Yes, many people that keep tropical fish use snails to keep their fish tank nice and clean. They are many popular species of snails that eat algae and other waste products in your aquarium. Snails are a nice addition to your fish tank that can help you manage your tank, but should not be the whole solution. You still need to clean and maintain your fish tank, just not quite as often.
Things you should know about using snails
Not all snails are created equal. Some reproduce quite slowly or not at all. Some breeds reproduce quite rapidly and can take over your fish tank. Some snails will feed off of your aquarium plants if there is not enough food. These problem snails can be introduced into your fish tank unknowingly through plants or rocks or other decorations. You need to take some precautions for that and only use snails that you can manage.
If you’re going to add snails to your fish tank, make sure that your tank is large enough to handle the bio waste from both the fish and snails. People often don’t realize that snails, despite being small, create waste as well so must be accounted for.
Preferred Types of Freshwater Aquarium Snails:
Nerite Snail – These are one of most popular types of snails because they are great algae eaters and peaceful tank mates that don’t reproduce in freshwater tanks. Nerites are one of the only ones that eat green spot algae on the planet, so if you have a problem with that, these are the guys you want.
There are different types of nerite snails. Some come from saltwater or brackish water, while some come from freshwater streams. Most of what you see in pet stores like the zebra nerite, the tiger nerite, and the olive nerite are good for freshwater tanks.
Nerite snails are pretty easy to care for. They prefer a water temperature of 72-82 degrees, which is the temperature most tropical fish prefer. They also prefer a pH level slightly alkaline at 7.5. Like with your fish, you need to watch the water parameters so that there are no ammonia or nitrite spikes.
Nerite snails need to be upright on the bottom of your tank because they have a hard time turning over. Carefully place them upright or if you see one upside down, make sure and turn it back upright else they could die. Typically, these snails have a lifespan of 1-2 years.
Ivory Snail – These are another very popular snail that you see in pet stores. They have an off white color, hence the name. They grow a bit bigger than the smaller nerite. Up to 3 inches, so you might want a larger tank. Ivory snails like to eat all types of algae off of the glass, decorations, substrate, and even live plants when there is not enough food. They are one of the only species that eat hair algae.
Assassin Snail – These snails are meant to control the population of other snails species. They eat other snails. They don’t really consume algae or other fish waste, so the only reason you would get some Assassin snails is to control an out-of-control snail population.
Malaysian Trumpet Snail – Your night janitors. Another great tank cleaner. They reproduce quite rapidly, so the population could get out of control. The nice thing about trumpet snails is they really like to burrow into the substrate and clean up. You have to be careful because these guys can get sucked up into your filtration system pretty easily. Use a sponge cover on your power filter to prevent that from happening.
Pond Snail – These guys are the ones that can get into your tank via live plants and water that hold purchased fish. They are not as bad as people make them out to be because they are very low maintenance and eat algae pretty voraciously.
Ramshorn Snail – If you like color in your fish tank, these are great. Ramshorn come in a myriad of colors. Ramshorn snails like soft green algae, but don’t eat green spot algae.
Mystery Snail – These can get quite large and they have a voracious appetite, so it’s quite possible you could starve them if there is not enough food. They are meant for larger tanks that have an algae problem. Mystery snail populations are easy to control because they have to lay their eggs above the water line. If you keep the water line high, it’s unlikely they can reproduce. They’re also pretty hardy snails that can live in tough conditions.
Japanese Trapdoor Snail – The name comes from the fact that they have a little trap door that they can shut and hide inside their shell. These snails can stand pretty cool water. Like down to 30 degrees in some cases so they are not ideal for warmer tropical fish tanks. They are also live bearers so something to keep in mind. They’re great for goldfish tanks because of the cooler water.
Rabbit Snail – Rabbit snails get their name because their face looks like a rabbit. They prefer harder water and despite the name, they actually reproduce quite slow. That’s good from a population control standpoint.
How to Control Your Snail Population
If you have snails that are reproducing at a rapid rate and you’re going “oh my god!” now what? Keep in mind the snails can increase and decrease naturally if there is not enough food so don’t panic.
Here are some things you can do:
Cut back on food for your fish.
Stop feeding the snails.
Scrape algae off of the tank and/or clean your tank substrate of waste and other algae.
Use a chemical snail treatment like Cupramine Copper.
Get some assassin snails to control other snails
Get some tropical fish that eat snails like loaches or puffer fish.
Create a snail trap from a plastic bottle or buy one on Amazon.
What Do Snails Eat?
Besides eating your algae and other waste, your probably going to want to feed them at some time if you feel that they are not getting enough food. Snails will eat things like blanched spinach, maybe some algae wafers or even some zucchini bits. You can get snail food at online pet stores just type in ‘snail food’ in Google and see what comes up.
Where To Get Snails
You can get snails pretty much at any retail pet store that sell fish. You can also go online and purchase them at sites like Amazon and eBay and tons of others. Again, just type in ‘aquarium snails for sale’ on Google.
How To Take Care of Snails
For the most part, snails are pretty low maintenance, which is why people like them in their fish tanks.
Make sure they have enough to eat unless you have a population problem. If they’re not reproducing then feed them something twice a week or so.
Most snails don’t like soft water and a pH level at or close to neutral 7.
Make sure you have a tight lid on the fish tank because snails tend to crawl out of the top of the tank. Also, have a sponge cover on your filter intake if you use a power filter. Snails tend to get sucked in the filter system through the intake tube.
So to sum up, snails are a great addition to your fish tank that help manage your tank, but proper care must be taken to manage the population which starts with getting the right type of snail for your aquarium.