Articles Invertebrates

Aquarium snails you DO want in your tank!

April 2, 2014
nerite snail

Aquarium snails are pretty underappreciated and underrepresented on most aquarium websites. They’re usually seen as pests instead of an actual addition to your aquarium, which is a shame as there are tons of beautiful species available. Not all of them reproduce quickly, and most can actually help you out with algae control. Looking through the Aquariadise archives, I seem to be guilty as well. Not a single snail post! Time for snail representation – here’s a list of some beautiful and easy to keep snail species.

If you came here looking for a way to deal with pest snails like Malaysian trumpet snails, bladder snails or pond snails, have a look at this article.

Nerite Snail (Neritina sp.)

Freshwater Nerites (pictured above) are among the most popular aquarium snails because of their exceptional algae eating abilities. Although they won’t do all the work for you, they definitely help. Supplement their diet with algae wafers, though, especially when algae are running low. To create an effective algae cleanup crew, get at least around 5 of these snails – they don’t reproduce in the aquarium, so don’t worry about them becoming pests. Be sure to close all holes in the lid, because some Nerites are true escape artists that will try to get out of the aquarium when water conditions are not ideal.
You can buy nerite snails online here!

Sulawesi Snail (Tylomelania sp.)

I was always under the impression that anything from Sulawesi would be just as difficult to care for as Sulawesi shrimp – I was wrong. When kept at temperatures around 81-86 °F/27-30 °C with peaceful tankmates, Sulawesi snails are actually easy to keep, interesting to watch and beautiful. They are omnivorous, so feed plant-based foods like algae tablets and fresh veggies as well as foods meant for omnivores/carnivores. Tylomelania snails will breed in the aquarium without much difficulty, but most sources report one juvenile at a time. This means they won’t become pests like pond snails or trumpet snails.
You can buy Sulawesi snails online here!

Septaria porcellana

This snail is not very well-known in the hobby – I’m not sure if they even have a common name. They’re sometimes referred to as freshwater limpets, but are actually a type of flat nerite snail that, unlike limpets, doesn’t breed in freshwater. I was lucky enough to stumble upon them myself at Zoo Zajac, a huge German pet store. I wanted to include them in this list because of their algae eating abilities, which are pretty extraordinary. In fact, they eat so much algae that it’s recommended to not clean the back of the tank so they don’t starve.

Although there is not too much info out there on their requirements, they likely appreciate the same water conditions as their ‘normal’ nerite cousins.

One of my Septaria snails showing the teeth it uses to eat algae!

One of my Septaria snails showing the teeth it uses to eat algae.

Assassin snail (Clea helena)

If you’re considering getting a puffer fish or clown loach to get rid of pest snails like pond snails or trumpet snails – reconsider. Both these species are on the list of the worst beginner fish for a reason. Don’t worry, though, as the assassin snail can help you get rid of pest snails much more easily. And it looks very pretty while doing so!

Clea helena is a carnivorous snail that turns cannibalistic when it encounters other snails, and eats them alive if it gets the chance. Many fishkeepers report a drastic decline in the amount of pest snails in their aquarium after introducing a few assassin snails.

Although these assassins reproduce in freshwater, they tend not to become pests because the breeding stops once the food supplies run out. And if they do keep reproducing, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find another aquarist with a snail problem who is willing to take a few.
Please be very careful when keeping assassin snails. If these snails escape into the wild they can do a lot of damage.
You can find a full assassin snail caresheet here.
You can buy assassin snails online here!

Spike-topped apple snail  (Pomacea diffusa) –

The spike-topped apple snail is one of the only apple snail species that will mostly leave healthy plants alone, which makes it a lot easier to keep than its cousins. Apple snails are very decorative snails that can be bred in the home aquarium and are available in many different colors. They do well in most water conditions, although harder water seems to be preferable as it contains more calcium. These apple snails will eat fresh veggies and leftover fish food; keep them well fed, as they will turn to live plants when there is not enough other food to eat.
Because apple snails grow quite big, a bigger aquarium of at least 15-20 gallons (55-75L) is recommended. In smaller aquariums, their bioload may simply be too much for the filter to handle.
For more info on apple snails and recognizing the spike-topped apple snail, check out! Apple snails are illegal in some areas, so be sure to check before you buy them.

This page does not include snail species that can be considered pests, like ramshorn snails, Malaysian trumpet snails and pond snails. However, there is no reason to avoid these species; they are just as fun to keep and interesting to look at. They breed very rapidly, but only in circumstances where there is a surplus of food.

Snails have a very bad reputation among aquarists, and they can indeed be very annoying. However, they can also be a great addition to your aquarium, and there are plenty of species that are beautiful and interesting to keep. Hopefully this list has inspired you to give them a chance!

If you’d like to know more about these snails or if you know of another great species to keep, be sure to leave a comment. Happy snail-keeping!

Cover photo: DSC_0022.jpg by theactionitems

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  • Reply Saralynn July 26, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Would a single nitrate snail be ok with a Betta in a 5 gallon ? Like are they ok without friends and such

    Pondering on adding a couple ghost shrimp eventually but many not 😛

    • Reply Mari July 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      A single nerite should be alright with a betta, though be sure to have a plan B on hand in case your betta labels it as food (which does happen occasionally). I wouldn’t recommend ghost shrimp with bettas!

      Good luck 🙂

      • Reply Saralynn July 27, 2016 at 8:27 pm

        What about a mystery snail I went in earlier to just look at what’s around also pondering setting up a school fish tank anywhay the guy working around the fish said he had a Betta and a mystery snail in a 5 gallon and they work well together

        Also would either work well with a school of tetra or guppies not quite sure what’s the plan for school fish just yet

        • Reply Saralynn July 27, 2016 at 11:44 pm

          Ok I saw that’s another name for Apple snail who get big so I dont want those

          Im setting up a second tank I’m planing to do neon tetra or green neons in those to have a school fish tank as well do shrimp do well with those?

          • Mari July 28, 2016 at 1:06 pm

            Yup, though mystery snails are not necessarily the same as apple snails they do get much too big for a 5 gallon, as do both tetras and guppies. If you’ve got a large enough tank for a school of tetras, though, they ar efun fish and should work just fine with shrimp. 🙂

  • Reply firdaus September 25, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    This is a great post.
    I got two nerites (3 weeks ago) for my freshwater 10G after 2 weeks of cycling along with 6 pygmy cories, 6 neon tetra and one betta. I considered the nerites to keep algae and leftover food in control, BECAUSE i read they dont breed in freshwater. BUT last night i noticed this very tiny little snail (2-3 mm) crawling happily along with one of its parents. im baffled. I didnt notice any others. Im looking at the positive side – does this mean my tank is successfully cycled and that the water conditions are so perfect that they are breeding?

    • Reply Mari September 27, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Nerite snail eggs hatch into larvae, that in nature would temporarily spend time in the sea and then return to freshwater. There is a chance they’ll survive in fresh water, but it’s very small. I’m afraid it’s more likely the baby snail you saw is a hitchhiker of another species! They often come with plants.

      Also, I’m sorry to inform you that neon tetras are unfortunately not suitable tankmates for bettas nor can they be kept in a 10 gallon. Your tank is also overstocked with the tetras in there. They need more room to swim and their bright colors and active swimming behavior stress bettas out. I’d try returning them to the store!

      Good luck! I hope the tiny snails do turn out to be nerites.

      • Reply firdaus September 29, 2014 at 11:13 am

        HI Mari,

        You are right, they are not Nerite snails 🙁 some lucky hitchihikers.. spotted two other last night.. but i think the betta is feasting on them.. because they have vanished now..
        Yes, i think i have over-stocked my tank (its 48 Litres so i think its more than 10G), hope that is some comfort for me 😉
        well actually i do 1/4 water change every week so i think that will take care of the over-stocking..
        And the Betta is quite happy with the neons around, he does not seem to mind.. im lucky i got a not-so-aggressive one this time…
        BUT i 100% agree the neons would be better off with a little more room to swim… so i have got good plants, driftwoods and stones to provide good hiding spaces for them to be more secured and have more fun..
        Mari, im happy i have someone to go to when i have any problems… thank you..

        • Reply Mari September 29, 2014 at 9:29 pm

          Glad you’re doing enough water changes. I still hope you’ll consider returning/rehoming the neons, though, as your setup is just not suitable for them.
          Also, sorry to hear the snails were not nerites! It’s possible your betta is eating them, mine didn’t touch them but they have very different temperaments and preferences. Hopefully the problem will solve itself this way!

  • Reply brian c August 11, 2014 at 3:21 am

    lies all lies this is a load of crap all of these snails will eat your fish they get to 10 inches each!nah im just kidding its true they are good snails but i cant seem to find a true apple snail in georgia..

    • Reply Mari August 11, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      That was all part of my master plan to ruin your setups, haha! Also, apple snails are illegal in some states I think, that may explain it.

    • Reply Matt May 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Lel I was just about to say!

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