A harmless bladder (or pond) snail
Isn't he cute?
So the debate goes on, whether snails are good or bad for a tank. The snails that seem to "pop up" in your tank unannounced are mostly harmless to fish and plants. It's the big ones that you buy (apple snails, or mystery snails are one example) which have a tendency to munch on your live plants. Snails mainly eat detritus (fish wastes), dying vegetation, and algae.
Some problems people have with snails are mostly unfounded. They claim that snails are carriers of diseases and parasites that will affect your fish. The truth is that this is only the case with open ponds, where snails may act as intermediary hosts to certain parasites that come from birds feces. Unless you have some birds flying around your fish room you probably need not worry about that. Another claim is that snails will eat all your plants. Only the larger snail species do this, mostly what people see are their little snails eating leaves which are nearly dead. These are leaves that they would have to pluck out of the tank in a week anyway, so the snails are doing them a service! They also eat algae and uneaten fish food, so what are we all complaining about??
Most small snails are harmless to fish and plants. In fact, they can serve a purpose.
Another thing that snails are good for is helping you monitor the waste buildup in your tanks. If you suddenly have a population explosion of snails, that means there is an abundance of organic waste for them to feed on. This is a clue that the tank needs more vigorous cleaning and a lighter feeding regiment for the fish. If the Malaysian Trumpet Snail is seen staying away from the substrate (where it commonly burrows into during the day), there's a chance that all the waste in your gravel has turned sour and poisonous. Time for a gravel vacuuming!
|No pic yet||Malaysian Trumpet Snails|
|No pic yet||Apple Snails|
|No pic yet||Mystery Snails|
Since snails do serve a useful purpose, I hesitate to tell anyone to remove them. If there is a population explosion, then it would most likely be better to have them removed and just keep a few around to maintain the benefits snails give us. Of course the preventative measures must be taken to make sure you don't get another huge batch of snails.
Good prevention is getting
rid of these egg masses.
Chemical methods for killing snails may cause a massive die-off, which can quickly pollute your water.
Bladder snails being friendly
with each other...
Keeping the larger snails such as Apple snails means keeping them fed with greens such as a spinach leaf once a week or so. The little snails usually have enough to eat from the algae in the tank itself. If you have a low-light situation and don't grow live plants then putting in a small piece of zucchini or spinach will also allow the smaller snails to snack on some greens which they love.
The main trick to keeping snails alive is to not eradicate them through chemical means. Sometimes this is done unknowingly. Most anti-parasite medications will harm snails. Keep products containing copper away from the tank (or remove the snails before using them.) Other than this, snails are fairly hardy and thrive in a varying degree of water conditions.
I hope this article allowed you to see the various benefits that snails give us fishkeepers and that they aren't as bad as some people say. As with most animals, they just do what they do, it's not their fault! As custodians of the fishtank we must make sure that things don't get out of hand with snails and that they will be kept in check.