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.
- 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!