Where Do Snails Come From In An Aquarium?


Suddenly there are snails in your aquarium, and you did not put them in there, they appeared. Where do the snails suddenly come from? We will take a look at the most likely causes.

Where do snails come from in an aquarium? Tiny baby snails and eggs can float in the water when you get new fish or hitch a ride on plants. Because they are so small, you can easily overlook the baby snails and eggs, and it will seem they come out of nowhere. It makes you wonder: where do snails come from in a fish tank?

We will look at the different ways freshwater snails can get into your aquarium and what you can do to prevent this.

Getting Snails With Your New Fish

Tiny baby snails or snail eggs can get scooped up in the fish store when you get new fish or shrimp. They can be so small you won’t notice them. When you acclimatize your fish or shrimp to their new aquarium, and you put the water from the fish store in with your new pets, chances are, unwanted hitchhikers will get in.

Bags of new fish for an aquarium

It is best practice not to get the water from the pet store or any other place you get your fish and shrimp in your aquarium. Unwanted snails are the least of the problems you can introduce to your aquarium this way. You don’t know what is in the water. There can be all kinds of contaminants it the water. The water could come from an aquarium that was just treated for a disease or still has some illness in them. The disease can be unknown to the fish or shrimp keeper and might not have addressed the condition yet. 

Most medications contain copper or other metals. These medications could devastate your shrimp colony. Other water conditions can be very different, like high nitrates, a different PH, or KH, which could impact your ecosystem. Shrimp are very sensitive to sudden changes in water conditions.

The best way to prevent snails from getting into your aquarium when you get new fish: Don’t put the water your fish travel in, into your aquarium.

Getting Snails With Your New Plants

Getting snails in your aquarium with new plants is by far the most likely source of your snails. Most snails will lay their eggs on the aquarium glass or the hardscape or plants. Snail eggs or baby snails are sometimes tough to see. On the picture here, the snail eggs are easy to spot. In a lot of cases, they can be under or between the leaves. If you think snails or eggs will die when out of the water, it is partially correct. The eggs and baby snails will dry out eventually, but they can survive a substantial time out of the water if kept moist. The same conditions you have to keep your plants in, in transport.

Ramshorn Snail eggs on Anubias nana

Not all snail eggs will hatch, some snail species will lay eggs that will never result in a snail infestation. The Nerite snail for example lays eggs from time to time but the eggs need salt-water to hatch.

The best way to prevent snails from getting into your shrimp tank when you get new plants: Wash the plants with chlorine and rinse the plants afterward thoroughly.

Washing your plant thoroughly before adding them to your aquarium is always a must, even if you don’t mind to get some snails in your aquarium. To prevent shipping snails with their plants, some plant growers use chemicals to kill snails. These chemicals might or might not have an effect on your fish, but will most likely kill your shrimp.

The other option to prevent snails from hiding in your plants is to make sure you buy plants that don’t have snails in the first place. Invitro plants are a good option, plants that have been grown under laboratory conditions. for example, the 1-2-grow plants from Tropica.

What To Do With The Snails In My Aquarium?

Now that you know how the snails got in, you might wonder: are snails bad in an aquarium, or are they OK in my shrimp tank? Snails are considered to be an asset in your tank by most shrimp keepers and breeders. 

I think there are many benefits to having snails in your shrimp aquarium. 

Together with shrimp, snails will clean up your tank. Shrimp and snails are a good cleanup crew for any community tank with fish that don’t predate on snails and shrimp. 

In a shrimp-only aquarium, the snails will help you with your shrimp keeping. When you have snails in your aquarium, it is a lot harder to overfeed your shrimp as the snails will eat the leftover shrimp food. Overfeeding is one of the main reasons shrimp might die in an otherwise well-established shrimp tank.

Malawa-shrimp-and-ramshorn-snails-eating-shrimp-food-on-an-Indian-almond-leave

Snails also help break down leaves you can put into your aquarium like Indian almond leaves, for example. For shrimp, the predigested snail poop still contains a lot of beneficial nutrients for your shrimp. The poop of snails is also considered to be helpful to shrimp another way. This because there are beneficial bacteria in the snail poop that will help the shrimp with its overall digestion. You can find an article about why you might want to have Indian almond leaves in your shrimp tank here.

Some species of snails can also prevent problems due to gas buildups caused by anaerobic spots. Malaysian Trumpet snail, in particular, will burrow into the substrate and aerate it. When this trumpet snail burrows down, it will prevent the buildup of hydrogen sulfite gas in the substrate. These snails burrowing through the substrate will cause plant roots to grow better.

How do snails turn into an infestation in your tank?

When you have a few snails in your tank and enough food to find, it won’t be long before you have a snail infestation. A snail diet consists of almost any decaying material they find in your aquarium, uneaten fish food, decaying plant matter, algae, dead fish, even a dead snail will become the next meal for the snail.

When a freshwater aquarium snail has enough food, it will reproduce relative to the amount of food it has available. When there is a sudden snail infestation in your fish tank, it means the snails have found an abundant food supply, and it is up to you to find it.

Often, it is the fish food leftover by overfeeding your fish or shrimp that is the cause, but it can easily be a dead fish you might have missed. Leave litter and decaying or melting plants are also something to look for when investigating the cause of your snail infestation.

Can you have too many snails in a fish tank?

The number of snails in an aquarium is usually directly related to the amount of food available. If you are finding your snail population is growing very fast, chances are high you might be overfeeding your tank.

how to get rid of snails in a shrimp tank

How to get rid of the snails in my aquarium?

There are several ways to get rid of snails in your aquarium. The most common way to remove snails are:

  • take them out by hand
  • have them eaten by snail-eating fish, like the pea puffer, the clown loach, or a betta
  • have them eaten by other snails, like the assassin snail
  • set a snail trap
  • use chemicals

Not all methods of getting rid of snails work equally well. If you use chemicals or fish to get rid of snails, the “cure” will most likely also get rid of any shrimp you might have in your aquarium.

If I have not convinced you of the benefits of having snails in your aquarium and you still want to get rid of them, I wrote an in-depth article on how to get rid of snails. There I go over the pros and cons of the methods of getting rid of snails.

Conclusion

As we found out, there are several ways snails can get in your aquarium. They can play an essential role in your ecosystem, but they can be a nuisance to some uninvited.

I hope you are as happy with them as we are. They are a great cleanup crew and indicate if your fish tank is healthy with not too much snail food. Also, a snail is a good algae eater.

Or if you don’t like them, you now know a way to prevent them from establishing themselves in your aquarium.

Related Questions

Do snails eat algae? Snails eat algae, leftover fish food, shrimp food, and decaying plant matter. Together with shrimp, they are an excellent cleaning crew for your aquarium.

Do snails eat fish poop? Snails will sometimes eat fish poop and digest the nutrients the fish could not absorb. The poop will not disappear from your aquarium as the snail also poops.

Can a land snail survive in an aquarium? Land snails look a lot like aquatic snails or water snails, and they are related but a land snail is too different from an aquatic snail to survive underwater.

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