When deciding what to put in your new fish tank, it can be easy to dismiss aquarium snails. But any expert will tell you that these little, shelled invertebrates should not be ignored!
Snails are an integral part of any balanced freshwater community tank. While good snails can help take your tank up a level, it’s important that you recognize the good from the bad.
Best Freshwater Aquarium Snails
When you have the right snails in your tank, they can be more than just a pretty face. Many of these beneficial aquarium snails can contribute positively to the quality of the water and help keep your tank clean.
Keeping algae down to a minimum isn’t just good for water quality, it also has an impact on the look of your tank.
A good snail can help keep the water clear and keep glass free of the green and brown sludge which naturally grows on the side.
Zebra Nerite Snails (Neritina natalensis)
Zebra Nerite Snails get their name from the beautiful striped pattern which they have on their backs. These friendly invertebrates survive well in most tanks and live off of algae and debris.
Although they are quite hardy, it is important to make sure there are no traces of copper in the water which you add to the aquarium.
As with all other aquarium snails, they are incredibly sensitive to copper and require a little calcium in the water in order to keep their shells in tip-top shape.
Also, you should keep in mind that these mollusks are natural escape artists and will take the opportunity to run away if the water line is too high.
Tiger Nerite Snails (Vittina semiconica)
This species of Nerite snail is incredibly similar to the Zebra Nerite Snail in terms of behavior and maintenance. There are some key visual differences though, as these aquarium snails are a deeper orange color with an intricate pattern.
Like other Nerite snails, this species loves hard water, warm temperatures (60-75 degrees F), and is incredibly docile and friendly.
Horned Nerite Snails (Clithon corona/Diadema)
This snail looks quite different from the other contenders on this list as it boasts small horns. It can be a great addition to a tank that has nippy fish as the horns act as a deterrent from predators.
They can live out of the water for quite a long time, so it is a good idea to have a nice lid to make sure they don’t try to escape. These little guys only grow to be around 1 inch in size and they will not breed in your freshwater tank.
Japanese Trapdoor Snails (Cipangopaludina japonica)
Also known as the Chinese mystery snail, this relatively large freshwater species will make a great addition to the tank.
As their name suggests, they have a bit of a “trapdoor” which acts as a protective plate when their insides are pulled in.
These snails can breed in your tank, but typically won’t. Even if they do, their very slow breeding won’t overpopulate your tank rapidly like an invasive snail.
Just be sure to understand that it is easy to overpopulate the tank with these snails and they shouldn’t be in anything smaller than a 10-gallon tank.
Rabbit Snails (Tylomelania sp.)
Although you may not see these little guys crawling around your local pet shop, they are well worth a trip to a specialty store.
These rabbit snails are adorable and have a very distinct shape to their shells and antenna.
Their long, tubular shells and exaggerated faces don’t exactly look like rabbits, but they are quite cute.
These easy-to-care-for snails live off of debris and leftovers. They can grow up to 4 inches in length.
Although they are relatively expensive, they remain a favorite among hobbyists.
Black Devil Snails (Faunus ater)
This large freshwater aquarium snails is like the goth answer to the rabbit snail. This subtle black snail has a long, conical shell and can grow up to about 3 ½ inches long.
They like to spend time hiding and burrowing among gravel, so it is a good idea to have some substrate and decorations in your 20- gallon tank.(check more)
Just make sure you monitor the plants in the tank as this snail tends to make any greens they see into a tasty snack.
These fish can survive a wide range of salinity levels, but be warned that they might try to breed outside of freshwater.
As long as your tank remains strictly freshwater, you will never need to worry about babies taking over your tank.
4 Worst Freshwater Aquarium Snails
Not all snails are created equally. Unfortunately, there are a number of snails which can do more harm than good to your tank.
Certain species can actually take over your tank, which will impact the health and wellbeing of all other inhabitants in your freshwater community.
Bladder Snails are known for two things. The first distinguishing characteristic is that their shells spiral in the opposite direction than most others. The second is that they can breed in freshwater. These snails will take over a tank very quickly.
Most often, people deliberately avoid this breed. Instead, they end up with them after a snail (or a couple of eggs) hitch a ride on a plant or rock.
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
These tiny snails are very pretty and vibrant. There are even many hobbyists who choose to make this snail a colorful addition to their community tanks.
Unfortunately, these snails are also notoriously busy breeders. If you are not careful, they can easily overpopulate a tank.
On a better note, they won’t eat live plants and destroy any meticulous underwater gardening you may have going on.
They can be a fun addition for an experienced hobbyist, but they require a very watchful eye. This tiny species is very hardy and usually doesn’t exceed half an inch in length.
These invertebrates tend to be more of an outdoor issue than an indoor one, as you can probably guess, because these snails frequent ponds.
While they tend to be a “natural” occurrence rather than an intentional addition to your pond community, they create a lot of problems.
For starters, they breed quickly and will easily overpopulate your tank. This will negatively contribute to water quality as their excessive numbers lead to excess waste.
In addition, these snails will eat live plants, which makes it difficult to sustain water lilies. If that wasn’t bad enough, they can even act as parasite carriers and make your fish sick.
Apple snails are a type of gastropod which is often marketed as a mystery snail. These yellow snails have a tendency to overpopulate, but this can easily be prevented.
Their desire to reproduce is often controlled by two factors: temperature and food availability. As long as you keep the water on the colder side and make sure they aren’t overfed, they won’t try to lay eggs very often.
Still, this risk is something which lands them on the “avoidance” list for novice hobbyists who want to limit any potential issues.
Learn More: Betta Complete Care
How do I get rid of pest snails?
If you find that your aquarium has been overrun by these slimy beasts, don’t fret too much. There are several strategies you can use to evict these pesky snails.
Consider the two easiest methods of snail removal that any novice can do — all it takes is a little bit of patience and background knowledge to clear up your tank.
Limit the food supply
This one is simple, just cut off the snail’s food supply. Without an adequate source of food, the snails will fail to grow and repopulate.
This means you will have to cut back on algae. Doing this is easier said than done.
For one thing, you will have to be very diligent and cut back on the algae which naturally grows in your tank. This could mean that cleaning is needed every single morning.
Secondly, it means that you should not add any herbivore feeding pellets to your tank.
If you have fish you need to feed, you should consider moving them to another tank or strictly monitoring feeding so that your fish only receive what is required.
While this is an important step to take, this alone is often not enough for an invasive species. It can help make the second strategy a little easier though.
This is a tedious method, but it is pretty effective if you dedicate enough time to it.
Simply remove any of the snails you do not want.
While this can take some time, try to be patient. It can be difficult to do this all in one sitting.
You can try to set up little traps in your tank where you drop a big piece of lettuce and wait for snails to swarm it. Then, simply remove them.
As snails are masters of disguise, you might want to consider removing all the plants and rocks from your tank to give you the best sight possible.
If you can, wash and disinfect the rocks to remove any traces of snails (or snail eggs).
Trying other methods to further thin out their numbers can be very helpful. If you don’t want to manually remove them by hand, you could always hire some help.
Adding some hungry fish who feed on snails can be a great way to knock down the tank population too.
Remember, not all snails need to be removed from your tank. Many snails are healthy contributions to any freshwater community.
Ensuring you have the correct background knowledge about snails can be the difference between an underwater paradise and a disaster.
If you have any tips or stories about dealing with freshwater aquarium snails, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to post any questions or comments below!