Tiny Snails in Your Fish Tank: What Are They?

In Aquariumsby PaulK

Have you started to notice tiny snails in your fish tank and you don’t know what they are or where they came from? Will they reproduce out of control or not? Should you get rid of them and if so how?

In this article, you’ll learn…

Common types of tiny snails.
How to get rid of them.
If you should keep certain types of snails or not.

Certain pest snails can be really annoying since they can reproduce asexually and lay bunches of eggs for even more snails. Some types of snails reproduce quite rapidly while others reproduce slowly.

Are they really pests or can snails be the signs of a healthy fish tank?

Snails can be beneficial to your tank since they like to eat algae and other waste in the tank. Snails are known as the tank cleaners and can actually help out quite a bit as long as you keep their population under control.

Either way you look at it, there are ways to get rid of them or just control the population if you want to keep them.

How did they get there?

Most likely they were in the plants or that bag of fish that you got at the pet store. They can even be in the gravel substrate that you purchased and you just didn’t notice. This is why a lot of aquarists treat the plants and gravel with bleach first before introducing them to the tank.

There are basically 5 types of these snails that are the most common. It’s important to know which type of pest snail you have.

These snails survive on excess algae or waste fish food or malm in the substrate or even dead plants. They really can’t mass produce if they don’t have a readily available food source, so if you have a dirty tank, they will reproduce. Some quite rapidly.

There are a few things you can do to remove these unwanted snails from your tank.

#1 is to manually remove them. Put some cucumber at the bottom of the tank and wait for the snails to gather, then use a net to remove them.

#2 is to add a snail-eating fish like a Loach or African cichlid. The problem with this is that Loaches and Cichlids are more aggressive fish and not well suited for a community tank.

#3 is to set up a snail trap. Just cut off the top of a plastic water bottle. Place some fish food in the bottom portion of the water bottle, then invert the top and place it back in to create the trap.

#4 is to use Assassin snails. Assassin snails will take care of your snail problem, but then you’re left with other snails in the tank if you introduce several of them. They don’t reproduce asexually so if you just introduce one it won’t reproduce. The good news is that they have a much prettier shell and they burrow during daylight hours so you don’t really see them.


Malaysian Trumpet Snails (MTS) from One Stop Aquatics (6 Snails) by One Stop Aquatics

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Malaysian Trumpet Snails – These guys burrow in the substrate and clean it, so that part is good. The problem is they reproduce like crazy. Your tank will be overrun in no time. They tend to clog up your filters too.

Miniature Ramshorn Snails – They have the same ram’s horn shape as their larger counterparts. They’re really tiny so you may not even notice them at first. They don’t reproduce quite as fast as the Trumpet snails so easier to control the population by manually picking them out. They’re really good at eating algae off of the glass, so you may want them around for a while.


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Bladder Snail

Bladder Snails – You can identify them by their long stringy antenna. A true pest snail that reproduces extremely fast and are hard to get rid of because they lay tons of eggs in the substrate.

Pond Snail – They have an iridescent color to them and are the largest of the pest snails. They reproduce very slowly and eat lots of algae and other waste so it might be worth keeping them around in a controlled way.


A common misconception is that snails are eating and destroying your plants. That simply is not true. What’s happening is that you most likely have unhealthy plants and the snails are feeding off of the dying plants. They’re actually helping to clean up the decaying parts of the unhealthy plant.


#1 Don’t overfeed your fish. The excess food that your fish don’t eat falls to the bottom in the substrate and is an excellent food source for the snails.

#2 Make sure you keep healthy plants by injecting some CO2 into the tank. Also, have plant growing lights and fertilize them. Snails will feed off of dying decaying plants. Anytime you provide food sources for them, they will grow in population.

#3 Identify the type of snails you have. Some snails reproduce quite rapidly and you’ll most likely want to remove them. You may want to keep snails that reproduce slowly to help you clean your fish tank.

#4 Keep your algae under control by using a phosphate remover and controlling the amount of light that hits your tank. Clean the algae off of the glass or acrylic regularly if it tends to build up there.


You may want to treat your plants first before putting them in your fish tank. You can douse them in bleach water or put them in some sort of quarantine tank to see if there are snails in the plants.

How to bleach dip aquarium plants

All in all, you really need to identify the type of snails that are in your tank. These unwanted guests can be a burden or good help. Once you’ve identified the type of snails you have, you can decide if you want to get rid of them or just keep them around for a while.

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