The Best Kinds of Snail for an Aquarium

Nerite snails quickly consume algae from all surfaces in the tank.
Nerite snails quickly consume algae from all surfaces in the tank. (Image: Razmaz/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Snails can be a real boon to an aquarium. They eat algae, and they're fun to watch as they slowly slither around the tank. Some kinds of snails, such as apple or trumpet snails, can rapidly reproduce and become destructive. However, nerite snails won’t overpopulate, and their shells come in a variety of interesting colors and patterns. This makes nerites a good choice for an aquarium.

Snails in the Aquarium

Snails have a reputation as being bad for an aquarium. With the ability to multiply quickly and their propensity to eat plants, a snail population out of control can fast become a major problem. Apple snails, commonly found under the moniker mystery snails, and Malaysian trumpet snails are notorious for quickly taking over a tank.

Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are different because of their breeding habits. They breed only in brackish water, which is somewhat salty. So if you add a couple of these small snails to your freshwater tank you won’t be surprised with more and more snails turning up. They also can live in saltwater tanks, where they rarely breed because the water is generally too salty.

Algae Eaters

Nerite snails have a healthy appetite for algae. If your tank has an algae problem, after you introduce a couple of nerite snails the algae will quickly be gobbled up. If you don’t have much algae in your tank, supplement their diet with algae wafers. As long your nerite snail has plenty of algae to eat, it’s unlikely to bother plants in your tank. Nerite snails won’t bother healthy fish or fry in your tank, but they might munch on a fish that has died.

Kinds of Nerite Snails

There are several species of nerite snails, in an array of colors and interesting shell shapes. Zebra nerites' shells are striped gold and black. These snails grow to about an inch, and they are the most popular nerite. The horned nerite snail has a yellow and black striped shell with black spikes. Although they are peaceful, use care when handling, because those spikes could prick your fingers. The tracked nerite snail, also called ruby nerite, has a red-orange shell with rows of black dashes. With any nerite snails, be sure you have a tight-fitting lid. Nerite snails are known for their ability to escape a tank that doesn't have a secure lid.

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