To most aquarists, purposely breeding snails sounds a bit silly. After all, they are considered an annoying pest by most of us! However, there are some aquarium inhabitants that have snails on their menu. Buying new snails every time is not much of an option, so setting up a snail breeding tank might be a good idea here.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about breeding aquarium snails and setting up a snail breeding tank.
Note: If you came here looking for a way to get rid of pest snails, be sure to have a look at this article instead.
Why breed aquarium snails?
Freshwater and brackish puffer fish 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, they are naturally molluscivores and hard snail shells are a good way to keep their constantly growing teeth short. 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, especially when 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. Luckily snail breeding is an easy (and even fun!) project that doesn’t take up much space or money at all.
- Container: An aquarium, fish bowl, small foodsafe tub, etc.
- Snails: Pond snails, bladder snails (can be bought online) ramshorn snails*. You only need a few!
- Aquarium water
- Live plants: Java moss 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.
How to breed aquarium snails
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, live plants and snails 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 snail-eating aquarium inhabitant(s). 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!
32 thoughts on “Breeding Aquarium Snails”
Any recommendations on tank size? Smallest size you’d use?? Thanks!
This mostly depends on the type of snail you plan on breeding and how much maintenance you’re willing to give your tank every week. At the very least, a 5 gallon (18.9 L) is recommended with 10 gallons (37.9 L) being even better. A good rule of thumb is to scale the tank to the size of the snail. So, something like mystery snails would need something much larger than a smaller species.
Snails can have a surprisingly big bioload, so keep that in mind.
Hi there, I have a tank set up for pond snails, they have laid eggs but the eggs are not hatching?? The tank has a filter, no heater but the water temp is around 70 degrees. I can see the clear blobs in a few spots but nothing is happening? Any advise. I am trying to breed them for my assassin snail.
Patience! It can take over a month for your new snails to hatch. If they don’t, then something may have gone wrong with fertilization, so just keep doing what you’re doing.
Good luck and happy snail-keeping!
Did they hatch ?
Is there any kind of medication that I can put in my snail breeding tank to help prevent parasites?
Hello! That’ll be a bit difficult since a lot of common parasite medication is also deadly to snails. You could try shrimp safe medication although I’m not well versed on the specifics of all of it!
I got my bladder snails from a pond and I heard that they could have parasites or anything that could hurt my turtles when they eat the snails, but I still want to breed them. How do I know if they have parasites and will their babies also have the?
It’s true that snails taken from outdoor environments can have parasites. I don’t think there’s any easy ways to really be sure and I figure the parasites will transfer to any babies since they’d be in the same container. Pretty much all pet stores will be totally willing to give you some snails as they almost always have infesstations in their tanks. I’d ask at your local fish store just to be safe!
Good luck 🙂
Can you use a substrate or is it not recommend.
That’s absolutely up to you! I like to keep mine without substrate though since it makes cleaning a little easier 🙂
yes you can use any substrate and for the snails that are from the outdoors you have to quarantine them for a least a month in a snails only tank, after a month the parasites will die due to having to live hosts (they need fish or any live creatures to survive)
I live next to a pond with lots of pond snails, could I catch some, breed them and feed them to my puffer?
I would personally try to avoid snails from ponds because they often carry parasites. If you can find a medication to treat the snails with without killing them then I guess it could work, though.
Good luck with your puffer! 🙂
Parasites will die off in 30 days if there are no fish in the aquarium with the snails. Just leave them in a tank or appropriately kitted out bucket for 30days and your snails should be parasite free.
I’m no expert on snail parasites but I know some parasites can be dormant for a very long time. I’d personally prefer medication just to be sure!
Your assertion is not at all accurate and only applies to parasites that require an intermediate host. Its also wrong because many parasites have life spans well in excess of those 30 magical days. Please stop spreading this information as it is inaccurate in parts and wrong in others.
i found a easy to clean up shells that are empty.take a new sink sponge,outline your vacum tube with sharpie. Then cut the circle out using a pair of scissors. Next taken old Air stone tube and draw an inner circle tracing it with the Sharpie. Very carefully cut out the Inner Circle until it looks like you have a sponge donut. Slide the donut on the smaller tube then wet the sponge and insert that into the vacuum tube. The suction will become greater through the smaller tube and the shells will go up and fall over the edge and not go through the entire tube hose. Be careful if you have fine gravel because the suction from the smaller tube will be greater than the regular vacuum tube. When finished pull out the sponge dump out the snail shells and you’re done hope this helps
can i use japanese trapdoor snails?
I guess you could, but they aren’t the most prolific snails as far as I know. Completely depends on how much offspring you want! If you want as many as possible, pond or ramshorn snails are probably the way to go. Otherwise trapdoor snails are fine 🙂
Was wondering how many snails do I need for them to start breeding? & would I need to de-chlorinate the water for them or is tap water good enough? Thanks!
I guess it depends in how much of a hurry you are. You could start with 5-10 but obviously your colony is going to get going a lot faster if you go for 30. So it’s a matter of preference 🙂
As for water, I would personally dechlorinate, or at least leave the water out overnight or something like that. You want your colony to be as healthy as possible! Good luck.
I am trying to maintain Pseudosuccinea and Lymnaea species of snail for research purposes. In our 10 litre tanks, the edges are joined with a silicon-type seal. The snails happily lay eggs on a polystyrene float placed on the water surface, which we then move to a seperate container to maximise hatch success. However, a large number of egg masses are laid on the seals. Is there any way to discourage this behaviour? Eg Something to block the seals?
Hi! That sounds like an annoying issue. I don’t have experience with this but maybe you could try covering/blocking the seals with something you can take out of the tank just like the float? That way you can move the eggs that are laid in the wrong spot. That’s all I can think of, sorry!
Do I need to cycle the tank?
I never really have. I guess you could do it to ensure succes but I’m cycling a tank right now and there’s a ton of snails in there that apparently don’t care that I’m regularly tossing capfuls of ammonia in there. Many species are pretty tough!
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
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 🙂
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.
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!
When you’re dumping the dirty water into the bucket, have a net with small enough holes to catch the snails, but large enough holes to let the snail poop go through. You can rinse the snails off in a sink to get all of the snail waste off, then dump the snails back into the tank they were in.