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Aquatic Snail Control

Last Updated: 4/12/12

Pros and Cons of Snails
Prevention of Adding Snails with Live Plants
Snail-Eating Fish
Killing Snails

Pros and Cons of Snails

Good Things About Snails:

Bad Things About Snails:

Prevention of Adding Snails with Live Plants

By soaking live plants before adding them to a tank, fewer snails will end up in the tank or pond. I used to treat all my plants to kill snails but ended up with snails anyway. Here are the methods to treat live plants. Never add these chemicals to an aquarium (except potassium permanganate is used as a medication at much lower doses). Treat the plants in a bucket or tub.

Note that for ponds, even if you never add a single snail or snail egg, wild animals can and will bring them to the pond. So, why fight it?

Snail-Eating Fish

Fish that eat snails are called malacophages. Most of these fish eat snails by crushing them in the back of their throats but puffers and some cichlids use their jaws and labryrinth fish (bettas, paradise fish, and gouramis) pull the snails out of their shells.

The following fish will eat squashed snails:

The following fish will eat appetizing snails like pond snails:

The following fish may eat snails in general if there is nothing better to eat:

Killing Snails

Sometimes small species of snails end up in aquariums or ponds when they are not wanted. They can breed into large colonies. Often, reducing the amount of food going into the system will keep their numbers in check. In ponds, goldfish, koi, and orfe may eat small snails such as the pond snail. In aquariums, certain loaches like the clown loach will eat small snails. Most fish will eat snails if their shells are broken open. See above for a list of fish purported to eat snails.

The simplest way to reduce snail numbers is to pick them out of the tank or pond by hand. Then, they can be broken for the fish to eat or thrown away.

Because most snail-killing chemicals also harm live plants and other invertebrates, they should be avoided. Also, when the snails die, there could be a large ammonia and nitrite spike due to all the decomposing bodies. In a fish-only tank or pond without sensitive fish, perhaps the chemicals could be used. The most common chemical used to kill snails is copper sulfate. It was sold as "Had-a-snail." Copper sulfate will kill all invertebrates including mollusks, crustaceans, and insect larvae.

Snails can be baited using the foods mentioned under feeding (lettuce and algae wafers are good baits). A few hours after the lights go out, remove the food which should be covered with snails.

For information on treating live plants, fake plants, and ornaments to rid them of snails before adding them to the tank or later, see my algae page.

As a last ditch effort, an aquarium can be torn down. See here for information on the steps to follow to disinfect everything. When doing this, remove all living animals and plants so they do not die. Instead of bleaching everything, one aquarist suggests adding straight ammonia (sold as a cleaner, be sure there are no extra ingredients) to read a level of about 50 ppm (using a test kit). Add it daily for about a week. Then, do a number of major or total water changes to reduce the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate down to low levels. In this manner, you can kill most living things in the tank without killing off all the good bacteria. This aquarist used it to kill snails and planaria which are flatworms. Remember, never do this with animals or plants that you want to survive still in the tank.

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