Aquarium Snail Types: Meet the Right Match for Your Tank

Aquarium snails are like little underwater cleanup crew members, making them a super cool addition to any fresh or saltwater tank.

Updated December 4, 2023
Snail in an aquarium

these little wonders can make a big difference in both freshwater and saltwater tanks. With their unique features and perks, snails add a touch of tranquility and balance to your underwater haven. Whether you're a newbie or a seasoned tank enthusiast, there's a lot to discover about these slow-moving companions.

Need to Know

Snails are known for being prolific breeders, so you may want to find a single snail to suit your needs. Snails are hermaphroditic, so any two of the same type can breed.

Types of Freshwater Aquarium Snails

There are several species of snails suited for freshwater aquariums that can be easily found in popular pet stores. 

Quick Tip

Avoid online dealers and make sure to ask any store how your snails have been sourced and cared for to avoid introducing sick snails to your tank.

Apple Snails

There's this cool group of snails — around 100 to 200 of them — from the Ampullariidae family. They're not picky eaters; they munch on everyday veggies, stuff in the water like aquatic plants, and even fish food. But they're not really into algae. These are some big buddies, with the largest ones getting up to six inches across!

Apple snails can be considered pests in a plant tank. But if you're looking for a pretty snail, they are found in a variety of colors, including blue, yellow, or albino, making them a popular aquarium inhabitant.

Horned Nerite Snails

The horned nerite snail stands out with its cool look — it's got a shell with black and yellow swirls and tough little bumps that make it look like it's wearing a tiny horned helmet, which is how it got its name. These little guys, about 1/4-inch big, are awesome at chowing down algae. Plus, they won't breed in freshwater, so you don't have to worry about them taking over your tank like some other snail species might.

Malaysian Trumpet Snails

This species, scientifically known as Melanoides tuberculata, is very popular and is a good choice for a planted tank. These snails will not eat plants, ingesting only detritus and leftover food that has fallen into the substrate of the tank. When these snails burrow in their search for food, they will aerate the substrate. This is beneficial for planted tanks, as the process promotes air exchange and foot growth.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

The Malaysian trumpet snail has an elongated spiral shell and is tan with brown speckles. They usually reach 2 to 3 cm in length but can become larger. This snail species reproduces rapidly, and a sudden population explosion can indicate overfeeding in your tank.

Pond Snails

This group of snails also consists of a variety of species and is often thought of as an aquarium pest. Pond snails eat everything — leftover food, dead carcasses, algae, and live plants. They are great scavengers and will keep your tank clean, but they are disastrous inhabitants for a planted tank.

Pond snails are brown to yellow-brown in color and have round shells. They remain small, staying under 1/4 inch in diameter.

Ramshorn Snails

Ramshorn snails are a family that contains several small species. While ramshorn snails are often thought of as pests, they are not quite as likely to eat live plants as pond snails. According to hobbyist Jan at, these snails do a great job keeping an aquarium clean. They are scavengers and will eat leftover food or fish carcasses.

Ramshorn Snail

Many color varieties of Ramshorn snails can be found, including pink, blue, or brown. Their shells are spiral-shaped, and they lay eggs in a hard mucous.

Need to Know

The hard mucous can be difficult to remove from your aquarium.

Things to Avoid With Freshwater Species

If you want to keep your snails alive, you need to be aware of several threats to their health. The main threats to your slimy friends include:

  • Copper: Avoid the use of copper-based medications; these are toxic to most invertebrates.
  • Keep these fish away: Do not keep snails with clown loaches, some smaller loaches, gouramis, freshwater pufferfish, or certain species of catfish.
  • No assassins: Avoid assassin snails (Antentome helena) because they will eat other species of snails. This medium-sized invertebrate can also be kept as your sole type of snail, feeding on detritus in the substrate if no other snails are available.

Types of Saltwater Snails

Saltwater aquariums are more complicated and offer more diversity in your choice of species. Make sure that you evaluate any species of snail in relation to your particular tank's setup and parameters. These following species are popular additions that are suitable for most saltwater tanks.

Astrea Snails

This group of snails has a big appetite and prefers to eat hair algae, although they will also consume diatoms, green film, and cyanobacteria. Hobbyist Joe Jaworski reports that Astrea snails cannot right themselves, and if they fall upside down, they will starve and die.

Astrea Snail

Margarita Snails

These snails are popular in tanks because they feed on large amounts of algae, particularly hair algae. Margarita snails, scientifically known as Margarites pupillus, are brown and have a smooth, twisted shell. According to, these snails grow as large as 1 inch in diameter and are safe to house with corals, other invertebrates, or other tank mates.

Margarita snails prefer somewhat cooler water temperatures, so they are not always a great choice for a tropical reef tank. However, for those keeping a cold saltwater tank at less than 70 degrees, this is a good choice of snail.

Cerith Snails

Cerith snails are less commonly found in the pet trade but are gaining in popularity. These snails comprise species from several families but are all similar in appearance and shape. These snails are fans of hard surfaces and actually munch on sand. Inside their gut, they sort out the good stuff, like bacteria and microalgae, for food and then spit out the sand. 

Cerith Snail Close Up

Nassarius Snails

These attractive snails are native to the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. They are brown with a reticulated pattern over an elongated shell. This family of snails is a great scavenger and burrows through the substrate to eat detritus.

Fast Fact

Since they burrow in the sand, they're great at aerating the substrate in your tank. 

Saltwater Snails to Avoid

Many types of snails are predatory and will harm other inhabitants of your aquarium. The following species are predatory or harmful and should be avoided:

  • Bumble bee snail
  • Murex snails
  • Ilynassa obsoleta
  • Crown conchs
  • Keyhole limpets
  • Olive snails
  • Babylonian snails

Basic Requirements and Care for Aquarium Snails

For both freshwater and saltwater tanks, your snails require little special care if you are adding them to an established tank. According to Petco's Care Sheet, freshwater snails need the following basic care:

  • Water: Stable water quality and temperature
  • Food: Algae, plant material, or debris to eat
  • Supplementation: Supplement feeding with algae pellets or lettuce
  • Security: Keep a tight-fitting lid on the aquarium (several species of snails can escape a tank)
  • Calcium: Use hard water when possible (shell growth and maintenance require calcium)
  • Freshness: Maintain water changes as required for fish
Need to Know

Saltwater snails have similar needs, but you should research any specific species that you would like to keep.

Aquarium Benefits of Keeping Snails

One of the main reasons why aquarium hobbyists keep snails is to help maintain a clean tank. Different species of snails each have individual feeding habits, which determine how they will keep your tank clean. If you're looking for a snail to clean something in particular, search for:

  • Snails that eat algae
  • Snails that eat vegetation and live plants
  • Snails that eat dead plant matter
  • Snails that burrow and aerate your substrate

Avoid Accidental Hitchhiker Snails

Snails are not always desired in a tank, as some can be more harmful than helpful, especially to live plants. This depends on the species of snail and the type of tank that you have. To avoid the accidental introduction of undesirable snails, clean and disinfect any new plants before adding them to your aquarium.

Feeding Different Types of Aquarium Snails

Snails do not necessarily need to be fed beyond what algae is present in your tank. For larger populations of snails relative to the amount of algae, this will be needed if you choose to keep the same population of snails. Carolina Biological Supply Company recommends you use dechlorinated and conditioned water whenever you perform a water change. 

Quick Tip

Blanched zucchini slices can be added to your aquarium if your snails are lacking in food.

Pick a Snail That Has What You Need

With a complete knowledge of your aquarium type, water parameters, and other inhabitants, you can make the best choice when selecting which snails to add to your tank. Whether you are looking for an algae-eating species, a scavenger to keep the substrate clean, or merely an attractive and interesting invertebrate, there is certain to be a type of snail to meet your needs.

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Aquarium Snail Types: Meet the Right Match for Your Tank