Removing Snails From Your Aquarium





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Snails can make a helpful aquarium cleaning crew and some are very interesting to watch. However, this unfortunately does not apply to all aquatic snail varieties. We all know the scenario; it starts with a single tiny snail that hitchhiked into your tank somehow, and suddenly there are hundreds of them! Oops.

How did that happen, and more importantly, how do you get rid of them? A snail infestation can be difficult to deal with, but there are definitely things you can do to prevent and end them.

How to remove snails from your aquarium
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Controlling a snail problem

Once you start noticing snails in your aquarium that you do not want there, it’s usually already too late. ‘Pest’ snails like Malaysian trumpet snails, pond snails and ramshorn snails multiply incredibly quickly and the tank is likely already covered in more eggs that will hatch soon. So what can you do?

  • Feed less, clean more. One of the reasons the snails can multiply so quickly in your aquarium is that there is plenty of food for them. Cutting back feedings and regularly siphoning out any uneaten food and other waste can reduce the number of snails to something that is manageable.
  • Trap the snails. There are multiple ways to do this. You can buy a snail trap, though opinions on whether these are actually effective are divided. The simplest is to put some food, like lettuce or cucumber, in the tank, preferably when the light is off. The snails will flock to the food in huge numbers, and after waiting a while you’ll be able to simply lift the food (with snails attached) out of the water. If you do this every once in a while, you’ll be able to keep the snail population under control. You won’t wipe out all of them, but that’s not necessary! Snails eat algae and detritus and are actually helpful in smaller numbers.
  • Assassin snails. These do exactly what the name suggests; they find other snails and literally assassinate them. A small group can really help keeping your snail population under control without harming their other tankmates. This is the only living animal I would suggest to keep your snail problem under control. There is a full assassin snail caresheet on Aquariadise and you can buy assassin snails (Clea helena, also sometimes still referred to as Anentome helena) online here.

How to prevent a snail infestation

While there are several ways to control the snail population, like the trapping method listed above, there is only one way to completely eliminate the chances of your aquarium becoming overrun: preventing the snails from ever entering it.

Snails don’t appear in an aquarium out of nowhere. They hitch a ride on plants, rocks, equipment and filter material. A single snail can be enough to cause issues as they are, unfortunately for us, able to reproduce without a mate. To prevent that single snail from ever entering your tank, thoroughly clean anything that comes from another setup. Hardier plant types can be bleach dipped with diluted bleach (1:8 to 1:10); more fragile plants can be quarantined so any snails that may be on it show themselves. Rocks and equipment should be cleaned or dried out before you put them into the tank.

What you should not do

Fish species like puffer fish, yoyo loaches and clown loaches are specialized snail eaters. They can wipe out an entire snail infestation within a very short time, and they are available in most pet- and aquarium stores. Sounds like a great idea, right? Unfortunately, it’s not. You should never buy a fish for the sole purpose of fixing a snail problem.

  • What are you going to do with the fish once the snails are gone? Puffer fish will gladly turn to nibbling on their own tankmates once their initial food source runs out.
  • Is the fish compatible with the other species in your tank? Most likely not. Puffer fish are very aggressive and clown loaches are group fish that become territorial once they get older. Yoyo loaches, on the other hand, are very peaceful and should only be kept with other calm species.
  • Is your setup suitable for the fish? Again, most likely not. Many puffer species grow quite large and need very specific care, and clown loaches can reach a length of 12 inches (30cm)! Unless you have a very big aquarium, that is not going to fit. Yoyo loaches stay smaller but need a calm setup with soft, acidic water and plenty of hiding places to prevent stress.


If a snail-eating fish species fits into your community, great. However, don’t rely on them to fix a snail problem. The only one who can effectively get rid of the snails in your aquarium is you. There are various options to do so; stick to those instead of buying these snail eaters. They will cause you much more trouble than the snails in most situations.

If you’re interested in keeping snails but don’t want your tank to become overrun, check out Aquarium snails you do want in your tank! There are several beautiful species that won’t cause any problems.

If you have any more tips or questions on how to get rid of snails, leave a comment. Happy snailfighting/-keeping!

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16 thoughts on “Removing Snails From Your Aquarium”

    • As someone who has saltwater for several years and recently set up a freshwater tank that got infested with snails, I would gladly take the snails over any saltwater pest!

  1. Oh they would survive WWII if they had to! They won’t go away! I got rid of them in a 20 long by sucking every last one of them up and doing water changes everyday for at least a week and then using other tank water to get my bacteria back before anything else went in that tank. But, it was, and is, snail free and holds a group of flowerhorn fry right now. (I did clog a siphon hose) I get obsessed with getting them GONE and right now I’m working on a 150 tall and I just continue to remove them nightly for hours at a time, salt the tank every few days, slow down feedings, more frequent h2o changes, but I don’t feel like they will ever be completely GONE. Unless I just shut the tank down for a while, canisters and all, I mean clean then thoroughly, pitch the gravel, and start over again. Nothing but a pain in the A **! I wonder truly if any of the marketed chemicals work or are detrimental to the fish? Anyone know?

    • That definitely sounds like an infestation to me! I don’t know anything about chemical warfare against snails, but what you’re doing will still probably be the most effective method and the best option for the long-term success of your tank.
      But please let us know if you decide to take more drastic measures!

  2. I have malaysian trumpet snails i have stripped bleached and then boiled all gravel and decor for 2 hours and there still there is there anything else i can do? Thanks

    • We had the same issue, haha! Stripped the tank bare and still one popped up. I don’t think there is much you can do to remove ALL of them. With the tips mentioned here, though, you can keep the population under control so the snails don’t take over your tank. In 95% of cases a few Malaysian trumpet snails shouldn’t pose an actual issue to your tank, they’re just unsightly. They actually aerate your substrate and help eat leftover foods 🙂

    • But why do you want to kill them, they are very beneficial to the tank, they clean it and improve your soil. People pretends to have fishes, but they hate the nature indeed. If you have too many snails, your tank is not well balanced. Improve it. I don’t like this article, they don’t warn about the benefit of snails.

      You can control the population by letting a food source, veggies, on the soil at night time, and removing it in the morning.

      • That’s what I was trying to convey as well, so I’m with you on this one 🙂 The reason I stripped my own tank was not snail-related. It is amazing though how hardy they are!

  3. Hi, I had a quick question about snails. I have a 75 gallon with sword tails, I want to completely remove all my pest snails, currently I have a bottle dyi trap in, but if that doesn’t work, would a pretty yoyo or clown coach work and be compatible with my peaceful freshwater community swordtails?

    • I’m really hesitant about recommending fish to solve a snail problem (or algae problem, or any problem in your aquarium for that matter). Clown loaches are out from the start as they require an aquarium that’s at least twice as large. You mention ‘a’ loach, but both species should be kept in groups to avoid stress.

      Yoyo loaches could work with your stock although they do like softer water with a lower pH than most livebearers. You also need a sandy substrate for them. On top of that, it might not actually work – snail-eating fish don’t always bother to actually eat snails if they regularly receive ‘easier’ foods.

      All in all, if they match your setup and water values you could consider the yoyos but don’t count on them being a miracle solution! If you want an easier and less risky option why not try the snail-eating snail, Clea helena?

  4. I have an agressive tank. Just notice snail sacks, I want to remove them and put it in another tank. My question is if removed will they hatch or stick to the other tank.

    • They won’t stick to the other tank. I’m not sure if they’ll survive, I haven’t actually tried! Let me know if you try. Good luck 🙂


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