Snails in a tropical fish tank

Snails in a tropical fish tank

I get A LOT of questions about snails - sometimes even complaints.

So I wanted to set you straight about them and have pulled an excellent extract from something which Nathan at PFK wrote. It warrants sharing and if you like it, please share with your friends.

Here’s the deal; I love snails. I wouldn’t marry one unless it was really hot, but I still have a soft spot for them.

Most people hate them. They’re dirty, parasitic things that devour plants and ruin the tank. Except they’re not.

Snails tell me something far more sinister about an aquarium. They tell me that you’re keeping it badly. In fact, be grateful for the snails. If they weren’t there you’d have a bigger problem. Most snails like to chow down on soft, slimy stuff. Absolute favourites tend to be algae, fish food and lovely, rich faeces. Their spiky radula doesn’t really like carving through the hard, cellulose walls of plants, but give them a dying leaf and they’ll take it.

So where does this delight of gastropod gastronomy come from? Rubbish tank husbandry normally does the job, with lashings of overfeeding playing its part. If you’re not gravel cleaning then there’s the problem right there. All that lovely food left behind? Of course the snails are going to exploit it.

What if the snails weren’t there? What would happen then? The fact is that your water quality would be truly up the spout, with rampant phosphates and nitrates doing their thing. Those little shelled molluscs take all the garbage that you should be removing from the tank and they lock it up in their bodies, safely out of the way, right up until you hurl in a load of snail killer and release the lot back into the water. And then you’ve killed off the only thing that was keeping the tank clean for you, so it all goes belly up after that.

I have shed loads of snails in my planted tanks, and I wouldn’t shift them for the world. Half the time, they seem to do a better job than my lazy-arsed shrimps which just sit in the plants all day awaiting their pellets, and uprooting my Glossostigma. I have so many because I’m so liberal with the amount of food that I use to fatten up my fish. It means I need to do more water changes than usual, but my tank is certainly not sat on death’s doorstep, if I might be so bold as to say so myself.

So there you have it - it's true. Snails are good for your aquarium - just have a think about that before you send a stroppy email ;)

Until next time

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