When you went to bed last night, there was one little snail in your tank. You don’t mind him; he’s kind of cute. This morning, you’ve woken to find about a thousand in there.
Where do they come from? Are they good or bad for your freshwater aquarium? Can they live peacefully with your fish? Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of snails in your freshwater fish tanks.
Where did this Snail Come From? You certainly don’t recall buying a snail the last time you were at the fish store. Yet, here he is…with hundreds of his friends and family. So how on earth did he get into your aquarium?
Are Snails Good Or Bad For Fish Tank? Freshwater Snails are scavengers and also good algae eaters. Why do not keep them instead of other algae killers? What about overpopulation, they reproduce pretty quickly? Advice today is to regulate them, maybe keep one or two and everything will be just fine.
For more info, such positives and also treads keep reading further.
Most snails enter your freshwater environment on live plants that you purchase at your local fish store. Snail eggs are microscopic; the little creatures are so tiny that you won’t see them when you are buying the plants.
Young snails are also small enough to miss at first, and so they can hitch-hike from the store right into your tank. There is also a possibility that some eggs or juvenile snails were scooped up along with your latest fish purchase, especially if the net contained gravel.
Switching the decorative items from tank to tank can also allow freshwater snails to travel from one environment to another within your own home.
Because snails reproduce rapidly, what may start as one lone snail can quickly amount to an infestation in your tank.
Freshwater Snails can live upwards of three years in the right environment, so the problem can quickly get out of control in your fish tank.
In the wild, freshwater snails can live in nearly any body of water including rivers, lakes, and ponds.
In your aquarium, snails can hide under your plants, burrow into your substrate, or just hang out along the glass, cleaning as they go.
Freshwater snails breeding and reproduction
Snails lay eggs in gelatinous clusters that can be found floating near the surface, attached to the side of the tank, or under the leaves of plants. Once laid, the eggs will take between two to five weeks to hatch.
Some breeds of snails, however, are livebearers and will produce at an even faster rate than their egg-laying friends.
Most snails are hermaphrodites; this means they can both lay their eggs and fertilize them as well, without the need of a mate.
Female snails are generally larger
Some snails are asexual, meaning they can produce entirely on their own. Others do have genders, and telling them apart can be achieved by looking into the opening of the shell and looking for a penis, by differentiating them according to size (females are generally larger), and by looking at the shape of the shell itself; males will have a slight lip on the bottoms of their shells that females will not.
A female can store fertilized eggs for a long period of time, then release them to hatch. This can make it seem as if one lone snail has had a miraculous birth event.
Can Freshwater Snails be Harmful to my Aquarium?
Some snails are simply nuisances, while others are ornamental and beneficial.
The ones that smuggle themselves into your aquarium uninvited are general nuisances. One snail by himself isn’t harmful; they do eat dead vegetation, debris, and algae. Telling myself this sounds positive. The problem is that one freshwater snail is never content to be alone; he wants to surround himself with many more, just like him.
Snails can harm your freshwater aquarium in several ways:
- snails love to hide in your filters, blocking inlet valves and jamming impellers
- dead snails can release harmful ammonia into the environment
- the big snail colony will cause a biological imbalance in your tanks, reducing the number of fish the fish tank can support
- snails eat aquarium plants and on occasion, will harm your fish if your fish are already weakened from disease or parasites
- Snail killers – chemicals and processes used to remove snails may kill your fish, too
- Snails have the potential to carry infectious diseases to your fish
How can Freshwater Snails Benefit my Aquarium?
Snails can be beneficial to a freshwater aquarium. The beneficial ones tend to be the ones you voluntarily introduce to your tank rather than the opportunistic hitchhikers you bring home.
- Because they are scavengers, snails will eat debris, leftover fish food, and algae in the tank; in effect, they are sort of slow-moving vacuum cleaners.
- Many snails love to burrow, they essentially aerate your substrate which can keep deadly and toxic anaerobic gasses from building up in your fish tank.
- Some snails, such as the assassin snail, will feed on nuisance snails and control their populations – big thumb up.
- Freshwater snails can be a very ornamental and attractive addition to your tank
- Unlike most algae eaters, freshwater snails will avoid eating fish eggs if you are breeding your fish
- Snails will eat dead or dying plants that can release deadly levels of ammonia in your tank
Can Freshwater Snails Hurt My Fish?
Generally speaking, snails will not physically harm or chase after fish in a fish tank. They can pose a threat to fish that are weakened and already dying, but not to a healthy population of fish.
The harm that comes from a resident snail overpopulation will be in imbalances of the biological load of the fish tank. Other than these issues, freshwater snails can be kept with any other tropical fish.
Ornamental snails can be very finicky about water quality and temperature. They thrive in temperatures of 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 22 and 28 degrees Celsius), so pairing them with other freshwater fish who need these temperatures is ideal.
Because snails can be so susceptible to water quality changes, such as pH, they can be a good indicator of worsening conditions in the tank. If your ornamental snails retreat into their shells, they could be signaling that it is time for a water change.
Good Snails or Bad Snails – Everything you Wanted to Know
As we’ve already learned, most snails that you find one day in your tank are the invasive snails that can ultimately overpopulate and affect your tank negatively.
These can include:
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
(lat. Melanoides tuberculata)
These are burrowing, nocturnal snails that are prolific breeders. Bearing live young, these cone-shaped snails can quickly overrun your tank and will reach up to 1 inch long.
Facts about Malaysian Trumpet Snails:
- Malaysian trumpet snails love to aerate through the sand and gravel, it releases gas pockets from gravel
- by pooping in gravel snails introduce some fertilization (poop) to sand, which helps your plants
- able to live in dirty water
- recommended temperature is 68 – 83 °F (20-28 °C )
- recommended pH 6.4-7.5
- a drawback is their ability to reproduce very effectively, not recommended for fully stocked aquarium
- females do not need males to reproduce
- lifespan is 1-2 years
- eggs are visible according to shiny orange color
- tip for reduction, Malaysian trumpet snails kids are so small they intend to occasionally float on the surface, at this time it is easy to net them
- more active in the dark, by extending of light time you will reduce the time window to reproduce
- available also on Amazon Malaysian Trumpet Snail
This snail is rapidly raising its popularity. Occasionally referred to as an Elefant snail, according to its unique shape. Positive for its slow reproduction and peaceful charm.
(lat. Tadpole Snails)
These tiny, peas sized snails are probably the most common nuisance snail you encounter. They lay eggs anywhere and everywhere in the aquarium and breed very quickly. They are distinguished by their round, polished-looking shells.
These grow to about the size of dimes and have spiral-shaped, tall shells. Because they don’t’ reproduce as abundantly as their counterparts, some people do not mind a few of these in their freshwater tanks.
There are several breeds of snails that are desirable in the tank. These tend to be the ones that require mates to breed and are slower to breed than their nuisance cousins. A few of these snails are:
(lat. Neritina natalensis)
These snails are available in many color variations including brown, green or black with various shell designs such as spots, stains, and even stripes. They grow to be just under an inch in length, and the average lifespan is about a year.
It is nearly impossible to get them to breed in your tanks, and they have a ravenous appetite for algae, so you can often find them listed in the best algae eaters lists.
They will not eat other plants.
Facts about Nerites Snails:
- very popular in freshwater aquariums, recommended excellent algae removers from aquarium glass
- suitable for freshwater even a saltwater habitats
- unlikely to reproduce successfully in freshwater aquariums, no overpopulation tread
- very adaptable for all aquarium setups, heated, unheated, filtered or even unfiltered
- need plenty of algae on the fish tank glass, plants and other decorations in the tank
- in case of lack of algae nerite snails will not eat your aquarium plants
- need sufficient calcium, overcoming shell damage calcium can be added to a small piece of cattle bone or nerite sand in an aquarium
- females lay eggs, size of sesame seed on plants and glass, driftwood, and rocks. Some hobby fishkeepers found it unpleasant in the tank. According to not successful reproduction eggs will eventually disappear.
- most common types available for home freshwater aquariums are Olive Nerite, Zebra Nerite, and Tiger Nerite
- lifespan is 1-3 years
- available on Amz also Nerite Snails
(lat. Clea helena)
These are also known as the “bumblebee” snail because of the bands of yellow and brown bands on their cone-shaped shells. These snails grow to about one and a quarter inch and eat nuisance snails. They will only breed if there is food available, and these snails do require a male and female to reproduce.
Facts about Assassin Snails:
- very popular according to an ability to eat pest snails in a fish tank, no scared to tackle even bigger snail by attacking in a group
- length over 1 inch
- origin from Asia
- reproduce very easy – overpopulation tread
- with live diet reproduction appetite growe even higher
- lay an enormous number of eggs separately in driftwood and decorations cavities
- can easily survive cold temperatures, even freezing environment
- not required filtration for this one
- available on amazon, buy 5 pcs, get your Assassin Snail Comando
Mystery Snails AKA Trapdoor Snails
These are a favorite of freshwater enthusiasts. Mystery Snails can grow up to 2 inches and are livebearers.
These are greenish in color, and their shells have very distinctive whorls.
They are nicknamed “Trapdoor Snails” due to a unique feature that can close over the opening of their shells, allowing them to be safe from dehydration and predators if they are not in the water.
TIP: Be sure to have a lid on the tank, however; these snails can be escape artists if given the opportunity.
The last thing that you need is morning exercise of hunting small snails all around your living room.
Facts about Mystery Snails:
- good algae eater
- origin habitat is in China and South America
- size between 1-2 inches
- interesting is the fact these snails have lungs and gills, aquarium cover is recommended
- mystery snails do also like to sleep and float
- female lay visible white egg cases above the waterline
- lifespan is 1-2 years
- a lot of color varieties, blue, gold, brown
- not interested in eating plants
- 68-85 F do not need heated water
- aquarium water pH: 7.6 – 8.2
- Mystery Snail prefer clear oxygenated water – weekly cleaning highly recommended
- Trapdoor snails available also on Amazon
Apple Snails have both gills and lungs, meaning they can be…well, wherever they want to be.
There are many types of Apple Snails, each with its own color variations; these variations can be yellow, gold, blue, purple, and even pink among others.
The shells tend to be solid with no other markings.
These are the giants of the freshwater snail family, reaching lengths of near 6 inches.
Like other snails, these feast on a variety of debris and rotting vegetation, but some varieties may snack on your freshwater plants as well.
The Apple Snail is known to “play dead” on being introduced to a new environment but will begin to move around again once it is acclimated to its new surroundings.
It should be noted that many people mistakenly call Apple Snails “Mystery Snails”.
While most Mystery Snails are, in fact, Apple Snails, not every Apple Snail is a Mystery Snail. It’s a concept similar to calling all dogs Labradors; all Labradors are dogs, but not all dogs are Labradors.
Facts about Apple Snails:
- most recognizable snail kind it fishkeeping hobby
- the largest one form its kind, under special conditions and good care growe up to 6 inches
- need both genders to reproduce
- need a filtered and heated tank, prefer temperatures suitable for tropical fish
- produce a lot of waists, need weekly water changes
- very good algae eater
- thanks to its size might need extra food, preboiled vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, peas, beans, or spinach leaves once in while will do the trick
- Apple Snails are often mistakenly named Golden Mystery Snail or Whiter Mystery Sanils
The Gold Inca Snail
(lat. Pomacea bridgesii)
These are little powerhouses of appetite. They are considered the best tank cleaning snail, but a word of caution: if they run out of food, they may start to nibble on your plants.
You can supplement these bright yellow snails diets with vegetables if needed.
Growing to an average length of about 2 inches, the Gold Inca Snail will live between 1 to 2 years.
These snails are not hermaphrodites and require a male and female to reproduce.
Facts about Gold Inca Snails:
- very good algae eaters and waste producers on the other
- usually active thorough whole day and during dark also
- easy to care, recommended for beginners
- Gold Inca snail is able to live alone in thank, also happy in a group of a couple of its kind
- need both genders to reproduce, females are slightly bigger than male snails
- size about 1 inch, or size about a quarter
- 68-82 Degrees Fahrenheit – do not need heated water
- aquarium water pH: 7.2 – 7.5
- suitable even for 5-gallon freshwater fish tanks, always keep in mind to not overstock your fish tank with snails
- Gold Inca snail is a non-aggressive snail kind for the environment and also appreciates friendly fish tank mates.
Are Freshwater Snails Dangerous for Humans?
Shockingly, the answer to this question is YES.
In fact, freshwater snails are responsible for transmitting the deadly disease, schistosomiasis, one of the most deadly tropical diseases in areas such as Africa, South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.
It is estimated that this disease is one of the most common parasitic diseases, beaten only by malaria and intestinal helminthiasis in these infected areas. It is estimated that over 200,000 people die from this disease annually.
The disease strikes rural and poverty-stricken areas, where the people are exposed to trematodes in farming, bathing, and for children, playing in contaminated water where these parasites live. The transmission begins with the parasite burrowing into the skin and lays eggs, which make their way to the intestinal or urinary tract of individuals.
When the individual defecates or urinates into the water, the parasitic larvae find freshwater snails to host them as they develop. Once grown, they can live for up to forty-eight hours in the water as they wait for a new human host.
This disease is also known as Bilharzia and Snail Fever and causes abdominal pain, swelling, diarrhea.
If left untreated, it can cause bladder cancer, kidney failure or liver failure.
The good news is there are treatments that are effective for the disease, and many can be cured if they receive treatment as soon as they are diagnosed.
The focus is on preventative treatments for areas deeply affected by the disease.
Another disease carried by some specific freshwater snails, such as the Apple Snail, is the Rat Lungworm.
This is problematic if you intend to eat your mollusk, as ingestion is the only way to become infected with Rat Lungworm.
I guess you might not be concerned with all the above written, as long as you do not plan to bath in our freshwater fish tank or even feast on your freshwater snail friends back at home, right?
Getting Rid of an Overpopulation of Freshwater Snails
They always say too much of a good thing is bad, and this is especially true if your freshwater fish tank has become accidentally overrun with snails.
There are a few ways to combat them, including:
Get snail-eating fish:
Bettas, Gouramis, and Clown Loaches especially enjoy tasty snail snacks. Some snails will feast on their cousins, such as the Assassin Snail.
The snail reduction lettuce trick:
Snails will swarm on a piece of lettuce left floating in the water of your tank. When they have attached themselves to your lettuce, you can remove many of them at once.
Handpick your snails out:
You can gather them off the sides of the aquarium with a net; you may need to do this many times, however, as you will inadvertently leave some behind to continue the life cycle.
Manufactured freshwater snail traps and snail catchers:
These consist of baiting the snails into a container where they cannot escape and then it is your turn to empty snail trap and use it again. Or even manual snail catching roller – affordable way to control snails in fish, tank check price points on Amazon.
Chemicals to reduce the snail population:
Supposedly, these should be harmless to resident fish populations, but aquarium experts will tell you that these are only to be used as a last, desperate effort to get rid of snails in your fish tank.
Of course, aquarium snail prevention is the best policy in a freshwater fish tank.
Place all fish and plants into quarantine to be sure they haven’t brought along any unwanted snail guests, and rinse plants prior to placing them in the tank.
Avoid overfeeding your fish population, since freshwater snails will thrive where there is enough leftover fish food to keep them satisfied.
Freshwater Snails can be beneficial little algae eaters in small quantities, but can quickly overload your biological balance, and clog your water filters if left to their own devices.
If you enjoy snails in your freshwater aquarium, monitor their numbers and thin them out from time to time to ensure that they, your fish, and you can get along in peaceful fish tank harmony.
So how many times did you bring uninvited snail guests to your fish tank after the aquarium store visit? In case that you did not find love with these slow fish tank creatures, consider also other algae eating fish for control and cleaning algae in your fish tank. – The 19 Best Algae Eating Fish for Freshwater Tanks.