EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT NERITE SNAILS
You’ve spent hours assembling and decorating your freshwater aquarium – you’ve even gone through the length process of cycling the tank and slowly adding fish. Your tank is beautiful and thriving, but it may not stay that way for long unless you keep up with routine tank maintenance.
As an aquarium hobbyist, maintenance is absolutely essential for the wellbeing of your tank and your tank inhabitants, but you don’t have to do all the maintenance yourself. A freshwater cleanup crew of algae eaters and bottom feeders can take the weight off your shoulders and help you keep your tank clean and the water quality high. When it comes to freshwater cleanup crews, think beyond common options like Plecostomus and Corydoras catfish – consider the nerite snail.
Nerite snails are a versatile addition to the freshwater tank, and they are generally easy to maintain. Here’s everything you need to know about nerite snails.
The Basics About Nerite Snails
While nerite snails are most popular for their tank-cleaning abilities, they are also one of the more attractive and unique-looking freshwater snail species around. Nerite snails often exhibit bold stripes or barred patterns on their shells which is why several species are named after animals like the zebra or tiger. Nerite snails are incredibly peaceful, safe to keep with just about any species of fish, and because they require salt to reproduce there is very little risk that they will overpopulate a freshwater tank.
In addition to being quite colorful and attractive, nerite snails are very easy to care for in the freshwater tank. These snails are adaptable to a wide range of tank parameters. They prefer tropical water, however – between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit – and they prefer slightly alkaline water, around 7.5 on the pH scale. Keep in mind as well that nerites, like all snails, are sensitive to copper and other medications and that they may require supplemental calcium to maintain their shells.
Nerite snails do best in an established planted aquarium where the tank parameters have had time to stabilize. They can be sensitive to ammonia and high levels of nitrate, but they are generally pretty hardy. When properly cared for, nerite snails live about a year and they grow up to the size of a quarter, depending on the species. Size, color, and pattern varies from one species of nerite snail to another.
The Top 5 Most Popular Species
Most nerite snails are freshwater snails, though there are a few marine species which could be an option for a saltwater tank. Nerite snails belong to the family Neritidae, named after the Greek sea god Nerites. There are five subfamilies in the family Neritidae and about 110 species.
Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular species of nerite snail:
- Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis zebra) – This species is typically black and yellow in color with zebra-like stripes that point toward the center of the shell’s coil.
- Tiger Nerite Snail (Neritina turrita) – Similar in appareance to zebras, tiger nerites have a more intense orange coloration and more jagged stripes.
- Black Racer Nerite Snail (Neritina pulligera) – Named for their black coloration, these nerite snails also tend to move more quickly than other nerites.
- Olive Nerite Snail (Neritina reclivata) – One of the smaller species of nerites, olive nerites have an olive green shell with a black line around the coil.
- Horned Nerite Snail (Neritina clithon corona) – These nerite snails have very thick stripes and they grow horn-like spikes along the front of the shell.
For the most part, nerite snails are peaceful tank mates that do well in a community tank. You may want to avoid very large or aggressive species of fish, however, especially if your nerite snails are small – they may become prey for aggressive fish like loaches and even goldfish and certain cichlids.
Tips for Caring for Nerite Snails
While nerite snails are adaptable to a range of tank parameters, they generally prefer tropical temperatures with slightly alkaline, fairly hard water. Again, nerites prefer planted tanks and they are very active algae eaters. Keep in mind, however, that nerite snails are not a miracle cure for tank algae – neither should algae be their sole source of food. You’ll need to provide fresh blanched vegetables and sinking wafers from time to time to ensure your nerite snails are properly nourished.
Nerite snails do well in peaceful community tanks and you shouldn’t have a problem keeping more than one in the tank. Generally speaking, you can safely add 1 nerite snail per 5 gallons of water. This isn’t an exact science, but it should help you avoid overpopulating. Nerite snails generally don’t feed on live plants, but you should provide some green vegetables for them to eat when there isn’t enough algae. At the same time, you should avoid over-feeding because it could cause your snails’ shells to grow too quickly – this leaves the shell discolored and may cause it to weaken or crack.
Breeding Nerite Snails
Many aquarium hobbyists are concerned about having too many snails in their tank – they’re not trying to learn how to breed them. While pond snails and mystery snails have a reputation for breeding prolifically, it can be a little tricky to breed nerite snails. For one thing, nerite snails require brackish water to breed. Your nerite snails may still breed and lay eggs, but the larvae themselves require brackish water to survive.
If you notice your nerite snails have laid eggs, you can carefully scrape them off the tank surface and transplant them into a more appropriate tank. Keep in mind as well that while most snails reproduce asexually, nerite snails do not. Female nerite snails produce eggs and males fertilize them. After the eggs have been fertilized, they will be spread throughout the tank.
When nerite snail eggs first hatch, the young are incredibly small and delicate. It’s best to breed nerite snails in a tank set up with a sponge filter to avoid accidentally killing the snails. It’s also a good idea to acclimate your snails slowly to brackish conditions instead of introducing them to the breeding tank immediately. You can do this by filling the breeding tank one-third full of water from the original tank then slowly add brackish water over the course of several hours until the tank is full.
Are Nerite Snails Right for You?
Nerite snails make excellent algae eaters, but they aren’t the right choice for every tank. These snails do best in a peaceful community tank with stable tank parameters. Avoid keeping nerites with very large or aggressive fish and keep in mind that these snails like having a large volume of algae to eat – they don’t tend to thrive in a tank that is “too clean.”