Aquarists know how important snails are to a community tank. Their ability to solve the algae problem makes them ideal candidates for a cleaning crew membership.
Although their virtues are revered by many, they still have some vices, especially in outrageous numbers.
Last year I got three pairs of apple snails for my community tank. However, only after a month did I notice more than just three. Trust me – there were more than 50 of them ravaging all over my tank!
So, how did all these snails sneak into my aquatic sanctuary?
After weeks of hands-on experience and information gathered through reliable sources, I finally realized how these once-loved-but-now-pesky rebels infiltrated my tank.
Today in this article, I will shed light on how snail refugees can creep into your fish tank and stay visa-free.
How Did A Snail Get In My Fish Tank?
Baby snails will enter a fish tank by attaching themselves to live plants. Their size is minuscule enough for us to not take notice. Some species like the mystery snail can hold sperm in their system for more than 9 months, which explains the endemic outbreak in your tank even without the presence of any male snails.
Snails do not appear out of thin air. We might be in the dark, but we are the ones responsible for their unannounced appearance.
And their ability to repopulate at a rate of knots is a valid explanation for why there are hordes of them in such a short span.
Besides these primary entry points, there are multiple loopholes these snails exploit and slip into the fish tank.
Some of them are:
Snail Eggs Are Elusive To Human Eyes
The pygmy size of snail eggs is nearly invisible to our naked eyes. Therefore, when buying live plants for the fish tank, you need to scrutinize the plants for any traces of snail eggs.
Most snail eggs are transparent. In addition to that, snails tend to lay their eggs in obscure places to evade predators. For example, they ingeniously lay eggs on the undersides of plant leaves.
Furthermore, did you know that baby snails also are tiny enough to evade us? These microscopic foot-draggers use their “foot,” which secretes mucus that serves as an adhesive, helping them stick their body to the plant.
So, if there are unwelcomed snail species in the tank, it is likely that they entered when you got live plants.
Snails Hold Sperm For Longer Duration
Some species like mystery snails can hold sperm in their body for up to 9 months. So, even if you ordered only female snails and they still bear you unsolicited offspring, this could be the reason why.
On top of that, snails breed in quick succession – leading to snail infestation in the first place.
Pond snails and ramshorn snails are two species notorious for overpopulating your tank within weeks.
Many Snail Species Are Asexual And Hermaphrodite
By definition, asexual means the type of reproduction that doesn’t involve the fusion of gametes or change in the number of chromosomes.
To put it in simpler terms, asexual snails do not need any mating partner to fertilize the eggs inside their body. Instead, they can reproduce on their own.
The Malaysian trumpet snail is one such species that can fertilize itself and ensure the passage of its lineage.
This means that if you keep a single Malaysian trumpet snail in your tank and there’s no other snail for matchmaking, it can still multiply. How interesting is that?
Next comes the hermaphrodite snails. These snails boast of having both male and female reproductive organs. There is no clear distinction between a male and a female in such species.
So, if you bought a couple of male bladder snails and thought to yourself that you are safe, oh boy, are you mistaken. Wait till the 3rd week.
Thus, these are some reasons why snails find their way into your fish tank.
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How Do You Prevent Snail Getting In Your Tank?
Prevention is better than cure. This is why you need to make sure snails do not come through the main highway – by attaching themselves to plants.
To prevent their entry, you should soak the plants in alum for a couple of days (2 to 3). Or, you can soak them in a bleach solution for 10 minutes. You can also use potassium permanganate.
Get a gallon of water and mix 2 spoons of potassium alum in it. Soak the newly brought plants in it for 2 to 3 days. Rinse them well before placing them in the tank.
Bleach is a potent compound capable of killing any snails and their eggs. So, a cup and a half of bleach in a gallon of water will be concentrated enough to make an effective soaking solution.
Soak your plants only for about 5 minutes at max.
Not all plants can withstand long exposure to bleach solutions. So, do not overdo it.
Potassium Permanganate Solution
This is the same solution used as an antiseptic agent on infected areas while dressing.
Pour half a tablespoon of potassium permanganate solution into a gallon of water to make a soaking solution. Soak the plants for about 20 minutes. Then, rinse them properly before planting them in the tank.
How To Control Snail Infestation In Your Tank?
If you were too late to detect the arrival of these invaders, you better be ready for what’s waiting for you. You can control snail infestation in your tank by providing less food and starving them, putting up snail traps, or manually picking them out. Many aquarists even opt to add some snail-eating residents in the tank.
Starve The Pest Snails
Snails are voracious eaters, which is why you should limit their food intake. The lesser the feeding opportunities, the lesser they breed.
It is essential to regulate the amount of feed you give your fish, too. Doing this will reduce the waste they produce. So, there won’t be a food supply for these scavengers to rely on.
Only provide quality live, frozen, and dried food, which is most likely to be devoured whole by your fish.
Control Algae Growth
Snails thrive on algae. If you want to halt the growth of pest snails, you must get rid of algae in your fish tank.
Snails are hardy animals and will survive on just algae even if they do not get their hands on remnants from your fishes’ diet. That’s why you need to time and again scrub algae off the glass.
If you notice that polluted substrate is the cause behind algae growth, use an aquarium siphon to vacuum it.
Remove Snails Manually
If you feel like things are getting out of hand, you will have to get your hands dirty. Use a stainless blade to scrape off the eggs from the driftwood and plants.
Although this method works for almost all pest snails, some snails lay eggs in an unusual way. One such example is the nerite snail.
Unlike other freshwater snails who lay their eggs in clutches, nerite snails will disperse their eggs all over the tank. This can make the idea of scraping eggs manually cumbersome.
So, think beforehand if you plan to get nerite snails for your cleaning crew.
Adding Males Only
If you want to keep snails but not too many of them, you need to follow this technique. Having male snails only in the tank will prevent proliferation.
However, you should be aware that many snails are hermaphrodites with both male and female reproductive organs. Therefore, they can mate with each other irrespective of their sexes and bear offspring.
And some snail species are asexual. They do not need any partners to produce babies. These are the types of snails that build a colony in your tank within days.
So, you need to be thoroughly informed about the snail species you will house in your fish tank.
Use Of Snail Trap
Not all snails come out in broad daylight. Some, like the Malaysian trumpet snail, only come out at nighttime. So, it will be harder for you to locate and take them out manually.
You need to devise a full-fledged plan to remove these enigmatic pests. Here’s how you do it:
Place a large cucumber inside the tank. I have seen many hobbyists suggesting leaves and plants, but I think this plan works better with a cucumber.
Leave the cucumber overnight. By the next morning, you will notice swarms of sneaky snails feasting on the cucumber. Now, remove the snails along with cucumber scraps.
Using Snail-Eating Inhabitants
Snails are slow and make easy prey. So, it will be wise to add some predators that can help you control their outbreak.
Here is a list of snail-eating inhabitants to help you control the snail population in your tank:
- Assassin snail
- Pea puffer
- Lizard catfish
- Dwarf chain loach
- Amano shrimp
- Yoyo loach
- Striped raphael catfish
- Clown loach
- Bala shark
- Cory catfish
- Betta fish
Final Words: How Did A Snail Get In My Fish Tank?
Most aquarists do not realize they have snails until they see a legion of them coming out of the substrate underneath. Some snails hide behind plant leaves and will only come out if there’s a food shortage.
After experiencing it on my own and reading other fish keepers’ testimonies, I now know that these pest snails infiltrate tanks by attaching themselves to the plants.
So, nowadays, I use a bleaching solution, which is the fastest method to clear out snail eggs from the plants before planting them in the tank. But, even if I miss a spot, the bleach’s chemical composition makes the eggs infertile.