Aquarium Snails - Pros and Cons
Updated: Apr 10
There are typically two types of people - the first of which are those that scream at the thought of getting a rogue snail egg in with their new fish, resulting in having a few snails in the tank. The second group understand the benefits of snails. It turns out they can be a great addition to most tanks! What to know why? Let’s dig in! Welcome to the Pros and Cons of aquarium snails.
We might be alone in thinking snails can be pretty cute, but there’s more to them than their looks. If you have live plants in your tank then at times parts of them will die off. You’ll also start growing algae and the leftover food your fish don’t consume will start to rot. Not with snails though, they’ll slide along the bottom of your tank and occasionally up the sides, nibbling on whatever waste they can get their ...bodies? Mouths? Around. In short you’ll have a natural way to cut back on waste that means water changes can go a little further.
Generally they’re quite friendly in nature - they’re very peaceful creatures and won’t harm or bother any of your fish. In fact if you’re a fish keeper who’s into breeding fish, they also probably won't even harm your fish eggs because fish eggs don’t seem to be too appealing to snails. If you have shrimp tanks for live feeds or simply because you like shrimp, they’ll benefit the tank and can even help increase survival rates when the shrimp hatch.
Snail waste acts as a great fertilizer for your live plants and will help them grow, which will then make them more effective in creating some of that sweet H2O! Some species are really eye catching and nice to look at, they can make a great addition to your colourful aquariums and some even come in different shapes! We’ll go through the cons of snail keeping and then have a more in depth look at some species!
That’s quite a few benefits to having snails in your tank, but what about the cons? Well the first thing people usually ask is “what about the plants?” and truth be told, yes some snail species will happily munch down on your plants til there’s nothing but roots, and even then they might also dig into those, however not all of them will so you’ll want to research the type you need, or simply don’t use a planted tank and stick with an air pump instead. You can also try tempting them with blanched vegetables instead of your live plants however this will only prolong the inevitable demise of your leafy tank additions.
Another con is that some snails breed like rabbits - rapidly. However rabbits are known for having up to 10 babies at a time, snails can lay up to six hundred eggs at a time. Having this many snails will rapidly disrupt nitrogen levels by creating a wave of ammonia and they’ll also produce a lot of waste. Overcrowding will also stress your fish out, leading to illness or even death.
It’s quite rare that snails will lay eggs though, so if you only have one or two it shouldn’t be a problem. If you find eggs, then clean the tank. Remove plant life as the eggs can stick to leaves, and give your gravel a thorough scrub. If you’ve left the tank with eggs in, and now have far too many snails or eggs, then there’s still a solution. There’s a little fish called the Bottias, who’ll happily devour any and all snail eggs and baby snails. If your main snails are too big for it’s mouth then they should live just fine.
Sometimes small aquarium snails can get into your filter intake. It can harm them and damage the filter as well. Therefore, ideally, you need some kind of protection (covering the openings, some people wrap some mesh over the opening). However, if you are using sponge filters there is nothing to worry about. Sponge filters are a great choice for smaller tanks for a few reasons. They're quite small and operate by connecting your air pump, so you'll need less plug sockets for your tank. They also usually come with two sponges, so if you want to upgrade your tank in the future, you can add a sponge from your tank and you'll be able to cycle it quicker! You can pick up our top choice of Sponge Filter here.
Here is a list of the most popular freshwater aquarium snails:
1. Nerite Snails (Zebra Nerite, Tiger Nerite, Olive Nerite, Black (Red, Gold) Racer Nerite, Horned Nerite, Red Spotted Nerite, etc.)
2. Assassin Snails
3. Mystery Snails (Gold Inca Mystery Snail, Ivory White Mystery Snail)
4. Rabbit Snails
5. Giant Colombian Ramshorn snails
6. Japanese Trapdoor Snails
7. Black Devil Snails
8. Ramshorn Snails
9. Malaysian Trumpet Snails
10. Pagoda snail
11. Bladder Snails
12. Pond Snails
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