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 enter your fish tank by hitchhiking on live aquatic plants or even at the bottom of a fish bag from the pet store.
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. While these snails won’t cause any harm to your live fish or plants they can help keep your aquarium healthy by eating dead or diseased animals.
Even though they are known as “pest snails,” ramshorn snails are often kept by fish keepers for their cleaning abilities and beautiful color variations.
These benefits are not for everyone. However, some people dislike being overrun with so many snails in their aquarium that they cover every surface. Here are 5 proven ways to keep your aquarium snail population under control.
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. Your fish should only be fed enough food to last them for a few minutes. Your fish will also produce less waste, which is good news for snails. Also, higher quality foods like live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods are more likely to be completely eaten by the fish, leaving very few remnants 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. Also, use an aquarium siphon to gravel vacuum the substrate and remove excess mulm or organic debris that the snails can use as food sources.
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. It is easiest to pick out the snails one at a time using your hands. If the snails are small enough, some people use a length of siphon hose to suck them up into a bucket during water changes. 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 Snail Catcher is a nifty tool for scraping off and catching small snails on 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 thunder snails (also called MTS) are extremely resilient and can survive for several months in dry, used gravel.
How do you humanely kill a snail after you catch them? Feed your extra snails to snail-eating fish (see our list below), give them to other hobbyists who own snail eaters, or crush them for a quick death.
Method #4: Snail eaters
Because they provide essential nutrients and enrichment to the animal’s natural hunting behavior, pest snails are highly sought after if you have a snail-eating fish. 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. Finally, some aquarists employ the services of the assassin snail – a 1-inch (2.5 cm), carnivorous snail that specifically targets other snails as its primary diet.
Assassin Snails (Anentome. helena), ambush other snails and eat them, even if they are larger.
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. To get rid of any unidentified hitchhikers, some people wash their plants with running water. You can then place your plant in a quarantine container with light and fertilizers. Keep checking for any new snails. 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 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 ramshorn snails and Bladder lay eggs sacs that have multiple babies, while Malaysian trumpet snails give life to their young.
You might be interested in other clean-up crew members than snails. Check out our article to learn more about the top 10 useful animals for freshwater tanks.