RSS Feed Aquarium snails | Aquarium snail types & info

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    TASA Admin

    Feb 8, 2017
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    When setting up and stocking an aquarium, you’re probably thinking of fish, right?

    Certainly not snails. Snails are pests. Or are they?

    The humble aquarium snail has been gaining popularity, and for good reason. There are some fascinating (and beautiful!) species out there. And they’re useful too, scraping algae off your tank walls, eating leftover foods and helping you get rid of dead plant bits. Even so-called “pest” snails can have their place in your aquarium as long as they’re managed correctly.

    Sound good? Keep reading for everything you need to know about keeping freshwater aquarium snails and the various species out there.

    Psst! Did you come here looking for tips on dealing with a pest snail infestation? You might want to head over to the article on removing aquarium snails instead.


    Why keep aquarium snails?

    Wondering why you might want to include a snail or two in your stocking plan? They can actually be quite useful and even beautiful.

    • Algae eating. Most aquarium snails will see an algae-covered aquarium pane as the place to be. They happily eat green algae and hair algae, leaving a patterned trail where they scraped off the gunk with their two teeth. Although most species won’t turn your aquarium sparkly clean, they definitely help.
    • Cleaning crew. Aquarium snails will pretty much consume anything edible they come across. This includes dead plant bits, leftover (fish) foods and even deceased tankmates. It’s a nasty job, but someone’s gotta do it!
    • Substrate aeration. Some aquarium snail species love to burrow. While they may uproot a plant or two in the process, this can actually be helpful. By digging through the substrate, the snails loosen and aerate it, which helps prevent anaerobic spots and makes it easier for plant roots to grow. Malaysian trumpet snails are especially useful for this.
    • Add some life & color. Many might think of snails as boring, but aquarium snails can actually be fascinating to watch as they perform their cleaning duties. As an added bonus, some species have beautiful colors and patterns as well as unique shell shapes. There’s an aquarium snail for everyone!

    Do keep in mind that although aquarium snails are useful additions to your cleaning crew, they can have a relatively high bioload. Be careful not to overstock. Additionally, check beforehand whether the species you’re interested in eats live plants. Most don’t but some might, especially when food is lacking.

    Untitled by lasfotosdelcarajoese

    Aquarium snail types

    The best aquarium snails

    Black devil snail (Faunus ater)

    Although it looks pretty similar to Tylomelania snails (discussed below), Faunus ater is actually an entirely different species. As you could probably guess from the name, this snail’s body is entirely black. In most cases this also goes for the long, pointy shell but there are some exceptions. Faunus ater “cappuccino”, for example, features a gradient shell that progresses from black to white.

    If you’re interested in keeping Faunus ater you won’t need a very large aquarium. These don’t get nearly as big as mystery snails or Japanese trapdoor snails, so 10 gallons (38L) and up should work just fine. A sand substrate will be appreciated, as this snail loves to dig. Interestingly, you can also keep this species in a brackish set-up!

    All in all, if you’re looking for an active snail with a spectacular shell, Faunus ater is a great choice. Don’t worry about keeping multiple in the same aquarium. There is not much known about breeding these snails yet and it doesn’t seem to happen very often in the home aquarium. No risk of a snail explosion here.

    You can find a full Faunus ater caresheet on Aquariadise here!

    Tylomelania (rabbit snail)

    Tropical snails from the genus Tylomelania are also known as rabbit snails or Poso snails. Originally hailing from the lakes of Sulawesi, Indonesia, Tylomelania snails come in many varieties. All have a long, pointy shell and slightly elephant-like head. Although their natural habitat can vary a little, most need pretty similar care.

    To keep your Tylomelania snails happy, be sure to buy a group of at least three. Minimum tank size varies between species; 5 gallons should be enough for the smallest, while the largest grow to up to 4.7″/12cm and need a lot more room. Keep the pH high (at least 7.5) and make sure the water isn’t too soft.

    Diet-wise, provide plenty of leaf litter and supplement this with invertebrate pellets (shrimp foods should work well). If you’re lucky, well-fed and healthy Tylomelania snails might produce offspring. No need to worry about overpopulation, though. Only one baby snail is born at a time and it takes a long time to develop in the mother snail’s pouch.

    Golden rabbit snails are probably the most popular Tylomelania variety. There are many more, though – my personal favorite is the appropriately named chocolate rabbit snail, which you can find here.


    Red racer Nerite snail (Vittina waigiensis)

    Looking for something flashy?

    Although there are many Nerite snail varieties out there, each more beautifully patterned than the next, this one takes the cake. Red racer Nerites lend their name from their “racing stripe” pattern. They range in color from yellow to a dark red, making them real eyecatchers.

    Nerite snails are appreciated by aquarists for their algae eating skills (they’re among the 5 best aquarium algae eaters!). Red racer Nerite snails are no exception. A group of these tropical snails can scrape your aquarium clean within days, making aquarium maintenance a little easier.

    Because their eggs need brackish water to hatch, you don’t have to worry about a red racer snail infestation. This does come with the downside that the sticky white eggs remain in the tank indefinitely – and they can be quite difficult to remove. Keeping a razor blade around for scraping purposes might be helpful.

    You can buy your red racer Nerite snails online here!

    Mystery snail (Pomacea bridgesii)

    Okay, so: mystery snails are a type of apple snail, which is a common name for the Pomacea genus. Some apple snails are banned in parts of the world, but mystery snails aren’t. They don’t grow as large as some of their other apple snail cousins and don’t have the same appetite for plants.

    Mystery snails, better known as Pomacea bridgesii, are a relatively large and quite popular aquarium snail species. They are appreciated by aquarists for the various selectively bred colors that are available today. You can find them in regular brown, but there are also yellow, ivory, blue and even purple mystery snails.

    Due to their size (up to 2″/5cm!) mystery snails aren’t suitable for nano aquariums. They produce a lot of waste which can quickly cause water quality issues in small set-ups, so avoid them if your water volume is less than 15 gallons (57L).

    To keep your mystery snails happy and healthy, keep the pH slightly basic and the water hard. Feed calcium rich invertebrate foods and supplement with plenty of fresh veggies like kale and spinach. Try not to skip any feedings; these snails aren’t afraid to take a bite out of your plants if they get hungry. Well-fed and healthy mystery snails will lay clutches of eggs just above the waterline, which should hatch after a maximum of around four weeks if left in the tank.

    Briggs snail by bored-now

    Japanese trapdoor snail (Viviparus genus)

    The Japanese trapdoor snail, also sometimes referred to as the Chinese mystery snail, is a large snail species popular among pond keepers for its algae eating capabilities. Luckily for us aquarists, this species can also be kept indoors as long as your set-up is large enough. As with mystery snails a tank of at least 15 gallons (57L) is probably a good minimum to avoid water quality issues.

    If you keep Japanese trapdoor snails you’ll often see them cruising around the tank sifting through leftovers and other debris for hours on end. These are great scavengers as well as algae eaters that can really help get rid of all sorts of gunk. This means a very clean aquarium isn’t an ideal place for them unless you offer plenty of food. The more debris the better! Some leaf litter will probably be appreciated.

    Like Tylomelania snails, Japanese trapdoor snails don’t lay eggs. They are livebearers that do reproduce in the aquarium as long as they’re happy and healthy. Overcrowding probably won’t be too much of an issue, though, and you can always ask whether your local aquarium store is interested in taking a few of these off your hands. After all, they’re quite decorative and a fascinating species to keep!

    You can buy Japanese trapdoor snails online here.

    aquarium invertebrates by ursus_sapien

    “Pest” freshwater aquarium snails

    Although they are referred to as pest snails here, the species below aren’t actually bad. Actually, they’re pretty good. They help clean up debris, add life to your tank and aerate the substrate. They just breed very quickly, which means it can be a challenge to keep the population under control. If you don’t mind having lots of snails there is no real reason to avoid them.

    • Looking for a way to get rid of pest snails? This article might help.
    • Looking to breed as many pest snails as possible to feed snail-eating fish or inverts? Have a look at the snail breeding guide.
    Malaysian trumpet snail (Melanoides tuberculata)

    Malaysian trumpet snails are small and can be recognized by their hard, pointy shells. In many cases this species only comes out at night, so you might not even know it has hitchhiked into your aquarium and started multiplying until you have a glance after the lights are out.

    Malaysian trumpet snails reproduce very quickly and can really overrun your tank, especially if you don’t notice them due to their nocturnal nature. They also have good sides, though. Because this species loves to burrow, a colony can help keep your substrate light and aerated. This is helpful in preventing anaerobic pockets from forming and makes it easier for plant roots to grow.

    Malaysian trumpet snails are not generally appreciated by fish that eat snails. If you keep puffers they can be downright dangerous: their hard shells can crack the puffer’s teeth. So if you happen to be looking for snails as a food source for your fish, try one of the other three species discussed below.

    Want to start your own Malaysian trumpet snail colony? You can buy these snails online here.

    Malaysian Trumpet snail by drelliott0net

    Pond snail (Lymnaea genus)

    Pond snails from the genus Lymnaea can be an amusing addition to your aquarium. They are fun to watch and useful when it comes to eating debris, but there is one issue about them that many aquarists struggle with. They multiply incredibly quickly and can easily overrun a tank if the conditions are right.

    Because they breed so fast, it is usually recommended to skip this species and go for one that is less of a “nuisance” instead. Unfortunately they can still end up in your tank even if you’re trying to avoid them. If your aquarium/pet store has an infestation going on they might end up on plants that you’ve bought there and enter your tank. One pond snail is enough to cause troubles: they reproduce asexually.

    Love ’em or hate ’em, pond snails can have their place in your tank. If you’re looking for a species to breed as food for puffer fish or assassin snails, they are a great option.

    Ramshorn snail (Planorbis genus)

    Ramshorn snails are also quick breeders that can cause issues if they’re left to reproduce freely. However, they’re not as “universally hated” as pond snails. Some aquarists do purposely breed them, as they come in several attractive colors like light pink and light blue.

    Ramshorn is a general name for snails of the Planorbis genus and there is quite a variety of ramshorns out there. The tiniest variety doesn’t grow much larger than a pinhead, while others get quite large. The tiny variety is probably the most common pest ramshorn, while larger specimens are often kept as pets.

    Whether they’re pests or pets, ramshorn snails make themselves useful by eating leftover foods, decaying plants and even some algae. Want to start your own colony? You can buy ramshorn snails online here.

    Magnificent ramshorn by usfwssoutheast

    Bladder snail (Physella genus)

    Bladder snails from the Physella genus look somewhat like pond snails but are much smaller. They are usually not for sale in your local aquarium store, but end up in aquarists’ tanks accidentally. As with other pest snails this can become problematic when there is plenty of food for them and they start reproducing rapidly.

    If you want to avoid bladder snails from entering your tank, be sure to put any new plants in “quarantine” before adding them to your tank. A bleach dip might prove helpful, especially for strong plants that can handle a bit of a beating. Just mix 1 part bleach with 8 parts water and give the plants a good dip to kill any snails and eggs that might be on there.

    Photo by maxxum

    If you have any more questions about keeping freshwater aquarium snails or want to share your own experiences with your favorite aquarium snail species, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

    Cover photo: DSC_0057.jpg by DSC_0057.jpg (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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