Are Snails Good Or Bad For A Fish Tank

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Thinking about sprucing up your fish tank with some snails? Great idea! Or, is it?

Let’s discuss.

So, are snails good or bad for a fish tank? According to my research, snails are a great addition to any fish tank.

Why?

Because they help create a healthy aquatic environment by consuming any algae, debris, leftover fish food, dead plants, and all other gunk, you otherwise would have to clean yourself.

But, I don’t blame the people who dislike snails. Some snail species can cause more harm than good as they reproduce rapidly and invade your fish tank.

Before I get into that, let’s talk about why snails are actually great for your aquarium.

How snails benefit your aquarium

Snails act as natural tank cleaners. They are basically scavengers, meaning they feed on all sorts of dead or decaying matter. This includes decaying plants, leftover fish food, and debris.

So, if you find tank cleaning to be a tedious chore, introduce a couple of snails in your tank to cut that cleaning time into half.

Since snails eat up all the nasty gunk from the aquarium, they help bring down the ammonia levels in your tank. And consequently, create a healthier environment for your fish. 

Aside from that, snails are also some of the best algae eaters to exist. They are quick and thorough with this job. You will often find snails sliding across the aquarium wall, vacuuming away all that filth.

When snails are not busy cleaning up, they like to spend their time burrowing in the substrate. This, again, is great for the aquarium as burrowing aerates the substrate, preventing toxic anaerobic gasses from building up in the water.

And lastly,

Let’s not forget to mention how incredibly beautiful snails are! Freshwater snail species such as the Nerite snails and Mystery snails are found in various colors and patterns which add to the beauty of the tank.

I’ll just put it this way,

Snails are to an aquarium, what jewelry is to an outfit. They complete the look!

Now, here’s where it gets tricky.

Not all snail species are suitable for a fish tank. Hence, you must do thorough research before selecting one for your tank.

To help you make the right choice, let’s go over some of the most commonly found snail species that are best suited for your aquarium.

Snails that are good for your aquarium

Japanese Trapdoor Snail

These snails are ideal for any fish tank because of their ornamental value and calm nature.

The Japanese Trapdoor snails can grow up to 2 inches. They have unique twisted cone-shaped shells and are found in a variety of different colors and patterns.

 Thanks to their size, these snails are highly efficient as tank cleaners. 

These creatures also very peaceful and do not bother their tank mates or live plants. 

Keep in mind that the JTS will breed in a fish tank if you get both a male and a female snail. However, this issue can be resolved by only keeping one of them.

Mystery Snails

Another popular aquarium snail is the mystery snail. These guys have a good reputation among aquarists because of their ease of care, functionality, and beauty!

Mystery snails are found in a wide variety of colors ranging from blue to gold and ivory. So, you can opt for the color that best compliments your tank’s aesthetics.

Once you’ve placed them in the aquarium, there is nothing else you need to worry about. These snails can feed themselves with any leftover fish food, decaying plant matter, and algae that they find.

Check out this video of a mystery snail diligently cleaning up the tank walls

And here’s the best part,

Controlling mystery snails’ population is very easy.

The females lay eggs in clusters that float near the surface, which can easily be netted out. Or if you just keep one mystery snail in the tank, there won’t be any eggs either.

The Black Devil Snails

Contrary to their horrid name,

Black devil snails are not devils at all!

In fact, these snails are incredibly peaceful and easy to maintain. They happily eat away all the algae and other gunk from the aquarium.

The black devils have very dark brown or glossy black conical shells. And if you ask me, I think they add a lot of character to the tank!

Since thee snails only reproduce in salty water, you do not have to worry about a snail invasion if you place them in a freshwater aquarium.

Now that we’ve gone through the good snail species,

Let’s talk about the species that are responsible for giving snails a bad reputation.

Snails that are NOT good for your aquarium

Bladder Snails

These tiny little 1 cm creatures can wreak havoc in your aquarium if you don’t act fast enough. They reproduce both sexually and asexually, releasing hundreds of offspring into the water at lightning speed.

They are murky brown in color and their shells appear to be asymmetrical with one rounded end one pointy end.

Although they do feed on fish waste, filter gunk, and algae, they produce more waste than they consume. This causes a spike in the ammonia levels of the aquarium and ends up harming the fish.

If you spot a bladder snail in the tank, it is advised you take immediate action to terminate them before things get out of control.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails

Malaysian trumpet snails have cone-shaped shells with different patterns. These snails are often praised for their beauty.

Unfortunately though,

They are bad news for aquarists.

The Malaysian Trumpet snails are hermaphroditic. This means that even one of these guys can produce offspring. And boy are they quick at that!

The worst part is,

Getting rid of these snails is nearly impossible. You can starve them, put bleach in their water, introduce natural predators like pea puffers or assassin snails and these guys will not budge.

If somehow a Malaysian trumpet snail does end up in your tank, get into war mode before they invade your tank.

Now,

I know I might have scared some of you by talking about the bad snails above. But trust me, snails are great for a fish tank as long as you are careful with your choice of species.

The only time snails give trouble is when they end up in a tank uninvited.

And yes, that happens! Pest snails can seem to appear out of nowhere.

If you are experiencing such a situation and are unsure about the type of snail that you’ve spotted, I suggest you get rid of it.  Contact your fish store to know more about the products you will need and the procedure.

In order to prevent this from happening again, follow the precautions given below.

How to keep your tank safe from pest snails

Disinfect plants before adding them to your tank

I know this may sound strange, I mean, what do plants have to do with snails?

Well, that’s where you’re wrong.

Most snails hide in plants and lay eggs on the leaves. When you put these plants in your aquarium, the snails do a happy dance because they find everything they need to grow and reproduce.

Hence, you must always disinfect your plants before you place them in the tank.

Do not overfeed your fish

Fish should only be fed once or twice a day, depending on their size. Anything more than that will not make your fishes grow faster. Instead, it will provide the perfect environment for a snail to thrive.

Consider this,

 A snail somehow ends up in your tank. If it does not find any leftover food, it will starve to death without causing any problems. But if it does find some, it will survive and most certainly multiply.

Add predator fish to your tank

There are certain fish species that feed on snails. You can add them to your tank to remain stress-free about a pest snail infestation.

Most aquarists advise yoyo loaches and cories be used for this purpose.

As you can see in the video above, Yoyo loaches are incredibly efficient at this task and will hunt every last snail in your tank. Although, do keep in mind that they grow quite large and may only suitable for a larger aquarium.

Corries, on the other hand, do not eat snails, but they are best for removing any snail eggs that may be present in the tank.

Use the lettuce trick

If you suspect a snail has entered your tank and you want it out ASAP, all you need is a piece of lettuce. Yes, you read that right!

All you need to do is add a piece of blanched lettuce to the water before you go to bed. If a snail is present, you will find it on the piece of lettuce when you wake up. Then you can just take the lettuce out of the water along with the snail, and the problem will be solved!

So, will you be getting a snail for your fish tank?

Let me know in the comments below.

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