Everything About Snails

I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about mystery snails in this post. I have only owned mystery snails and I believe they are the most common snail you can find in pet stores. I would advise you against getting the snails with conical shells (cone-shaped). Since they are so small it’s more than likely you would end up with a handful that would breed all day and night until your tank is overrun with baby snails. I would stick to getting one mystery snail for a small tank. I will start be listing things by pro and con in order to better organize the information. Please read everything carefully before making a snail purchase. Next I will list all the important information you need before actually buying a snail at the pet store. I will tell you what you need to look for and which snail to choose. Next I will tell you what you need to buy after you take your snail home. Finally, I’ll tell you about normal snail behaviors.

Con: Poop factory

You should not get a snail if you have a gallon or smaller tank. You have to remember that adding a snail to your tank is adding another bioload. Small tanks can only handle bio-loads. There are some aquarium calculators online. This link leads to the websites info about their calculator, and this link leads to the calculator itself. I like this one a lot. If this calculator thinks the bioload will be too high be aware that you can still purchase a snail, but you may need to do more frequent water changes.

Pro: Cute poop

This is a little goofy, but their poop changes color based on what they eat. My tank is so overrun by algae that my snail only poops green. And he poops A LOT!

Pro: Algae vacuum

These little guys really do take care of algae problems. My one snail is having a hard time keeping up with my algae problem. If I really wanted to I could add a couple doses of algae removal drops to help supplement the removal until the snail can keep up with the new growth.

Con: Escape Artists

You have to make sure you keep your tank lid on tight because snails are escape artists. If they escape their tank they can potentially fall and break their shell (resulting in their death), dry out (death), or just plain become lost until a funky smell draws you to your dead snail’s location. If you are using something like a large vase or other open mouthed container a snail might not be for you.

Con: Fish Companion?

You have to make sure your fish and snail get along. Both my betta fish have been fine with snails, but I was nervous about introducing my new snail with my new male betta. Male betta fish are more aggressive, loner fish. You should Google your fishes tolerance to tank mates before purchasing a snail. Another tip: I purchased a snail that was a similar size to my betta. My hope was that it would be too big to be appealing to my fish, but too small to promote aggressive dominance behavior. So far my fish completely ignores my snail with one exception; my fish has eaten my snails antennae. The antennae aren’t essential and they do grow back. Even my female betta fish would nibble at the snail’s antennae. I don’t think it hurts the snail to have them eaten, but I don’t know for sure. It’s kinda sad, but otherwise my fish leaves him alone. I think the long, flowing antennae are just too tempting for a fish to ignore. My snail seems perfectly fine otherwise I would remove him.

Also be aware that your snail has its own water and temperature needs. You need to keep your tank at 68-78 degrees F and you need fresh water at a pH of 6.5-7.5.

At the store:

When you are at the pet/fish store there are a few important things to watch out for.

  1. Pay attention to tank conditions

If the tanks look dirty, and the fish and snails are sluggish or even appear dead, try another store. I once encountered this and said screw it and bought a snail anyway. It died 4 days later. Don’t be stupid like me and don’t support stores that don’t take good care of their pets.

2. Pay attention to the snails shell

A snails shell is a lot like rings around a tree. Snails are not like hermit crabs. They do not need you to provide them with bigger shells to move into. Instead they grow their own shells as they grow in size. If they are stressed or given a poor diet their shell will be weak or discolored. You might also spot chunks of shell missing near the entrance where the snails head comes out. This can get bad quick. The part of the snail that attaches to the shell is called the mantel. If the shell breaks past the mantel it’s a bit like a nail breaking past the quick. The snails internal organs become exposed to the outside leading to a slow, painful death. It can be hard to see a snail’s shell inside a tank so ask the attendant to let you see the snails before they bag it up. If you’re afraid or grossed out by snails, don’t worry. They’ll be way too scared to come out of their shell. You will be able to inspect it without coming in contact with any mushy parts.

3. Don’t lose your receipt

If your new snail friend should die within (usually 2 weeks) the return period you should be able to get a refund. Some places require the dead snail to be brought back in order for you to receive your refund so do not dispose of the body until you know your local pet stores policies.

After care items:

After taking your snail home there are very few requirements to take care of them. If you are worried about your snail not having enough to eat buy them some algae thins/wafers. Just be careful that your fish don’t overindulge by nibbling away at the algae wafer. Lastly, the only other thing you need is a source of calcium for you snail. The calcium is what helps the snail grow its shell. You can toss in a couple decorative shells (as long as they are real shells and not plastic). The snails actually eat the shells to get their calcium. You can also purchase cuttle bone. Cuttle bone is actually meant to be fed to birds to help their beaks grow. You can buy this and crush it up and put it in a mesh bag or cheese cloth and just hang it somewhere in your tank. The crushed cuttle bone will release calcium deposits into the water which the snail can absorb.

Finally I thought I’d list some normal behaviors that might seem a little weird to someone who isn’t familiar with snails. Snails actually have lungs so they need to breath air. Occasionally you will see your snail migrate up to the top of the tank. Next your snail will send out a little straw looking thing from under its shell. This is its its syphon which it uses to pull air into its lungs. When it pulls air in it sort of pumps its head in and out. It’s really super cute. This extra syphon is coiled back into the shell when not in use. You can figure out the gender of your snail, but it can be quite challenging. It is hard to describe so I recommend you Google images so you can figure out your snails sex. It doesn’t really matter, nor does it change anything about your snail. Most stores will not know the sex of their snails, nor do they separate them.

Sometimes your snail will pop off a high ledge or the top of the tank and gently float down to the bottom of the tank. This is totally normal behavior and is just another cute aspect of owning a snail. Some people call this behavior parachuting because the snail uses its foot a bit like a parachute to slow its fall (sometimes, but not every time XD).

That is just about everything I could possibly think of. If I think of anything else or you have any questions I will update the blog with answers. Just comment any questions below.

Snail Ownership

I have been meaning to make this post for a while and now I’m finally doing it. This post is all about snail ownership and why I recommend it. If you’re like me you never once thought about getting a snail. In fact they might even creep you out a little. My hope is that I will change your mind.

The position of my tank near a window promoted algae growth. Due to this problem I purchased a product that was supposed to get rid of algae. The product had a weird 3 day dosing schedule and worked very slowly. After maybe 5 doses (15 days) some of the algae had diminished. The biggest problem was that you had to keep the schedule up or the algae would return. The only solution left was to get a little critter to get the algae for me. My 2.5 gallon tank was much too small for an algae eating fish, so that left me with algae eating invertebrates. My local PetSmart only offered mystery snails so those are the only snails I have purchased.

These little snails have a lot of personality. It’s funny but each snail I’ve owned has had its own personality. I have a few pictures to show you what I’m talking about.
Here’s my first snail. She liked to sit under the filter and have the current flow over her. It was really adorable.

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My next snail was a scaredy cat. He didn’t have anywhere to hide so he hid under a seashell decoration I had.

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I knew what he needed, so I got him a little castle to hide in.

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They are really fun to watch. Their little mouths open and close in an interesting way. They have a ton of teeny tiny teeth that scraps the algae off the edges of objects. I have also taken my snail out of water (you can do that for a little while as long as a puddle of water is near by) and let him roam around my desk.

Don’t have algae in your tank? Never fear! You have options. If you still want a snail you can always feed them algae wafers. The only thing is you have to be careful that your fish don’t nibble at it. You could accidentally overfeed your fish that way.

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This is the brand that I used when I didn’t have such a large algae supply. If this post has gotten you interested in owning a snail check out this post that will teach you everything you need to know before and after purchasing a snail.

What Your Snail Needs

This is going to be a very brief blog, because mystery snails don’t need much. They need three to four things:

  1. Food
  2. Air/Water
  3. Calcium
  4. *Some* like a shelter to hide in

So let’s start with number one. Snails are herbivores. They eat vegetation and algae in your tank. If you have an algae problem, a mystery snail can clear it right up. You don’t want to starve your little guy either. An easy cheap supplement for your snail is algae wafers. There are many brands, but the cheapest was Top Fin algae wafers.

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Make sure your fish don’t eat the wafers or they might overfeed themselves.

The second thing is water and air. Mystery snails live underwater. They have a vent that the water goes through, kind of like gills on a fish. But, unlike fish, mystery snails have lungs, so they need air. They will go up the side of the tank and stick out what is called a siphon. Once the siphon is above the water line, the snail will start pumping air in. The snail’s head moves in and out as it pumps the air in. It’s really cute! Don’t mistake the siphon as a sex organ. Both genders have a siphon. The siphon expands and compresses so it isn’t always visible.

Next on our list is calcium. Your snails shell is made of calcium and to have healthy new growth, you need to provide calcium. This can be done in the water because they “breathe” water. Any calcium in the water gets inside them. You can use crushed cuttlebone in a mesh bag. You can use a cheese cloth or something similar. Cuttlebone is meant for birds, to help their beaks grow I believe. They are very cheap, and sometimes they are broken in the packaging. Some stores might provide discounts for the broken ones. Crush it up into small chunks and put into a mesh fabric of some sort. Tie it off and hang from the side of your tank.

Another option is calcium powder. I use All Living Things calcium supplement for hermit crabs. I sprinkle a little into my tank on water change day. Just a pinch.

You can also use decorative shells as a supplement option. Make sure you use real shells. I have old, uncolored, hermit crab shells in mine. Your snail will climb the shells and eat the edges. All my shells have little bites out of them.

Here’s where it gets a little bloggy =). My first snail was totally cool sleeping anywhere. I would find her asleep on all the sides of the tank, the filter, the decorations. Anywhere she could fit, she would sleep. After she passed I had to get another snail to keep the algae away and because I love snails now. So I got an ivory mystery snail (the first was a golden). When I got up the morning after I got her I found her like this:

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She found the only thing she could hide under. It’s was so sad and pathetic! She was desperate for a place to hide! So the next day I went out and got this little castle for her.

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In the second picture you can kind of see the opening in the back. It’s just big enough for her when she’s full sized. She sleeps in it almost every night. Sometimes, like today, she sleeps behind it between the castle and the glass. She is never not near it in the morning. As she got more comfortable in the tank I would find her sleeping on top of it, or behind it like I mentioned above, but she gravitates to it. It’s really cute. So depending on your snail, you may need to buy a shelter. This shelter was $7.99 I believe and I got it at a Pet Supplies Plus because it is closest to my school and it was raining that whole week.

That’s about everything I can think of! If anything new comes up then I’ll update this post. Thanks for reading!