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Care Guide: Aquatic Freshwater Snails

Living Care Information

Aquatic Freshwater Snails
Commonly known as Olive Nerite,
Mystery snail, Ramhorn snail, Pond snail

Quick Start Information

  • As soon as your shipment arrives, open the container of snails. Allow at least 30 minutes for them to reach room temperature before adding them to the habitat. For best results, have your springwater or treated tap water prepared before your snail’s arrival. Water pH should be between 6.5 and 8.5.

  • Snails are very sensitive to copper. If you have copper piping in your building, we strongly suggest you use bottled springwater for housing all aquatic organisms, including snails.

  • Snails can be housed in small habitats with no more than 15 to 20 individual snails in a 1 to 2-gallon habitat. For larger snails, such as Mystery snails, allow 1 to 2 gallons for each snail. Some of our snail species will reproduce quickly and can overtake a tank in just a few weeks.

About the Organism

  • Most species of snails are detritivores.
  • Nerite snails will not reproduce in a freshwater aquarium. Their young require the calcium and other minerals from saltwater to build their shells.
  • Many species of snails are hermaphrodites.
  • The opening in a snail’s shell is covered with a flap called an operculum.
  • A snail can close its operculum as a defense mechanism and to protect its body from drying out.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Mollusca
  • Class: Gastropoda
  • Order: varies
  • Family: varies
  • Genus: varies
  • Species: varies


Prepare a holding pail or habitat with room-temperature conditioned tap water. Rinse water plants and add to the holding pail.

Newly arrived snails often do not move for the first 2 or 3 days. Snails are most active at night. If you think a snail is dead, use a pencil to gently pry against the hard flap at the shell opening. If it resists probing or is tightly closed, the animal is alive.

Avoid overcrowding the habitat; do not hold more than 15 to 20 snails per 1 to 2 gallons of water.

Immediately change the water if it becomes cloudy or foul smelling, then check for and discard any dead snails. A dead snail will have a foul odor and usually hang out of its shell when picked up.


Aquatic snails can be housed in community tanks with fish and other organisms; though, do take care to avoid aggressive tank mates, such as crabs or crayfish, that may harm your snails.

All water used in the habitat must be conditioned and dechlorinated. Place the aquarium in an area where the temperature is fairly constant, between 18 to 25° C (64 to 77° F).

An aquarium needs diffused light; do not place in direct sunlight or unusually bright artificial light. Remember that snails are ectothermic. An aquarium in direct sunlight may have a temperature as much as 5° C above the temperature of the room. At night, such an aquarium cools rapidly, stressing the snails and leaving them vulnerable to disease.

If you are not using a filtration system in your tank, we recommend 25% water changes once a week using bottled natural spring water or dechlorinated tap water. Be sure that the water you are adding to the tank is the same temperature as the tank water. This can be accomplished by leaving the water out overnight and allowing the temperature to equilibrate.


Snails are detritivores by nature and will eat any food source available. To keep snail populations at manageable levels, we do not recommend that you feed them if they are housed in a planted tank with fish. The snails will eat algae and uneaten fish food. Overfeeding the fish in an aquarium is the number one reason for an increase in a tank’s snail population. If snails are feeding on the aquatic plants in your tank, you can offer a slice of blanched cucumber, carrot, or green zucchini to the tank to supplement the food they are able to scavenge. Remove and replace the material if it becomes moldy or fouled. Algae wafers can also be offered as a supplemental snail food.

Maintaining and culturing

Some of our snails (Physa, Ramhorn, and Mystery snails) reproduce readily in an aquarium environment if there is an excess of food available to them. The best way to avoid being overrun by snails is to not overfeed your fish. Only feed the amount of food your fish can consume in about 10 minutes. If there is food leftover, offer slightly less at the next feeding.

The Nerite pond snails generally will not reproduce successfully in a freshwater aquarium. Young Nerite snails need the calcium and mineral salts from brackish water to successfully construct their shell.


We strongly recommend giving any unwanted organisms to another individual if you do not wish to keep them. We do not advocate the release of organisms into the environment. Please contact your local (state) Department of Agriculture for any restrictions on release of organisms. As a last resort, place unwanted organisms in a sealable container and freeze for 48 hours. Dispose of the organisms in the regular solid waste. Snail eggs can be removed from aquatic plants by a making a 1 part bleach to 19 parts water solution and briefly soaking the plant material in it for 2 to 3 minutes. Plant material should then be rinsed well with running water before being added to a habitat.


Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling any living specimen, changing tank water, or handling tank components.



I have a snail that is floating. Does that mean it’s dead?

Probably not. The snail has collected a gas bubble under its shell. In time it will sink.

What should I feed my snails?

Snails do not need extra food if they live in an aquarium with fish and plants.

Snails are crawling on the water plants. Are they eating them?

Perhaps. They are probably eating algae growing on the plants. However, if there is not enough other food for the snails, they may eat the plants. Also, if the plants are weakened and beginning to die, the snails may eat them.

A snail has retracted into its shell and hasn’t moved. Is it dead?

Probably not. Snails often do this for a few hours or even for days. If the shell is tightly closed, it is alive. A snail that hangs limply out of its shell is dead, and you should discard it.

All the snails died soon after we put them in the aquarium. What went wrong?

If you properly acclimated the snails, it could be the water. Some city water systems now use chlorinators that are not removed by aging the tap water. In those cities, use a chemical water conditioner that removes chloramines. Still, your tap water may contain metal ions that are toxic to snails. This is especially likely if the water pipes at your school are less than 3 years old or if there have been recent major repairs to the plumbing. Snails are more sensitive to metal ions than are most other aquarium animals, including fish. You may have to use water from another source, such as bottled water.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com

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