Mystery Snail Care Guide

Species Snapshot

  •         Species Name: Pomacea bridgesii
  •         Common Names: mystery snail, apple snail
  •         Size: 2 inches
  •         Lifespan: 1 year
  •         Native Distribution: Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru

One of the most popular species of freshwater snail, mystery snails (Pomacea bridgesii) are native to various parts of South America. Like most snails, mystery snails are scavengers and make valuable additions to the aquarium cleanup crew. In addition to their value as scavengers, mystery snails come in vibrant hues that can add a pop of color to the home aquarium.

Anatomy and Appearance of Mystery Snails

Mystery snails exhibit the typical snail build with a curved, spiral shell. They are among the largest freshwater snails, growing up to 2 inches in diameter, though some stay small around 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter.

These snails come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Though mystery snails do come in bright colors like blue, the primary shell color is typically brown or white. Some mystery snails have solid-colored shells while others are broken up by bands or stripes of darker color.

The body of the mystery snail varies in color as well. In light-colored snails, the body is often whiteish gray, but it can be yellow, dark gray, or even black.

The mystery snail’s shell is thickest where the bulk of the body rests and curve through a series of no more than four whorls which start at the top of the shell. The snail’s eyes protrude from the body on stalks which are located directly above the two tentacles the snail uses to probe for food.

A unique point about mystery snail anatomy is that these creatures have a siphon located near the head which is used to move water through the gills. These snails also have the ability to cover the large opening in their shell for protection – a lid-like structure called the operculum.

Ideal Aquarium Setup for Mystery Snails

Mystery snails are a type of freshwater snail and should only be kept in freshwater aquariums. They are fairly hardy and easy to care for, though they do have preferences for tank conditions.

Tank Size

While some mystery snails may only grow to an inch in diameter, each snail needs a minimum of five gallons of aquarium capacity. They’re a great fit for nano tanks as long as you don’t overload the tank with too many snails or other scavengers. For each additional mystery snail, provide an extra 5 gallons of tank space to be safe.

Water Parameters

Though mystery snails are relatively easy to care for, they can be sensitive to changes in water chemistry – consistency is key with these animals. Mystery snails can thrive in a fairly wide temperature range, but they generally prefer hard, slightly alkaline water.

The ideal tank parameters for mystery snails are:

  •         Temperature: 68°F to 84°F
  •         pH Level: 7.6 to 8.4
  •         Water Hardness: 12 to 18 kH

The best way to keep your water parameters consistent for your snails is to test frequently. Use an aquarium water test kit and check the levels once a week. We recommend recording the results in a notebook, so you’ll be able to recognize changes quickly.

In addition to tracking the basics of water chemistry in your tank, it’s important to make sure your snails get enough calcium to support the health and growth of their shells. Feeding your snails calcium-rich veggies is one way to provide this essential mineral or you can use water additives.

Tank Décor

Mystery snails aren’t picky about décor – they’ll explore every inch of the tank either way. It is, however, important to include live plants in a mystery snail tank. These snails subsist largely on plant matter, so try to provide a variety of aquarium plants. Even floating plants work for mystery snails.

If you’re concerned about the difficulty of maintaining a planted tank, things like Anubias, Java moss, and Hornwort are all fairly easy to care for. When in doubt, look for hardy aquarium plant species that can tolerate a few nibbles.

You have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to substrate as well. Mystery snails use their tentacles to probe for food anyway, so the only real concern to keep in mind is that very coarse substrate could injure your snail’s delicate body.

Mystery snails also appreciate large surfaces like rocks or driftwood in the tank. These decorations offer a surface where algae can grow, a valuable food source for mystery snails.

Diet and Feeding

As scavengers, mystery snails are always on the lookout for food. They’re very active eaters, so they do a very good job of ridding the aquarium of uneaten fish food, decaying plant matter, and other organic debris. Though your snails will happily munch away on this detritus, you should make sure to supplement their diet, so they don’t go hungry.

Mystery snails will accept algae wafers, sinking pellets, and even live foods that end up on the bottom of the tank. They also enjoy blanched vegetables like cucumber, zucchini, and kale

Mystery snail feeding.

Temperament and Tank Mates of Mystery Snails

As you might expect, mystery snails are incredibly peaceful aquarium inhabitants. They’re unlikely to bother fish and they’re able to protect themselves against more aggressive tankmates by tucking up into their shells. They can also move surprisingly fast.

The only thing to keep in mind regarding tank mates for mystery snails is the potential for food competition. If you have other scavengers or algae eaters in your tank, be sure to provide enough extra food to keep everyone happy.

Breeding Mystery Snails

The process of breeding mystery snails is very simple – all you need is a male and a female. It’s tricky to tell the difference between the sexes, however, so you may want to consider buying a group of snails to see if they will mate.

Female mystery snails lay their eggs above the water line, so letting the water level drop a few inches may encourage your snails to breed. Mystery snails are light pink in color and are deposited in a clump that sticks to the side of the aquarium. The eggs will hatch in 2 to 4 weeks as long as they stay moist.

If you prefer not to breed your mystery snails, you can always remove the egg clusters before they hatch. Because they’ll always be deposited above the water line, they’re easy to find.

Other Interesting Facts

  •         While mystery snails are fairly undemanding, they are highly sensitive to copper. The copper found in certain medications, fertilizers, and even food products can be toxic to invertebrates like mystery snails.
  •         Mystery snails make excellent companions for betta fish, as long as the tank is large enough to accommodate both. The two will get along just fine and the snail will help clean up any mess your betta fish leaves behind.
  •         It’s normal for mystery snails to go through periods of inactivity where they tuck into their shells and close the operculum. Snails use mucus to hold them in place, so they can sleep in any position – even upside down.

You shouldn’t be surprised if you occasionally see your mystery snail floating around the tank. Due to their unique method of breathing, air can sometimes become trapped in the lungs. If this happens, simply remove the snail from the tank and gently move it up and down to release the trapped air.

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