Why Mystery Snails?
I spent the first half of my aquarium hobby existence trying to eliminate snails from my aquariums, why on earth would I pay money for one?!!! Sound familiar? (future blog post planned on Assassin snails if you need to reduce the unwanted snails from your tanks). But why add snails to your tank? It's a great question and I want to cover some points here that will convert you to a real snail lover. They eat algae, they clean your tank, they clean the glass, they clean the substrate and they are majestically beautiful and big. They look fantastic in a planted tank - green plants and 2 or 3 large golf ball size gold Inca whitefoot snails? It is beautiful. They are beautiful but there's some things you need to know before you buy them! They can be sensitive little guys... (read more)
Mystery snails are peaceful tank-mates with most fish species. Fish that eat snails such as Puffers and Clown Loaches should be avoided. Mystery snails are also beneficial companions with shrimp to the point to where the shrimp end up being cleanup crew for the snails by consuming snails waste. Snails and shrimps are completely symbiotic partners and work together to keep your tank clean.
Mystery snails have a fairly wide range of water temperature tolerance from 68F-78F degrees, if you have hard water your snails are in luck because their shells are made from - and need - calcium just like our bones. Hard water is hard, well, because it has calcium and magnesium in it. Snails in some ways you could say are living water softeners.
Let's face it, these guys aren’t going anywhere fast although they are fast for a snail nor are, they are taking up swimming space (think of them as moving hardscape). But they do have a bio load and they are great little lawn mowers, they eat and eat and eat, and thus they do produce a bio load on the aquarium. A good rule of thumb is one snail per 5 gallons of water. You can exceed this, but you will need to test your water and perform water changes appropriately. Adding plants to your tank will allow you a little more wiggle room - planting your tank, even floating plants will naturally filter your tank. If you've seen our planted tanks, you will see 20-40 snails, maybe more, and often their little itty bitty babies crawling around. They do great in here because 1. We Change Water frequently, 2. We test our water, 3. We have ALOT of plants - hornwort and duckweed are literal water filters. But if you don't have plants and you don't like to change water - keep your snails to what's manageable - remember 1 to 5 gallons.
Will they eat my plants?
Mystery snails are scavengers, they will always prefer to eat decaying plants and veggies over your live plants, if you see them eating on your live plants look closely, they can sense dying leaves and generally do a fantastic job of consuming them and in many cases saving you the trouble of having to trim the dead leaves away yourself. I have on occasion had snails that developed a taste for duckweed, given the aggressive reproduction of duckweed you will never have to worry about any snail or group of snails putting a dent in your duckweed.
Will they disrupt my plants in substrate?
Now and again they will dig something up. We keep a lot of them in a 65 gallon - think about 30 or 40 with a good amount of rams, angelfish, tetras and corydoras and the plants are usually fine. Now and again you will see hornwort or anubias floating. Just replant them. It will be ok.
Above and beyond the fact that they are snails and don’t show the levels of interaction or personality that your fish have they been peaceful and keep to themselves.
Mystery snails are most active during the evening I have read, but I see them cruising around at all hours I have had a few that would bury themselves in the substrate at times during the day. That first 2 Mystery Snails I had in a 10-gallon tank and one of them was so good at hiding I often thought it had gone missing. They can also be escape artists and although I am breeding mine in open air tanks and out of hundreds of them only an occasional snail goes astray, I recommend a lid. I have also (I swear) have had snails leave one tank and show up in another, our snails are separated by color and at least once a month I will find one that jumped tanks.
Mystery snails in the wild and in the aquarium, hobby are natures cleaners, they will cleanup dead vegetation, leftover fish food, dead fish, dead shrimp, they will happily eat your algae, zucchini, heavy greens such as kale or collard greens. They do exceptionally well in a planted tank and I like to think of them as my little helpers trimming off the dead leaves from my plants, cleaning up the algae. My initial foray into planted aquariums was very discouraging due to the algae until I discovered these wonderful snails. Hard water combined with lots of healthy leafy greens will ensure that your snails will stay strong and healthy. As a hobbyist I try my best to re-create nature and a sustainable ecosystem that required as little maintenance on my part as possible. Plants, fish, snails, shrimp, you can create a sustainable nature aquarium and the mystery snails are a part of that.
Mystery snails need a male and female to reproduce and will lay eggs outside of the water generally in the water line, I have seen them lay eggs on aquarium hoods, as well as inside hang on back filters. The clutches of eggs can vary in size from as little as 20 to several hundred. If you don't want to reproduce them, take the egg clutch, freeze it for 24 hours, crush it and throw it out. If your water quality is good you will have eggs, eggs, eggs. But also note that the eggs are not always fertile. Out of the hundreds of clutches I've had - about half of those are actually fertile. And look in your filter, in your lighting system or other places - they are sneaky little guys and you will find clutches in surprising places. They sometimes escape as well, so keeping a cover on your tank is definitely recommended!
Your snails are very easy to care for provided you give them a healthy environment and the food to flourish. If you ever notice your snail has gone missing, look down and step carefully (unfortunately I have stepped on one and it didn't end well). If you find your snail has escaped place it back in the aquarium, they can last up to 5 days out of water. The other precaution that you must take is that copper will kill snails, there are many aquarium products that contain copper ICK treatments, Anti-Fungal, some fertilizer products, you will want to check the chemical list prior to treating your tank and or do not introduce snails into water that has been treated with chemicals that contain copper. Insecticides are also very dangerous to your tanks in general so use extreme caution using those products around the tanks (bug bombs / fumigation).
I hope you enjoy mystery snails as much as I do, they are a beautiful addition to your tank, and they are part of creating a natural sustainable ecosystem in your planted tank. If you have any questions about Mystery Snails, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. I'm happy to help answer your questions and find the right snail or algae cleaner for you.
Hooray for snails! After keeping freshwater tanks, on and off, for 20 years, snails have become one of my favorite inhabitants! Thank you for the great article!