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Aquarium Snails - How To Eliminate An Infestation

Aquarium snails can multiply quickly and soon may become a problem. Learn how to avoid an infestation of aquarium snails with a few simple tips.


snail xs 8314304If you have been an aquarium hobbyist for a while, the chances are good that you have had your fair share of experience with aquarium snails. In small numbers these invertebrates can actually be useful in the home aquarium, but once their numbers begin to spiral out of control they can become a nuisance. Snails can multiply quickly and if you allow their population to grow it may soon reach an unmanageable level and you will have to take drastic action to rid your tank of these pests. You have no reason to fear, however, because there are a few simple things you can do to avoid this problem.

What Snails Do in the Aquarium 

aquarium-snailsSnails are invertebrates that feed on algae and accumulated fish food in your tank. In addition to uneaten fish food, snails also feed on decaying plant matter. While you may see snails on the leaves of your live plants, they will not likely do any damage unless the plant is already dying. The exception to this rule are Apple Snails and Mystery Snails who can, and will, munch on live plants form time to time. Healthy plants do, however, provide excellent places for snails to lay their eggs. These creatures can be very small as babies, making them hard to spot in the home aquarium. Over time, however, the snails will grow and multiply and you may find that you have hundreds of snails in your tank seemingly overnight.

Rinse or Soak New Live Plants

girl xs 6338701The most common way snails enter the home aquarium is on the leaves or roots of the aquarium plants you bring home from the pet store. Even if you do not see any aquarium snails, there may be eggs stuck to the leaves or hidden among the roots. Before putting any new plants into your aquarium, rinse them well and remove any visible snails by hand. As an extra precaution, you may choose to soak your aquarium plants in a saltwater bath for five to ten minutes and then rinse the plants again. Soaking your plants in saltwater for such a short period of time will not harm the plants, but it should be enough to kill any snail eggs stuck to the leaves or roots.

How to Kill Aquarium Snails

chemical 000011738372xsmallIf you notice a few unwanted snails in your aquarium, take action quickly in order to avoid an infestation. Pick snails off the glass and off your plants by hand as you see them and drop them into a cup of saltwater to kill them. If you have a large number of snails in your tank already this method could be very time consuming. In order to remove a large number of snails at once, try blanching a piece of lettuce in hot water, then drop it into your tank just before you go to bed at night. In the morning the lettuce will be covered with snails feeding on the decaying plant matter. Simply remove the lettuce from the tank, along with all the snails, and discard it.

Many pet stores offer chemical remedies for treating infestations of aquarium snails, but they should only be used as a last resort. These chemical remedies are designed to target invertebrates like snails, but they may also kill the beneficial bacteria in your tank. If you kill off all the nitrifying bacteria in your aquarium at once you may soon find that you have larger problems on your hands than a few unwanted snails.

Tips for Avoiding Overpopulation

fishfood xs 13102738Snails are scavengers that feed on the detritus in your aquarium. Detritus is simply another term for waste – the uneaten fish food and decaying plant matter that accumulates at the bottom of your tank. By reducing the amount of detritus in your aquarium you can reduce the amount of food available for snails which will make it more difficult for them to survive and multiply. Installing an adequate filter in your tank is one way to keep detritus under control. You should also avoid over-feeding your fish. Offer your fish only as much food as they can consume in three to five minutes so you do not have a lot of extra food sinking to the bottom of the tank.

Another way to control the snail population in your tank is to introduce a species of fish that feeds on snails. The Clown Loach is an example of a freshwater fish that eats snails. The simplest course of action, however, is to avoid letting your snail population get out of control in the first place. Prevention is definitely the best cure. If you do find some snails in your tank, do not panic. Simply employ some of these methods to reduce and control the  population of aquarium snails.

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