5 Easy Ways to Get Rid of Aquarium Pest Snails
Bladder, ramshorn, and Malaysian trumpet snails are often called pest snails in the aquarium hobby because they reproduce very quickly and are difficult to remove once introduced to a fish tank. They can enter your fish tank by hitchhiking on live aquatic plants or even at the bottom of a fish bag from the pet store.
Are pests harmful to my fish tank? Although they have the unfortunate nickname “pest snails”, they are actually very useful and a natural part the aquarium ecosystem. They eat algae, clean up uneaten fish food, break down fish waste, and help feed the snail eaters in your fish tank. While these snails won’t cause any harm to your live fish or plants they can help keep your aquarium healthy by eating dead or diseased animals.
Ramshorn snails, even though they are called “pest snails”, are kept often by fish keepers because of their beautiful colors and cleaning abilities.
These benefits are not for everyone. However, some people dislike being overrun with so many snails in their aquarium that they cover every surface. To keep your aquarium snail population under control, try one of these 5 proven methods.
Method #1: Less Food
Fish keepers who have experience with fish keeping know that the best way of decreasing the number snails is to eat less fish food. Despite their rapid reproduction cycle, snails can only create new babies if they have enough sustenance. Therefore, only feed enough food that can be completely consumed by your fish within a few minutes. Your fish will also produce less waste, which is good news for snails. High-quality foods such as live, frozen and freeze dried foods are more likely that the fish will eat all of them, leaving little food for the snails.
This bladder snail is a hermaphrodite that can reproduce asexually and lay viable eggs, even if there are no other snails in the aquarium.
Snails not only eat leftover food but also consume algae and other dying plant matter. When cleaning your fish tank, make sure you prune and remove any algae. Also, use an aquarium siphon to gravel vacuum the substrate and remove excess mulm or organic debris that the snails can use as food sources.
Method #2: Manual removal
Slowly starving snails can be time-consuming. If you are able to physically remove snails, it will speed up the process. The simplest technique is to just use your hands and pick them out one by one. For small snails, you can use a siphon hose to scoop them into a bucket. If you’re passing by and spot some snails on the aquarium walls, try using a snail catcher to easily scoop them up without getting your hands wet.
The Dennerle Snapper is a clever tool that allows you to capture small snails on fish tanks walls.
Method #3: Snail Trap
Some species, like the Malaysian trumpet snails (nocturnal), prefer to burrow in the substrate. It can be hard to collect them from the tank. In those cases, attract the snails by using some delicious vegetables as bait. Drop a piece of cucumber, zucchini, carrot, or lettuce into the aquarium overnight, and by the next morning, the vegetable should be covered in snails for you to remove. Some hobbyists prefer to use a DIY snail trap to keep the snails from escaping.
Malaysian thunder snails (also called MTS) are extremely resilient and can survive for several months in dry, used gravel.
How do you humanely kill a snail after you catch them? Feed your extra snails to snail-eating fish (see our list below), give them to other hobbyists who own snail eaters, or crush them for a quick death.
Method #4: Snail Eaters
Pest snails are actually in high demand if you own a snail-eating fish because they provide a lot of essential nutrients and enrichment for the animal to display its natural hunting behavior. Nearly all freshwater pufferfish, from the small pea puffer to large Mbu puffer, love snails. The crunchiness of snail shells can also help to reduce puffer teeth and keep them from growing too long. Many loaches, such as clown, dwarf, yoyo, and zebra, can use their pointed noses to get into snail shells and take out the insides. Certain larger animals like oscars and turtles also enjoy a good meal of mollusks, so don’t forget to save some for them. Some aquarists also employ the services the assassin snail, a carnivorous snail measuring 1 inch (2.5 cm) that eats other snails.
Assassin snails (Anentome helena) ambush and eat other snails, even those that are much larger in size.
Method #5 – Quarantine
If you are determined to ban pet snails from your home, remember the saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” Carefully inspect any new plants, and manually remove all snails and snail eggs. You can also run your plants under running water to wash away any undetected hitchhikers. You can then place your plant in a quarantine container with light and fertilizers. Keep checking for any new snails. Snail eggs can take 1-4 weeks to hatch, depending on the species and water temperature, so this process requires some patience.
While this quarantine plan is not bulletproof, we recommend taking a slow and steady approach rather than using chemical treatments like bleach or aquarium salt. It can be difficult for you to determine the right dosing concentration to kill snails or eggs, but not to harm sensitive plants such as cryptocoryne or vallisneria.
Bladder and ramshorn snails lay egg sacs that contain multiple babies, whereas Malaysian trumpet snails give birth to live young.
If you’re interested in some clean-up crew members besides snails, don’t forget to read our article for the top 10 helpful animals we recommend in freshwater tanks.