelatin.
4. Mystery Snail
Pomacea bridgesii is a popular South American snail that reaches 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) in diameter. They can be used with plants like larger Pomacea species, such as the Peruvian and giant apple snails. Many varieties are available at pet shops, including yellow gold, jade and blue as well as brown, purple, and violet. They are relatively fast and active for a snail and display many fascinating behaviors, such as climbing to the top of the tank and “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. When the snail extends its body out of the shell, you can see that a female has two holes on each of her shoulders, where as a male only has one hole on his left shoulder. When spawning, the female climbs up to the surface and lays a cluster 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, a mostly nocturnal species of snail, has a 1-inch (2.5 cm) shell. It is pointedy, elongated and brown. They spend most of their time digging in the substrate and waiting for it to darken before they emerge to hunt. Many people like them because they regularly turn over the sand or gravel, which can help mix in mulm for plants to use as nutrients and prevent cyanobacteria from covering the ground. They are extremely hardy and can survive in uninhabitable conditions that would be fatal to other snails. Like the nerite snail, they have a high tolerance for salt and can be acclimated to live in brackish aquariums.
Although Malaysian trumpet snails don’t have a hermaphroditic nature, their breeding rate is rapid because the females can make clones even without males. The eggs are kept in the mother’s brood pouch and hatched by the mother.
6. Assassin Snail
Anentome helena is a 1-inch (2.5 cm) snail from Southeast Asia that has a pointy, textured shell with beautiful brown and yellow striping like a bumblebee. However, unlike the other detritivore snails on this list, the assassin snail is a carnivore that specializes in eating other 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 take out larger snails than they themselves. 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). Similar to Malaysian trumpets snails, their shells are long and pointed. But they grow larger to reach 3-5 inches (8-13cm). They have brown to black shells, antennae that look like rabbit ears, and colorful or patterned bodies. 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 peaceful and slow-moving. They also have a slow rate of reproduction. 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.