Freshwater Aquarium Snails: Pests or Pets? 8

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When it comes to freshwater aquarium snails, there are many points of view to consider. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not aquarium snails should be seen as beneficial pets or destructive and troublesome pests.

Here is some information that you should take into account before you decide to put snails in your freshwater aquarium.

Superb Snail Benefits

The majority of snails are scavengers, with their tiny mouths; they will devourer dying plants, leftover fish food and algae. Owning a snail or two would allow you to keep your aquarium water quality clear and virtually free of algae. They are also able to remove dirt and algae in hard to reach areas that you may not be able to see from your perspective.

For more algae eaters, read: 7 Best Freshwater Algae Eaters

Snails will eat live plants but they tend to only eat the dead and decaying plants that you wouldn’t want to keep in your aquarium anyway because decaying plant matter produces ammonia (which is toxic to fish). Sometimes it may appear as though snails are eating a healthy plant but this may be a misperception because chances are, they are just eating the algae off of the healthy plant parts.

Snails also add movement and color to your freshwater aquarium and they can be fun to watch. There are many different snail species that come in various colors, shapes and patterns and are pleasing to the eye.

Another benefit to having a snail in your aquarium is this; unlike other scavenging fish species that may eat fish eggs, if you have a breeding aquarium with fish egg clusters, snails will stay away from them.

4 Freshwater Snail Breeds That Are Considered Pets

The Nerite Snail is an a-sexual proficient algae eating tank vacuum. They may also be known as Tiger Snails and Zebra Snails. The most popular species have a rounded striped shell with a yellow base and dark stripes. Their range of colors include, dark brown, dark green, olive, golden and reddish brown.

They are very active which makes them appealing and fun to watch. This adaptable and hardy species will grow to the size of about one inch.

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One of the best things about Nerite Snails is that they will not reproduce in freshwater and therefore it will be easy to keep the snail population under control. They may lay eggs on roots or stones but they will not hatch.

Another helpful pet snail is the Apple Snail. These peaceful omnivores will require a large tank as they may grow to be upwards of 6 inches! Their colors consist of white, yellow, brown, tan, black and even blue, pink, purple and jade. They are attractive to watch and will consume large amounts of algae, vegetable matter and other decaying matter.

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If you are wondering about reproduction, the apple snail is not a hermaphroditic snail. These snails will reproduce, but they lay their eggs above the waterline so you can easily scoop them up before they hatch.

The Mystery Snail belongs to the family of the Apple Snail, which consists of around 120 different snail species. These peaceful and hardy creatures can grow upwards of 2 inches. They come in several colors; ivory, golden, jade, yellow, blue, black, pink and burgundy.

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Similar to the Apple Snail, they will eat algae and decaying or dead plants. They also lay their eggs above the waterline so they will be easy to dispose of before they hatch.

One thing to watch for; if insufficient algae is present, the Apple Snail and Mystery Snail may start to consume your live plants.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails are popular scavengers that are useful for your freshwater aquarium. They will break up plant roots and sand substrate; eat decaying plants, algae and dead animals. These snails will grow to 1 inch, and will need both sexes to reproduce. They will not eat your live plants (unless they are starving) or harm other tank inhabitants.

Because of their long hard conical shell, predatory fish such as Loaches and Puffers generally will not be as interested in them as they will have a hard time crushing their shells.

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One thing to watch for: If they are overfed, they will breed and if the population gets out of control, they may overrun your tank. (Maybe it’s time to buy a Large Clown Loach!)

As we’ve seen from the Nerite Snail, Apple Snail, Mystery Snail and Malaysian Trumpet Snail; Snails can be a beneficial addition to your tank but there are some species to stay away from if you would like to keep your tank free of problems.

Tip – When Purchasing Snails : Look for snails that are active and healthy looking without cracked or nicked shells. Avoid the snails that are motionless and be sure you look into the snail shell to make sure that it’s not empty!

Pest Snails

All snails will produce waste themselves. They will remove the accumulated amounts of decaying matter in your tank but they will also contribute their own amount of waste in your aquarium.

This can create a much bigger problem if you have overstocked your tank or have added a wild species that may reproduce like crazy!

Over Reproduction

Because snails lack natural predators, in a freshwater aquarium, snails are prone to multiple rapidly and you must pay special attention to the number of snails you desire to have in your aquarium before it gets out of hand.

Once a snail reproduces, your aquarium might quickly get overpopulated and when this happens, it may not be easy to remove all of the undesired snails.

Freshwater Aquarium Snails That Are Considered Pests

Pond Snails

The least appreciated snail is the Pond Snail. They are native snails and may harbor parasites or other ailments, which could carry over to other tank inhabitants. They are hermaphroditic and one of their biggest problems is that they are able to multiply abundantly.

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They eat live plants and will shred lotus leaves but they do clean up the tank well.

Pond Snails are usually acquired when purchasing a new plant. In order to make sure you don’t acquire them via plants; before placing a new plant into the aquarium, make the effort of soaking it in warm and salty water. After 10 minutes, remove the plants and wash thoroughly. This method should remove or kill any uninvited snail guests. (source)

Here Are Some Ways To Control The Snail Population

1. Predators!

Get some predators! Many species will love eating your snails. The Clown Loach, Puffer Fish, Yoyo Loach, Skunk Loach, Upside Down Catfish, will all readily eat snails and help you control your snail population.

2. The Lettuce Method

Another way to keep your snails in check is to use the lettuce method. Place a piece of lettuce at the bottom of the tank and make sure it stays at the bottom by placing something heavy on it.

At night, your snails will eat the lettuce and during the day, you will be able to pull the piece of lettuce out with the snails attached to it and dispose of them as necessary. You may need to repeat this a few times in order to control the population.

3. Organic Removal

To get rid of unwanted snails, you may use poisons purchased from pet shops but this could be harmful to the other fish and plants in your tank. Organic methods of removing snails work the best.

Another organic method of removing snails includes; using a small plastic bottle and putting a piece of food in the bottle at the bottom of the tank. The snails will go into the bottle at night when they feed and you will be able to dispose of the bottle and repeat this method until the desired amount of snails remain in the tank.

A Note on All Snails

Most snails are not particularly picky about the water quality but they do prefer hard calcium rich water. To keep their shells healthy and free of damage, they will need calcium rich water that is free of copper and other metals.

When choosing a species for your tank, you should know what to expect from that species and be prepared to deal with some common problems like overpopulation and parasites like mentioned above.

When you know what to expect, freshwater aquarium snails can be a wonderful addition to your freshwater home aquarium. These hard and slimy workers love eating algae and decaying matter, keep your tank clean, and are great to watch!

Share Your Thoughts

From your experience, would you consider snails as pets or pests? Tell us all about it in our comments section below.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

8 thoughts on “Freshwater Aquarium Snails: Pests or Pets?

  1. Reply Jessica Aug 8,2015 4:29 pm

    The snails my dad has have a long, hard conical shell. I stole some and they work well with my goldfish (almost as large as a tennis ball) and even it has a hard time eating the larger snails. They’re not a problem in my tank, but my dad has tetra that keep dying off within DAYS! Could this be from the THOUSANDS of snails in his 100 gallon tank?

  2. Reply Ann Aug 12,2015 3:33 am

    I have a 2.5 gallon tank. I’m a beginner and need some urgent advice. I only HAD a Tetra and a yellow snail in my tank. Today, I have 3 brown snails in there also and am wondering if the yellow snail produced them, and should I remove the brown snails before they multiply?? Help!

    • Reply m.v Oct 3,2016 5:18 pm

      the snails will reproduce like crazy, 2.5 gallon is very small, tetra prefer groups of more then 6 to be happy they could live with less but you need bigger tank minimum ever 10 gallon and that’s small I started with a 30 gallon long

  3. Reply Harley Dec 25,2015 7:51 pm

    I have a black Moor goldfish right now and I’m moving to a 20 gallon tank and looking to purchase another black moor. What’s the best bottom feeder to get with black moors? Does it make a difference with algae? Is it worth getting any at all?

  4. Reply Lauren Jan 24,2016 4:38 pm

    The inside of my water snail has gone hard. He was upside down in the bottom of the tank and when we fished him out the non-shell part is as hard as the shell. Is he alive? How has this happened?

  5. Reply Jeff Oct 23,2017 2:57 am

    Idid not put snails in my tank and now i have at least a 100 from tiny as a pin to the size of a pin head i have not put fish in it yet my plan is to put african cichlids the only thang i have put in the 150 gal tank is 100 lbs of carib sea coral to keep the high ph level

  6. Reply Jeff Oct 23,2017 3:16 am

    I did not put snails in my tank and now i have at least 100 from tiny as a pin to the size of a pin head i have not put fish in yet my plan is to put african cichlids the only thing i have put in the 150 gal tank is 100 lbs oF carib sea coral to keep the the high ph level tank has been runing for three weeks through filltration and now i have snails every where

  7. Reply Deanna Mar 21,2018 5:08 am

    I purchased what appears to be an apple-type snail. About 2 months later I bought a trumpet (orange rabbit snail?) snail. Not 5 minutes after putting it in the tank (125 gal), the first snail was all over the 2nd one. Wasn’t sure if it was aggression or attraction at the time but now I have little white snails. They aren’t too selective when mating? Because they aren’t even the same shape

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