Aquarium Snails

Aquatic snails come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Their individual attractiveness is a matter of taste, but they certainly give an aquarium a more natural look, and perform some very useful functions to boot. Unfortunately, there are also some pitfalls that need to be avoided when keeping snails in a goldfish tank.

Most aquatic snails are tropical and should not be kept with goldfish.  It is particularly worth noting that apple snails are often sold as ideal tankmates for goldfish.  They are not, for two reasons: one, they are tropical snails that prefer the water temperature to be about 4 degrees celsius warmer than is healthy for goldfish; and two, goldfish will eat the ends of their antennae and eye stalks.

There are only two snail species that can be kept with goldfish, and they are the ramshorn snail and the pond snail.

The ramshorn snail has a shell in a flat coil shape that can be bright red, pink, blue, black, green, brown, orange or yellow.  It can also have stripes or spots in combinations of these colours.  The red and pink ramshorn snails have actually got very low pigment levels, allowing their unusually (for a snail) red blood show through.

The pond snail’s shell is more like the shape of a twisted cone, broad at the opening and ending in a point.  The variety of colours is not as wide as the ramshorn, but it can have a range of patterns and light and dark colours.

The main benefit of aquarium snails is their appetite for algae.  They will clean the glass, stones, ornaments, pumps and anything that has a surface algae will grow on.  This saves a lot of time and effort, and generally means that weekly water changes don’t need to be accompanied by scraping the glass and siphoning off the scrapings.

One thing that is very important to snails is the pH level of the water.  pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the water.  Although goldfish are happy enough with anything between pH6 and pH8, snails need it to be over pH7.  Anything below pH7 is acidic and will erode snails’ shells.

The biggest problem with aquarium snails is their capacity for breeding.  For every snail in a tank at the start of a year, 500 can be expected at the end of the year.

The solution to such a problem in most animal species would be to get either two males or two females to prevent breeding.  This won’t work with aquarium snails because both ramshorn and pond snails are hermaphrodites.  This means that each and every one of them has both male and female reproductive organs, and is therefore able to mate with any other snail of the same species.

The obvious solution to this problem would be to keep only one snail.  Unfortunately that won’t work either.  Both the ramshorn and the pond snail have an ability known as auto-fertilisation.  This means single snails can produce offspring without a breeding partner.

If this happened in an aquarium, all snails would be exact clones of the parent that auto-fertilized.  This is obviously not ideal, but in the wild it is a technique used by snails to quickly stock a body of water that has no snails in it.  Other unrelated snails will most likely arrive to mix in some new genes and prevent genetic problems.  Both species of snail can survive out of water, and do so to get to new ponds and lakes.

21 Responses to “Aquarium Snails”

  1. mel Says:

    hi um i got 500 snails

  2. alanna Says:

    hi i just found a snail in my goldfish tank and the water needs cleaning,what do i do with it

  3. Snail hater Says:

    I bought a snail, A SNAIL, at Walmart and the guy there said there should be no problems. One week later I have twenty snails, one month I have 100 snails 1 year I have 1000 snails. I since last year have been systematically commiting snail genocide trying to kill all of these said snails. I cleaned the tank twice and still the eggs are there and growing. WTF do I do to clean sweep these snails……I have even used bleach on all the decorations in the tank, up to boiling hot water and leaving the tank in freezing cold weather. Still they by some miracle show up in small numbers then larger un godly numbers.

  4. goldfish lady Says:

    oh my gosh, does that mean I am gonna get 1,000 snail bloody hell…I will sell them to Petco, they never told me that!

  5. Loach Lover Says:

    Loaches (especially weather/dojo loaches) love to eat snails. They suck ’em right out of their shells. 🙂

  6. Ken Wallewein Says:

    Cichlids eat snails, too. Lots of ’em. Just be careful to get the “friendly” kind.

  7. Anna Says:

    you`re kidding! i don`t need that many snails!

  8. dan Says:

    Buy a clown loach for your tank. My clown loach ate all five hundred of my snails in a matter of two weeks.

  9. sam the newgoer Says:

    i’m wondering if i should even get a snail now…….aren’t they supposed to be good to get all the algae off the tank?

  10. Christina too many snails Says:

    i like having the snails in my tank they keep my 100gal tank very clean but they do mass produce i had ten about a month ago and now i have 500 plus. and that is after taking around 100 of them out daily to feed to my convict in another tank!

  11. jesse lieberman Says:

    my snail seems to have been evicted from his shell…. or he moved. …now hes a little blob without a shell. is he dead? or….???

  12. i love snails Says:

    Snails aren’t bad , but can get out hand quickly .I have a invertabrate only tank with snails and shrimp .All you need to do to get rid of them is put out a piece of carrot in tank and before dawn retrieve it .In the morning you’ll notice it is covered with snails .Slow but effective means ofremoval with out chemicals or adding new fish to eat them .Some extra info : new born snails can be pin head size and almost impossible to see ,except when getting a free ride on a larger snail .Mystery snails need a mate to reproduce , but ramshorn don’t , so if you need tank clean up I would go with male mystery snails, and yes they can be sexed..just google it

  13. LINDA Says:

    what do snails eat besides algae.do they eat the fish for too?

  14. LINDA Says:

    they eat fish FOOD too

  15. alvino99 Says:

    one goldfish in the aquarium and snails gone in a day

  16. sapphire Says:

    Not so sure i want snails for my tank now

  17. FD Thompson Says:

    I have what appear to be miniature Pond Snails in my acquarium. I have found gelatinus globs around the top and on the acquariums lid. I presume thses are eggs sacks left behind to develope on thier own. When I find them they are removed and flushed down the sink. My tank is a 33 gal. vertical affair. We had at one time a ramshorn snail which died. Where these little pointed beasties came from who knows. Our plants are of the fake plastic type that came dry in plastic bags. They are too small to take a picture of. How can I confirm what theyr really are?

  18. Jade Says:

    I have two mystery gold snails. I got them months after I got my fishes. I’ve had them for several months and have no snail babies. I have 2 goldfish- one comet and the other..um..idk but it isn’t a fantail or fancy. They’re all in the together. I’ve not had any problems. I have a 10 gallon tank. They eat fish food and the weekend feeders, in addition to anything growing on the tank.

  19. Anna Says:

    Well, I’m not getting one of those!

  20. Italy Says:

    my snails had babies but the fish at all the eggs except for 1(kinda finging nemo statis). I keep him in a separate tank incace the fish eat him. is this a good idea?

  21. Jessica Says:

    I have 2 goldfish, 1 common & 1 oranda. Before they moved into their new 55 gallon home, I got live plants to add while it was cycling. There turned out to be some hitchhikers because after about a week, I began seeing little spots on the glass & floating through the water(filters move water quite a bit). lol After another week or so, we had tons of snails. I was beginning to worry about my goldies’ new home being over-run with snails. BUT, after moving my goldies into their new home, I soon found that was not going to be a concern! I was actually hoping to have a few snails to help with the tank, but my goldies gobbled (literally) them ALL down within a couple of days! I still think little snails are their favorite snack.
    I’ve been looking at different snails & am planning to get some snails that are larger so not to be gobbled down this time. I’m pretty sure I won’t have an issue with any reproduction after the way my goldies took care of every baby snail before. 😉

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