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.
- 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.