Top 7 Helpful Snails for your Next Freshwater Aquarium


Top 7 Helpful Snails for Your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Although not everyone loves aquarium snails, we do love their vital role in the 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 to develop their shells. This is why they prefer pH higher than 7.0 and GH higher above 8deg (140 ppm). If you notice pits, cracks, or holes in your snail’s shell, consider dosing the water with mineral supplements such as Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium. The pH can be lowered by adding crushed coral to the substrate or filter media. Plus, you can 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. Snails are known to be very still when resting. However, if one of your snails is hanging out of their shells or has an unpleasant odor, you should remove them from the aquarium to stop the water from fouling.

To keep your aquarium safe for snails, avoid snail-eating predators such as certain loaches and pufferfish. You should also consider changing the water level to keep snails from escaping.

1. Bladder Snail

The common snail belongs to the Physidae physidae group and is famous for its brown, bulbous, speckled-spotted shell. Their size is less than one inch (22.5 cm), making them easy to reach all the corners and crevices of your tank. Bladder snails can sometimes be confused with larger pond snails. They can grow up to 2-3 inches (8-8 cm) in length and love to eat aquarium plants. They can be tolerant of a variety of pH levels and temperatures and aren’t fussy about water parameters.

They are often called “pest snails” because they can also fertilize themselves. The eggs are tiny white dots that look like jelly covered in a blob. They can be found on tanks walls, plants and other surfaces. The aquarium may be overfeeding if it experiences a high number of bladder snails. Consider decreasing the amount of food going into the tank, managing algae growth, and gravel vacuuming more often to remove excess organics. The snail population will stabilize when the food sources run dry. For more tips and tricks on managing your colony of snails, read the full article.

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 can grow to a length of 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3-0.8 cm), and come in many varieties, including olive, red racer and horned-nerite. They can escape easily so make sure to keep your aquarium closed. You should also ensure that there is enough algae in your tank to prevent them from starving 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. Although you might see them leaving white egg capsules resembling sesame seeds on tank walls and decorations, they will not hatch in freshwater, so it is safe to ignore any concerns about them reproducing 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 up to 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) and come in many pretty colors – like brown, gold, 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 can be simultaneously hermaphrodites like the bladder snail and possess both male & female sexual organs. Their eggs look similar to bladder snail eggs. They are small dots covered in 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 can be used with plants like larger Pomacea species, such as the Peruvian and giant apple snails. There are many varieties available, including ivory, yellow gold and jade as well as blue, brown, purple and magenta. They are active and quick for snails and can display amazing behaviors like climbing up to the top of the tank or “parachuting” down. You might also see them sitting near the water surface. They will then open their breathing siphon and inhale water to reach their gills.

Mysterious snails do not have a sexual instinct. You can sex males and women by holding the snail’s body so that one foot is horizontal, like it was climbing up a wall. The shell of a snail is able to reveal that the female has two holes in her shoulders while the male has only one. When spawning, the female climbs up to the surface and lays a cluster of eggs above the water. It is easy to manage their population because of the large egg clusters that can be removed if they are not wanted.

5. Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Melanoides tuberculate, a mostly nocturnal species of snail, has a 1-inch (2.5 cm) shell. It is pointedy, elongated and brown. They spend much of their time burrowed in the substrate, waiting until dark to come out and forage. They are loved by many people because they constantly turn the gravel or sand over to add nutrients to plants and keep cyanobacteria away from the ground. They can survive in environments that are unsuitable for them and they are also extremely resilient. Like the nerite snail, they have a high tolerance for salt and can be acclimated to live 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 Southeast Asia snail that measures 1 in (2.5 cm). It has a beautiful, pointed shell with brown and yellow stripes. The assassin snail, however, is a carnivore, which specializes in eating other snails, and it’s not like the other detritivores. It burrows in the ground, and comes out when it finds prey. Many aquarists use them to get rid of smaller snails, like bladder, ramshorn, and Malaysian trumpet snails. Assassins can take out larger snails than they themselves. If all available snails have been eliminated, they will also opportunistically feed on fish food, worms, and deceased animals.

Assassin snails do not have the ability to reproduce and are not hermaphrodites. 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 are peaceful and slow-moving. They also have a slow rate of reproduction. They are not hermaphroditic and give birth to live snails, similar to Malaysian trumpet snails. 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 make an amazing team member for cleaning up organics. They can further breakdown organics into nutrients that can then be used by aquatic plants.

To get your own aquarium snails, check out our recommended list of online fish retailers.