It can be difficult to find tough enough tank mates for your betta tank. Some bettas are just so darn aggressive, they’ll pick fights with anything you put in their tank.
But surely aquarium snails should be a safe bet? Sadly not. While many people have kept betta fish and snails together for years without problems, others have had numerous snails killed and eaten by their feisty betta.
So how can you know if your betta is to blame for the death of your pet snail, and what can you do to reduce the chances of this happening? Here you’ll find out.
How Do I Know if My Betta Ate My Snail?
You may have come home and noticed an empty shell at the bottom of the tank. Did your betta eat your lovely pet snail?
If the shell is completely empty, and your betta fish is your snail’s only companion, then it’s very likely that your betta did eat your snail!
But that doesn’t mean your betta fish killed your snail. Snails are not typically very long-lived aquarium pets and will often die of natural causes.
Once your snail is dead, your betta fish might simply make the most of the protein-rich snack that the dead snail offers.
If you have more snails in your tank, you’ll have to watch closely to know whether your betta is indeed a snail assassin, or just an opportunistic scavenger, taking advantage of a free meal.
Why Is My Betta Fish Attacking My Snails?
A betta fish attacking a snail doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to eat it! Bettas are incredibly aggressive fish, which has earned them the name: ‘Siamese fighting fish.’
While bettas vary enormously in their personality and temperament, some betta fish will flare at and attack just about anything that moves in their tank – even a harmless snail!
If the snail is large and well-anchored, your betta’s attacks may do him no harm. But if your betta succeeds in knocking your snail off the glass or rocks that it’s attached to, the upturned snail will have its delicate body exposed, and your betta may proceed with eating it.
Some people do say snails taste good!
Which Types of Snails Do Bettas Eat?
Digging through internet forums, I’ve discovered that betta fish eat an alarming variety of snails. In fact, it seems likely that all of them might be at risk!
Nevertheless, smaller snails are more likely to become lunch for your betta than larger ones, so let’s take a look at the different species.
Nerite, or ‘zebra snails’, are one of the most popular snails for aquariums for four great reasons: they’re very beautiful, they don’t eat live plants, they can’t breed in freshwater, and they’re excellent at eating algae.
But nerites are also fairly small snails, with shells of only about 1 inch in diameter. This makes them an easy target for hungry betta fish.
One interesting solution would be to try the ‘horned nerite snails,’ which have little horns or spikes sticking out of their shells. Maybe these would deter a half-hearted betta attack?
Malaysian Trumpet Snails
Like nerites, Malaysian trumpet snails (MTS) are not very large snails and can make an easy snack for your betta. I’ve even read stories about betta fish demolishing large populations of these mollusks!
But some aquarium owners might be happy to hear this news. Since some people consider MTS a pest species, you might be happy to see some of them go!
Mystery snails are one of the larger snails commonly kept in fish tanks, growing up to 2 inches in diameter. But I’ve still heard stories of bettas eating them!
One fishkeeper reported his betta playing a cruel game with these docile snails, constantly flicking his tail at them until they’d fall off their perch, and then devouring them!
If you’re lucky, your betta may leave your adult mystery snails alone and only eat the baby snails, thereby reducing the risk of population explosions.
Rabbit snails are one of the most exotic-looking snails, and they’re also one of the largest of the common snails kept.
In my research, I didn’t find any cases of betta fish eating rabbit snails, but that’s certainly not to say it can’t happen! If a fully grown 4-inch rabbit snail can’t stand up to a betta fish, though, I don’t know what can!
Like the Malaysian trumpet snail, some people consider pond snails, bladder snails, and ramshorn snails pests in the aquarium, reproducing too rapidly and sometimes eating their aquatic plants.
The good news is that an aggressive betta fish might help to prevent a population of these species of snail from overrunning the tank. Go betta!
If you’re serious about removing pest snails though, you can’t beat the assassin snail. These hardy snails feed specifically on other snail species and are excellent at removing nuisance snails from the tank.
Is It Safe for a Betta Fish To Eat Snails?
Bettas are carnivorous fish that would naturally mostly live on invertebrates in the wild. Snails, therefore, are a natural item on their menu.
It’s very unlikely that eating snails will do your betta any harm, and the extra nourishment might actually be quite good for him!
The only risk of your betta fish eating snails would be if your snails are harboring a disease.
Freshwater fish diseases like ich, schistosomiasis, trematodes, and nematodes can all be carried by snails, and if your betta eats an infected snail, he may become sick.
Having said that, these potential diseases are uncommon and would likely find another way into your fish if he’s susceptible to them anyway.
Overall then, I’d conclude that consuming snails would normally do more good than harm, and poses little risk to your pet betta.
How Can I Stop My Betta Eating My Snails?
Snails are fantastic tank cleaners and they’re also cute, so it’s understandable to want to protect them! Here are a few ideas on how you could do that.
Feed Your Betta Properly
Bettas are renowned for being greedy and should never be overfed. But here we’re talking about the quality of the food, not the quantity.
Bettas are carnivorous fish and need a high-protein diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals too. Simply feeding your betta on betta fish pellets isn’t enough to keep him in prime health.
Spoiling him with frequent helpings of protein-rich foods like brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and blood worms will help your betta to feel nourished, meaning he may be less likely to go and seek out protein sources elsewhere!
There is also evidence that a vitamin-rich diet helps aquarium fish feel less stressed, and a calmer betta may be less likely to attack your snails.
Brine shrimp, for example, are an excellent source of vitamin C and have been shown to reduce stress in guppy populations.
Your betta may simply be picking fights with your snails because he’s feeling bored and under-stimulated. To relieve boredom and stress, you can enrich your betta’s tank with an abundant aquascape, featuring dense plants, pieces of driftwood, and rocky caves.
This dynamic, stimulating environment should help your betta feel at home and may relieve the need to fight with his neighbors.
Add Hiding Places for Your Snails
Most aquatic snails are chiefly nocturnal by nature, so they’ll be most active when your betta is asleep. If you can provide hiding places for them to rest out of sight during the daytime, there’s less chance that your betta will encounter them.
Some snails, such as Malaysian trumpet snails love to bury themselves in the aquarium substrate during the daytime, meaning they’ll be out of reach from your betta, and also help to keep the substrate fresh while doing so!
Introduce Your Snails First
Betta fish tend to be more territorial when another animal strays onto their turf. So when a betta fish has gotten the idea that the entire aquarium belongs to him, he may not take kindly to any tank mates you try to introduce.
If you place a betta fish into a tank that already has snails, however, he is more likely to accept that they belong there too, and allow them to live!
Get a Larger Tank
Bettas are highly territorial fish, and in a small tank, they’ll want to dominate every corner of it.
Give them a slightly larger space, though, and they might make room for other tank mates to enjoy a part of the tank too. If you’re finding your betta is aggressive towards snails in a 5-gallon tank, try a 10-gallon or 15-gallon tank and see if that helps.
Remove Your Snails
If none of the above suggestions work, you’ll have to remove either your betta or the snails to prevent the rest of the snails from becoming lunch!
And I’ll bet that most fish keepers would prefer to remove their snails than their precious betta fish.
Offer your snails to a friend, or try keeping them with a less aggressive betta fish.
Although snails and betta fish can make great tank mates, certain betta fish will simply try to attack anything else in their tank, and some may even develop a taste for snail meat!
I hope that some of the suggestions in this article can help you resolve this issue so that the two species can live in peace together.
If your betta won’t accept snails in his tank, it’s unlikely he’ll tolerate any other tank mates either!