The Benefits of Snails for a Shrimp Aquarium

With an established tank and a consistent maintenance routine, freshwater shrimp are fairly easy to keep. The most important thing is to keep the water quality in your tank high which means controlling the production of ammonia and nitrites.

One way to control ammonia in your aquarium is to stock it with a cleanup crew. These are simply fish or invertebrates which consume leftover fish food, decaying plant matter, and other detritus in the tank so it doesn’t break down. Snails make excellent additions to any cleanup crew, but they are particularly beneficial for shrimp tanks because they’re unlikely to disturb your shrimp.

Though freshwater snails can be a great addition to your shrimp tank, there are a few things you should keep in mind before adding them. Here’s what you need to know about keeping snails and shrimp together.

Are Snails Beneficial in a Shrimp Tank?

Freshwater snails can be beneficial in maintaining the biological balance of your tank. They can even be useful in getting a new tank established before you add shrimp.

When you’re first getting started, it’s important to make sure your tank is fully cycled before adding shrimp. Freshwater shrimp are incredibly sensitive and need a stable environment in order to thrive. Even once the tank cycles, increasing the biological load too quickly could trigger a recycle. Starting with a snail or two gives the tank time to mature and stabilize.

Once you’ve added your shrimp, keeping the snails around means you’ll have a strong cleanup crew. Your shrimp will eat just about anything they can find, but their scavenging will be limited to the bottom of the tank. Snails can help keep algae under control and they’ll eat anything your shrimp miss.

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of snails in a shrimp tank, however, is their ability to turn over the substrate. Because shrimp are delicate, you have to avoid siphoning the substrate too hard. Unfortunately, undisturbed substrate can develop pockets of hydrogen sulfide gas which, if released in sufficient amounts, can kill your shrimp.

Snails that dig around in the substrate can help prevent these pockets from building by constantly turning the substrate. Malaysian trumpet snails are one of the best species for this particular purpose.

Benefits of snails for a shrimp aquarium.

The Top 3 Snails for Shrimp Aquariums

There’s an endless array of freshwater snails to choose from but some are more appropriate for shrimp tanks than others. It’s important to choose snails that are not going to bother your shrimp.

Here are the top three snail species for shrimp tanks:

  • Malaysian Trumpet Snails – These snails have long, conical shells and they come in a variety of colors. Just keep in mind that they breed quickly and will disturb your substrate.
  • Nerite Snails – This type of snail makes quick work of excess algae and they come in several attractive colors and patterns. They don’t get as big as Malaysian trumpet snails and don’t breed in freshwater.
  • Ramshorn Snails – These snails are particularly good for shrimp tanks because they eat algae and leftover food without damaging live plants. They’re also very attractive – their color can stand out against the green of a planted shrimp tank.

Though mystery snails are unlikely to cause a problem with your shrimp, some aquarium hobbyists have trouble with these snails eating their live plants. If you decide to put mystery snails and shrimp together, just make sure there’s plenty for your snails to eat other than your plants.

How to Remove Snails from a Shrimp Tank

While there are plenty of benefits to having snails in a shrimp aquarium, some species reproduce quickly and can take over the tank. This is less likely to be a problem with mystery snails, especially considering they lay eggs in clumps that you can easily remove before they hatch. Nerite snails may lay eggs, but they’re unlikely to hatch – breeding nerite snails successfully is very difficult.

The snails that are most likely to become problematic in a shrimp tank are bladder snails and pond snails. Though they may not pose much threat to the shrimp themselves, they may compete for food, and they can be unsightly.

Here are a few tips for getting rid of snails in your shrimp tank:

  • Stop Overfeeding Your Shrimp

Snails will only become a problem if there’s enough food to go around, so get in the habit of removing uneaten food from the tank.

  • Control Algae Growth

Algae is another source of food for snails, so take care to keep the nutrient levels in balance so algae doesn’t become too abundant.

  • Keep the Tank Clean

Regular water changes are important for water quality but be sure to use a gravel vacuum from time to time to remove uneaten food and decaying plant matter.

  • Remove the Snails Yourself

If they’re large enough, you can remove the snails by hand or even crush them for your shrimp to feed on. Another option is to set a trap by dropping in a piece of blanched zucchini – once the snails flock to it you can simply remove it.

The best way to prevent snails from becoming an issue in your shrimp tank is to quarantine new additions. It’s always a good idea to quarantine new fish and invertebrates in case they’re carrying disease, but pay attention to new driftwood, rocks, and other décor as well. Do a visual inspection for hitchhikers and consider boiling it before adding it to your tank.

Whether you’re cultivating snails in your shrimp tank or trying to remove them, be careful about adding commercial treatments to the tank. Shrimp are incredibly sensitive, and you don’t want to risk poisoning them by accident.

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