10 Best Freshwater Aquarium Snails & Guide

Similar to all other pets, snails also come in different sizes, shapes, designs, and colors. That said, there are numerous species and breeds of snails and when choosing a pet snail, it all comes down to a matter of preference.

When in their natural habitat, snails live to about 3 to 5 years. However, when housed in ideal surroundings, such as an aquarium, they can survive for up to an incredible 10 years!

And apart from being good pets and beautiful additions to any aquarium, most freshwater snails are, in fact, beneficial.

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Benefits of snails to freshwater aquariums

Adding these slow but striking creatures to your freshwater aquarium will not only benefit your tank but the other inhabiting fish as well. On top of adding a new dash of color to your tank, snails also help to increase the number of beneficial bacteria present in your aquarium water. 

That’s not all. Snails are particularly useful in cleaning your tank. They get rid of harmful waste from the tank walls, as well as its bottom. They achieve this naturally by consuming and digesting the majority of the waste, which includes leftover food, rotting leaves, and unfiltered fish poop.

Some snails do a very good job of cleaning up the tank’s substrate. They get this done by eating up the debris as well as any other organic substances that accumulate. And having a reduced amount of leftover waste, in turn, reduces the number of times you have to clean up the bottom of your aquarium, which means less work! Who wouldn’t love that?

Below is a list of 10 different snail species that you can consider adding to your freshwater tank.

Ten best freshwater snails for your aquarium

1.Lava Snails

Also known as black devil snails, lava snails are quite popular among aquarists. They are a very fun and interesting species to watch. They have a very unusual and intimidating appearance but are very peaceful beings on the inside.

Lava snails are very large. They can grow to a length of up to 9cm and that is why they should be kept in large tanks, for instance, a 40-liter aquarium. They are black in color and have an elongated black shell that is at times orange.

They prefer living in tanks with some sort of substrate where they can bury themselves inside. They also often move around and so you need to keep your tank water clean and cycled.

The best part about this snail species is that they are effective tank cleaners; they will consume anything from food leftovers to algae. Bear in mind that lava snails also feed on live plants, which is something that you need to remember when purchasing these snails.

2. Nerite Snails

These snails are perfect for beginners. They are ideal for individuals that are still new or in the process of learning about the aquarium business since they are very easy to look after. 

What particularly makes them a great choice for beginners is that they are really easy to control with regard to reproduction. You could, for instance, breed these snails as much as you desire since they require a mate to reproduce, which is not the case with other species of snails. 

Nerite snails are also very effective when it comes to tank cleaning, especially if you have fish waste and algae that you wish to eliminate. In addition, they are really friendly creatures and they can peacefully co-exist with any other fish or animals in your aquarium.

It is fun and interesting to watch their behavior. These snails are very active and they often move around, particularly on the tank walls where algae are situated. They also have stunning stripped shells that are also quite pleasant to peer at.

Therefore, if you are still a beginner or even a pro aquarist, nerite snails should definitely be among the top picks of the snails to house in your aquarium.

3. Malaysian Trumpet Snails

Apart from the nerite snail, the Malaysian trumpet snail is among the commonest type of snail out there. In fact, you might get a few free of charge when you purchase your tank.

The best part about them is that they are easily available, easy to look after, and are very effective tank cleaners. They are really small and can do well in much smaller tanks. They have a lifespan of about one year and are considered to be a good choice for beginners. 

Most people, however, view these snails as pests because of their high reproduction rates, which eventually makes them a nuisance. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, avoid overfeeding them or else you will wind up with a large unexpected family of Malaysian trumpet snails.

4. Elephant Snails

Elephant snails, aka rabbit snails, are one of the most peaceful snails you can find. They make for a nice addition to any fish tank and they do not interfere with the peace of fellow tank mates. They are quite active during the daytime, and nighttime as well. Simply put, they are a very active species.

They prefer living in tanks with some substrate, but they can easily adapt to other environments. They are generally small snails in stature but they can grow larger. Their length varies from 6 to 12 cm, depending on the sub-species. 

They have an interesting look; their face resembles that of a rabbit. And as mentioned earlier, they are quite adaptable and thus easy to care for. They are capable of handling water pHs of 7to 8.5 and their ideal tank size is 20 to 40 liters.

A lot of aquarists prefer this species because they do not reproduce often. And similar to other snail species, rabbit snails will clean your aquarium from any unwanted wastes and algae.  

5. Ramshorn Snails

Just as stated in the name, these snails have shells that resemble ram horns. This particular snail species has numerous subspecies, such as the red and black colored Ramshorn snails, which have beautiful, spiraling, black-striped shells.

Apart from their beauty, Ramshorn snails are also helpful in getting rid of all sorts of waste from your tank; be it rotting leaves, algae, and carcasses. This is precisely one of the main reasons they are kept as tank mates.

The only downside of keeping these snails is their fast rate of reproduction. Once you introduce them in your aquarium, they can multiply at an uncontrollable rate. They are capable of reproducing without a partner, which makes it difficult to control their breeding. 

The only option you have is to stop that from happening. But how? Ensure that you are not overfeeding the snails. A lot of people don’t know it but overfeeding is the fasted way of having a large snail population. If that does not work, then you might have to consider removing some of the snails from your tank.

6. Tower Cap Snail

If you’re in search of a snail that is easy to maintain, then this is your go-to species. They are quite huge (10 cm in length) and that is why they are at times referred to as Hercules. Their large size makes them more suited to somewhat larger tanks; 40-liter tanks.

They are live-bearing creatures and they reproduce very quickly. It is almost impossible to distinguish the male snails from the females and so you must employ preventive measures to prevent these snails from overpopulating your freshwater tank. Remember, overpopulation will lead to other problems. Don’t overfeed your snails and adopt more extreme measures if the numbers get uncontrollable.

Unlike most snails, this particular species does not feed on algae. They, instead, consume rotten and dead matter in the tank. 

7. Mystery Snails

Mystery snails have several subspecies, which are all based on their shells’ color. There are purple, black, golden, and blue mystery snails. They are, however, all alike despite the different shell colors. And similar to most other snail species, they are effective tank cleaners.

Mystery snails are quite peaceful and will nicely co-exist with other fish and living creatures in your tank. And when confronted with the more aggressive tank mates, they retract in their shells. This is why you have to carefully consider the fish species you stock with your mystery snail; ensure that they are also peaceful.

These snails can live for up to one year and are quite adaptable. They do best in moderately planted aquariums but they can easily adapt to any conditions. With regard to the tank size, mystery snails can be housed in 20-liter tanks or even bigger ones, particularly if you want to keep more of them.

8. Horned Armor Snail

This species of snails have a very unique appearance; they have yellow, spiky shells, which is exactly why they are a popular choice for those who wish to make their tanks more vibrant. 

What makes these snails fascinating is the fact that they are very rare. They are native to Thailand but it is not easy to stumble upon one.

They can be housed in a 20-liter aquarium as they are not that large; they are at least 3 cm in size. And like most other snail species, they are quite peaceful and would nicely co-exist with other fish. They are also very effective tank cleaners. Apart from waste and algae, they can consume cooked vegetables, pellets, and even dry foods.

9. Japanese Trapdoor Snails

These are perhaps the most interesting snail species.  They have a unique appearance; they have tiny bodies with two antennas right on their heads and rounded shells that are yellow or orange in color.

They are quite adaptable and very easy to look after. They do best in waters of neutral pH but can adapt to other water conditions. These snails are somewhat small in stature and that’s why they should be housed in small tanks. They can grow to roughly 2 cm and have a lifespan of 2 to 5 years. 

These snails are very active. They move around a lot looking for algae and waste to eat. They at times feed on live plants, but that does not happen quite often. And the good thing about these snails is that they don’t breed that often, making them a nice addition to your freshwater aquarium.

10. Assassin Snails

From the name, you can already tell that it is an interesting species. These snails seek out and consume fellow snails in the tank. They are very useful in eliminating unwanted snails from your aquarium. Note that they do not feed on waste or algae; they only eat snails. 

Nonetheless, they are quite beautiful to look at and do a good job of ensuring the population of your tank’s snail population is always in check. 

Factors to consider when choosing snails

There are numerous species of snails out there and choosing one to add to your tank could be challenging and confusing. Below are a few useful snail-choosing tips:

Level of activity

Go for snails that appear to be active. Healthy and active snails will attach themselves to something, for instance, a decoration plant or simply the tank walls. Snails that seem stationary or those that just float around the aquarium might be sick or dead (although not always). 

Avoid getting healthy snails that appear to be sharing a tank with the sick snails as there’s a possibility that the unhealthy conditions in the tank could also affect the healthy snails and your aquarium in the long run.

Conditions of your tank

Ensure that the needs of your chosen snail are in line with the needs of the other inhabitants in your tank. Choose snails that do well in similar temperature ranges and water pH as the other tank occupants.

How to Take Care of Snails in a Freshwater Tank

After settling on the type of snails that you want to add to your aquarium, you next need to understand how to properly look after them. Purchasing the snail is just a small portion of the work. The real work lies in getting the tank ready, creating a suitable environment, and getting the appropriate food for your snail(s).

Below are some of the things that you need to take care of before adding snails to your aquarium:

Water quality: This is probably the most important thing you have to get right. If your tank is already inhabited by fish, then you’ve most likely already handled this.

Snails require water with plenty of minerals or hard water to do well. The minerals contained in water helps in keeping their shells healthy and strong. 

Even though snails are generally tough creatures, their level of activity can be affected by the water’s pH levels. For instance, high concentrations of copper in water will negatively affect your snails, at times resulting in death. That said, before introducing snails to your tank, treat the water with a pH balancer to make sure that it is at a safe pH. Give the water at least 48 hours to settle before adding your snails.

Snails, just like other aquatic pets, produce waste that subsequently affects your tank’s water chemistry. This means that you constantly have to monitor the levels of nitrite and ammonia in your tank water.

Substrate material: Research about your snail’s preferred lifestyle before introducing it to your tank. Some snails like to bury themselves in the ground, whereas others prefer staying above the ground. 

This kind of information is vital because it provides you with an idea of the right kind of substrate for your snail. Once you get to know what kind of ground to develop, you can then shop for the right kind of substrate material. Consulting with an aquatic expert might help in guiding your decision.

Choice of companions: Before introducing snails to your tank, ensure that you have a warm welcoming party. Do not make the mistake of adding snails to a tank that is dominated with very huge or aggressive fish species.

Snails are timid and shy in nature and huge fish could harm them, if not eat them up within just a couple of hours. The reverse is also true; if your tank is inhabited tiny or baby fish, medium or huge will not hesitate to devour them.

Possible dangers to aquarium snails

Apart from ensuring good water quality, there are a couple other things that you need to bear in mind with regard to the safety and health of your snails. Below are a few things that threaten the safety of your snails;

  • Overcrowding

Housing too many snails inside a single tank will eventually result in serious problems. Ensure that your tank has enough room for all the creatures inhabiting it. Overcrowding will only create unhealthy surroundings for your aqua pets, resulting in diseases and at times even death.

  • Aggressive tankmates

Snails are generally good and peaceful additions to any aquarium. For that reason, housing them with aggressive water animals is not recommended at all. Do not house snails with any of the following creatures; loaches, cichlids, crayfish, or crabs.

Also, remember that there are fish that enjoy eating snails. Fish as the clown loaches and puffer fish feed on snails and so you will want to avoid them by all means. Other fish such as gouramis and bettas also enjoy eating snails as snacks. They are, in fact, quite good at hunting them down, even if they hide under sand or gravel.

  • Filter intakes

The tiny snails can get trapped in filter’s slats, which is something that could result in fatal injuries. You can avoid this by ensuring that you have some sort of protective layer over the openings or that your tank’s filter has very tiny slats. Keep in mind that snails are very curious creatures and they want to explore every inch of their surroundings. Ensure that there is nothing in their path that could harm them.

  • Escape

If your tank’s lid is not properly secured, or if your aquarium does not have one, it gets very easy for roaming snails to escape. This is very dangerous for snails as you never know what sort of hazards they will encounter outside the tank.

Tips to avoid snail overpopulation in your aquarium

There are several ways through which you could end up with a couple of uninvited snails in your tank. As mentioned earlier, some species have high rates of reproduction, which potentially result in population problems. In addition, snails could be accidentally transported on aquatic plants or fish transport bags from pet stores. Below are a few tips you could use to prevent the overpopulation snails in your tank;

  1. Thoroughly wash and inspect any objects prior to introducing them in your tank. Look out for snails or their eggs on any décor items or plants that you want to add.
  2. Avoid introducing a lot of food to your aquarium at once. Do not provide too much food that a lot of it is left floating after feeding time is over. Excess food in your aquarium will only spike your snail population.
  3. Remove any excess snails, either using a net or by hand. One method you can use is the lettuce leaf method. Place a single lettuce leaf on the water surface and leave it to rest for a while. After a couple of hours, you will notice that a number of snails will have attached themselves to the leaf, which simplifies their removal.
  4. In case you are not sure of what step or action to take, you can contact your local pet store for advice.

In conclusion

Snails might be small creatures but they play a significant role in ensuring the cleanliness of your tank. They natural tank cleaners and with them, you do not have to worry about algae or fish waste accumulating in your tank. 

It is no secret that looking after any pet is a huge responsibility and the same applies to snails; they are no different. If you decide to include them in your tank, be prepared for the huge task that awaits you, which includes a lot of care.