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A few snails in your aquarium can be beneficial, they are awesome cleaners and quite interesting to watch. But they breed like rabbits, so if you leave them unchecked, they’ll abruptly take over your tank.
You also don’t want dead snails in your tank, the sheer smell will literally choke your guts out.
Unfortunately, every aquarist will sooner or later have to face this problem, and anyone who has fought the snail battle knows its a hard one.
Therefore, today we’ll look at how to get rid of snails in your fish tank and how to keep them from coming back. Plus find out how they got there in the first place.
Are snails bad for your aquarium?
A few snails are perfectly OK for your aquarium. Keeping them in check though, that is most times the hurdle. What starts out as a small adorable gastropod can end up being an apocalypse.
That being said, if you can figure out how to keep snails from breeding, they are generally good cleaners that’ll feed on leftover food and pick up organic waste from your substrate.
Plus some species feed on algae, so when you’re dealing with a thick film of cyanobacteria they’ll have your back.
A caveat if I may, the only beneficial snails are freshwater species like mystery snails that you put in your tank intentionally. The ones that enter your tank accidentally will have little benefit if any.
How Did Snails Get in Your Fish Tank?
There are two main ways snails get into an aquarium, either accidentally or intentionally.
My guess is if you wondering how they got into your fish tank, you didn’t add them intentionally, in which case, they most likely piggybacked on something else.
Mostly, pest snails arrive on plants either as live creatures or as egg pockets which eventually hatch inside your tank. Other times they are scooped together with fish from pet store water when buying new fish for your tank.
Even so, snails don’t just come from pet store tanks, even swapping water or decorations amongst you tanks will transfer snails from an infested aquarium to a clean one.
This especially when you have one tank where you are intentionally raising snails.
So, next time you go to the pet store to get new plants or fish, make sure you get them from a tank with no visible sign of a snail problem. And at home, if you have more than one tank, keep the water separate.
If you need to seed bacteria from an old tank to a new one or move your fish, the source tank should be healthy; disease and snail free.
How to Get Rid of Snails in Your Fish Tank
Now, let’s look at a couple of ways to successfully remove snails from your fish tank.
#1. Remove Them Manually
Since snails have shells, they are not as irritating as slugs, so you can pick them with your hands and physically remove them from the tank.
However, this won’t be effective if you have a large population or when you have a big tank. If your aquarium is bigger than a 50gallon you’d need a whole lot of time to cover the whole area.
Some snails tend to burrow under gravel as well, yet to remove them manually, you would need to see them, also many snails are nocturnal only coming out at night.
Therefore, use this method only in a small 10 or 20-gallon tank or when the snail problem is not major.
#2. Use a Snail Trap
Basically, there are two forms of snail traps, those that you buy online or from a pet store and the widely used vegetable snail trap.
Store-bought plastic snail traps are readily available and are quite affordable, but vegetable traps are easier, quicker and cheaper to use.
Simply place a piece of cabbage, lettuce, cucumber or zucchini at the bottom of your tank and leave it overnight. Because snails are particularly active and feed at night, at daybreak, you’ll find your lettuce with snails all over it, and all you have to do is get it from your tank and dispose of the lettuce and the snails.
If you opt to use a store-bought-trap, buy one that works in the same as the vegetable trap because its an easy and proven method. Besides, other trap foams may or may not be as effective.
#3. Use Snail Removal Products (Chemicals)
If the snails in your tank are stubborn to an extent natural removal method are not working, poison them. Well, maybe not exactly poisoning, but use snail removal products.
The most common snail removal products are copper-based, but just know, however safe the products, it is technically impossible to target the snails in isolation.
This means the chemical will get to everything inside your aquarium, with plants, inverts, and scaleless fish taking the biggest hit.
Plus be ready to remove dead snail bodies, clean your tank and do a water change to maintain a healthy aquarium environment.
Dead snails also leave a badass odor in your tank, so you may need to get a carbon media for your filter.
#4. What Will Eat Snails in My Fish Tank
Yeah, that’s right, some freshwater inhabitants devour snails, and they are actually good at what they do.
Most snail eaters are bottom-dwelling fish, though some are mid and top-level dwellers, with some good in small tanks and others bigger tank. So, before you add a snail assassin, find out whether they are a good fit for your tank size.
Good candidates for smaller tanks include pearl gourami and dwarf gourami, betta, zebra danios, pygmy loaches, and dwarf puffer fish. In bigger tanks, add clown loaches, green spotted puffer fish and cichlids.
Assassin snails will devour their own kind and don’t breed readily like other snails, hence are also good for infested tanks and are rarely counterproductive.
How to Prevent (Control) Snails in Your Fish Tank
Getting snails out of your fish tank is one thing, and making sure they don’t show up again, another. Most creatures will only thrive when given the right conditions, and of course, if they can find their way in, to begin with.
So, here are a few ways to make sure snails don’t get to your tank and if they do, to ensure they don’t thrive.
Clean New Plants and Decor Items
As I had mentioned before, plants and decoration play a crucial role in getting snails to your fish tank. Therefore, you’ll need to clean all new plants before placing them in your aquarium.
Bur first, try not to pick up snails from you source them. Inspect aquarium in the pet store before accepting anything that comes from them.
Nonetheless, snail eggs and baby snails are hard to see. And not all pet store will give you access to their tanks, maybe they are at the back, yes!
In which case, soak new plants and decorations in saltwater for 15 minutes to eliminate any eggs stuck on there, then rinse properly before putting them in your tank. This will destroy the eggs without doing harm to the plant.
Clean Everything Thoroughly
Once you’ve completely eliminated all visible snails in your tank, you can thoroughly clean it to make sure they don’t come back. Wipe the glass surface then soak the plants and decoration in saltwater and especially vacuum your substrate.
If possible, remove each item from the tank including the gravel, filters and air pump, clean and dry everything completely then put them back and refill your tank.
However, when you completely overhaul your tank, you may need to transfer your fish to another tank. This is because nitrifying bacteria colonies will be disrupted which means cycling the aquarium again is necessary.
Don’t Overfeed Your Fish
Snails are scavengers, which means as long as there is excess fish food in the tank, they will be properly nourished and colonies will thrive.
Usually, uneaten food accumulates in the tank gravel and create boundless food banks for the snails.
Vacuum your substrate frequently and if you can, invest in bubbler air stones. This will not only disrupt the snail’s food stores but also their breeding grounds.
My Two Cents
Snails in small numbers are undoubtedly helpful in fish tanks. In fact, anytime you need a cleaning crew in your aquarium you can always add a couple.
One thing to note though, only a snail that you add in your tank intentionally should be considered for its benefit. Any other snail is an unwanted guest.
Plus JUST snails that won’t eat your live plants are noble, this includes species like mystery snails. Which are also conveniently easy to control because they lay their eggs on water or above the surface meaning you can scoop out the eggs if you don’t want your snails to breed.
In conclusion, remove any snails you dint add intentionally because you have no idea what they are capable of. If you add them but they breed way too much, they have to go and if they as much as nip your live plants, expel them.
All the best in your snail battle