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. Most of these snails are completely safe with aquarium plants, but there is caveat with the last one.
General Care Tips for Nails
Snails require certain minerals such as calcium to develop their shells. They prefer pH levels above 7.0 and higher GH levels above 8deg (140 ppm). You can douse the snail’s water with mineral supplements like Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium if you find cracks, pits, or holes. The pH can be lowered by adding crushed coral to the substrate or filter media. 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. 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. 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 can sometimes be confused with larger pond snails. They can grow up to 2-3 inches (8-8 cm) in length and love to eat aquarium plants. They can be tolerant of a variety of pH levels and temperatures and aren’t fussy about water parameters.
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. Consider decreasing the amount of food going into the tank, managing algae growth, and gravel vacuuming more often to remove excess organics. The snail population will stabilize when the food sources run dry. This article has more information on how to manage 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 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. You should also ensure that there is enough algae in your tank to prevent them from starving 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. They may leave white capsules that look like sesame seeds, but they don’t hatch in freshwater. Therefore, there is no reason to be concerned 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 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. They are simultaneously hermaphrodites, which have both male and female sexual organs. Their eggs are similar to bladder snail eggs and look like small dots coated in a mound of 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 are not dangerous for plants unlike larger Pomacea species like the Peruvian or giant apple snail. 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. They may also be seen resting near the water surface and extending their breathing siphon to inhale water.
Mystery snails are not hermaphroditic, and males and females can be sexed by holding the snail’s shell so that its foot is vertical as if it were 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. It is easy to manage their population because of the large egg clusters that can be removed if they are not wanted.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail
Melanoides tuberculate is a nocturnal snail that has a 1-inch (22.5 cm) long shell. It’s pointy, elongated brown and is usually nocturnal. They spend a lot of time in the substrate waiting for dark to emerge and then burrowing. People love them because they frequently turn over the gravel and sand, which can be used to mix in nutrients for plants. They can survive in conditions unsuitable for other snails and are very resilient. 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. 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 1-inch (2.5 cm) snail from Southeast Asia that has a pointy, textured shell with beautiful brown and yellow striping like a bumblebee. The assassin snail, however, is a carnivore, which specializes in eating other snails, and it’s not like the other detritivores. Like the MTS, it enjoys burrowing in the ground and then comes out when prey is detected. They are used by many aquarists to remove 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 do not have the ability to reproduce and are not hermaphrodites. 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 Genus’ rabbit and Sulawesi snails are from Indonesia. They can withstand temperatures up to 80-86 degrees F (27-30 degrees C). 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. They are able to tolerate thicker, more tougher plants, such as anubias.
Rabbit snails are very peaceful, slow-moving, and slow to reproduce. They do not have a hermaphroditic nature and can give birth to live snails similar to the 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 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.