A little snail climbing up your wisteria plant may be cute at first, but a few weeks later that one snail could turn into dozens. It’s only a matter of time before these tiny critters outnumber your pet fish, eat your plants and clog up your filter.
While some snails can be useful for the aquarium, the ones who enter unwelcomed generally are not. It can be quite frightening when creatures seemingly appear overnight in significant numbers. Where did they originate?
Aquarium snails such as these, originally come from freshwaters like ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. There are about 5000 different species of freshwater snails; all classified under the scientific class Gastropoda under phylum Mollusca.
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They can enter your tank intentionally or accidentally. Deliberately placed snails are bought as accessories to eat algae and help keep the tank clean. Unexpected snails, on the other hand, enter through aquarium plants, aquarium décor and tank water that may harbor snails or snail eggs. All it takes is one stray snail to become the single parent of 10 more snails.
- 1 Similar Life Cycles of Various Snails
- 2 The Mating Process
- 3 How Do Freshwater Snails lay Eggs?
- 4 How Many Babies Can A Snail Have?
- 5 Life Cycle of the Freshwater Snail
- 6 Lifespans
- 7 Natural Habitat
- 8 FAQs on Aquarium Snails:
- 9 Conclusion
- 10 About Us
Similar Life Cycles of Various Snails
Gastropods are the most successful of the mollusks as they are in almost every environment. There are freshwater snails, land snails, and marine snails in the oceans and seas. Each of the subclasses differs in their life cycles, but some general procedures do apply. 
Most freshwater snails lay eggs that hatch into fully-formed miniature adults. They become invasive when introduced to a habitat with no natural predators.
- Most are hermaphroditic and can fertilize eggs on their own.
- The eggs either float to the surface of the water or bury themselves.
- The eggs hatch after 2 to 4 weeks.
- They mature in 4 to 7 weeks and live no more than a year or two.
Most land snails have both the male and female reproductive organs in the same animal. Land gastropods also born as fully formed mini adults that grow to maturity. Let’s take the brown garden snail for example.
- While they can self-fertilize, brown garden snails will characteristically choose to mate with a partner, a process that takes 4 to 12 hours.
- Snails fertilize somewhere around 30 to 120 eggs. The snail then builds a nest made from the dirt to hide the eggs from predators. In about two weeks or so, the eggs will hatch.
- These babies will grow to maturity over the course of 10 months to 2 years.
These types of gastropods go through a larval stage before maturing into adults. Many marine snails can fertilize eggs if no mates are available. If there are other adults available, they will mate to produce offspring. A closer look at the conch snail will help clarify the life cycle of marine gastropods.
- Conches mate in warm seasons to fertilize the eggs. The egg sacs will contain around 4,000 embryos.
- The egg cases hatch 4 to 6 days after reaching shallow water.
- The larvae will settle to the ocean floor and burrow under the sand to hide from predators.
- The juveniles reach sexual maturity after 3 to 5 years on the floor.
- The younger the conch, the spikier the shell. The edges smoothen with time and wear.
- The conch may live as long as 40 years. Not all sea snail species live this long, but all produce larvae that later develop into adults.
The Mating Process
Most snails are hermaphrodites. This trait means that a single snail can have both male and female reproductive organs to fertilize its eggs. Though most snails are capable of self-reproduction, offspring from self-fertilized eggs have lower chances of survival. So, snails will typically choose to mate if mates are available.
Apple snails, mushroom snails, pond snails, and trumpet snails are usually the snails that accidentally get into your aquarium. They are also the ones capable of reproducing alone.
They have hermaphroditic gonads that generate both egg cells and sperm cells, enabling self-fertilization through the fusion of male and female gametes.
There are some snails such as Mystery snails likes these and Nerites, which only have one gender per snail and therefore require copulation. Female and male snails use their sense of smell to find each other. They then begin a mating ritual that can last anywhere from 2 to 12 hours.
The male penis will then inject sperm into the female’s eggs, to fertilize them. The eggs will then grow inside of her, and she will lay them after about two weeks.
How Do Freshwater Snails lay Eggs?
Snails have an opening near the head called the genital pore, where the eggs come out. A stray snail in aquariums will usually fertilize her eggs and lay them 14 days after fertilization. The eggs appear as blobs of semi-translucent jelly that will either attach themselves to the side of your tank or float to the surface.
Eggs usually hatch after 2 to 5 weeks. If they don’t hatch after five weeks or more, the batch is most likely infertile and will never hatch. 
How Many Babies Can A Snail Have?
Each clump usually holds between 20 and 50 potential snail babies. After hatching, they will immediately begin feeding like a fully-grown snail. If you want to keep them, snail care is elementary. They will feed off the algae and fish food in your tank. Add predators to eat the baby snails if you want to get rid of them.
Life Cycle of the Freshwater Snail
The life cycle of all freshwater snails is egg > juvenile > adult.
Snails can lay eggs as often as once each month. Depending on the species, there can be anywhere from 5 to 200 or even 600 eggs in a single bunch. For example, Ramshorn snails will usually only lay 10 to 12 while the Chinese mystery snail is capable of laying about 90 to100 eggs at a time. Most eggs typically hatch after 1 to 5 weeks depending on environmental factors, such as how warm or cold it is.
The new-born snails eat their eggshells after they hatch for calcium then proceed to search for food. A juvenile freshwater snail looks almost exactly like a tiny adult. In some cases, their shell may be less curly, but in general, they look very similar.
They often graze at the foot of the tank, eating uneaten fish food, algae, decaying plants and small dead animals. They will only eat aquarium plants if there is no other food around.
The age of sexual maturity varies from 4 to 7 weeks, depending on species of snail, an available food source for them to grow and mature, and tank temperature.
Aquatic snails are unable to regulate their body temperature. They are more active in warmer water temperatures, but that environment will quicken their aging process and shorten lifespan.
- Pond snails are usually around 1 ⁄4″–1 ⁄2″ in size and live up to 1 year. Their color varies from green, black, grey, to brown.
- Ramshorn snails can live for around 1–2 years. They are usually about 1 ⁄4″–3 ⁄4″ in size. Their shells have the appearance of a ram’s horn. Their color varies from black, brown, to reddish brown.
- Mystery snails are usually around 3 ⁄4″–21 ⁄2″ in size and can live for 1–3 years. Mystery snails have a vast variety of colors, from golden, white, green, purple, blue, black and the original brown. Some have striped shells.
- Golden apple snails such as these live up to 2 to 3 years in low temperatures, while at temperatures above 25°C (77 F) the snail lives only about 12-16 months. At higher temperatures, apple snails are more active. Thus, they grow, breed, and die faster.
- Nerite Snail lifespan is more or less one year. Sometimes Nerites die a week or so transferring to a tank due to stress, while others from the same batch live around two years or more.
Freshwater snails can live in a variety of areas: on aquatic plants, in the mud with decomposing animals and plants, and on algae-covered rocks, stones or concrete. They can go on water and land, but they cannot stay on the ground for too long for they will dry up.
FAQs on Aquarium Snails:
Q: What are some snail predators I can put in my tank to control snail population?
A: Clown loaches and yoyo loaches can sift through gravel, sucking any snail they find right out of its shell. Pictus Catfish, Bettas, and Gouramis will also eat snails. Many aquarists highly recommend Assassin snails and swear they are more effective than loaches. Assassins are cannibals who eat other snail species except for their own. They also don’t reproduce as eagerly as other snails.
Q: How to prevent snails from entering my tank?
A: Inspect all items before putting in the tank. The best way to avoid snail problems is never to let them in the tank in the first place. Prevention is always a good line of defense!
Inspect décor and accessories for snails or their eggs before placing in your container. Remove any snails or eggs before putting into your aquarium. Also, don’t add the water from store-bought fish in your main tank as it could contaminate with snail eggs and other aquatic pests.
If you purchase live plants, treat them before adding them to the tank. Plant soaking options include:
- Alum: Add two tablespoons of alum to one gallon of water. Soak plants for two to three days, then rinse thoroughly before planting in the tank.
- Bleach: Use half a cup of bleach and one gallon of water for soaking solution. Soak plants for five minutes, then soak for another five minutes in plain water and rinse thoroughly. Bleach may damage sensitive plants so never leave them in the solution for more than 10 minutes. This usage is the most effective way to kill algae and snail eggs.
- Potassium Permanganate: Soak plants in one gallon of water mixed with half a tablespoon of potassium permanganate for fifteen minutes. Rinse thoroughly before installing in the aquarium.
If you do get the occasional unwanted visitor, avoid overfeeding fish. Overfed fish produce more feces which in turn provide nourishment for algae to grow.
Q: What are some DIY snail traps?
A: Try sticking a lettuce leaf in one corner of the tank before you go to bed. In the morning there will be a full family of snails dining on the lettuce, which you can scoop out of the tank in one move. It won’t guarantee zero snails, but it helps keep numbers under control.
You can also make a snail trap by filling a plastic bottle with food pellets, banana skins, or lettuce leaves, and leave open. Leave it overnight as snails like to move and eat when it’s dark. Snails will flock inside the bottle but will have difficulty navigating their way out. Once the container has many snails in it, you can remove them from the tank.
Q: Which snails can I put in my tank to help with cleaning?
A: Freshwater Nerites are some of the most popular aquarium snails because they don’t reproduce in freshwater and they have exceptional algae-eating abilities. Nerites need brackish water to reproduce successfully. That way, you don’t have to worry about overpopulation.
Sulawesi snails are also very peaceful and exciting to watch. They eat fresh veggies and algae as well as fish food. Sulawesi snails reportedly breed one juvenile at a time, which is great because they won’t become pests like pond snails or trumpet snails.
Having a few aquarium snails isn’t automatically a bad thing. As long as you keep their numbers at bay, they can work in your favor for a balanced tank ecosystem. If you want a right number of snails, do what is necessary to stop a snail outbreak.
The best option is to get a gonochoristic species, meaning one that requires both a male and female snail to reproduce. Doing this will significantly reduce the likelihood of any eggs, especially if you only have one snail.
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