Mystery snails (Pomacea bridgesii) are among nature’s cleaners! They have a fantastic ability to clean algae off tank walls, which unsurprisingly, makes them popular with fish-keepers.
Add one or two of these slithery critters to your tank and they’ll get straight to work cleaning. Not only does this prevent unsightly algae build-up, it also helps to maintain stable water parameters and keeps your fish healthy.
But what if you’re nervous about keeping snails? Maybe you’ve only kept fish before. Or perhaps you’re worried that your goldfish will try to eat your snail (gulp!).
Well, the good news is, you don’t need to be an expert to keep Mystery Snails. And yes, they CAN live with goldfish!
A Great Snail for Beginners
Mystery Snails are great for beginners! They’re easy to care for, and they adapt well to different tank conditions.
The Mystery Snail isn’t a diva that insists on the exact right tank temperature or pH for them! Nope, they can cope in a wide range of environments and live quite happily.
A Great Goldfish Tank Mate
Fancy goldfish have poor eyesight and swim slowly. They’re not going to go racing towards your Mystery Snail and frighten them. They’ll far more likely just bumble about the tank minding their own business.
Faster more aggressive goldfish could be more of a problem. There is a chance they might become curious and try to eat the snails. Even if they don’t succeed, this is dangerous as it can cause damage to the snail’s shell. However, we’ve found that even faster goldfish – Common and Comet varieties – will soon get used to snails, realise they’re not food, and leave them alone.
Varieties & Biology of Mystery Snails
Mystery snails come in a variety of colors, sure to liven up any tank! Colors available include blue, black, gold, and even purple. Though the most popular colors tend to be black or brown, gold and ivory.
Mystery Snails can grow to a max size of two inches, most often reaching around 1 ½ inches in size. They are herbivores and can live up to one year.
Their shell has a spiral that often leans to one side. As adults they tend to have four small whorls (spirals) on their shells. The opening of the shell is closed by the operculum, which helps protect the snail from predators.
The operculum can give you a clue about how healthy the snail is. If it isn’t sitting right on the snail then something is wrong and once the snail dies the operculum will fall off.
Mystery Snails sense their environment and find food using two large tentacles. These are located directly behind their eyes, which are on cephalic eyestalks. You might be surprised to learn that these can actually regrow if they are cut off! Though of course, that hopefully won’t be necessary in most cases.
The mouth is located alongside a second pair of tentacles, which are used for feeding.
Mystery Snails also have a siphon, which is used to pass water through the gills and is located on the left side of the head.
Mystery Snails in the Wild
Mystery Snails natively live in ponds, swamps, and rivers, where they feed on dead or decomposing plants. They won’t feed on anything living, unless they have no other option.
Mystery Snails are naturally wary of any other animal that can cause damage to their shell such as large fish and birds.
Caring for Mystery Snails
Mystery snails can be sensitive to copper in the water, so it’s important to check what you are feeding your fish and make sure you don’t contaminate the water.
It’s worth remembering that snails will eat leftover fish food, as well as the algae off the tank walls.
Keeping your snails adequately fed will prevent them from eating live plants in the aquarium.
When you go to buy a snail from a store, watch the snails in the tank for some time. Make sure that they are moving around well and hanging onto the wall.
You definitely don’t want to purchase a snail that has any damage to the shell or is not moving around. This can signify a health issue.
Snails are also available to buy online, but if you choose to do this, please make sure you purchase from a reputable seller.
Creating a Mystery Snail Habitat
Mystery Snails will adapt well to most goldfish tanks. Though they will attempt to leave their tank if food is not readily available, so keeping a tight -fitting lid on their enclosure is a good idea!
Mystery Snails are extremely sensitive to copper in the water so it is advisable to use a water conditioner that removes copper from the tank water.
We also recommend adding calcium. This is due to the high levels of calcium needed to maintain a healthy shell. Calcium can be either fed in a powder form or feeding calcium rich foods such as spinach.
Snails do best with a Ph level of 7.6-8.4 and water temperature of 68F-84F. They don’t like rapid changes in the water and do best with moderately moving, highly oxygenated waters.
Goldfish enjoy similar waters and don’t enjoy rapid changes in water either, which makes snails and goldfish excellent tank mates!
Feeding Mystery Snails
Mystery snails eat dead and rotting plants in the tank, so having live plants will provide a consistent food source. They enjoy the algae build-up that is found on the substrate such as rocks or sand and they will eat the algae that accumulates on the glass. They are considered optimistic scavengers so they will eat whatever is available and looks good to them at the time!
Keeping a high to medium level amount of vegetation will allow your snails enough to snack on as leaves die and drop off.
Providing supplements will keep your snails healthy. To keep their shells strong, give a calcium supplement to your Mystery Snails. There are many kinds of supplements out there to choose from.
Softly blanched leafy greens make nice treats for Mystery Snails. Tasty options include zucchini and lettuce.
Mystery Snail Behavior
Mystery Snails will spend most of the time grazing on algae around the tank or on the tank walls. They are very active and eat a lot of algae, which is good news if you want a nice clean tank!
You will be able to see where they have travelled in the tank by the “tire tread” pattern they leave on the tank as they move around. If watching them, it won’t seem like they move much but over time you will see the tread grow. They use their radula to scrape the algae off the glass.
Mystery snails will stop eating and hide if disturbed. After some time, they will come back out and continue eating. If an aggressive fish bothers them too much, then they will spend more time hiding and less time eating which means they will not be cleaning as much of the algae off as they could, and this consistent stress is unhealthy for the snail.
Mystery Snails often exhibit a quirky behavior where they will go to the top of the aquarium and intentionally quickly slide down the glass to the bottom. They also be at the top of the water line and will extend a tube out of them that will go above the water and move it back and forth to breathe.
Unfortunately,. snails can carry some parasites. Obviously, you don’t want parasites in your tank, so it’s important to make sure you only buy parasite-free snails.
Two common parasites are Rat lungworm and Grub worms.
Rat lungworm larvae use snails as a temporary host and are seen mostly in wild snails.
Grub worms are small white cysts. When they rupture, the flukes are released into the water where they can infect the fish in the tank. They will encyst the flesh of fish and will have to be removed manually. The worms will stay with the host until they die. The worms, however, can’t reproduce in the tank. Grub worms are usually seen in aquariums where wild caught snails are housed.
To avoid introducing these parasites, it’s important that you quarantine your snail in its own tank for 28 days. A common way to quarantine a snail is to put it in a jar with a piece of a live plant to keep the water oxygenated and provide food for the snail.
The shell is the most common problem area for snails. If damage is caused to the shell then, depending on the severity of the damage, the shells can be patched with fish safe epoxy, but this is very risky.
Breeding Mystery Snails
It’s not only possible to breed snails in an aquarium, it’s actually pretty easy!
Snails are gonochoristic which means there needs to be a male and female snail for reproduction to occur. They will mate without help and without the need to adjust tank parameters, such as temperature.
The female snail will lay her eggs above or at water surface, inside a cocoon. The cocoon looks like a large frothy clump and holds an average of 100 eggs that are pinkish in color. The eggs will hatch within a month.
Once hatched, the baby snails will fall to the tank floor and start eating. Of course, it’s really important to make sure there is plenty of food available for the newborns!
If you are housing goldfish in the same tank as the breeding snails, then you will need to remove the cocoon of snail eggs as soon as possible. Goldfish will happily eat snail eggs if they’re within reach!
Snails and goldfish are easy to house together. That is, as long as you have slow moving peaceful goldfish. With faster or more aggressive goldfish, you’ll need to be a bit more careful and monitor their behavior closely.
Snails don’t bother goldfish and they enjoy the same type of water conditions. They are able to eat the same food and enjoy the same treats – just make sure that copper isn’t in the food you choose.
Mystery Snails Snails are fantastic cleaners and will remove algae from every surface. They also add a lovely pop of color to the tank.
Make sure you’ve purchased healthy parasite-free snails by properly quarantining the snails before introducing your goldfish to their new friends!