Aquarium snails are one such creature that some Apistogramma owners may love having in their tanks due to their ability to eat algae, but some do not like them so much, given their bad reputation for rapid reproduction.
For these reasons, the questions often arise together: What is the best snail to keep with Apistogramma? And do Apistos eat snails?
Do Apistogramma Eat Snails?
Several species of Apistogramma, including A. ortegai, A. eunotus, A. hongsloi, and A. macmasteri, particularly the last two species from the macmasteri Group, have been observed crushing snail shells against the aquarium decor or glass walls and consuming the meat.
However, Apistos do not actively hunt snails unless they are very hungry or the snails are small enough to fit in their mouth.
It’s important to be cautious, as snails that are too large may cause intestinal blockages in Apistogramma cichlids. Unlike puffers that can crack open snail shells or loaches that can suck them out, Apistos may eat snails whole, including the shell.
What are Good Snails for Apistogramma Tanks?
A few species of aquatic snails can serve as harmless helpers in Apistogramma tanks, which play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem and often indicate whether your aquarium is thriving.
As detritivores, they eat organic waste such as fish waste, rotting plant material, uneaten food, and even dead animals in an Apistogramma tank.
On top of that, like earthworms help the soil, they will happily spruce up your aquarium by consuming and cleaning algae, which is a great benefit for most Apistogramma owners.
Just be aware that not all snails are well-being with Apistos because their shells are composed of 98% calcium carbonate, and the shells will dissolve when the pH level and hardness are too low, which is often the case in tanks with Apistogrammas.
A study found that a low pH (<4.6) is lethal to Planorbella trivolvis, one of the hardy species of snails suitable for soft, acidic Apistogramma tanks.
In such persistently acid-stressed habitats, you may want to provide sufficient Ca2+ to help the snails develop their new shells, even though their existing shell whorls will be permanently damaged or eroded.
Better candidates to add to your Apisto tank include pond snails, Malaysian trumpet snails (MTS), and ramshorn snails, simply because they are more tolerant of low pH and soft water, and their price is cheap.
Bladder Snail (Physella acuta)
The bladder snail is a common species in the family Physidae, known for its brown, sinistral shell with a long and large aperture. This small mollusk only grows up to half an inch in length, which distinguishes it from pond snails that can reach sizes anywhere from two to six times larger.
Bladder snails are scavengers that feed on algae, detritus, and other waste, providing great assistance to Apistogramma tanks with heavily planted aquatic plants, where a buildup of excess organics is inevitable.
Compared to ramshorn snails, bladder snails are tougher and can survive in very soft water (with a hardness level as low as 1 dGH). Ramshorn snails, on the other hand, may have problems with their shells becoming thin and eroded in such conditions.
Ramshorn Snails (Planorbidae spp.)
As their name aptly expresses, these snails are known for their distinct shells that coil into a spiral shape, resembling a ram’s horn. Ramshorn snails can reach a size of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm), and they sport attractive colors such as brown, gold, gray-blue, and pink.
Similar to bladder snails, ramshorn snails are always on a mission to munch on algae, leftovers, and dying plant matter. While they can adapt to acidic water, their shells will become thin and brittle over time.
Malaysian Trumpet Snail (Melanoides tuberculata)
Another pest snail in the aquarium hobby is the Malaysian Trumpet Snail (MTS), which is beloved by many Apistogramma owners.
Not only do they work wonders by loosening up the substrate and aerating it in their search for food (including algae), but they are also mostly nocturnal snails, so you won’t see them roaming around during the day when Apistos are most active, making them good tankmates.
MTS are small critters with pointy, elongated shells measuring no more than 0.5 inches (1 .27 cm) in length, making them an ideal choice for smaller tanks or biotopes that want to stay true to nature.
Unlike Ramshorn and Bladder snails, MTS are not hermaphroditic; this means that females can give birth without males. As a result, these snails can reproduce at a rapid rate.
MTS are acclimated to living in brackish water, but they are extremely hardy and easy to keep – they can survive in uninhabitable environments.
Are Assassin Snails Good for Apistogramma Tanks?
Assassin snails (Anentome helena) are a type of carnivorous snail, with their trademark being the large and pointy “tooth” that protrudes from the front of their shells.
This one-inch snail can be very useful in controlling pest snail populations in your tank, but contrary to popular belief, they cannot survive when kept in many blackwater biotope tanks, where the hardness is probably around 2 dGH or less.
Can Nerite Snails Be Kept with Apistogramma?
Nerite snails are well known for their ability to eat green spot algae (GSA) without rapidly reproducing, as their eggs will not hatch in fresh water.
Like assassin snails, nerite snails are from brackish water environments containing high concentrations of minerals. That’s why they are not suitable for Apistogramma tanks. Still, they can be kept in tanks with higher hardness above 5 dGH.
How to Get Rid of Pest Snails from Apistos’ Aquarium?
Pest snails are a natural part of the aquatic environment; eliminating them entirely is impossible. They can enter an Apistogramma aquarium by sneaking in on decorations and live plants or even hitchhiking on the regular fish bags you bring home.
Without the proper quarantine, it is no surprise to see these hitchhikers suddenly popping out from every corner of the newly established tanks.
In well-cycled Apistogramma aquariums, population explosions of snails are much less common than in other fish tanks due to the most obvious reason.
However, once you spot several pest snails and want to keep the snail outbreak at bay, try one of the following methods:
- Reduce feeding: The most common reason is due to overfeeding. Despite their rapid reproduction rate, these mollusks mainly feast on algae and leftovers, meaning that once the food sources are depleted, they will struggle to survive.
- Snail eaters: Introducing a few fish species known for their appetite for snails can help you keep your Apistogramma tank snail-free. In a community tank, a pair of rainbow cichlids (Herotilapia multispinosa) or Super Red cacatuoides that enjoy the same water parameters and temperament will do the trick.
- Manual Removal: Snails are easy to spot and catch by hand. All you need is a bowl, some tweezers, or a fishnet, and you’ll be out of business in no time. Just make sure to inspect every part of the tank, including décor and live plants.
- Snail Trap: This one is especially useful for Malaysian trumpet snails as they are always active when the sun is down. All you need to do is place a piece of zucchini, lettuce, or other vegetables as bait during the night and collect all the snails that stick to it in the morning.
Do Snails Eat Apistogramma’s Eggs?
Bladder, Malaysian trumpet snails, and “true” ramshorn snails (Planorbidae species) won’t eat Apistogramma’s eggs, and they are often kept in breeding tanks by breeders for their algae-cleaning capabilities.
In most cases, these pest snails won’t grow large in extremely soft and acidic water, which is what Apistogramma parents prefer for their eggs.
Members of the Macmasteri Group are known for their predatory skills in eating snails. However, snails can be beneficial in an Apistogramma aquarium as they help to keep the substrate clean and in perfect condition.
Still, when it comes to any fish tank, an infestation of pest snails is never a good sign. Knowing the right way to deal with them will help you keep your tank clean and free from snail outbreaks, allowing you to create the perfect environment for your fish.
- Effects of low pH and low calcium concentration on the pulmonate snail Planorbella trivolvis: a laboratory study