Fish aquarium snails

Freshwater Snails: Types Of Aquarium Snails Available In Stores

Freshwater Snails can be fascinating inhabitants in an aquarium.Hobbyists often add freshwater snails as tank cleaners. The intent being they will be algae eaters and free the tank from uneaten food, dead plant matter and debris. But freshwater snails can bemuch more than that. Freshwater snails dointeresting things in a tank and have many intriguing behaviors to observe.

In other cases, freshwater snails are introduced accidentally. If freshwater snailsareon live aquarium plants or in the plastic bag of store display tank water when adding purchased fish, they make their way into the tank that way. In these cases, freshwater snails are often considered to be undesired pests.Freshwater snails that most often enter a tank inadvertentlyare common pond snails. Some of the reasons why hobbyists consider freshwater snails to be pests are related to egg laying, excessive reproduction and eating live plants.

When keeping freshwater snails, its important to avoid sudden abrupt shifts in water parameters. Its also important to make sure snails have a calcium rich diet. Calcium is necessary for growing and maintaining healthy shells.

Freshwater Snails In Action: 30 Second Video

Freshwater Snails Picture Gallery

Types Of Freshwater Snails Often Available

Assassin Snails: Hobbyists often keep Assassin Snails in their freshwater tanks to help keep populations of other snails in check. Assassin Snails prowl the tank looking for other snails like Malaysian Trumpet Snails, Pond Snails, and Ramshorn Snails to eat.

Gold Inca Snails:A popular typeof freshwater snails in pet store display tanks are Gold Inca Snails. Gold Inca Snails can be good tank cleaners. Theirbright yellow shells can add anaccent color to a tank especially against green plants or a black background. Gold Inca Snails can be ferocious eaters. They are always on the prowl for a bite to eat and are very interested in soft algae buildup on hard surfaces. These freshwater snailsalso likesupplements of bottom feeder tablets, pellets, fish flakesandalgae wafers, as well as some types of blanched green vegetables. Some Gold Inca Snails may also be interested in eating live aquarium plants much to the chagrin of hobbyists.

Ivory Snails: With their creamy white colored shells, Ivory Snails are another type of freshwater snail that can work well in a community tank. Like Gold Inca Snails, Ivory Snails like to scavenge the tank for uneaten food, dead or decaying plant matter and soft algae on hard surfaces. Ivory Snails may also be interested in eating supplements of nearly any kind including fish flakes, algae wafers, tablets, pellets and even some blanched green and leafy vegetables.

Japanese Trapdoor Snail: An interesting freshwater snail available in stores these days is a Japanese Trapdoor Snail. Calm,peaceful and non-aggressive in temperament, a Japanese Trapdoor Snail can spend hours on end scouring the tank for uneaten food, debris and soft algae. Their operculum serves as the trap door that seals their shell aperture should danger suddenly arise.

Mystery Snails:One of the most readily available freshwater snails in pet stores are Mystery Snails. These freshwater snails have shells that are generally on the dark side, with light brown and dark brown accent colors and stripes. Other Mystery Snail shells can be ivory white. The color patterns ofMystery Snails shells are unique and nearlylimitless. Mystery Snails can be great aquarium cleaners,feeding ona diet of uneaten food, and dead or decaying plant matter. Mystery Snails also like supplements of bottom feeder tablets, pellets, algae wafers and fish flakes. These freshwater snails are notorious escape artists, so its very important to keep tanks covered to the extent possible. If there is a way out of the tank, the odds are Mystery Snails will eventually find it.

Nerite Snails:One of the mostpopular freshwater snails kept by hobbyists are Nerite Snails. Available in several varieties with different shell shapes, colors, textures and patters, Nerite Snails are one of the best algae eating snails around. Nerite Snails spend a lot of time methodically travelling across aquarium glass and other hard surfaces searching for soft algae buildup that they eat in small bites. Some Nerite Snails also dig about an inch or so below the surface of the substrate to feast on algae buildup there as well. Nerite Snails are also popular because they do not reproduce in freshwater aquariumsand overrun a tank like some other freshwater snails do. Nerite Snails do create a bit of a mess at timeshowever, asthey lay little hard white eggs on hard surfaces.

Pond Snails:More often than not, pond snails are the type offreshwater snailsthat end up in tanks by accident. Pond snails can make their way into tanks by being attached to live plants purchased from the store. Sometimes, they are even in the display tank water used to transport fishin the plastic bag from the store. Other times, live plants can have small pond snail eggs on them. Whether pond snails are considered to be pet or pest depends on each hobbyist.

Rabbit Snails: One of the more interesting freshwater snails is the Rabbit Snail. A Rabbit Snail is a peaceful, non-aggressive slow moving tank mate that can help keep tanks free of otherwise uneaten food and debris. Rabbit Snails have very intriguinglook, and they can reproduce in fresh water.

Ramshorn Snails: For some hobbyists, thesefreshwater snails can be purchased forfor sale in stores. They can be fun to raise. For others, Ramshorn Snails, like pond snails, can accidentally make their way into tanks and be considered fast reproducing pests. Ramshorn Snailscan be good tank cleaners interested in soft algae buildup on hard surfaces, as well as uneaten food, dead or decaying plant matter and food supplements. Ramshorn Snails lay eggs, reproduce in freshwater, and can quickly overrun a tank. Whether Ramshorn Snailsare considered to be pet or pest depends on each hobbyist and the type of tank kept.

Trumpet Snails: Another groupof freshwater snails that can either be introduced as a welcomed inhabitant or be dreaded as an unwelcome guest are Trumpet Snails. With their cone shaped shells, Trumpet Snails can spend hours on end eating soft edible algae buildup from hard surfaces. Tank glass and aquarium filter intakes are good examples. Trumpet Snails are also good diggers. They make their way deep into gravel or substrate to search for edible matter under the surface.

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How to Control Pest Snails in a Fish Tank

Snail Infestation in Your Aquarium

Youve worked hard on your new aquarium. Youve stocked it appropriately, and your fish appear happy and healthy. Maybe youve even included a few live plants, and the whole thing is looking pretty darned good if you say so yourself.

But, as you sit back and admire your work, you notice something strange. Theres a critter in there you sure dont remember inviting, and when you look closer you realize he's brought a few friends. What the blazes is going on here?

Those tiny snails that mysteriously appeared in your tank are considered pests by many aquarium owners. They multiply like crazy, and unfortunately they are a challenge to get rid of. Usually they or their eggs come in on live plants or on bits of gravel from a fish store, and they are hard to spot.

Because of this some aquarists quarantine their plants and dip them in a bleach solution before planting. You can also make sure you dont add any excess water or material from bags when you add new fish to your tank.

Still, no matter what precautions you take you may find your tank infested. This article discusses a few natural ways to control and possibly eliminate snails in your fish tank. While there are over-the-counter chemicals available that are intended to kill off invertebrates, Ive always tried to keep things as natural as possible.

Lets get to it. Those snails arent going to leave on their own.

Types of Pest Snails in an Aquarium

The typical types of pest snails are:

  • Tadpole or Pond Snails: These are the most common snails youll encounter, and they breed like crazy. They have small, rounded shells and grow to about the size of a pea. They lay eggs in gelatinous globs on surfaces such as plants, decorations and even the tank glass, and thats one of the reasons they are so invasive.
  • Ramshorn Snails: They have taller shells with a spiral shape and they grow to around the size of a dime. They too lay their eggs in clutches along aquarium surfaces. Since they dont breed as rapidly and are somewhat attractive you may not mind having these guys around.
  • Trumpet Snails: They have elongated, cone-like spiral shells and grow to about an inch in length. Even if you have them they may be tough to spot when tank lights are on, as they tend to burrow into the gravel and come out in the dark. Like pond snails they are prolific breeders, but they are live-bearers who dont lay eggs.

Be aware that we arent talking about Apple Snails, Mystery Snails or other aquarium pets. Those are snails you intentionally add to your tank, and if you have them you need to consider them in your approach to dealing with pest snails. In other words, dont harm your pets in an effort to get rid of the pests.

Are Snails Harmful in a Fish Tank?

Believe it or not, those little snails actually do some good in your tank. They work as scavengers, cleaning up waste, debris and uneaten food. They also eat algae to some extent. If you only have a few, and you dont mind the look of them, you may not consider them pests at all.

The problems start when their population gets out of control. Snails breathe, create waste and decompose when they die just like any other fish or animal in your tank. They add to the bioload, meaning your aquarium not only needs to support your fish, but an ever-increasing population of snails as well. They are so tiny that a few of them surely wont matter, but if you let things get out of control before long youll find that the tank, and the fish, are under constant stress.

Personally, I also believe that all living things deserve respect and humane treatment. That includes critters we consider pests. For this reason I highly suggest working hard to keep your snail population under control to begin with. When they are allowed to breed excessively many snails must be removed from the tank and destroyed. While this action is necessary to preserve the health of the fish, it never feels good.

Ill step off the soapbox now. Lets solve your snail problem.

Controlling the Snail Population

If youve already got snails they arent going to go quietly. Youre going to have to get your hands dirty. It is a constant effort to physically remove the snails as best you can. You can set snail traps to encourage them to congregate in one spot. There are over-the-counter traps available, or you can build one yourself.

While youre plucking the little invaders out you can begin to address the things that caused your snail problem to begin with. Like most issues in the aquarium, it basically comes down to poor management practices.

Snail populations explode because of an abundance of food. In some cases they eat the same things your fish eat. If you are overfeeding your fish, snails will reproduce more quickly, and once this begins there is a sort of cascade effect. If you have a snail problem you may also have an algae problem, as this too is exacerbated by overfeeding and poor tank maintenance.

Smart Aquarium Management Practices

Here are a few things you need to consider if you want to control snails in your fish tank and keep things safe and healthy for your fish:

  • Avoid overfeeding: Many fish food containers suggest feeding your fish several times per day. In my opinion, novice aquarium owners do far more damage over-feeding their fish than underfeeding. Once per day is fine, twice at the most, and only as much as they will eat in a few minutes. Remember that uneaten food sits on the bottom or in the filter and rots, but your snails will happily munch it up. By reducing feedings the snails wont be able to out-compete your fish for the available food, and they will not be able to rapidly multiply. The better you can manage this the healthier your tank will be.
  • Algae control: Youre going to have algae in your tank. A little is actually a good thing. But too much of it can make a mess of your aquarium and even harm your fish. It also provides a food source that enables your snails to thrive. To reduce algae you have to physically scrape it from the glass, manage light in your tank and control overfeeding. You cant rely on an algae-eating fish; you have to do the work yourself, but its not as hard as you might think.
  • Regular water changes: Clean water is probably the most important thing for maintaining a healthy aquarium. When chemicals from fish waste, decaying food and rotting plant matter build up in the tank it can be very harmful for the fish. The bioload of your growing snail population will only make this worse. Solve this problem with regularly scheduled water changes. For an aquarium without live plants a 15-20% weekly water change is a good goal. If you have live plants you can reduce this to every-other week, or even monthly.
  • Vacuum up excess debris and waste: There are vacuum/water changer devices on the market that make it super easy to do a water change while cleaning the gravel at the same time. These are essentially siphon tubes with a scoop on one end. I've always used the Aqueon Water Changer, as it is affordable and comes in a 50-foot length. It works very well. Digging the scoop end into the gravel sucks the dirt and debris into the tube, removing some of the food the snails thrive on as well as smaller snails themselves. With the larger siphons, once youve removed the desired amount of water, flip a switch and you can begin refilling your tank with the same tube. For more info on this process and to see how I've used my Aqueon device you may want to refer to my article on easy water changes.

Aquarium Fish That Eat Snails

There are a few fish that will happily munch up the pest snails in your tank. I've written an in-depth article on fish that eat snails. You may find it useful. I've also included a short list below.

If you go this route I highly caution you not to add any fish to your tank that you dont want in there for the long haul. If you think you can make it work, here are a few to consider:

  • Green Spotted Puffer: Puffers will mow through your snail population, but they are not suitable community fish. They also have some challenging care requirements, and must live in brackish water once they are past the juvenile stage. Theyre probably not the best choice, unless you are converting your aquarium to a puffer-only tank.
  • Clown and Yo Yo Loach: These guys will eat snails, but be aware that they can grow somewhat large. If you have a 55-gallon tank or bigger they may be a good choice.
  • Betta: Some betta fish may eat smaller snails, but they come with their own set of issues if you wish to keep them in a community setting.
  • Goldfish: Many larger Goldfish will hoover up snails in your tank. In fact, a local pet store in my area had a big Goldfish they would move around to the different tanks to keep the pest snails under control. If you consider trying this approach be aware that Goldfish are not suitable for tropical aquariums in the long term. He will have to live in his own tank, and only come out a few hours per week for snail duty. I do not suggest trying this approach with a Betta, in case you are wondering!
  • Assassin Snail: Your best bet may not be a fish at all, but another invertebrate. Assassin snails hunt down and eat other snails. They'll also consume leftover food and even algae. A few in your tank will have your pond snails shaking in their shells.
  • Cories and other scavengers: Cories are a nice fish to have in your tank even if you dont have snails. While they wont eat the snails themselves, they may eat the eggs. But be aware that they can only do so much, and they cant eat eggs in crevices where they cant reach.
  • Gourami: You may or may not have luck with gourami. Some aquarium owners swear they will eat snails, while others dispute this. I have often kept gourami before and never noticed them eating snails, but if you wish to have them in your tank anyway you might have some success.

Advice for Aquarists with Strong Stomachs

Ill warn you now: What you are about to read is a little rough. If you are the squeamish type, or some kind of radical animal activist, youll want to skip ahead to the next section. The information I'm about to present will only make you mad at me and possibly the world as a whole. You have been officially warned.

If you are forced to remove snails from your tank they must be destroyed. Unless you have a puffer to feed or want to keep a dedicated snail tank there are few other options. But there is one, if you have the stomach for it.

Most fish will eat snails. The problem is, except for a few mentioned above, they cant manage the shells. But, if you help out a little by removing the snail from the shell, your fish ought to gobble it up. You do this by crushing the shell with your fingers or some other device. Some aquarists use a pluck-and-squish method, where they grab snails directly off the glass with their (clean) hands, crush them with their fingers and drop them right back in the tank.

This may sound like it contradicts my earlier statements about treating animals humanely even if they are pests, but I dont think so. Realize that most of the things you feed your fish come from another animal source anyway. And, if you intend to discard and destroy the snails it is far better for them to have a quick demise rather than a long, drawn-out death. At least this way they are being put a use, to feed other living beings.

Think of it like raising and eating your own cows or pigs for meat rather than buying beef or pork from a store. In the same way, this approach may not be for everyone, but I always felt better thinking the snails were at least part of the food chain rather than just tossed aside.

Of course if you keep your population under control you wont have to worry about discarding snails to begin with, and thats always the best approach.

Learn to Love Snails

If you have rats in your house youre understandably going to go to any means necessarily to get rid of them. They spread disease, ruin food, destroy wiring and other parts of your home and cause a whole host of additional nasty problems. Even if you only have a few they have got to go.

Aquarium snails arent really the same kind of pest. They can be beneficial in small numbers, and help to keep your tank clean and tidy. If you can manage to keep them under control you may just consider them another inhabitant of your fish tank.

They can also be fun, sometimes anyway. I once had a single ramshorn snail in a 55-gallon tank, who presumably hitchhiked in on a plant. Every day I would look to see where he was and what he was up to. Sometimes he would float around the tank, drifting with the current. I was bummed when he died.

But, if pest snails get out of control in your fish tank you have to take action. I hope Ive helped you learn a thing or two about how to manage them. If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments section and Ill do my best to help.

Good luck!

Aquarium Snail Types | LoveToKnow
Snail in an aquarium

Snails are a fascinating and practical addition to both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. With a variety of species to choose from, you can easily find the best type of aquarium snail for your tank.

Types of Freshwater Aquarium Snails

Several species of snails suited for freshwater aquariums that can be easily found in popular pet stores. You can also order them online from reputable dealers.

Related Articles

Apple Snails

This group of snails comprises between 100 and 200 species in the family Ampullariidae. According to, these snails eat common vegetables, aquatic vegetation, and fish food, but do not prefer algae as a food source. They are large snails, reaching as much as six inches in diameter in the biggest species.

Apple snails can be considered a pest in a planted tank. However, they are found in a variety of colors, including blue, yellow, or albino, making them a popular aquarium inhabitant.

Horned Nerite Snails

The horned nerite snail has a unique appearance, with a pattern of black and yellow swirls on the shell, and hard protuberances that give this species its name. Planet Inverts reports that this species is great at eating algae and is approximately 1/4-inch in diameter. These snails will not breed in freshwater, so overpopulation is less of a concern than with other species.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails

This species (Melanoides tuberculata) is very popular and is a good choice for a planted tank. These snails will not eat plants, ingesting only detritus and leftover food that has fallen into the substrate of the tank. When these snails burrow in their search for food, they will aerate the substrate. This is beneficial for planted tanks, as the process promotes air exchange and foot growth.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

The Malaysian trumpet snail has an elongated spiral shell and is tan with brown speckles. They usually reach 2 to 3 cm in length, but can become larger. This snail species reproduces rapidly, and a sudden population explosion can indicate overfeeding in your tank.

Pond Snails

This group of snails also consists of a variety of species and are often thought of as aquarium pests. Pond snails eat everything - leftover food, dead carcasses, algae, and live plants. They are great scavengers and will keep your tank clean, but are disastrous inhabitants for a planted tank.

Pond snails are brown to yellow-brown in color and have round shells. They remain small, staying at under 1/4-inch in diameter.

Ramshorn Snails

Ramshorn snails are a family that contains several small species. While Ramshorn snails are often thought of as pests, they are not quite as likely to eat live plants as pond snails. According to hobbyist Jan at, these snails do a great job keeping an aquarium clean. They are scavengers and will eat leftover food or fish carcasses.

Ramshorn Snail

Many color varieties of Ramshorn snails can be found, including pink, blue, or brown. Their shells are spiral in shape and they lay eggs in a hard mucous that can be difficult to remove from your aquarium.

Things to Avoid With Freshwater Species

If you want to keep your snails alive, you need to be aware of several threats to their health. Follow these guidelines from to ensure that your snails will stay around:

  • Avoid the use of copper-based medications - these are toxic to most invertebrates.
  • Do not keep snails with clown loaches, some smaller loaches, gouramis, freshwater pufferfish, or certain species of catfish.
  • Avoid assassin snails (Antentome helena) because they will eat other species of snails. This medium-sized invertebrate can also be kept as your sole type of snail, feeding on detritus in the substrate if no other snails are available.

Types of Saltwater Snails

Saltwater aquariums are more complicated and offer more diversity in your choice of species. Make sure that you evaluate any species of snail in relation to your particular tank's set up and parameters. These following species are popular additions that are suitable for most saltwater tanks.

Astrea Snails

This group of snails has a big appetite and prefers to eat hair algae, although they also will consume diatoms, green film, and Cyanobacteria. Hobbyist Joe Jaworski reports that Astrea snails cannot right themselves, and if they fall upside down they will starve and die.

Astrea Snail

Margarita Snails

These snails are popular in tanks because they feed on large amounts of algae, particularly hair algae. Margarita snails (Margarites pupillus) are brown and have a smooth twisted shell. According to, these snails grow as large as 1 inch in diameter and are safe to house with corals, other invertebrates, or other tank mates.

Margarita snails prefer somewhat cooler water temperatures, so they are not always a great choice for a tropical reef tank. However, for those keeping a cold saltwater tank at less than 70 degrees, this is a good choice of snail.

Cerith Snails

Cerith snails are less commonly found in the pet trade, but are gaining in popularity. These snails comprise species from several families, but are all similar in appearance and shape, as reported by Cerith snails prefer hard substrates and will ingest sand. Their gut filters out the organic debris (bacteria and microalgae) and they excrete the substrate.

Cerith Snail Close Up

Nassarius Snails

These attractive snails are native to the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. They are brown with a reticulated pattern over an elongated shell. This family of snails are great scavengers and burrow through the substrate to eat detritus.

Saltwater Snails to Avoid

Many types of snails are predatory and will harm other inhabitants of your aquarium. According to, the following species are predatory or harmful and should be avoided:

  • Bumble bee snail
  • Murex snails
  • Ilynassa obsoleta
  • Crown conchs
  • Keyhole limpets
  • Olive snails
  • Babylonian snails

Basic Requirements and Care for Aquarium Snails

For both freshwater and saltwater tanks, your snails require little special care if you are adding them to an established tank. According to Petco's Care Sheet, freshwater snails need the following basic care:

  • Stable water quality and temperature
  • Algae, plant material, or debris to eat
  • Supplement feeding with algae pellets or lettuce
  • Keep a tight-fitting lid on the aquarium - several species of snails can escape a tank
  • Use hard water when possible - shell growth and maintenance requires calcium
  • Maintain water changes as required for fish
  • Saltwater snails have similar needs, but you should research any specific species that you would like to keep

Snails Keep Your Aquarium Clean

One of the main reasons why aquarium hobbyists keep snails is to help maintain a clean tank. Different species of snails each have individual feeding habits which determine how they will keep your tank clean. Mike's Guide to Beginner Freshwater Aquariums outlines some of the ways in which snails feed to keep your tank looking pristine. These include:

  • Snails that eat algae
  • Snails that eat vegetation and live plants
  • Snails that eat dead plant matter
  • Snails that burrow and aerate your substrate

When Aquarium Snails Are More Harmful Than Helpful

Snails are not always desired in a tank, as some can be more harmful than helpful, especially to live plants. This depends upon the species of snail and the type of tank that you have. To avoid the accidental introduction of undesirable snails, clean and disinfect any new plants before adding them to your aquarium.

Feeding Different Types of Aquarium Snails

Snails do not necessarily need to be fed beyond what algae is present in your tank. For larger populations of snails relative to the amount of algae, this will be needed if you choose to keep the same population of snails. Carolina Biological Supply Company recommends you use dechlorinated and conditioned water whenever you perform a water change. If you add lettuce to the tank as a supplemental food source, wash it thoroughly first.

Make the Best Choice for Your Aquarium

With a complete knowledge of your aquarium type, water parameters, and other inhabitants, you can make the best choice when selecting which snails to add to your tank. Whether you are looking for an algae-eating species, a scavenger to keep the substrate clean, or merely an attractive and interesting invertebrate, there is certain to be a type of snail to meet your needs.

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