Are Aquarium Snails Good for Your Freshwater Fish Tank

By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise

Are Aquarium Snails Good for Your Freshwater Fish Tank

Aquarium snails are not good or bad!

It depends on how you see them and the experience you’ve had as a hobbyist.

Some people see them as pests and want a snail-free tank, while others see them as hardy cleaners and an integral part of a balanced and varied aquarium ecosystem.

In my experience opinion…

Aquarium snails are good for a fish tank. They help eat leftover fish food, algae, and plant debris, help maintain good water quality, and won’t harm your fish. Snails are only bad if they populate and overrun your fish tank or eat healthy plants, especially if you want a manicured-type aquarium.

To keep your snails under control and enjoy the perks of having them in your fish tank, do not overfeed your fish and keep your fish tank clean.

Snails population in a fish tank depends on resources available, such as food (fish food, algae, and plant debris). So if your fish tank is overrun by snails, you are either overfeeding your fish, your plants are dying, or there is plenty of algae.

Below are the benefits and drawbacks of keeping snails in a fish tank to help you determine whether they are good (or bad) for your fish tank.

Benefits—Snails in AquariumDrawbacks—Snails in A Fish Tank
1. Snails indicate the health of your fish tank. Snails will overpopulate your tank when there is a lot of waste food, and gradually all that food will mess up your water quality.1. When there is too much fish food, plant debris, algae, fungus, and biofilm on wood, your snails will have a lot to feed on and will reproduce exponentially and take over your fish tank
2. Snails maintain good water quality in a fish tank by eating leftover fish food, plant debris, and algae .2. Snails will add to your fish’s bioload, especially if they die in the tank, meaning you will need a powerful filter and clean your tank more times than usual.
3. Tiny and freshly hatched snails are a good food source for fish like loaches and puffers. They also are a quick snack for your barb and livebearer-sized fish. The best part being this will help you control your snail population3. Snails poop alot, and the waste spreads everywhere, especially if you have a large population in your tank. The poop pops more when you have a light substrate, which can be an aesthetic nightmare if you do not clean your sand often.
4. Snails are good indicators of the Calcium and acidic level in your fish tank. Calcium is crucial for inverts and some aquarium plants (anacharis, hornwort, Vallisneria) and an integral part of any aquarium. If your snail’s shell seems brittle and faded, perhaps your water is too acidic, or there is not enough Calcium in the tank.4. Most aquarium snails (pest and ornamental) feed on dead plant debris. However, they will nibble on your healthy live plants occasionally, more when there is not enough algae or leftover fish food in the tank.
5. Snails are part of a small elite algae cleaning crew, with species such as Nerites snails prized for their ability to eat hair algae from aquarium glass, plants, and decorations5. It can be challenging to revive plants in your fish tank when you have snails because they prefer feeding on the dying plant parts. If your plants develop holes, your snails will get to them before you can figure out the cause and get a remedy.
6. Some snail species, like trumpet snails, burrow and aid in oxygenating your substrate and prevent toxic substances that thrive in low-oxygen areas from forming.6. Aquarium snails will add pizzas to your fish tank if you keep the numbers in check, but if they overpopulate your fish tank, they are not aesthetically pleasing.
7. Snails provide a varied aquatic environment where all organisms within the system depend on each other. Snails and other inverts, such as shrimp and crabs, are also aesthetically diverse, further enhancing the diversity in your aquarium.7. Snails require plenty of Calcium (more than fish) to remain healthy. They are also sensitive to copper, so you can not use copper-based fish medication with snails. All inverts are also more susceptible to metals in tap water than fish.

Are Snails Harmful to Fish

Snails are not harmful to fish and can be beneficial to aquariums. Snails are scavengers that feed on uneaten food, dead plant matter, and other debris and can help keep the fish tank clean.

They can also help control algae growth by consuming algae on aquarium surfaces like glass, wood, rocks, and decorations.

Perhaps the only time snails can hurt your fish is when they overpopulate the tank, raising the bioload and altering the water chemistry in your fish tank.

However, this is not an issue if your fish tank filter is up to the task, the tank is not overstocked, and too many snails do not die inside the aquarium at a go.

In rare cases, snails may compete with fish for food if you have too many of them in the same tank. Therefore, monitor snail populations in your aquarium and take action if they become excessive.

Regular water changes and careful selection of snail species can help prevent problems.

Is it Bad To Have A Lot of Snails in A Fish Tank

Having a lot of snails in your fish tank is not bad. You only need to ensure you have enough space and other resources, like food, to support your population.

Note that your snails are not living alone in the tank, so your stocking calculations should also account for the fish and other inverts you want in the tank (with your snails).


Snails can reproduce quickly and overcrowd the tank, especially if you start out with a large number, which leads to a build-up of waste and ammonia levels.

Ammonia and nitrites will-in turn-harm your fish and other aquatic life, and lead to health problems and even death.

Some species of snails can also damage aquatic plants, which is particularly stressful if you have a large number in your tank.

On the positive side…

Snails can help clean the tank by eating algae and leftover food. They can also serve as a food source for some fish. Many snails will also help oxygenate your substrate by burrowing and stirring up the sand or gravel, which promotes healthy bacterial growth.

Why Do Snails Suddenly Appear in A Fish Tank

Snails may suddenly appear in your fish tank when you introduce new plants into your tank. They hitchhike on the plants from the source tanks as snail eggs (hatch in your tank) or freshly hatched snails.

Hitchhike snails are mostly species considered less desirable to fish tank owners, such as ramshorn, Malaysian trumpet, and pond snails, rather than likable types (apple, Colombian ramshorn, Nerite, mystery snails).

You may note that most aquarium owners refer to these snails as pests because they did not intentionally add them to their tanks. However, if you can control their population, they can be helpful.

To keep the population of hitchhike snails that appear suddenly in your fish tank, reduce the amount and frequency at which you feed your fish.

You can also reduce their pest snail by adding fish, like clown loach and pea puffer, to your tank. These fish have an appetite for snails and will consume the snails if you do not feed excess fish food.

Manual removeal of the snails from your fish tank will also work. Place a lettuce inside your aquarium and wait for the snails to feed on it. Retrive your vegetable with together with snails and dispose it.

Should You Remove Snails from Your Aquarium

You do not need to remove snails from your fish tank if the population is managable. If you only have enough critters to clean leftovers and debris from your substrate and surfaces, keep them.

Remove the snails if they become too much for your fish tank and equipment or taking a lot of food from your fish.

Remember to watch your water quality when you have too many snails, especially in a tank overcrowded with fish.

If you realize the bioload is overwhelming your filter and spiking ammonia or nitrite levels, move some of your fish, snails, and other inverts to another tank.

If you want to maintain all your snails and fish, move them into a bigger tank with better filtration and plenty of space.

Avoid overfeeding your fish because they will waste a lot of it, which will feed more snails and keep them nourished enough to reproduce.

Add fish, like puffer fish and clown loaches, to keep your snail population in check. You can also add fish, like ottocinclus and shrimp, to help your snails remove algae and leftovers from the tank and ensure they have only enough to survive.

Well, thats all for this post.

Happy fish keeping🐠🐟!

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