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Breeding aquarium snails

March 22, 2015
aquarium snail

To most aquarists, purposely breeding snails sounds a bit silly. After all, they are considered an annoying pest by most of us! However, to this day, the dwarf puffer caresheet remains one of the most popular posts on Aquariadise. Freshwater and brackish puffer fish like dwarf puffers are a joy to keep, and their natural diet actually consists mostly of snails. While there are many other great food sources for a puffer, the hard snail shells are a good way to keep their constantly growing teeth short. And although dwarf puffers are the only species that don’t need snails for their teeth, there is nothing more fun than seeing them display their natural behavior by hunting a real, live snail.

Another popular aquarium inhabitant that feeds on snails is actually a snail itself; assassin snails are often used to control a snail plague. As many beginning (dwarf) puffer or assassin snail keepers will soon realize, though, snails are a bit harder to come by than you’d expect! One puffer can get rid of a snail plague in a matter of days (although this is not a good reason to buy them), so a constant supply of new snails is necessary. While local pet stores and other aquarists can sometimes help you out, breeding your own snails is probably the best guarantee. This may seem a bit intimidating at first, but it’s actually a fun project and not difficult at all.

You’ll need:

  • Container: An aquarium, fish bowl, small foodsafe tub, etc.
  • Snails: Pond snails, bladder snails, ramshorn snails*. You only need a few!
  • Aquarium water
  • Live plants: Duckweed is a great fast grower
  • Heater (optional)
  • Sponge filter (optional)

*Some puffer species can break their teeth on Malaysian trumpet snails so these are unfortunately not suitable as puffer food.

If you’re not using a heater, place your container in a warm spot and add a lid or foil with plenty of air holes. Set up your sponge filter if you’re using one (which I would recommend, as they help keep things clean without trapping any snails). Then, just fill the container with aquarium water and live plants and you’re done.

To keep your snails well-fed, add a piece of blanched lettuce, zucchini or cucumber or an algae tablet a few times a week. Be sure to remove the food after a few hours, though, because your container may start to smell a bit if you leave it for too long and bad water quality may kill your snails. Even is food is removed timely, frequent partial water changes are necessary because snails have quite a heavy bioload and the water will get dirty quickly. At least once a week is definitely a good idea.

If all goes well, you will see small transparent “blobs” with tiny specks inside appear all over your container. Congratulations, these are snail eggs that should soon hatch into tiny baby snails! Once you have established a stable breeding population, you can start feeding snails to your puffer or assassin snails regularly. To easily remove a few snails, just drop a piece of food into the container, wait until the snails crawl onto it to feed and then lift the food and snails out of the water. Your snail eating fish will be grateful.

If you still have questions about breeding snails or if you have tips for breeding snails, be sure to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

Cover photo: botanical garden by puno3000

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  • Reply Dorothy Lantz April 8, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    I am breeding bladder and ramshorn snails for my green spotted puffer and was wondering how soon bladder snails can start breeding? Do they have to be full grown or can they start while still kind of small? It’s hard to find large bladder snails at the pet store as they consider them pests and get rid of them when they are larger. I know eventually hey will breed but I would still like to know. Thank you

    • Reply Mari April 8, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Bladder snails always stay pretty small, so they may not be the best choice for slightly larger puffers as they probably don’t require the hardness level they need to prevent their teeth from overgrowing. They do breed when they’re super tiny (and QUICKLY) but I’d go for pond snails instead! Ramshorns are indeed great too. And yes, pond snails can start breeding when they’re still relatively small. I’m not sure about green spotted puffers, but I know F8’s can also be fed thawed frozen clams, that may be a good option to look into if your snail population isn’t picking up yet.
      Good luck! Nice to encounter a fellow puffer keeper 🙂

  • Reply Bre November 4, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I have looked everywhere and cannot find an answer to my problem. I have a 10 gallon tank set up to breed bladder/pond snails for my figure 8 puffer and have had it for about 8 months. My problem is cleaning the tank. I had a filter running in the tank (the small Whisper one that came with it) but it pooped out on me very quickly so they just have a bubble block in the tank now with a few fake plants to crawl on. I clean the water about 1-2 a week (there are ALOT of snails and it gets dirty very quick) doing an almost 100% water change and getting up as much of the “snail poop” on the bottom as possible. My problem is the amount of snails I suck up when doing this. I spend an additional 30 minutes trying to pick all the snails out of the bucket that has dirty water in it. It seems silly to do that since I am “saving” them only to murder them by feeding them to PJ once they are big enough. I just hate flushing them down my sink and was wondering if there is a better way to clean the tank that doesn’t cost me so much extra time and not waste a good size of my snail population? Also the adding food and then removing it within a certain amount of time…how do you do that when the food is literally covered with snails? It would take forever to pick them all off to throw the food away. It is ok to just leave it in there until they stop eating it or it is gone? Mostly only feed them fish food sinking wafers, algae wafers, wafers for catfish and loaches, tums and the occasional spinach.

    • Reply Mari November 4, 2015 at 10:16 am

      Well, that’s definitely a bit of an issue haha! I would personally install at least a sponge filter or something small like that.
      As for accidentally sucking up snails, have you tried using some type of mesh (maybe mosquito netting/insect screen material?) around your hose? I’m pretty sure the holes are large enough to suck up snail poops while hopefully leaving the snails themselves alone, but you may have to experiment a bit.
      If the food bits are small enough to be eaten by the snails within a few hours, I don’t think you have to remove them. Just don’t leave it in for 12+ hours, because that can cause ammonia spikes which are potentially fatal to the snails.
      I hope this helps a bit!

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