Snails are these adorable little aquatic organisms. They are shy and prefer to stay inside their shells most of the time, munching away in their own peaceful world.
So what is so bad about them that you want to get rid of them? It is their ability to breed unfathomably fast (not all species, some of them!) and eat almost anything that turns out to be the main problem. They are also very difficult to get rid of once they have overpopulated.
Snails like mystery snails, nerite snails, and rabbit snails are great to be introduced to your tanks to feed on algae and clean the tank off detriments.
But there are some snail species you would like to stay away from. This article will introduce you to few such snails and how to get rid of them.
Which Snails Are Nuisances?
Malaysian trumpet snails are introduced in tanks to get rid of algae from every nook and cranny. But they prove to be a stubborn nuisance because they breed very quickly and can live under any condition. They can even survive on fish excrements and bleach, but they do not destroy plants.
Ramshorn snails, are of a similar nature. They are great when they are few in number, but a nuisance when they overpopulate.
Apple snails (Pomacea) feed on plants voraciously. You would certainly not like it if they start eating away on your ornamental aquarium plants, now would you? They lay around 200-600 eggs at a time. Female apple snails can preserve sperms for a long time, so even if the male specie is not around, they will breed.
Bladder snails are another specie you would better keep away from. They grow up to 0.5” long and are muddy brown with specks. The problem is they can breed asexually and very fast. They also produce a lot of waste. They feed on almost anything, fish waste, excretory matters, and even filter gunk.
Pond snails from Lymnaedae family are spiral, brown colored snails which breed and mature very quickly. They grow up to 2” long, and keep eating. After running out of algae, they will go for your plants.
How did they make their way to my fish tank?
The source of water in your fish tank is a major reason. If the water source is tap or pond water, snail eggs will easily travel to your tank and hatch.
Where you bought your aquarium fish and decoration items from is another thing to consider. Ramshorn snails lay their eggs on driftwood and rocks, and so do other species of snails.
The shop you have bought your stuffs from may have snail-infested tanks. While the fish was being transferred from the shop aquarium to your transport bag, some infested gravel might get scooped up too.
Snails lay their eggs in gravel, therefore baby snails and eggs might have hitch-hiked their way into your fish-tank.
How will I get rid of them?
1. Clean Your Tank Regularly
Prevention will save you the hassle of getting rid of snails to begin with. Clean the aquarium décor items from time to time with bleach. Also know the source of gravel and water before introducing them to your tank. Some really good gravel products are available on Amazon.
Spectrastore Shallow Creek Regular, for example, is one that does not change the pH level of the tank and does not require frequent cleaning. Pebbles used in Carib Sea Peace River Gravel are very small and compact, preventing growth of algae or accumulation of debris in the cracks.
If you are planning to use live plants for your tank, you should wash them first in a solution of alum powder. Take 2-3 tablespoons of alum powder and mix it with a gallon of water. You could also soak them for 5 minutes in bleach solution (1.5 cup of bleach: 1 gallon of water).
Gravel should be vacuumed and siphoned regularly to eliminate uneaten food, fish poop, algae and other detriments.
2. Feed Wisely
Feeding fish 2 to 3 times a day would be sufficient. The feedings should be in small proportions, so that within 5 minutes, all the food is gone. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once at night should do the job.
Overfeeding spoils the water in the fish tank completely, because uneaten food will decompose giving off nitrates and phosphates, promoting the growth of algae which the snails feed on. Maintaining a clean aquarium will save you from getting rid of snails in the future.
3. Physical Removal Of Snails
Bigger snails stuck to the glass interiors are quite easy to remove. You can remove them with your hands or sieve them out. Red Ramshorn snails come to the surface of the water from time to time to breathe, so you can easily remove them with a net or a sieve.
You can also bait them. You can place Aqueon Algae Rounds on the gravel. Alternatively you can introduce bottom feeder pallets or tablets or simply lettuce leaves.
Leave these baits in the aquarium overnight, to find a bunch of snails attached to them in the morning. Then remove the bait along with the snails from the tank. Using tube siphons will help a lot in removing baby pond snails.
Another very organic way of trapping snails is by preparing a trap using a soft drink plastic bottle. Cut the top third of the bottle, and insert it inside the leftover of the bottle, with the lid-side facing downward.
Place the food in, which could be fish food, or lettuce or carrot pieces, and then position the trap in its side on the gravel. You should see a lot of snails inside the trap in the morning. This trapping method is very effective at catching Malaysian trumpet snails.
4. Introduce Snail–Eating Snails
Introduce assassin snails in your tank. They are scientifically called Clea helena, and they love eating nuisance snails. They are normally 1” long and reproduce sexually, laying only 1-4 eggs at a time which hatch every 8-9 weeks. You can feed them with blood worms or algae wafers if you want to keep them for long.
5. Introduce Snail–Eating Fish
Botia loaches thrive by eating snails. Putting in 5-6 of them in your tank would do wonders. They keep poking at the shells of the snails until they come out, and then suck the snails out of their shells. They grow as long as 6” and are friendly with almost all fish normally kept in a fish tank.
Clown loaches get really long and big up to 8-12’. You can keep them if you have really large tanks. You can also opt for zebra or dwarf loaches which are great for removing bladder snails.
Puffers love eating snails, but they need brackish water—water that has a salinity level higher than freshwater and lower than sea water. They are also not recommended for community tanks as they tend to be a bit aggressive and eat other fish and shrimps.
Gouramis and Bettas could also be introduced since they track down snails in the gravel. Betta fish grow for up to 3” long and live for 3 years, and they live peacefully with other fish in the community.
They are suitable for 3 gallon and bigger tanks and need warm water heated between 74 to 82 °F. They are beautiful and could be permanently added to your fish community. Gourami fish are identical in nature to Bettas.
6. Use Chemicals
This should be your last resort as they may harm the other organisms in the fish tank. Do a lot of research before using any artificial method to get rid of snails in fish tank.
Copper Sulphate (CuSO4) treatment could be used but before doing that, remove every other organism from the fish tank, and also remove the filter, as this treatment is quite aggressive. If you are aiming to use any commercial product, read the instructions on the packet thoroughly.
If you want to use CuSO4 powder instead of any commercial product, adding 0.2mg/l or 0.8mg/gallon should be enough. Use proper measuring tools for this purpose–guessing will not work since it might lead to an overdose.
After adding, leave the tank undisturbed overnight. There will be a massive die-off the next day, but if you see some snails left, you can repeat with 20% of the first dose in the consecutive additions, until you have gotten rid of all snails.
After this, change water by 50% and keep the water well-aerated so as to oxidize the elements coming out from decomposing snails. Repeat 50% water change after 3-4 days, and at this point if you see any more snails left, you can add 50% of the initial dose of CuSO4. You can repeat likewise to get maximum benefit.
One thing to note is that this treatment does not the kill the snail eggs. Therefore if you see baby snails all over again, you can repeat this procedure regularly to get rid of the baby snails. Every time you use this method, remember to keep filter off and aeration high.
Right after this treatment, do not add all fish and plants back in. CuSO4 is a chemical, so it does not break down and you will need to remove it before adding any organisms into the fish tank.
At fist replace 100% of the treated water. Then start the filtration system and add activated charcoal or carbon in it which effectively helps in removing traces of CuSO4. Increasing the pH and hardening the water further eliminates the chemical traces.
Chelation method using water conditioner or chlorine remover could also be tried out—just remember to change 20% water every week to remove traces of chemicals.
Aquariums are, in one word, wonderful. The world inside an aquarium is an ecosystem, with its very own food chains and natural competitiveness.
At times, due to our own negligence, this ecosystem might become disrupted. If we do not clean the tank regularly or overfeed, our tiny snail friends turn into foes.
Some species breed quite fast, compete with other organisms for food and oxygen, and tend to dominate if left unchecked. There are a number of natural and artificial ways to get rid of snails in a fish tank.
Copper treatment is a chemical-induced treatment which is very effective but should be used with thorough caution. If the snail population in your fish tank has not gone through the roof, then you should opt for natural methods.