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Nerite Snails Care Guide: Feeding and Tank-mates for Freshwater Aquariums

Last Updated February 12, 2020
Nerite Snails Care Guide: Feeding and Tank-mates for Freshwater Aquarium

If you’re looking for a way to keep your tank clean, Nerite snails could be the answer to your problem.

Nerite snails spend much of their lives moving slowly around their habitat, consuming algae and particles of debris. Nerite snails are extremely easy to care for and make a colorful addition to any tank setup. In regards to tank size, the Nerite snail only grows to one inch in diameter, so a small tank is suitable for these attractive mollusks.

In this guide, we introduce you to the world of the Nerite snail. Here, you’ll learn how to care for these fascinating creatures, how they breed, and how long they live.

What are Nerite snails?

Nerite snails are sometimes called mystery snails. Nerites come from Africa, specifically, Mozambique, South Africa, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Nerite Snails Care Guide: Feeding and Tank-mates for Freshwater Aquariums

There are over 200 varieties of Nerite snails that all belong to the species neritina natalensis, most of which live in salty coastal waters. However, there are several variants of Nerites that inhabit freshwater streams and rivers, making them suitable for life in a fish tank.

Some of the freshwater species of Nerite snails that make popular pets include:·

  • Black racers
  • Sun thorn
  • Tiger eye
  • Tiger
  • Zebra Nerite snails

Nerite snails are popular with aquarists for their unique patterns and colors, as well as their useful qualities as tank cleaners. Devouring any algae that are growing on your tank glass, decorations, or plants, Nerite snails are the housekeeping of your tank. Unlike most shrimp, Nerite snails also eat troublesome hair algae and help to keep the substrate clean and the correct color. These industrious, peaceful little creatures grow to be just under an inch in diameter, making them ideal for a smaller tank.

Unlike some species of snails, Nerite snails are not hermaphroditic. That means that you would need a mixture of male and female snails in order to breed them. Nerite snails can live in fresh or saltwater, although they do need saltwater or a brackish environment to breed. So, unlike most other species of aquarium snails, Nerites will not overpopulate your tank. Nerite snails tend to be completely peaceful, making them absolutely safe to add to a community of fish, live plants, shrimp, and other snails.

Nerite Snails Care Guide

What do Nerite snails look like?

A Nerite snail’s anatomy includes a hard shell that sits on top of a muscular “foot” that moves from side-to-side to push the snail forward. Snails also have four sensitive tentacles. These extravagant-looking, one-inch long snails come with different markings and colors.

Zebra Nerite Snail

Zebra Nerite snails have stripy shells that radiate from the center of the shell’s coil. The Zebra snail has stripes that are generally yellow and black, although the shades do vary.

Tiger Nerite Snail

Tiger Nerite snails are similar to Zebra Nerites, although their coloration is a more intense orange. The Tiger’s stripes are more jagged, too, giving each snail a unique appearance.

Olive Nerite Snail

Olive Nerite snails do not have a patterned shell, being a rather drab olive green in color. That said, the black line of the shell’s coil stands out vividly against the olive base color, creating an appealing, minimalist look.

Horned Nerite Snail

Horned Nerite snails have thick yellow and black stripes, which are distinguished by a series of dark “horns.”

Horned snails with thick black and yellow stripes.

How fast do Nerite snails grow?

Like all species of snails, Nerite snails gradually grow as they age. So, the older the snail, the larger it will be. When choosing Nerite snails to add to your community, always choose small ones, as these are the youngest and will usually live longer than the bigger specimens.

What tank conditions do Nerite snails need?

Freshwater tanks

Nerite snails can live in most tropical tank environments and can also survive in a coldwater tank setup, as long as the temperature range does not drop below 650F. Ideally, Nerite snails need a pH range between 6.5 and 8.5 and a tank temperature of between 650 and 850F. The water type in the habitat should be kH 12-18 and gH 12-18.

Nerite snails will not thrive in water that contains high nitrate levels, so you must ensure that your tank water has a maximum nitrate level of 20ppm, ideally less. Also, snails are extremely sensitive to copper, so be sure to treat tap water with a product that removes copper, and do not use any form of fish medication or plant fertilizer that contains copper sulfate or other copper derivatives.

Snails need water that contains a fair amount of calcium to promote good shell health. You can also satisfy that requirement by feeding the snails with spinach or kale and floating a cuttlebone in the water. As with all species of snails, it’s best to ensure that the waterline in your tank is not too high, as the snails will readily climb up and beyond the water surface. In fact, in the snails’ wild environment, the water level in coastal habitats changes with the tide, and Nerites like to climb above the waterline at night. To ensure that your Nerites don’t escape, make sure that your tank has a tight-fitting lid!

Include plenty of driftwood and rocks in your tank, as well as caves that the snails can use as hiding places when the need arises. Ideally, the substrate in the tank should be a soft, fine-grained sandy medium. If you like to have live plants in your tank, they will be perfectly safe, as Nerite snails won’t damage them. Instead, the snails will keep the plants free-from algae.

So, how many snails can you have in your tank? That largely depends on how many fish you have in the habitat already. As a general rule of thumb, you can have one snail per five gallons of water, meaning that you can keep Nerite snails in any aquarium that’s larger than five gallons. The Nerite snail cannot reproduce in freshwater, so overstocking should not be a problem.

Nerite snails’ marine habitat

Nerite snails are mainly found in coastal regions, such as estuaries and mangroves, where there are lots of rocks and deadwood where algae can grow. So, if you can replicate that in your tank setup, Nerite snails are sure to thrive.

You’ll need to include lots of hiding places. Make snail hideouts from living rock, and the snails will take advantage of the algae that will grow on the rock surface. If there aren’t enough algae to support the snails, add a few algae wafers to supplement their diet.

Because snails have four highly sensitive tentacles, choose a fine-grained, sandy kind of substrate to make sure that there is no danger of your snails being scratched.

Snails in freshwater aquariums make exceptional pets.

A calcium-rich substrate is the best medium to choose, as it will provide the snails with a good supply of calcium, which the snails need to strengthen their shells.

The water parameters for saltwater and freshwater snails are the same. In a marine tank, the salinity should be maintained at 1.020 to 1.028sg.

How long do Nerite snails live?

A Nerite snail has an average lifespan of between one and two years.

What do Nerite snails eat?

Nerite snails are exclusively herbivores, voraciously eating algae of most species. Snails are slow scavengers, using their “radula” to scrape up food. If your tank has plenty of algae and not too many snails, the Nerites should be able to live off the algae alone. However, if there aren’t many algae in your tank, you can supplement the snails’ diet by feeding algae wafers and blanched vegetables, including carrots, kale, zucchini, spinach, etc. Be careful not to give your snails too much to eat, as that can cause health problems.

Can you breed Nerite snails?

Like other snail species, Nerite snails lay eggs. As we mentioned above, a Nerite snail will not reproduce in a freshwater aquarium. However, you can breed them in brackish water, i.e., semi-salty water that contains more salt than freshwater but less than seawater. In a brackish tank, it’s a good idea to use a substrate that is rich in calcium, such as crushed coral, to provide the necessary minerals for healthy shell growth in the juvenile snails. The temperature in the breeding tank should be around 800F.

You’ll need a group of five or more Nerites to increase the likelihood of your group containing both male and female snails. When the snails have settled down in their new home, they will produce eggs that hatch into larvae without shells. Over time, the young snails’ shells will start to appear and grow, and the juvenile Nerites can then be introduced into a freshwater aquarium.

Nerite snail behavior

As is typical of most snails, Nerites are not especially active, being peaceful creatures that like to go about their business of eating algae without being hassled by fish and other tankmates. For that reason, if you have large, aggressive fish species in your setup, Nerite snails might not make the best choice of tank mates for your community; small, slow-moving snails on the bottom of the tank could finish up as lunch for your hungry fishy friends!

You may notice that one of your snails has fallen over. Don’t panic! Your snail’s foot is extremely flexible, and the snail will soon flip itself back over again. However, a helping hand from you is always welcome!

Did you know that snails sleep, just like you do? Well, they do, but in a two to three-day cycle, rather than over a 24-hour cycle that humans and other mammals tend to follow. It’s thought that snails have around seven bursts of sleep during a 13 to 15-hour period. After that nap, your snails will enjoy 30 hours or so of activity.

Tankmates for Nerite snails

The primary criteria for tankmates for Nerite snails are that other members of the community must be peaceful and small. That means avoiding cichlids and sticking to tetras, barbs, gouramis, bettas, guppies, and the like. Other species that do well with Nerite snails include shrimp and other varieties of Nerite snails. A tank that includes a mixture of fish, snails, and shrimp makes a nice display because you get to witness many different behaviors and interactions between the species.

Shrimp are great tank-mates for Nerite snails.

How to care for a Nerite snail

Like all living creatures, snails can be prone to a few health problems. Fortunately, with proper care, your Nerite snails should remain healthy.

Shell problems

A snail’s shell can be a cause for concern. If the shell’s growth is stunted, usually, that’s because the temperature in the environment is too low or the snail’s diet is not adequate for its needs.

Over-feeding can cause shell problems. If the snail eats too much, the shell may become discolored because the extra energy that the snail derives from the food causes its shell to grow at a faster rate than it should ordinarily do. Wild snails often have dark-colored shells because food is scarce.

Nerite snails need calcium to keep their shells healthy and strong. A lack of calcium causes the shell to become weak, leaving it vulnerable to cracking. You can supplement your snail’s diet with suitable supplements, such as calcium substrate and calcium sulfate.

White spots on snail shells are usually caused by parasites that have attached themselves to the shell. Snails can also be affected by internal parasites, and both forms can be fatal to the snails, depending on the species of parasite involved.

Edema

When a snail suffers from edema, its body swells and becomes filled with fluid. That makes it difficult for the snail to move around and feed.

Copper toxicity

Copper is highly toxic to most invertebrates, including Nerite snails. Be careful not to use any products in your tank that contain copper or copper derivatives.

Where can I find Nerite snails?

Nerite snails are sold in many pet stores. As one of the most popular species of snails among tropical fish keepers, Nerites will be easy to find. Also, this species of snail is inexpensive, usually costing around $4 for one, although you can often buy a small group of Nerite snails at a discounted price.

Snails that are harder to breed and raise in captivity are typically more expensive, such as horned Nerite snails.

Final thoughts

Nerite snails make the perfect addition to a fresh or saltwater community tank that contains small, peaceful species of fish, shrimp, and other snails. Nerites are easy to keep, and you can breed them too if you provide them with a brackish environment.

Not only are Nerite snails colorful, but they can live on the algae within your tank, helping to keep the setup looking tidy. Be sure to include plenty of calcium in the form of a crushed coral substrate and green vegetables, such as kale. Nerite snails need a calcium-rich diet to help maintain their shells in good condition.

So, if you’re looking for an easy-to-keep, attractive addition to your tank, why not consider a few Nerite snails?

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