Fighting Conch: Complete Care Guide

Jennifer Doll

Jennifer Doll

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Fighting Conch

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Struggling with a dirty sand bed in your saltwater aquarium?

The Fighting Conch is a very popular addition to the marine aquarium for keeping substrates clean and overturned. However, its heavy dependence on the sand bed also, unfortunately, limits some hobbyists from adding them to their tanks.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the Fighting Conch and how these interesting invertebrates help clean up your aquarium!

Table

Fighting Conch Info 
Scientific nameStrombus alatus and Strombus spp.
Size4 inches (10.2 cm)
Minimum tank size20 gallons (75.7 L)
Temperature72-82° F (22.2-27.8° C)
pH8.0-8.4
Salinity1.022-1.026
Community friendlyYes

Name

Strombus alatus is known as the true Florida Fighting Conch. However, the name extends past this one species.

In the aquarium hobby, most species under the Strombus are called Fighting Conch no matter their exact classification.

You might be asking… where do these mollusks get their name? Don’t worry, it’s much more intimidating than the animal is.

The fighting term is simply because the males sometimes battle each other. This is usually a fight to the death, though the Fighting Conch is peaceful otherwise.

Natural Habitat

Members of the Strombus genus are mostly found in the tropical shallow waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, though some are also found in the Caribbean.

They are considered an important member of seagrass ecosystems, where they cruise along the sandy bottoms looking for algae and other detritus to eat.

Given its name, the Florida Fighting Conch is native to the Gulf of Mexico and western areas of the Atlantic Ocean where it plays an important role in shallow ecosystems.

Is It Illegal to Collect Fighting Conchs?

In the southern United States, conch is a very common dish to come across on the menu. But which species does it refer to?

There are many species of conch, with some being native to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In general, the queen conch (Strombus gigas) is the mollusk in question and not the Florida Fighting Conch.

Due to overfishing for its meat, the queen conch cannot be recreationally or commercially harvested. It is even possible to be fined for removing queen conch shells from their natural location if they haven’t been verified as being completely empty!

Though the Florida Fighting Conch does not have any specific laws surrounding it, it is best to leave them be if you happen to find them in the wild. 

Identification

If you’re new to the hobby, you may be having difficulty telling fish apart let alone snails. Luckily, the Fighting Conch is pretty easy to distinguish from other bottom feeders and is often accurately labeled in-store. 

Fighting Conchs are large snails with shells growing to be about 4 inches (10.2 cm); it is common for fish stores to only offer larger individuals, so there’s even less of a chance to get them mixed up with another species.

There may be some differences between exact species of Strombus, but their general appearance is typically the same.

These snails have a spiral shell with a large opening on the right-hand side; once the snail has reached maturity, there will be a noticeable lip on the margin of this opening.

There are notches at the top of the shell where their extendable snout and two long eyestalks emerge with observable eyes at the tips. 

As a true conch, the Fighting Conch has a large foot that is pointed towards the end. The operculum, or the calcareous trap door that snails use to protect themselves, is strong and able to push the snail across the substrate in a unique leaping manner.

Fighting Conch Tank Requirements

If you’ve kept other kinds of snail before, especially Nassarius species, the Fighting Conch isn’t all that different. The biggest part of keeping your conch happy is by keeping it fed.

Unlike other snails, there are some minimum requirements needed to keep your mollusk alive. 

Fighting Conchs live in the sand bed. It is rare for your conch to ever be above the substrate at any given point, though they can sometimes be seen cleaning the glass and rockwork. 

In general, Fighting Conchs need at least a 20-gallon (75.7 L) aquarium; a longer tank is much more preferred than a tall one to allow for a larger footprint. 

On top of a slightly larger minimum tank size, Fighting Conchs need at least several inches of the sand bed. There needs to be enough food available in the substrate at all times to keep your constantly-grazing conch fed.

As we’ll discuss later, some supplemental feedings may be needed from time to time to ensure that your conch is thriving.

Besides that, these snails can safely be kept in a fish-only or reef tank setup.

How Many Fighting Conchs Can Be Kept Together?

Fighting Conchs fight, but only if they happen to come across each other.

If the aquarium is large enough, it’s possible to keep a couple or several conchs together; keep in mind that there is always the chance that they fight to the death, though.

Most hobbyists find that they can safely keep two Fighting Conchs per every 100 gallons (378.5 L) of water.

The bigger concern about keeping conchs together is running out of food, though. No matter how big your tank is, you want to make sure that your conchs always have food available in the aquarium substrate.

Even large marine tank setups can be too clean to happily keep a conch fed. 

Fighting Conch Tank Mates

The Fighting Conch can be kept with a variety of marine life. It is very peaceful and won’t attack fish or corals, though males won’t hesitate to kill one another!

Because these snails are bigger than most, they can be kept with some predatory species. However, keep in mind that there is always the possibility that they get eaten as well.

When stocking a clean-up crew, the Fighting Conch is usually the main helper. This means that not as many snails or hermit crabs will be needed and adding them can produce more waste than necessary.

These snails are completely safe with other fish and invertebrates, though water parameters should be monitored for the excess waste.

Fighting Conch Behavior

Fighting Conch

Fighting Conchs are interesting to watch. Though they’re rarely seen, they make quite the appearance whenever they decide to come out.

These snails leap. They have a very strong operculum that they use to propel themselves across the substrate. However, they can still suck onto the aquarium glass and rock structure just like any other marine snail.

Otherwise, these snails will stay in the substrate where they will feed on the leftover food and other detritus.

Are Fighting Conchs Reef-Safe?

Yes, the Fighting Conch is fully reef-safe. They will not try to eat soft or hard corals and will leave other invertebrates alone, apart from other male conchs.

Keep in mind that these snails are large and clumsy. They have the possibility of falling onto or knocking over corals and rocks, so everything should be firmly secured in the aquarium.

Fighting Conch Diet

The Fighting Conch is a voracious eater that needs a constant source of food. In well-established marine tanks, they’ll get most of what they need from a deep sand bed.

If your sand isn’t that dirty or you have a nano tank, then you’ll need to supplement feeding every now and then. Don’t worry, this is easy and the rest of your fish will enjoy it too.

To keep your snail fed, simply offer food more regularly, preferably sinking foods.

Whatever your fish and invertebrates don’t eat will end up at the bottom of the fish tank for your conch to each, but sinking pellets will be sure to stay uneaten as they make their way to the substrate.

Fighting Conchs are heavily herbivores that will enjoy algae pellets and flake, though they’ll also accept a high-quality marine food with meaty ingredients; other whole foods and seaweed can also be sunk for your snail to graze on.

So, if you’re struggling with a dirty sand bed and have a reasonably sized aquarium, a Fighting Conch species might be a good addition to your community tank. 

These large snails are harmless to other animals and will keep your aquarium clean and fresh.

If you have any questions about fighting conchs, or other marine snails, or have had success keeping multiple conchs in the same aquarium, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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