Top 7 Helpful Snails for Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
Not everyone is a fan of aquarium snails, but we love them because of the important role they play in an underwater 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. We have compiled a list of the top 7 freshwater snails we love keeping to help you appreciate their amazing abilities. Most of these snails are completely safe with aquarium plants, but there is caveat with the last one.
General Care Tips for Snails
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. 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. Plus, some snails are known to escape out of the tank, so make sure you have a tight-fitting lid, cover any openings with craft mesh, and consider lowering the water level if needed.
1. Bladder Snail
The common snail is a member of the Physidae physidae and is well-known for its brown, bulbous shell with speckled marks. 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.
Many people refer to them as “pest snails” since they are simultaneous hermaphrodites that can fertilize themselves. 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. 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 once the food sources are exhausted. 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 can grow to a length of 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3-0.8 cm), and come in many varieties, including olive, red racer and horned-nerite. They are prone to escaping, so keep a tight lid on your aquarium. 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. 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
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. 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, a South American snail, is very popular. It can grow to 22.5 inches (5-6cm) in size. They are safe with plants, unlike some larger Pomacea species such as the Peruvian apple snail and the giant apple snail. Many varieties are available at pet shops, including yellow gold, jade and blue as well as brown, purple, and violet. 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.
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. The female spawns by climbing up to the surface of the water and laying a number of eggs. Their population is fairly easy to control because the large egg cluster can be removed if babies are not desired.
5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail (MTS)
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 much of their time burrowed in the substrate, waiting until dark to come out and forage. 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.
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, a Southeast Asian snail measuring 1 inch (2.5 cm), has a pointed shell and beautiful yellow stripes that resemble a bumblebee. 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. These snails are often used by aquarists to rid small snails such as bladder, ramshorn, or Malaysian trumpet. 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 are not hermaphrodites and have a slower breeding rate compared to 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). Similar to Malaysian trumpet snails, they have long and pointy shells, but they grow much larger, reaching up to 3-5 inches (8-13 cm) long. 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 can be peaceful, slow-moving and difficult 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.
Amazing clean-up crew members, the snails help to further reduce organics and make nutrients that can be used by aquatic plants.
To get your own aquarium snails, check out our recommended list of online fish retailers.