Snails in your tank?

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Above: Brown Ramshorn snail front, Red Ramshorn snail back. And some dirty glass!

OK, so some snails hitched a ride on some plants you got from the local pet store, and before you know it, they’re everywhere! You’re now worried; Will they eat my plantsWill they add to the extra bioloadHow do I get rid of these things?

Scroll down to the bottom if you simply want to get rid of them!

An important thing to consider is that snails aren’t all bad! Many fishkeepers let these little “pests” live happily in their tank and don’t go to great lengths to remove them. Snails have loads of benefits – they’re great cleanup-crew (meaning they will happily eat any leftover food or decaying fish in the tank) and they make for awesome fishfood, along with a good indicator as to whether you’re overfeeding or have a dead fish hidden away somewhere!

Will they eat my plants? In my experience, no. I have brown Ramshorns, Malaysian Trumpet Snails (MTS) and Bladder Snails and none will chew on my plants. My only annoyance is with MTS, which will dig up sand and gravel and thus dig up delicate plants like dwarf hairgrass.

Do they add to my bioload? Once again my answer is no! Snails are actually a pretty good indicator of your bioload and feeding – they will only boom in large numbers if you’re feeding too much, and if they weren’t there it would just be food rotting away (and even fungusing)! If you feed very little, you’re unlikely to see many snails in the tank. As said above, they can be a good way to tell if a fish has died as you’ll see them all gathering in one area.

The three main types of pest snails we get here in NZ are Pond snails, Ramshorn snails and Malaysian Trumpet Snails. People also often keep Mystery Snails and Apple Snails as pets.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails (MTS)

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Above: Young Malaysian Trumpet Snail

MTS are very commonly found in planted tanks at fish stores. The majority of MTS you will see are female, as unlike other snails the MTS is either female or male, however only females may reproduce asexually.

MTS are very useful in tanks with fine gravel and sand as they are constantly digging through the substrate and airing it out, which helps to decrease the chance of “gas pockets” forming under the substrate. You’ll likely only see a few out at day as they are nocturnal, but when you look at night they can seem to be everywhere!

MTS are livebearers, so you won’t be able to find any eggs of theirs!

I have found the only downfalls of MTS are that they will uproot delicate plants and smaller fish such as dwarf puffers will not eat them.

Bladder/Pond Snails

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Above: Bladder Snail

Bladder snails are about 6-9mm and are quick to reproduce. These guys are my favourites as they are easy for other fish to eat, are large and easy to pick out and will even happily eat some kinds of algae! Bladder snails lay their eggs in thick blobs which can be easy to remove, but some fish will even happily eat these!

Some say that pond snails will eat plants, so take that as a word of caution, but in my experience they have left my plants alone.

Ramshorn Snails

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Above: Red Ramshorn snail front, Brown Ramshorn snail back

Brown ramshorn snails are the smallest of the lot, topping at about 3mm in size! Red ramshorn snails can get slightly bigger, however. Ramshorns were my first snails to be introduced into my tank, and I have no regrets keeping them! These guys are excellent at eating spare food, and larger fish will happily pick away at them.

Ramshorn snails also lay their eggs in the gelatinous blobs just like pond snails, however I have found them far too small to see!

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Ramshorn Eggs on in a tank

But I’m still not happy with them, and I want them gone!

You have few options when getting rid of snails, especially for those in small tanks. Many people find a reduction in snails when using some methods, but don’t often find them to completely disappear.

– Copper “Snail rid”: This is my least recommended method, but will work on a tank with no fish or invertebrates. It will also work on a tank with only fish, however in some water conditions (eg in certain water hardnesses) it can be dangerous towards fish. However, I sometimes use this on plants before putting them in the tank.

The copper in “Snail rid” will kill off all snails, but be careful as it will also kill off other creatures like shrimp!

– Squishing them! Many use this as a good form of snail control – they squish whatever snails they see along with any eggs. Often, people will create a “snail trap” or simply put some lettuce at the top of the tank overnight and remove it in the morning just before the lights turn on – during the time that it’s in there, loads of snails will have gathered to chew on your vegetable of choice, thus making them easy to remove! This is probably my recommended method.

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Baited Snail Trap

– Fishy snail control: This I would only recommend in tanks large enough for the fish in question. Many loaches (Clown, Yoyo, Dwarf Chain etc) will happily decimate your snail population, but a lot of these fish require tanks over 150 litres! Clown loaches, the biggest of them all, need tanks of 400L and can live up to 50 years! The vast majority of “snail eating” loaches require schools, so be prepared to have a school of 6+ as they can easily become lethargic and depressed on their own. I would only recommend this option if you have done full research on your desired fish and are prepared to look after them for their full lives!

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Clown Loach

Some would recommend puffer fish such as the Dwarf Puffer, however puffers are very aggressive and may only be able to live in the tank for a short amount of time (if at all!). After it has “done its job”, you will need a tank of at least 21L and will in fact need to continue to grow snails to feed it as its staple diet! So obviously these are not a good option for a quick fix!

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Dwarf Puffer


Avoid overfeeding. Overfeeding can led to a snail population boom!

Dip all new plants in a Chlorine dip 19 parts water to 1 part Bleach for a minute or no longer than 2 minutes. This will kill any lingering snails or eggs the plant may have on it before introducing the plant to your Aquarium. Rinse the plant in fresh water before putting it in your aquarium. Quarantine these plants also after is also an option.

Sourced from Fishwise