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Do Snails Eat Brown Algae? (And How to Choose the Right Snail)

Do Snails Eat Brown Algae? (And How to Choose the Right Snail)

The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.

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Algae is the cause of much time and money spent cleaning up fish tanks to get rid of the unsightly mess. New aquarium owners quickly conclude that they need to find another way to clean up algae than manually scooping it up and scrubbing it off surfaces.

One of the ways they may consider getting rid of algae is to find some aquatic species that eat algae. Snails are one of the water-loving creatures that may be used.

Nerite snails are the most efficient algae-eating snails for freshwater tanks. They eat many types of algae, including brown algae. They are hardy snails and can live for a few years. Ramshorn snails, Malaysian trumpet snails and mystery snails all eat brown algae.

It may be a surprise that you need to know about snails when you decide to start keeping fish. Unfortunately, like ants at a picnic, algae has a way of becoming an uninvited guest in your aquarium. This is where a knowledge of snails becomes useful.

How Do I Know I Have Brown Algae in My Fish Tank?

Brown algae, also known as diatoms, is often found in aquariums or fish tanks. It starts off looking like a dusting of brown powder on your fish tank substrate and plants. The brown deposits gradually become more pronounced until everything in the fish tank is covered in brown slime.

How Do I Choose The Right Snail for My Aquarium?

Snails, like all aquatic species, need specific environments in which to live. It would be best if your choice of snail complements the conditions in your fish tank.

If you need to eradicate algae, choose a snail that eats the kind of algae taking over your aquarium. Another consideration is the fish you keep in your tank. Predatory fish may quickly gobble up a tiny snail, defeating the purpose of getting a snail.

Several species of snails eat brown algae.

  1. Ramshorn snails
  2. Mystery snails
  3. Malaysian Trumpet snails
  4. Nerite snails

Although all four snails eat brown algae, you need to consider some additional factors when choosing a snail for your aquarium.

Ramshorn and Malaysian trumpet snails are prolific breeders and can easily take over your whole tank. This can be problematic as there will be a lot of snail excrement. The food supply in a fish tank is limited, so many snail babies will die and foul the aquarium as they decay.

Mystery snails are attractive and eat brown algae, but their performance is outclassed by nerite snails.

Do Nerite Snails Eat Brown Algae?

Nerite snails are probably the best snail for eating brown algae and cleaning up your tank. They are known for eating a wide range of algae which is an added advantage in keeping them.

These snails maintain the aquarium by rapidly eating algae. They are known as being part of the aquarium clean-up crew.

What Do Nerite Snails Look Like?

Nerite snails are attractive snails that come in a variety of colors. The Zebra nerite has a shell that has black zebra stripes on a golden yellow background.

Black racer nerite snails have grooves in the shell that run parallel to the shell opening. They are usually brown but may have areas that are gold, gray, or black.

Tiger nerite snails have smooth light brown shells that are decorated with black tiger stripes or black spots.

They are relatively small snails, usually only about one inch long. Nerite snails are peaceful, law-abiding citizens in a fish tank and seldom cause any trouble.

Their small size and gentle natures make them vulnerable to aggressive or predatory fish so keep this in mind when matching fish and snails in your aquarium.

How Do I Care For a Nerite Snail?

Nerite snails have relatively thick shells, but these shells can weaken if the pH of the aquarium water is incorrect. They can survive in water that has a pH between 6.8 and 8.5 without having any health issues.

The water temperature should be between 65° – 85° F (18° – 29° C). The carbonates and bicarbonates (KH) in the water should be 12 to 18. In ideal conditions, these snails live up to two years or more.

Nerite snails have an Achilles heel when it comes to handling. If the snail is dropped into the water and lands on its back, it struggles to right itself and can die in this position. Always handle your nerite snail carefully, either allowing it to suction onto the glass or placing it in an upright position on the tank floor.

How Much Space Does a Nerite Snail Need?

Nerite snails can be introduced to a ten to twenty-gallon fish tank. The size of the tank is not as important as the amount of food available for the snails. It is critical to remember that the snails need enough algae to feed on.

One small spot of algae should not prompt you to go and buy several snails. It is always best to start with one snail and assess how the snail is coping with the quantity of algae in the tank.

Snails also excrete waste into the fish tank and overstocking a fish tank can cause problems resulting in too much snail excrement.

My Nerite Snail Died After Only One Week – Did I Do Something Wrong?

A mistake that is commonly made when setting up an aquarium is to introduce snails straight away. The problem is that there is no algae available for the snail to eat, so the snail starves to death.

New fish tank owners buy their stock and include a nerite snail, only to have the snail die within a week. Allow at least three to four weeks or sometimes a bit longer before introducing a snail, as this gives algae a chance to begin growing so that the snail has food.

Final Thoughts

Nerite snails are the best snail to put in your aquarium if you have a problem with brown algae. They are efficient brown algae eaters and will eat other types of algae, which is an advantage. They are easy to keep and do not grow too large or reproduce in your fish tank.

Other snails can be used to eat brown algae, but they have added complications and are not as efficient in eliminating algae.