Tiny pest snails can very easily take over your tank because most are prolific breeders. The majority of snails will reproduce in an aquarium, whether you introduce them intentionally or they hitchhike on plants into your tank.
What might seem like little unharmful babies or eggs, will within three (3) weeks be teenagers causing havoc in your aquarium, and ready to breed the next colony of nuisance juvies.
That said, adding some freshwater aquarium fish species is one of the most recommended solutions to a snail infestation. These fish munch on snails, with a school of the most efficient snail-eaters able to wipe out a whole colony in less than a fortnight..
So, the million-dollar question is ‘what kind of fish can you have in there that will eat snails?”
The short and sweet answer…
…botia loaches including zebra loach, yoyo loach, clown loach, skunk loach, and dwarf chain loach.
Dwarf pufferfish, some cichlids like the german blue ram and keyhole cichlid, and snails like assassin snail (Clea helena) are also good snail-eaters.
Fishes like bettas don’t exactly eat or kill snails, but they are known to snack on snail eggs hence are also useful at keeping populations down.
Below, I’ll give more insight on how to add these snail-eating fishes in your tank if dealing with a snaily-menace.
But first, here is a quick list of the tropical fish you should consider, just in case you only want to skim through.
- Zebra loach
- Yoyo loach
- Clown loach
- Dwarf chain loach
- Skunk loach
- Pea puffer fish
- German Blue Ram
- Keyhole cichlid
- Spotted Raphael catfish
- Assassin snail (Clea helena)
9 Easy-to-Keep Aquarium Fish That Eat Pest Snails
Instead of using harsh chemicals, add any of these fish species (introduced above) as a less hands-on technique to dealing with a pest snail infestation in your freshwater fish tank.
#1 — Zebra Loach
Zebra loach is a stripped, bottom-dwelling fish that is a good choice for beginners aquarium owners. This loach is one of the smaller members of the botia family, reaching a maximum adult size of about four (4) inches, meaning they are a good snail-eating choice for small fish tanks.
Within a week of adding a zebra loach, you should notice a reduction in the snail population in your aquarium. Mostly, the fish will snack on small pest snails, but not so much on large gastropods like mystery snails. But your loach will occasionally pick and even kill smaller non-pest snails.
The zebra loach requires a tank with plenty of hiding places to help them feel secure. Driftwood, rocks, flowerpots and large tubes are all good options.
In terms of water quality, the fish requires a water temperature of 73°F to 79°F with a soft and slightly acidic ph of between 6.0 to 6.5.
Even though, your zebra loach will eat snails, you should also offer it live foods such as bloodworms, glass worms, and tubifex. They also eat fresh vegetables, flake, and freeze-dried food which is important for a balanced diet.
#2 — Yoyo Loach
Yoyo loach (also known as Almora loach or Pakistani loach ) is a freshwater fish belonging to the botia family that grows to between three (3) and five (5) inches in aquariums. Given this fairly small size, yoyo loach makes a good choice for snail-eating fish for small fish tanks, arguably better than zebra loach.
Interestingly, yoyo loaches are so named because of their dark markings on a silver background that look very much like the letters y and o.
In the fish tank, your yoyo loach will eat a variety of food including processed flake, pellets, frozen and freeze-dried food. Your fish will also eat small pest snails in the tank, meaning a group of yoyos can be a perfect control for snails infestations.
A yoyo loach is generally peaceful that prefers the bottom water level in the tank. To keep your fish comfortable and safe, add it in a tank with soft acidic water with a ph of 6.0 to around 7.4 and a temperature of 75°F to 80°F.
#3 — Clown Loach
Tiger loach commonly called clown loach is another species of the botia family that is popular in the home aquarium, albeit bigger than zebra and yoyo loaches. Still, the species is a peaceful fish and co-exists with other fish in a community tank.
At 12 inches in size, the clown loach can eat those annoying snails that create a menace in aquariums. Even so, this loach can only be kept in a big tank with a temperature anywhere between 77°F to 86°F and a ph between 6.0 to 7.5.
Also note that the clown loach is a big fish by display aquarium standards hence can not feed on snails alone for nutrition. Clowns will also accept a wide variety of dry and live food such as worms.
#4 — Dwarf Chain Loach
The dwarf chain loach is a two (2) inches long fish that is an equally amiable and a good alternative to the zebra and yoyo loach in small aquariums in need of an effective snail-eater.
Your dwarf chain, like others of the botia family, will prey on tiny snails the size of pond snails, which is very useful in reducing snail populations. Having said that, although this botia loach is not likely to munch on large ornamental snails, it may harass them, especially when kept in a small tank.
Supplement you dwarf chain snail diet with live and frozen meaty foods like cyclops, tubifex, bloodworms, and daphnia, and high-quality dry foods.
Dwarf chain loaches prefer to live in heavily planted aquariums with the temperature between 68°F to 86°F and a ph as high as 8.0.
#5 — Skunk Loach
Mouse loach, cream loach or skunk loach is one of the smaller of the botias growing, reaching four (4) inches in length. This loach is quite pretty and easily distinguished from all others with a distinct pinkish body.
In the wild, a skunk loach is primarily omnivorous eating mollusks and other live crustaceans, insects, and snails. In the fish tank, a skunk botia will thus go crazy on snails and is an effective solution when battling an infestation.
Even so, skunks are a feisty loach species, which is not suitable for community aquariums, and like most loaches, must be maintained in groups of at least six (6) individuals.
In terms of water requirements, skunk loaches prefer soft, slightly acidic water with a temperature anywhere from 72°F to 86°F and a ph between 6.0 to 7.5.
They also require small amounts of food several times a day and readily accepting most brands of dry sinking catfish pellets. Moreover, offer your skunk a variety of frozen foods to supplement the diet.
Mosquito larvae, brine shrimp and daphnia are all ideal choices.
#6 — Pea Puffer Fish
Apart from botia loaches, the pea puffer fish (also called dwarf pufferfish) is another excellent snail eater. However, this puffer is quite aggressive and can only share a tank with a limited number of tropical fish if any.
An advantage that a pea puffer has over botia loaches is its tank size requirement. Like zebra, yoyo, skunk, and dwarf chain loaches, the dwarf pufferfish has a tiny body by home aquariums standard, growing up to an inch in length.
But unlike the botias, this fish can be kept singly, a pea puffer does not need to be in a group, which means you can have it in a tank as small as 10 gallons
The ideal set up for the pea puffer fish is a planted tank with soft slightly acidic water that anywhere from 7.0 to 8.0. Unlike other puffers in its family, this puffer requires freshwater with no salt content, but you still need to house it in a heated tank with a temperature setting of between 72°F to 82°F.
For a balanced diet and to keep your pea puffer well-fed, offer him crustacean foods such as brine shrimp, krill, mollusks, and earthworms.
#7 — Cichlids
Large cichlids and a few dwarf cichlids species are known to eat snails and can be effective at dealing with an infestation. However, cichlids need a big fish tank because of their overall body size that most of the time top 5 inches.
The german blue ram is one of the smaller cichlid species that will fit in a medium-size aquarium and can eliminate pest snails, albeit less effective compared to botia loaches and pea puffers.
The keyhole cichlid is another species that grows to a fairly small size (4 inches) and known to munch on pest snails.
Please note that cichlids are not limited to killing or eating small snails, they will also kill large ornamental snails if they get the chance. If a snail can fit your cichlid’s mouth, it is fair game.
Therefore, only get a cichlid species to deal with a snail problem only when you don’t have pet snails in the tank.
#8 — Spotted Raphael Catfish
The spotted Raphael catfish is another beautiful catfish that will devour pest snails without a doubt. The fish has a dark brown to blackish body-color, decked with irregular patterns of small spots that can be any shade between brilliant-white and pale-yellow.
Interestingly, the spotted Raphael is also referred to as spotted talking catfish because it can make audible sounds by rotating its pectoral spine.
In the wild, the catfish occupy a variety of habitats but its most comfortable in slow to still moving water, with a lot of plants. This catfish’s preferred diet includes crustaceans, worms, insects, and plant matters.
In captivity, the spotted Raphael catfish is quite adaptable to most aquarium environments, making it a great choice for new fish keepers. It also has a small body size and not a picky eater.
Most of the time, your catfish will forage the bottom of your tank cleaning eating leftover food and tiny pest snails.
This catfish maintenance need is also low, only requiring about 30 percent water change a month. As much, water temperature anywhere from 68°F to 80°F, and a ph of 5.8 to 7.5 will keep your fish alive.
When in a community the fish has a friendly attitude with medium to large tankmates. However, avoid companions that have small bodies as they could be considered food.
A 35-gallon fish tank is the recommended minimum for a spotted Raphael catfish, but 45 gallons or more is better, especially for a large community.
#9 — Betta
A betta fish is not the most efficient snail-eater, but it will eliminate a- small-colony tiny pest snails if given a chance. This fish is also quite effective at devouring snails eggs and helps prevent future generations.
However, your betta can’t tell the difference between an ornamental snail and pest snails. For the fish, any snail small enough to fit in its mouth is an easy snack.
So, to make sure your betta does not feed on your ornamental snails, only add them in the tank when they are fairly large-sized to fit in the betta’s mouth.
#10 — Assassin Snail (Clea helena)
Although not a fish, the assassin snail is a popular freshwater aquarium gastropod with a reputation for killing and feeding on other snails.
Thus, keeping a small group of assassins in your tank will help reduce the number of pest snails in there, albeit, like a betta fish, assassin snails don’t pick and choose which snails to eat, any species in the tank is fair game.
Assassin snails are especially fond of Malaysian trumpet (MTS), ramshorn and pond snails, that also happen to be prolific breeders and a common menace for fish keepers.
Other than snails, your assassin snails will accept fish flake, bloodworms, and other protein-rich foods, so don’t force them to live on snails only.
Laslty, while assassin snails may reproduce in a fish tank, they do not have a reputation for taking over a tank, which means they will reduce pest snail populations without causing an even bigger problem.