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How to Rid Your Freshwater Tank of Snails

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If you're battling a snail invasion in your home aquarium, you've found that snails breed like rabbits. One or two help your tank stay clean and provide something pokey to enjoy, but those few can turn into dozens practically overnight unchecked. Your options to eliminate an outbreak include removing snails by hand, introducing predators, cutting off their food supply or, as a last resort, poisoning them.

Manual Labor

Unless you convince all your friends to start snail colonies of their own, you have to dispose of or kill young snails and their tiny translucent eggs. The most straightforward method is simply to grab or scoop them out of the tank. If your infestation is small, you might be able to remove them all by hand. If not, the Aquatic Community website recommends placing a lettuce leaf at the bottom of the tank overnight. Tuck it underneath a decoration or a bit of gravel to keep it at the bottom. When you wake up, remove the leaf, along with the snails chomping away on it. Repeat as necessary, but if they’re not gone after a few rounds, try another removal method.

Almost Escargot

Instead of stocking your tank with fish that eat pellets or flakes, pick up a natural-born killer. You don’t need a piranha or any particularly mean fish. Your local pet store should carry several ordinary varieties of freshwater fish that are happy to make meals out of small snails and eggs. Clown loaches, friendly striped fish, fit in well with other peaceful fish and reduce snail infestations. Betta fish eat small snails or eggs, but only one male can inhabit a tank. Malawi cichlids eat snails too, but they’re also more aggressive and could bully your other fish if they don’t fit in. Before you select a snail-eater, ask your pet store for a recommendation catered to your resident fish. Keep your tank’s maximum capacity in mind when adding additional fish, to avoid overcrowding.

Cut Them Off

Snails eat some of the algae in your tank, but they prefer stray food bits your fish leave behind. Carefully ration fish food and make sure it’s all consumed at mealtime. Remove any excess so the snails don’t have midnight snacks on hand. Unless you entirely remove fish from the tank and cut off feeding altogether, this method probably won’t completely eliminate them.


Pet stores stock chemical additives to kill snails. While a snail poison seems like the easiest method of getting rid of them, it’s also the hardest on your tank. Maintaining a proper bacterial balance keeps an established tank healthy for your fish. Snail removal additives often upset that balance, distressing any fish and plants that live there. Consider chemical additives a last resort.