What Do Freshwater Snails Eat? A Complete List

Jun 20, 2022

What do freshwater snails eat?

I am sure you have heard a zillion times that freshwater snails make an excellent addition to the tank’s cleaning crew – thanks to their insatiable appetite for algae. 

But besides algae, have you ever wondered what other foods your freshwater snails would want on their menu? Do they enjoy the same food that land snails love? 

You might have heard or read that not much attention is needed for these scavengers. Apparently, they can sustain on their own. But how true is that? Can they survive by themselves?

Enough questions. It’s time you and I get our hands dirty. 

What Do Freshwater Snails Eat?

Freshwater snails eat algae (cyanobacteria), plants, vegetables, fruits, leftover fish diet, pellets, algae wafers, mineral rocks, carrions, fish poop, and fellow snails. According to Britannica, there are more than 5000 different freshwater snail species alone. So, we can’t generalize the answer for everyone.

Considering the large volume of these species, we will divide them into four categories based on their diet. 

We can categorize them into:

  • Herbivores
  • Carnivores
  • Omnivores
  • Detrivores

Let’s begin our discussion with what herbivore snails eat.

Plants

Unlike terrestrial snails, freshwater snails aren’t keen on consuming aquatic plants. Therefore, they seldom consume macrophytes present in your aquarium. 

Macrophytes are plants that you can see with the naked eye. Java fern, anubias, hornwort, moneywort, pygmy chain sword, and other hydrophytes come under this list. 

Nevertheless, your snails can consume the dead leaves of a rotting plant. It is uncommon for freshwater snails to eat healthy plants. 

However, there have been sightings of rabbit snails munching on java fern.

Furthermore, research has revealed that snails’ presence negatively affects aquatic plants’ growth.

Algae

Most hobbyists get snails for this sole purpose – to get rid of algae. However, there are more than a few kinds of algae, and not all freshwater snails eat every kind.

That is why you must get a merry band of snails that feed on different types of algae to get yourself a complete cleaning crew. This way, you will be able to control the algae growth and keep your snails fed and happy.

So, why algae? What makes snails love them that much?

Algae is a great source of protein and carbohydrates, which it stores in the form of starch. This makes algae nutritious for snails. Additionally, most algae are soft enough for a snail’s minuscule radula to tear and consume easily. 

Vegetables And Fruits

Vegetables are something that snails can’t stop getting their hands on (though they don’t have hands). There was a time when apple snails terrorized Hongkong’s agriculture industry. 

These snails invaded the streams and agricultural lands and consumed spinach leaves and several other semi-aquatic vegetables. 

So, why do snails eat vegetables? 

The research done in Hongkong showed that freshwater snails prefer vegetables because they contain more phosphorus and nitrogen, which are necessary for the gastropods’ development. Moreover, these two elements are directly tied to snails’ reproducing ability.

You now know why freshwater snails crave vegetables. 

You Might Also Like To Read:

How To Get Rid Of Snail Eggs ( Garden And Aquarium Snail Eggs)

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What Types Of Vegetables Will Freshwater Snails Eat?

Freshwater snails will eat every kind of vegetable. To name a few, they enjoy cucumber, tomato, carrots, peas, lettuce, spinach, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, brinjal, and gourd. Before serving, chop them or shred them into tiny pieces. 

Do Freshwater Snails Like Fruits?

Fruit is another food your freshwater snails won’t say no to. They consume every kind of fruit. So you can give them apples, oranges, pineapples, watermelons, pears, bananas, and berries. 

Carnivores

The number of carnivore snails is fewer compared to herbivores. Most carnivore snails dwell either on land or at sea. So, the list gets narrower when we talk about freshwater carnivore snails.

The infamous assassin snail is the only carnivore snail in the freshwater category that we can think of right off the bat. 

Their diet entails other snails, worms, dead fish, insects, and smaller invertebrates. 

Omnivores

Most aquarium snails are omnivores. Popular pet snails like the mystery snail, apple snail, nerite snail, and ramshorn snail are all omnivores. 

Not only do they scavenge for leftovers on the substrate, they rely on algae, too. Plus, commercial food is also something they won’t refuse. 

Detritivores

Although snails do not particularly indulge in consuming detritus worms only, I have made this a separate category just so you understand how important they are for these freshwater critters. 

Snails are good at decomposing and maintaining the nutrient cycle. They do it by consuming organic matter, especially decayed parts of plants and carrions in the aquarium. Thanks to them, you don’t have to get rid of fish poop as much as you’d need to.

Now that we’ve discussed what foods herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and detritivore snails eat, let’s dive deeper.

Food For Aquarium Freshwater Snails

We begin with organic food like vegetables and fruits.

Organic Food

  • Algae
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Plant leaves
  • Pest snails
  • Carrions

Algae

Algae is the first choice for many snails. They graze all over the tank for it. The nutrient-rich algae have a soft texture, making it a perfect meal for them.

If you want to promote algae growth to create a self-sustaining environment for your snails, I’d suggest growing green algae – not red, brown, or blue. 

Green algae are the best kind of algae you can get your hands on. If you’ve seen it growing in your aquarium, it is a sign that your aquarium has excellent water quality. 

But excessive algae isn’t good either, especially if you have fish together with the snails. Algae are great at absorbing nutrients from the water and can possibly deprive your fish of the necessary nutrients.

Vegetables And Fruits

Snails eat every kind of fruit and vegetable. Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables you can feed your freshwater snails but are not limited to:

  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Carrot
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Sweet potato
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Watermelon
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Guava

Despite having loads of nutritional benefits, there is one problem with giving vegetables and fruits to your slimy pals. It is that they do not sink deep enough for your little scavengers to devour them.

So, How Do You Make Vegetables Sink In An Aquarium?

  • First, peel off the cover or rind of the vegetable. This helps remove any pesticides or additives. 
  • Next, cut them into slices or tiny pieces.
  • Then you boil them for about 5 to 10 minutes to kill harmful pathogens if there are any.
  • Now, you simmer them in cold water. This is done so the veggies will sink to the bottom when put into the tank. 

So, does it mean that vegetables and fruits are safe for snails?

Yes, fruits and vegetables are not only safe but also provide the most filling and nutritious diet to your critters. 

Plant Leaves

Freshwater snails munch on leaves of moringa, spinach, pawpaw, and several other plants. 

The giant catappa Indian almond leaves are also favorite of your freshwater buddies. Although they do not eat these leaves, they serve as a platform for biofilms to grow. 

Pest Snails

I have put pest snails on this list because some of you may have assassin snails in your care. Your killer snails like to eat other snails more than anything. They are carnivores and will not settle for anything less. 

Most snails breed at an exceptional rate, so it is unlikely that their population will be completely decimated by your killers. Hence, you need not worry about raising them alongside your assassins.

You can also raise these pests in a separate tank and grow them as a feeder diet. However, you need to be extra careful, for they can quickly become unmanageable. 

Carrions

Snails are enlisted in the tank’s cleaning crew for a reason. They will gobble down everything from leftovers to dead fish. So, do not be surprised if your snails hover over a dead fish in the tank. 

They help decompose the carcass and maintain a healthy water cycle. 

But if your snails avoid the carrion, remove it immediately to prevent an ammonia spike. 

Commercial Food For Snails

  • Algae discs
  • Algae wafers
  • Pellets
  • Mixed food
  • Mineral rocks

Algae Discs

Algae disc is a popular commercial food among fishkeepers. The great thing about the disc is that it sinks quickly and has lots of beneficial nutrients necessary for your snails. 

Some ingredients in the algae disc are fish, wheat bran, soybean, gluten flour, dried plankton, vegetables, and stabilized vitamins. So you could say this is a wholesome diet for every snail species.

Algae Wafers

The Algae wafer is similar to an algae disc. Even the ingredients are identical. However, some algae wafers can take time to sink. But eventually, they will. 

Different algae wafer manufacturers use different compositions. For example, some incorporate spirulina, and some use prawn meat to make it protein-rich. 

Check out these algae wafers for your little friends.

Pellets

Similar to fish pellet, snail pellet is another source of all-round nutrition for your little friends. Once dropped in the water, they will swell and sink to the bottom. 

These swollen pellets soften up right away and instantly release a strong odor that you might hate, but your snails love them.

Mixed Food

Sometimes our snails, too, deserve a home-cooked meal. This is when you can put your cooking skills to the test. 

Here’s a recipe from miss ekyllslife that I follow.

Although it is specially made for land snails, my aquatic pals love it, too.

Ingredients: 

  • Dog food (100 gm or 0.22 lbs.)
  • Mealworms (2 gm or 0.0044 lbs.)
  • Sesame seed (1gm or 0.0022 lbs.)
  • Lin seed (1 gm or 0.0022 lbs.)
  • Sunflower seed (1 gm or 0.0022 lbs.)
  • Pumpkin seed (1gm or 0.0022 lbs.)
  • Oat (10 gm or 0.022 lbs.)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and add some water to make a dough. There’s no strict order you need to follow while whisking these particulars. 

Once the water moisturizes the mixture, the texture becomes like that of a meatball. 

Now, drop that mixed food into your snail tank. You need not worry even if it breaks after sinking. Your snails will always appreciate your cooking!

Mineral Rocks

Although not a filling diet, these commercial rocks are rich in minerals necessary for a snail’s shell development. 

Its benefits are not limited to snails only. It will nourish all residents of the tank. 

Now that I’ve covered everything your freshwater snails binge on, let’s discuss what to feed baby freshwater snails.

CuttleBones

Cuttlebones are an excellent resource of calcium and protein. They contain nearly about 85% of calcium carbonate, 9% of carbohydrates and the rest is all protein.

Putting it into a tank not only helps snails but also other residents of the habitat.

Check it out:

What To Feed Baby Freshwater Snails?

Baby freshwater snails eat what adult snails eat. So, they will have no trouble consuming algae, pellets, algae wafers, fruits, vegetables, mineral rocks, carrion, plant leaves, and mixed food.

FAQ’S

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Fish?

Although most freshwater snails are omnivores, they will not harm a healthy fish. They will only approach and devour it if the fish is dead and rotting.

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Fish Food?

Almost all food for aquarium pets has a similar composition. So, what your fish eats, your snails will eat it too. Likewise, snails share the same love for sinking food as bottom dwellers like kuhli loach, otocinclus, twig catfish, and corydoras catfish do. 

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Seaweed?

Freshwater snails do not feed on seaweed directly. But there are a few anomalies. For example, there are microscopic diatoms in the seaweed that freshwater snails love to eat. So, in that case, it might appear as if they are feeding on seaweed. 

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Cucumber?

Freshwater snails love cucumber. They love binging on it so much that cucumbers are now being used as bait to capture pest snails. So, cucumber definitely is one of the favorites of your freshwater snails. 

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Fish Poop?

Snails are scavengers, and they will stop at nothing – not even fish poop. Fish poop contains undigested pellets, which snails find savory. Hence, freshwater snails do eat fish poop.

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Carrot?

As I said, fruits and vegetables are snails’ favorites. If you slice carrots into tiny pieces, your freshwater snails will unquestionably devour them.

Can Freshwater Snails Eat Strawberries?

I have seen my snails binging on strawberries. So, from my experience, freshwater snails do like strawberries.

Final Words

One thing you can say about freshwater snails is that whatever sinks to the bottom, they will eat it. So your snails will pounce right into it, be it leftover, poop, carrion, algae, or any other commercial food. 

However, as a responsible pet keeper, you should always try to provide an allround diet to your pet. Lastly, feed an organic diet or the type of food they find in their natural habitat.

Relevant Articles:

How To Hatch Nerite Snail Eggs? Is It Easy To Do It?

White Snail Poop. What Could Be The Reason Behind It?

How To Stop Snails From Breeding?

 

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.