By Jeremy Richards on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 in Basic Aquariums
Snails are a common feature in Gilbert freshwater aquariums; sometimes as large and colorful tropical residents, other times as dedicated algae eaters and gravel aerators, and far too frequently as tiny menaces that threaten the condition of your aquarium.
It is common to intentionally introduce snails to an aquarium to help clear up problems. Nerite snails are known to eat large amounts of algae, cleaning off tank walls, decorations, and even the leaves of plants without resorting to chemical intervention or large amounts of manual labor to remove the problem.
Apple snails come in many colors and make attractive tank mates that slowly glide across your tank with their large, six inch shell diameter. Malaysian Trumpet Snails are popular for planted tanks as they burrow through your substrate, introducing nutrients and releasing gas buildup near your plants roots, while eating algae, decayed plant matter, and animals that have died.
These are all excellent uses for snails, but many species of snail can breed excessively when too much food is available, causing all the problems of an overpopulated tank, while also destroying any live plants your may have decorating your tank.
So how do you remove these mini-menaces from your tropical tank?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes- and many fish keepers vigorously practice snail prevention through manual or chemical methods of keeping their tank healthy. The most common way snails are introduced accidentally to an aquarium is by the purchase of new plants. Both tiny snails and snail eggs can frequently be found on live plants, and the best way to prevent adding them to a new tank’s population is by “dipping” new plants before they enter the aquarium.
There are a variety of dip recipes you can use to kill snails and snail eggs from your new plants. Be aware that though most plants are not harmed by these dips, some sensitive plants may be damaged. Be sure to wash your plants thoroughly after any dip, as these chemicals are not safe for inside your aquarium!
Snail eating fish are a great way to remove snails from a tank without a lot of extra effort. Freshwater puffers eat snails, but as adults are generally deeply anti-social and prefer brackish water. Young puffers work well, but you need a plan for what will happen when they grow up. Most loaches will eat snails, as will some types of cichilds. Yo-Yo loaches, clown loaches, and zebra loaches are all fairly community-tank friendly snail eaters. If you are interested in fighting fire with fire, assassin snails are popular and attractive snails that reproduce slowly and eat other snails. Just two or three of these burrowing predators can clear an infested tank in a matter of a few weeks.
Introducing a sinking fish food on a saucer, or weighing down a wide diameter item like lettuce can entice hidden snails out to be easily captured and disposed of. The manual methods are time and labor intensive, but you can choose to either remove and throw away these snails, or crush them against the glass, making them easy picking for your hungry fish.
There are chemical additives you can add to your tank that are marketed as snail killers. These frequently contain copper, as invertebrates are very sensitive to copper levels, but can cause harm to your plants and animals. Be careful before dosing your tank.
The Happy Fish is your Gilbert aquarium expert and can assist you with troubleshooting your tank. Before choosing a method of remedying your snail overload, contact us today to learn more about your tank and which options are best for your particular situation.