In aquariums with other species, snails help clean the habitat by consuming otherwise uneaten food, but they live just as happily in a snails-only tank. When keeping snails in an aquarium without fish, you'll need to provide slightly more food than you otherwise would. Snails can eat aquatic plants, algae, produce and fish food.
Some snails will eat live aquatic plants, but not all. Just about all snails will eat dying or dead plants. Apple snails will eat live plants, so if you choose to offer these as a food source you'll have to restock them often. Mystery snails, which are a kind of apple snail, are less likely to dine on healthy plants.
Algae is a major food source for snails. Algae will grow on its own in your tank even without fish present. The more light your tank receives and the warmer the water temperature, the more algae will grow on the tank walls, gravel, decorations and plants. Mystery snails (Pomacea bridgesii) often eat algae off healthy plants but not the plants themselves.
You can feed lots of different fruits to your snails. Grapes, melon, pumpkin, cucumber, apples and pears hold up well in your aquarium and are easy for your snails to eat. Avoid feeding your snails acidic fruits like oranges and tomatoes. Always wash and dry produce thoroughly, as chemicals from pesticides and your water supply are harmful for them. Washing your snail food in dechlorinated water -- water that's been left out overnight so the chlorine evaporates -- is the safest option. Peeling the fruit will make it easier for your snails to eat and will remove any chemicals on the outside of it.
Snails enjoy nibbling at a variety of veggies. They can eat snap peas, carrots, lettuce and other leafy greens. Blanch and cool overly hard vegetables like carrots before you feed them to your snails. Clean and peel veggies. Attaching your produce to the side of the tank with a clip makes eating easier for these slow-moving creatures. Pet stores sell special clips designed for aquarium use.
Store-Bought Snail Food
Your snails should be happy to eat fish food designed for bottom feeders, for instance sinking shrimp pellets. Sinking food is best for snails because they can't eat fish food that floats on the water's surface. Tablets and wafers that attach to the side of the tank also work for snails.
How to Feed a Snail-Only Tank
If you have only snails in your aquarium, you won't need to feed them much more than snails living with fish. Give only as much food as they can eat before the food goes bad. Store-bought food will last longer than produce. Start small when feeding produce and gauge how quickly your snails chow down on the fresh goodies. A tank with only a few snails will take a while to get through lots of produce, especially when plants and algae are available. If you've got several snails in the tank, anchor your produce in various spots around the tank so the snails can access it at several locations.
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Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.