Aquatic snails can play a significant role in maintaining a freshwater aquarium ecosystem. Most are hardy and can do well in the same water parameters as fish, making them compatible with a wide variety of species. Almost all freshwater snails are beneficial scavengers that eat algae, dead plants, dead fish, extra fish food and other waste. This cleaning ability makes them an outstanding addition to your freshwater tank. Freshwater snails also come in many colors, shapes and sizes.
Although each type of snail has its pros and cons, it’s best to research any new additions before including them in your aquarium. All aquatic snails can be useful to your aquarium in some way, but some can be a constant source of annoyance that suddenly overwhelm your aquarium and become difficult to remove. Most snail problems can be prevented by learning about them to make sure you’re selecting the correct snail for your aquarium type.
Don’t purchase freshwater snails that are still or upside down on the tank bottom or floating near the surface. This means that the snail is sick, dying or dead. Look for ones attached to the glass or moving around.
Let’s check out some freshwater snails that might be the perfect match for your aquarium.
Mystery snails, or Inca snails, are the most popular freshwater snails today. These friendly snails can live three to four years and grow to over two inches. They are available in colors like gold, blue, black, purple, ivory, white and albino with neon orange spots around the head.
Mystery snails are safe to keep with any plant, fish or shrimp. They are capable of cleaning algae off glass, plants and decorations, and they eat troublesome hair algae and dead plant matter.
Mystery snails have both a lung and a gill and can breathe through a tube that extends out from their bodies to the surface. Always use a lid to prevent accidental escape.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
Malaysian trumpet snails are another common freshwater snail that can be a great asset to your aquarium. However, their rate of reproduction can overwhelm unprepared keepers. They also tend to find their way into aquariums as hitchhikers on live plants or in the gravel.
Malaysian trumpet snails will hide and forage in the gravel during the day, keeping it aerated and removing waste that might have gathered. Luckily, they don’t tend to eat plants and will consume decaying leaf matter to keep the tank clean.
Whether you consider the Malaysian trump snail a pet or pest depends on what type of tank you have. To some, they are unwanted, invasive and annoying; to others, they are a valuable cleaning crew or a food source for small snail-eating fish.
Their quick reproduction rate is due to their parthenogenetic breeding ability, which means the female can give birth to female offspring without mating with a male. One female is all you need to start a family, and their numbers can increase in no time.
Ramhorn snails are great at eating algae, leftover food and dead plants. They do well in ponds but are known to eat plants when food is limited.
Ramhorn snails can only breathe air from the surface of the water. They cannot breathe while underwater and must come to the surface to survive. Always use a lid to prevent accidental escape.
Nerite sails are phenomenal algae eaters. They have a lifespan of four to five years and come in different colors and patterns, including tiger and zebra.
Relatively small and not inclined to eat live plants, these freshwater snails are perfect for planted aquariums.
Nerite snails require brackish or salt water to breed, so there is no risk of them breeding in your clean freshwater aquarium. Always use a lid to prevent accidental escape.
Rabbit snails are a recent addition to the hobby. They can grow up to four inches and live up to three years.
Rabbit snails eat algae, dead plants and fish food. They do not typically eat plants.
Rabbit snails are gonochoristic, meaning they need both males and females for reproduction. Unlike most snails that lay eggs, rabbit snails give birth to live young. Their reproduction rate is slow.
Native to southeast Asia, assassin snails have become popular because they eat other snails; they are an excellent natural method for eliminating other types of snails from your aquarium. They can grow to over one inch and have orange and brown stripes. They like to spend their time buried in the substrate waiting for food and hiding from predators.
Unlike most freshwater snails that are herbivorous or omnivorous, assassin snails are carnivores. They mainly feed on other snails or carrion. However, they won’t eat other assassin snails, even when food is not available.
Assassin snails breed easily in captivity, provided you have both males and females. Reproduction is slow.
General Care of Freshwater Snails
Most freshwater snails will feed on algae, dead plants, dead fish and leftover fish food. Snails need a constant supply of calcium for proper growth and a healthy shell.
If you use reverse osmosis or deionized water, add a reserve osmosis water replenisher to reintroduce essential minerals and trace elements. Their shells should not have cracks, holes or pitting; this indicates that the snail has been living in less than ideal conditions and may have a calcium deficiency.
To help fix this, place crushed coral in your filter, add some pieces of cuttlebone to the tank and feed your snails turtle food to make sure they’re getting enough calcium. You can also use a product called Wonder Shell. However, as with all aquarium pets, feed sparingly and remove any uneaten food to avoid water quality deterioration.
Medications and Other Additives
Most medications, especially those containing copper or other chemicals, are harmful to freshwater snails. Always read package instructions carefully before using any medicines in your aquarium.
Aquatic plant fertilizers should not be used in excess, as freshwater snails may be sensitive to some of the ingredients.
Avoid sudden shifts in temperature and other water parameters. A temperature range of 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5 is ideal. Ammonia and nitrite levels should be at 0 ppm. Nitrate levels can be kept under control with regular partial water changes.
Tanks must always be cycled and well established before introducing freshwater snails or other invertebrates.