Freshwater Aquarium Snails: Good & Bad Types

freshwater aquarium snail
Many people decide to get freshwater aquarium snails to accompany their fish, and there is a good reason for it. However it’s not as easy as just picking up the first snails you see and dumping them into the water. Some snails are good, some are bad, and some are just a nuisance.

Here is everything you need to know about snails and your fish tank so you can make an informed decision about which snails you want, which ones you need, and which ones you should definitely avoid.

Why Would I Want Snails In My Tank?

There are some good reasons as to why you should have a certain few types of snails in your freshwater fish tank. Freshwater aquarium snails are often used in order to clean up debris in fish tanks.

Freshwater snails like to eat things like old food, algae, and even fish faeces. This means that a tank with snails has to be cleaned a lot less than one without snails.

Are Snails Good For Fish Tanks or Bad?

types of aquarium snails

There are a few things that you need to know about freshwater snails and fish tanks, for instance some snails are better to have in your tank than others.

Some freshwater snails do serve a good productive purpose, those being the ones that you have put in there yourself, but there are also snails that can creep their way into your tank all by themselves, and those are usually unwanted bad ones.

There are even snails that can be bought for your fish tank which aren’t ideal for certain situations, here is a quick summary of good or bad snails;

Good Freshwater Snails For Your Tank

These are the best aquarium snails, that generally do good things for your aquarium;

  1. Trumpet snails.
  2. Assassin snails.
  3. Ivory snails.
  4. Nerite snails.
  5. Mystery snails.
  6. Gold Inca snails.
  7. Japanese Trapdoor snails.

Bad Freshwater Snails For Your Tank

These are generally bad freshwater snails that you do NOT want in your aquarium;

  1. Pond snails.
  2. Ramshorn snails.
  3. Rabbit snails.

10 Types Of Freshwater Aquarium Snails

There are several different kinds of freshwater snails that you can purchase for your aquarium. That being said, there are also quite a few different freshwater snails that might just find their way into your tank by accident.

Some of the most common types of aquarium snails that can be found in aquariums are ones such as:

  1. Pond Snails.
  2. Assassin Snails.
  3. Trumpet Snails.
  4. Ramshorn Snails.
  5. Nerite Snails.
  6. Rabbit Snails.
  7. Ivory Snails.
  8. Japanese Trapdoor Snails.
  9. Mystery Snails.
  10. Gold Inca Snails.

All of these freshwater snails are commonly found in aquariums and can usually be bought in pet stores, but not all of them serve the same functions and not all of them are good.

Some of these freshwater snails will have a detrimental effect on your fish tank and won’t do you or your fish any good.

1. Pond Snail

pond snail

This is one of the freshwater snails that you probably don’t want in your fish tank for a number of reasons.

While they may be ideal for outdoor ponds, as the name implies, they are not a type of snail that you want indoors in your tank. This snail is most often found in aquariums after buying new live plants that have the snails attached to them.

First of all, these freshwater snails are hermaphrodites, which means that they can reproduce by themselves. Therefore, while one pond snail may not be a huge issue, they can multiply very quickly leaving you with dozens of pond snails infesting your fish tank.

The largest problem with these snails is not necessarily that they reproduce like bunny rabbits, but the fact that they love to eat. Once the snails start reaching high numbers they will begin to look for anything to eat.

Pond snails, once having multiplied sufficiently, are known to start eating all of the live plants in a fish tank. This is definitely not a snail that you want in your fish tank because they just end up eating all of the plants in the tank, so if you find any, remove them as quickly as possible.

2. Assassin Snail

assassin snail

Now as the name implies, these freshwater snails do eat other snails, which his actually why many people prefer to have them in their fish tanks.

Assassin snails are great for controlling other unwanted snail populations because they will eat them. You need to be careful when adding this snail to your fish tank because they don’t actually eat algae or clean the tank, but they will take care of other snail problems.

Also, Assassin snails reproduce sexually, meaning that they can’t self-multiply, so their populations are quite easy to control.

Many people also like assassin snails because they look neat too. Keep in mind that you should only get this snail if you need to control the population of other snails.

3. Trumpet Snail

trumpet snail

Some people don’t like having trumpet snails in their fish tanks because it does multiply quickly; it’s a hermaphrodite and that means it can self-multiply.

Moreover, trumpet snails like to hide in the sand or whatever material is in the bottom of the fish tank, so once you have some, it is really hard to get rid of all of them.

However their population levels can be quite easily controlled by removing all but one that you see. However there are more positive aspects to this snail than negative aspects, so in the long run trumpet snails are a good choice.

One of the reasons as to why the trumpet snail is great for aquariums is because they eat algae like no tomorrow. If you have been cleaning algae out of your fish tank then this snail will take care of that for you. Another big problem that these freshwater snails solve is substrate aeration.

Deadly pockets of anaerobic gasses can build up in the substrate (sand or fine rocks at the base of the tank), and these things can kill fish.

Trumpet snails, because they like to burrow in the substrate, aerate it and release or decompose these deadly pockets of gasses so that they won’t kill your fish.

4. Ramshorn Snail

ramshorn snail

The only reason that people ever want this snail in their fish tanks is because it is very colorful and looks pretty neat. Other than their neat look there is no real reason to have these things in your fish tank.

These freshwater snails will eat algae, but they will also eat food, meaning that you need to feed your fish more in order to keep them well fed.

That being said, their numbers can be controlled by not over feeding the fish. However, this snail shouldn’t be in your fish tank because they are almost impossible to get rid of once they are there and there are other snails that will do the same job without eating all of the food.

5. Nerite Snails

nerite snail

Nerite snails are great to have in freshwater aquariums because they don’t actually reproduce in freshwater aquariums.

This is a big deal for many people, because many aquarium owners don’t get snails because many types reproduce far too quickly, but not the nerite snail.

Moreover, Nerite snails spend all of their time in search of algae on hard surfaces and in the substrate of the aquarium.

Nerite snails are some of the best fish tank cleaning snails around. They do enjoy eating dead plants, uneaten food, and even dead fish, but their favorite food by far is algae.

What is cool is that nerite snails come in all sorts of colors, but most of them will top out at around ½ inch in diameter. They are peaceful snails, so you should not have issues in terms of tank mates.

As for water hardness, pH, and temperature, it’s much the same as for all of the other freshwater snails we have taken a look at here today.

6. Rabbit Snail

These freshwater snails are pretty much useless to have in a freshwater fish tank.

First of all, Rabbit snails don’t really clean the tank very well because they don’t eat very much, so if anything they produce more waste than they get rid of.

Also, these freshwater snails reproduce in fresh water aquariums which means that they can over run it quite quickly and leave you with a big snail infestation.

Overall it’s best to avoid rabbit snails, and if they do somehow end up in your aquarium then remove them as they don’t bring any benefits to your tank.

7. Ivory Snail

People seem to enjoy the smooth and creamy white shell of the ivory snail. The Ivory Snail is another good community snail to put in a fish tank because they don’t multiply very quickly, they don’t eat aquarium live plants, and they don’t eat other freshwater snails.

They are very peaceful, and they don’t like causing trouble. Ivory snails are more than happy to eat algae and other leftovers like spare food. These freshwater snails are great for cleaning fish tanks, with leftover fish food being one of their favorite treats.

Keep in mind that these freshwater snails can get quite large, up to 2 inches in diameter, which for a snail is not small.

In terms of care, as long as these snails have enough space, they are not very high in maintenance. Yes, they will benefit from some added calcium in the water to make it a bit harder.

These freshwater snails need the water to be between 68 and 82 degrees, with a pH level between 7 and 7.5. In terms of lighting, normal community fish tank lighting will do just fine.

8. Japanese Trapdoor Snail

Japanese trapdoors snails, as you can tell, have their origins in Japan. Many people don’t know about these little snails, as they are not overly common, but they are increasing in popularity, with one reason for this being that these snails are very low maintenance.

These freshwater snails come in a variety of colors and color patterns, with green and brown being the most common.These freshwater snails are very low maintenance, and they really don’t require any special care.

They can survive in a very wide variety of water conditions, whether hardness, pH, or water temperature. They are not picky at all in this sense.

Japanese trapdoors snails are loved by aquarium enthusiasts, because they are great tank cleaners. They love feeding on dead fish, uneaten food, old plant matter, and more.

Also, people really love these little freshwater snails because they also love eating algae, thus reducing the need for you to clean unsightly algae.

9. Mystery Snail

Mystery snails are great freshwater snails to have because they love to feast on everything including uneaten food, algae, and other forms of debris found in fish tanks.

Do keep in mind that Mystery snails are herbivores, so while they will eat algae, live plants, and plant based foods, unlike many other snails, they will not eat dead fish.

One thing that needs to be said is that Mystery snails are good at escaping from fish tanks, so they are only recommended for fish tanks that have a lid on them.

Keep in mind that mystery snails need the water to be fairly hard, they need it to be fairly alkaline (pH of 7.6 to 8.4), with a water temperature between 68 and 84 degrees.

Mystery snails will grow to around 2 inches in diameter, which is not small, and they can come in many colors including blue, purple, gold and white, black, and brown.

Overall Mystery snails are very peaceful, so housing them with other tank mates should not be much of an issue.

10. Gold Inca Snail

Many people like the gold Inca snail, not only because of it’s golden yellow coloration with orange dots, but also because it is a great tank cleaner.

They have a huge appetite and they love to eat everything from algae and fish food, to vegetables as well. These are perhaps some of the best snails when it comes to keeping the tank clean, as they are voracious eaters.

Keep in mind that if these freshwater snails don’t find enough food they may begin to eat the live plants that are in the aquarium, but as long as they have enough algae and other food sources that shouldn’t be a problem. Also, they don’t multiply very quickly so that’s another bonus.

In terms of care, gold Inca snails are fairly low maintenance. One thing to note is that they require minimal to no ammonia and nitrite in the water.

Now, they do also like the water to be on the hard side of things, so a bit of added calcium won’t hurt. These freshwater snails need the water to be between 68 and 82 degrees, with a pH level between 7 and 7.5.

How To Care For Freshwater Snails

Freshwater Snails are indeed a very useful creature to have in any aquarium, especially because they clean up gunk and clean the glass at the same time.

However, one thing that many people don’t seem to consider is how to take care of them. Well, thankfully, taking care of freshwater snails is quite easy.

    • Feeding is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Generally speaking, the snails will just eat algae, plant matter in your aquarium, and maybe even some old food. If there is not enough food in the tank, simply provide them with some small fish parts or bottom feeder tablets.


    • Another thing to remember is that most freshwater snails require a balanced, neutral, and stable pH level, so be sure to always test and treat the water in your aquarium.


    • Something else to keep in mind is that no matter what, you should never have more than 20 snails in a 1 gallon tank, and that is if there are no fish present.


    • Moreover, most snails require the water temperature to be between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, so that is always something that needs to be regulated too.


  • Freshwater snails need a soft substrate as they have a soft underbelly, so they require soft sands, not gravel.

Commonly Asked Questions

What Is The Best Snail For An Aquarium?

There are lots of aquarium snail types out there dozens in fact, so choosing the best one for your fish tank can be a challenge.

If you are a beginner, one of the best types of snail to get is the nerite snail, as they are fairly easy to maintain and they do a great job at keeping aquariums clean too.

They look pretty cool and they love eating algae too. Some other good aquarium snails include assassin snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, and Japanese trapdoor snails.

Do Freshwater Snails Clean Fish Tanks?

Yes, in fact this is one of the main reasons why people get aquarium snails, because they do a pretty darn good job at cleaning fish tanks. More than anything, snails are known for eating several types of algae which can grow in aquariums.

Algae is not a good thing to have in a fish tank, and snails are little algae vacuums. There are some snails which eat a ton of algae and others which don’t like it so much, so if you want something to clean your tank, be sure to get the right kind of aquarium snail.

What Do Snails Eat In An Aquarium?

Well, more than anything, freshwater snails love to eat algae, which is a boon because fish tanks should not have algae in them. However, snails will also munch on other foods too, things such as certain aquatic live plants, some fruits and vegetables, and even food left by your fish.

They aren’t too picky in this sense and are really easy to feed. If you have a fair amount of algae growth in the fish tank, you might not even need to feed the freshwater snails at all.

How Long Do Aquarium Snails Live?

Now, this does somewhat depend on the type of aquarium snail you get, but generally speaking, they do all have fairly similar lifespans. In good water conditions, with lots of healthy food, an aquarium snail can live for up to 10 years, sometimes even a bit longer.

In the wild, freshwater snails don’t live too long because they often get eaten, but in aquariums, with no natural predators, anywhere from 3 to 10 years is possible.

What Do Snail Eggs Look Like?

Snail eggs look like little blobs of jelly. Snail eggs are fairly small, very small in fact, and they are usually always laid in clumps, which results in a patch of snail eggs that looks like a bunch of little jelly balls clumped together.

In terms of color, this will depend on the specific type of snail, but more often than not these eggs will be translucent, and you should be able to see some grey or brown matter on the inside, which is the baby snail.

How Many Snails In A 20 Gallon Tank?

What you need to know here is that how many freshwater snails you put in your aquarium depends not only on the size of the tank, but also on the amount of fish, plant matter, and other conditions too.

If you have lots of fish, and various factors which create larger algae blooms, you will need more freshwater snails.

Generally speaking, a 10 gallon tank will do fine with 2 freshwater snails, or even just 1, so a 20 gallon tank could handle around 3 or 4 snails, maybe 5 if you want a professional cleanup crew.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that the types of freshwater snails you get will depend on the fish tank, the fish, and the amount of cleaning that the tank needs.

For example, some people may want assassin snails to control the population of other snails, while some people may not want them because they only have beneficial snails.

The choice is really up to you in terms of which aquarium snails that you need.

Photo Credits;

Manchester Metropolitan University (Flickr CC), Eric Gillingham (Flickr CC), David Elliott (Flickr CC), Katty Fe(Flickr CC), TheJammingYam at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA

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