The mystery snail, or the “spike-topped apple snail,” is a type of apple snail species commonly found in home aquariums. The apple snail is a common name for the Ampullariidae, a family of large freshwater snails.
Whilst they’re of the same family, these two species are often highly differentiated in the aquarium trade. However, their appearance, anatomy, and diet similarities may be difficult to tell apart at first glance.
This article will help you understand the differences and help you decide which is best for you and your home aquarium.
How Do You Identify an Apple Snail?
Most species of apple snails are larger than the majority of other freshwater snails and can be separated from others by their distinct oval shell. Despite the two belonging to a similar family of snails, there are visible differences between apple snails vs mystery snails.
Apple snails generally have an olive-toned foot/body, and their shells can come in a huge variety of colors. This depends on the different types of snails.
They’re not a hugely common species in the aquarium hobby – to get one, you’ll likely have to go out of your way to find a reputable breeder, as they’re not commonly found in pet stores (these will likely be mystery or nerite snails).
So if you’re unsure what snail type you have and think it may be an apple, there’s a good chance that it may actually just be a mystery – quite literally.
Apples generally have a gorgeous unique appearance, making them a preferred choice as pets. However, they come with many risks, including the spread of diseases and parasites, which can harm the other creatures in your aquarium.
They’re considered to be an invasive species; known to carry intestinal flukes and rat ringworms, which can harm and disturb ecosystems.
How Do You Identify a Mystery Snail?
Mystery snails are commonly identified by their cute little “trap-door” – an operculum that the snail uses to hide inside his shell. They’re commonly shades of brown or occasionally cream, with orange accents on their mouths.
These types of snails may also have tentacles and siphons dotted across their head and body, and black dashes on their siphon. These kinds of snails use the siphon for breathing, especially when swimming in alkaline water.
They can appear in various color forms but are extremely common freshwater aquarium snails that are readily found in many pet stores, where they’re clearly labelled.
These snails are also a common favourite amongst breeders due to their diverse appearances. They’re great to get creative with in terms of breeding and it’s possible to create some truly stunning and unique specimens.
These snails require a huge water supply with strict water conditions. They’re sensitive to water hardness and hot water. They’re great eaters of plants and dead plant matter as well.
Which Snail Is More Common?
Mystery snails are one of the few types of apple snails commercially available, so technically, if we include all species, it’s safe to say that apples are more common, as that includes mystery snails – I know, a little confusing, perhaps!
That said, mysteries are not commonly referred to as what we think of as apple snails, so going off of common names alone, mystery snails are by far the most commonly known and widely bred species.
They have healthy shells, which most fish keepers find fascinating.
Are Apple Snails Bigger Than Mystery Snails?
Although (as I’ve already said a hundred times over in this article) mystery snails are a type of apple snail, they’re typically known to be very small for an apple. Most other apple snail variants are, in fact, far larger, and one key difference between these two is their size.
The mystery snails are very small compared to the other species in their family, growing up to only 1-1.5inches in diameter. On the other hand, other types of apple snails are able to grow to as large as 6 inches!
Can Apple Snails Breed With Mystery Snails?
No. Whilst part of the same family, they’re of different species and cannot interbreed.
This is heavily debated online, and whilst some keepers believe that they can, in fact, breed with one another, this is not generally thought to be the case.
If you have both of these snail species living together, chances are they will only mate with their own kind. This selective breeding of apple snails helps maintain their physical differences, such as common colors and their snail image. As a result, the apple snail family is the biggest snail in all classes of snails!
Do Apple Snails Eat Other Snails?
Sadly, yes. It’s known that apple snails are greedy little things, eating just about anything they can get their mouths on. And, quite controversially, that includes other snails and their eggs!
Apple snails generally will only consume pest snails that are smaller than themselves or dead snails, so if you’re keeping a group of them together, I wouldn’t worry about your tank suddenly turning into a hunger-games for snails.
House them with many little ones of various species, however, and you may have a different case on your hands.
Are Mystery Snails More Colorful Than Apple Snails?
Most species of apple snails have olive-green feet and exhibit light shades of brown, gold, pink, burgundy, purple or blue shells.
On the other hand, mystery snails have darker-colored shells, such as browns, blacks, and blues, with a white or dark-slate foot.
That said, if you ever come across a dark-colored snail bigger than 1.5inches in diameter, then it’s not a mystery… but since we don’t have time to go over every snail species out there, it may just have to be a…. mystery!
Do These Snails Consume Live Plants?
Nope, neither apple snails nor mystery snails consume live plants. So if you add them to your aquarium, you can rest easy knowing your aquatic vegetation is safe in their hands (what hands? They only have a foot!).
Whilst both types will eat dead or decaying plant matter should they come across it, any living plants in your aquarium will remain unharmed so long as you feed them right. Algae pellets are a good food source for them!
Their dietary habits are, however, one thing that separates them. The mystery snail is herbivorous, whereas most other apple snails are omnivorous or carnivorous, depending on the species.
Mystery snails also require more calcium in their diet; otherwise, their shell may crack or become thin. Calcium supplements are available in pet stores if you do not have sufficient foods to provide your snails with calcium.
You should consider having calcium test kits to test calcium levels in their feed and water.
Can Snails Live With Fish?
Yes. Both of these species of snails make great additions to community tanks as they look beautiful and can aid in keeping the tank shiny and clean by munching on algae.
That said, there are things to be aware of when discussing the best choice for your tank.
As mentioned before, apple snails are an invasive species and can carry diseases and parasites into your aquarium, infecting your other pets. For this reason, you must be extremely careful when introducing one.
He must not live in an aquarium with small crustaceans if he is of a carnivorous species (else, yes, your little shrimp may become a snack).
Typically the safest and, in my opinion, the prettiest option is the mystery snail. They’re more commonly bred, much smaller, and are unlikely to bring any harm to any other inhabitants of your tank.
Ultimately, it’s completely down to you which one to choose. Whilst the mystery is my personal recommendation. Hopefully, this article has given you all the info you need to make that choice for yourself.
No matter which snail you choose to add to your aquarium, I’m sure he will look just smashing! (No- not literally – smashing a snail is animal abuse! Please don’t do that!)