By David Midgley - Love them or hate them, freshwater snails are common in the aquarium hobby. Some aquatic snails are a pleasure to own while others are generally unwelcome.
You are probably going to come across some sooner or later as you progress through the different stages of owning an aquarium This guide gives a brief outline of the commonly encountered snail species.
Malaysian trumpet snail
Origin: Asia & Africa
introduction: With gravel or plants.
Nuisance potential: High -populations can increase at fast rates
Usefulness: Does not eat most plants, eats excess food, turns gravel
Control: Botias can eat these snails
Melanoides tuberculatus is a cosmopolitan snail species that occurs throughout Asia and Africa. They are easily recognised by their elongate, conical shell which is generally brown with some darker spots. These are live bearing snails which can produce significant numbers of young if sufficient food is available. Generally nocturnal, they bury themselves in the gravel during the day. Aquarists seem divided on the value of this invertebrate; those who dislike them report that they breed too quickly, clog filters and damage impellors. Those who like them extol their abilities to clean up excessive fish food (thus maintaining better water quality), their seeming disdain for most aquarium plants and their habit of “turning the gravel” in aquariums, much like earthworms do in a garden bed.
I’ve had this snail in a number of my aquariums for some time. I’ve not found their population growth uncontrollable, and when population explosions do occur it’s a useful indictor of overfeeding. Control of these snails is generally straightforward and is best acheived by more conservative feeding. Complete removal of this species from aquaria is difficult, however, most loaches (Botia sp.) will readily consume this species and are a good method for keeping snail numbers down or removing them completely. Some african cichlids (eg: Chilotilapia rhoadesii) will also eat these snails.
Small ramshorn snail
(Planorbis or Helisoma sp.)
Method of introduction: accidental, with gravel or plants.
Nuisance potential: High. Particularly if overfeeding. Eats some plant material, suspected egg eaters.
Usefulness: eats excess food
I have this small species (max. adult size < 5 mm) of ramshorn snails in a number of my tanks. I am yet to identify the species, and do not know how they arrived. Presumably as contaminants on plants or gravel. The species is active during the day and can be seen grazing on algal lawns on glass. I also suspect this species of being a egg-eater, as it has slowed the rates of reproduction in tanks with co-habiting lamprologine cichlids. The species is an egg layer and lays a group of eggs in a patch covered by a gelatinous substance.
Columbian ramshorn snail
(Planorbis or Marisa sp.)
Method of introduction: less frequently accidental
Nuisance potential: Low, the species is large and has relatively small (by snail terms) clutches.
Usefulness: eats excess food
I have this larger species (max. adult size > 3cm) of ramshorn snails in just one of my tanks. Like the smaller species above, I am yet to identify the species, though they have been present in the tank for sometime. The species is active during the day and can be seen grazing on algal lawns on glass, though they seem more interested in excess food and readily detach and “sail” to the source when it’s available. The tank they are inhabiting also contains a colony of Pseudotropheus sp. “Msobo”, and the two animals seem to largely ignore each other. The snails certainly dont pose a problem in terms of mouth breeding as has been reported for some smaller species.. The species is an egg layer and lays a group of eggs in a patch covered by a mucousy, gelatinous substance.
Columbian ramshorn snails come in a variety of colours. Not sure if the colouration is a genetic trait (or limited to one species), but all my ramshorns are inky black.
Apple or mystery snail
(Pomacea bridgesii sp.)
Method of introduction: generally introduced
Nuisance potential: Low, the species is large and lays its eggs out of the water.
Usefulness: eats excess food, novelty
Control: Manual removal
They are the most popular of all aquarium snails. For more information see the definitive Apple Snail (Ampullariidae) website.
Dark coloured form
Gold coloured form
We Recommend This Aquarium Snail Article From Our Partner Site
Read further information about aquarium snails