Top 7 Helpful Snails for Your Next Freshwater Aquarium
While not everyone likes aquarium snails we love them for their crucial role in an aquatic 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. These snails are safe for aquarium plants. But, one caveat:
General Care Tips for Snails
Snails need calcium for shell development. Therefore, they prefer higher pH than 7.0 and higher GH over 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. 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. Snail eggs can also escape from aquariums so ensure you have a tight fitting lid and craft mesh to cover any gaps.
1. Bladder Snail
This common snail belongs to the Physidae Family and is known for its bulbous brown shell with speckled spots. They stay fairly small at less than 1 inch (2.5 cm), which makes them small enough to clean out the nooks and crannies in your tank. Bladders snails are often confused with larger ponds snails. These snails can reach 2-3 inches (5-8cm) in size and will eat aquarium plants. 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”. 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. Reduce the food intake, manage algae growth, and use gravel vacuuming to remove any organic matter. The snail population will stabilize when the food sources run dry. The full article contains more information about managing 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 are available in many varieties such as olive, red-racer, tiger, and horned, nerite. They are prone to escaping, so keep a tight lid on your aquarium. If there isn’t enough algae, the fish can become starved 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. You may notice them leave white egg capsules with a sesame seed-like appearance on the tank walls. However, they won’t hatch in freshwater so you don’t have to worry about them getting out of control.
3. Ramshorn Snail
This beautiful snail from the Planorbidae family has a unique shell that looks like ram’s coiled horn. They can grow upto 1-2 inches (22.5-5 cm), and come in many beautiful colors like brown, yellow, gray-blue and pink. 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 in appearance to bladder snail eggs. They look like tiny dots coated with 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. There are many varieties available, including ivory, yellow gold and jade as well as blue, brown, purple and magenta. They are quite 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.
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. If you look at the shell, the snail will reveal two holes on the shoulders of the female, while the male’s only has one. 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
Melanoides tuberculate is a nocturnal, mostly nocturnal, snail. The 1-inch (2.5-inch) shell is brown, pointy, and elongated. They spend most of their time hiding in the substrate and wait until it gets dark for them to rise up 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 can survive in conditions unsuitable for other snails and are very resilient. They have a high tolerance to salt, and can be acclimated for living 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 incubated in the mother’s brood pouch, and once hatched, the mother releases live young that look like miniature versions of the 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. It is similar to the MTS in that it loves burrowing in ground and then comes out when prey has been detected. They are used by many aquarists to remove smaller snails like bladder, ramshorn and Malaysian trumpet snails. Assassins can even 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 don’t have a hermaphrodite nature and their breeding rate is slower than 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). They look similar to the Malaysian trumpet snails. However, their long, pointy shells are much longer and can grow to as large as 3-5 inches (8-13cm) in length. Their shells are brown to black, their antennae look like they have rabbit ears and their bodies are colorful or patterned. 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 have slow movements and are slow to reproduce. They don’t hermaphrodite and may give birth, much like the Malaysian trumpets. 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.