Choosing Freshwater Snails for the Aquarium
Snails can play an important part in maintaining freshwater aquariums as long as you choose the right type. Most snails are scavengers that dine on algae, dead plant material, dead fish and other detritus making them an excellent way to help keep your tank clean. Let’s take a look at the three most popular types of freshwater aquarium snails.
The Apple Snail
Apple snails are nocturnal tropical and sub-tropical mollusks that are easily identifiable by the following characteristics:
- A tube-like organ called a siphon that allows them to breathe while under water
- Long tentacles with eyes on either side of the mouth
- Round globe-like shell
- Lays eggs on the surface of the water
They range from black to bright yellow in color, have an average lifespan of 2-5 years and may reach up to 6 inches in diameter, although rare. Apple snails need 2.5 gallons of water per snail at temperatures between 65 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Becoming more active at higher temperatures, Apple snails will eat more, move more and grow more. Because they eat live plants as well as algae, overpopulation from overfeeding can be problematic. However, this overpopulation can be stemmed by keeping the water temperature around 70-75 degrees on average.
The Trumpet Snail
Another aquarium favorite is the Malaysian Trumpet snail. It has a 1 inch long, cone-shaped shell with rows of darker markings and a light gray body. The best thing about this snail is that it doesn’t eat live plants, instead it prefers algae, leftover fish food, dead plants and dead fish.
Trumpet snails are hermaphrodites, so they tend to multiply quickly. This is only a minor drawback, as their population is easily controlled by removing all but one. Population explosions are also avoidable by regularly vacuuming the gravel and by avoiding overfeeding.
In terms of habitat, one gallon of water per snail is needed with water temperature kept between 64.5 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit and a PH level of 7-8. You’ll also need to provide a substrate of sand or moss for burrowing. This activity aerates the substrate releasing pockets of anaerobic gasses which ensures proper oxygenation of the water.
The Nerite Snail
Like Apple snails, Nerites come in a variety of types with the most popular aquarium types being the Black Racer, the Tiger and the Zebra among others. These snails are peaceful, 1-inch long creatures that live for 1-2 years and they don’t reproduce in fresh water.
Nerites require 2.5 gallons of water per snail at 75-81 degrees Fahrenheit with a PH level of 7-8. These fellows like the shadows so you’ll need to provide hiding places such as natural rock, driftwood, and so forth. They don’t eat tank plants, but they thrive on all types of algae as well as flake or pellet fish food.
Whichever type you choose, all freshwater snail aquariums should have metals, especially copper, filtered from the water, they should have calcium added to the water and the aquarium must have a lid. As escape artists go, snails make Houdini look like an amateur.