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How to Rid Your Aquarium of Snails
Last updated: Mar 24, 2002
Snails do a good job of cleaning up algae and food your fish leftover. However, snails are prolific breeders. They eat and breed, eat and breed. What's worst, since the reproduce asexually, they don't need a partner to reproduce. In other words, they can breed themselves. If the conditions are favourable, they will surely over run your tank. Too much snails can become pest, especially in a planted aquarium, as they will happily devour your favourite plants. Common snails you will find are pond snails and ramshorn nails (ramshorn shown in photo). You don't even have to buy them, they just seem to appear out of nowhere into your tank. Since they lay their eggs on plants, they probably hitched a ride on the plants you bought at the pet shop. But how do you get rid of the pesky buggers? Removing them individually is out of the question as well as next to impossible. Here are a few strategies you can try:
Use food against them
The idea is to lure the snails onto a piece of food they like and then pull them out. A slice of cucumber is my personal weapon of choice. You can leave cucumber in your tank without worrying about it contaminating the water. Some people also use lettuce and soften it first with hot water. Weight down the slice of cucumber or piece of lettuce in the bottom of the tank at night. By the morning, you should have collected a colony of hungry (or "licorish") snails. Remove the cucumber or lettuce and discard the snails.
Tip: You can tie a piece of white string to the food and use it to pull the food from the water in the morning. The dye in coloured string maybe hazardous to your fish.
Use the snails as food
If your fish only knew how to get those tasty morsels out of the shells, they would gladly eat them. The shells of pond snails are fairly soft. Although it sounds gross, you can crush them between your fingers and feed them to your fish. However you decide to crush them, just remember they are very nutritious and live food helps encourage your fish to breed.
Get fish that can eat them
OK, so crushing them is too gross for you to handle. Why not get some fish that can do it themselves? The problem here is that if they are strong enough to crush a snail, what would they do to your other fish? These type of fish are usually aggressive and may present you with a new problem. Clown Loaches are well known for eating snails. They actually suck them out and not crush them. The fish that will do the crushing is a Pufferfish. Pufferfish actually need hard foods to grind down their teeth to prevent them from growing too long. Some species of cichlids and catfish will eat snails as well. Some fish may not be able to eat the snails, but they can eat the snails' eggs (which too are protected by a hard coating). Siamese fighters will take care of the eggs for you.

To prevent snail from flourishing, you need to reduce their food supply. Not overfeeding you fish prevents the snails from getting leftovers. Snails primary natural food source is algae. Overfed fish produce more excrement (poop), which in turn provides the nourishment for the algae to grow.

To reduce the chance of getting snails in the first place, when purchasing plants, remove the snail eggs by gently rubbing the plant with your fingers. This is easier said than done since the eggs are often transparent.


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