Aquarium snails can be a great addition to your tank. They help to control algae and keep your tank clean. However, after a while, you may start to notice small deposits that look like jelly on the glass or the underside of one of your live plants. Chances are that this jelly-like cluster could be snail eggs.
This is a common occurrence when you introduce snails to your tank. They tend to breed readily in an aquarium, and in fact, some snail species are such prolific breeders that they are considered pests! Particularly effective breeders can soon take over an aquarium, leading to an overcrowded tank.
On the other hand, some freshwater snails are hard to breed at home and require specific water conditions for their eggs to hatch. These species are also slow breeders, laying one to five eggs at a time.
So how do you identify snail eggs and - importantly - what do you need to do when you see them? Below, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions as well as take you through proper snail care and how to breed them.
How can I tell if there are snail eggs in my tank?
Not all snails lay their eggs the same way. We’ll talk you through four of the most common ways snails lay their eggs.
Single or small groups of eggs: Species like the Assassin snail lay single eggs. The Assassins’ eggs will be difficult to spot as they like to hide their eggs in crevices.
Nerite snails also lay a single white or clear egg at a time, and these will normally be attached to submerged decorations.
These eggs will not hatch in a freshwater tank as they need brackish water to develop. However, removing the eggs is very difficult as they cling to the surface.
A cluster of eggs above the waterline: Some species like the Apple snail will lay their pinkish-red eggs in a cluster above the water.
One of the biggest dangers facing snail eggs is being eaten by other fish in the tank. However, the Apple snail’s eggs contain a toxin that is inedible for predators.
A sac of eggs below the waterline: You will find these eggs laid below the waterline attached to the leafy underside of live plants, to decorations at the bottom of the tank, on top of the substrate, or even on the glass of the aquarium.
They are usually white or clear and deposited in a clump, and are also protected by a clear, jelly-like sac.
Ramshorn snails, Pond snails, and Bladder snails are just three of the species that lay their eggs below the waterline.
Live bearing snails: Rabbit snails and Malaysian Trumpet snails are two examples of snails that give birth to live snails.
The female Trumpet snail has a special cavity in which the eggs develop, and she can even incubate up to 100 eggs at a time.
The snail babies stay inside the cavity until they are ready to be born. As the eggs are very small, a significant number of baby snails can be born at each birthing event.
Meanwhile, Rabbit snails develop a lower number of eggs, usually one to five at a time. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the female will deposit them on a hard surface or the substrate.
The baby snails will then hatch within a few hours. Although the eggs are laid before they hatch, because of the short amount of time between laying and hatching, Rabbit snails are still considered livebearers.
Should I keep snail eggs in water?
Keeping snail eggs in water will depend on where the eggs were deposited.
If the snail deposits the eggs below the waterline and you want them to hatch, you need to leave them in the water. As their eggs were laid below the waterline they needed to remain submerged.
However, eggs laid above the waterline should not be submerged in water or they will die. Still, humidity needs to be kept high or the eggs will dry out.
What should I do if my freshwater snail lays eggs?
If you want the eggs to hatch and the current environment they are in is safe for them, then usually you do not have to do anything.
However, if the water conditions are not suitable for hatching or the eggs are at risk of being eaten by their tankmates then you may need to move the eggs to a breeding tank.
You will need to remove the eggs if you don’t want further snails in your aquarium.
Firstly remove any items that the eggs are attached to, treat them with marine salt, quarantine them for several weeks and then return them to your tank. If the eggs are attached to glass or lids, then they can be scooped away.
How long does it take for snail eggs to hatch?
Again, how long it takes for fertilized eggs to hatch will depend on the species. For example, Ramshorn snail eggs will hatch fairly quickly, in about two to five weeks.
Meanwhile, Apple snail eggs will take three to four weeks to hatch, and Assassin snail eggs will take about six to eight weeks to hatch.
Live-bearing snails like the Rabbit snail will incubate their eggs within their body cavity for four to six weeks before laying them on a hard surface to hatch. If the Rabbit snail’s egg is viable, it will develop a black spot inside. Meanwhile, unfertilized eggs will stay clear.
How can I check if my snail eggs are alive?
Much like the live-bearing Rabbit Snail, fertilized eggs laid by other snail species will have a black dot in the middle to show they are developing. Undeveloped snail eggs will remain white or clear.
Eggs that are not fertilized or that do not develop for whatever reason should be removed from the tank if they are not already eaten by other fish. If not removed, the water quality will be impacted by the decaying matter.
What happens to aquarium snails after they lay eggs?
You may be concerned about seeing snail eggs in your tank, and you may wonder if laying eggs will impact the health of your snail.
There is very little to worry about in that regard though, as snails do not die after they lay eggs. If your snail is dying after laying eggs, then you should look into other factors that may be impacting your snail’s health.
Make sure that the water conditions are at suitable ranges and that the water is well-oxygenated.
Another reason your snail’s health may be declining is tank overcrowding. Or it may just be timing. Some snail species do not have a long lifespan. For example, the Apple snail has a life expectancy of one to three years.
Should I move my aquarium snail eggs?
Usually, the best thing to do if you want your snail eggs to hatch is to just leave them be. But there will be times when you will want to remove the snail eggs from your aquarium.
You may be concerned about overpopulation that upsets the balance of your tank, or a dip in water quality due to the snails producing waste. Plus, if a large number of snails die, the ammonia from the decay will affect the other tank inhabitants - learn how to remove ammonia from your tank via our ammonia removal guide.
Another reason you may want to remove the eggs is that their environment is not suitable for them and they won’t hatch. For example, the Nerite snail needs brackish water to hatch.
If your Nerite snail lays eggs in a freshwater aquarium, you will need to move them to a brackish tank to ensure they survive.
Finally, you may need to remove your eggs to avoid them being eaten by other fish. Snail eggs are a tasty snack for some fish species and they may eat the eggs or the newly hatched snails.
What should I be feeding my snails to make them grow faster?
To ensure your colony of snails grows faster and is safe from other predatory tank members, the best thing to do is get a dedicated breeding tank for them.
All you need to do is place the snails in a tank that has the appropriate water conditions and an adequate food supply.
Adult snails do not typically require more food, as they get plenty of sustenance from daily scavenging in the tank. Still, you can add raw and blanched vegetables, sinking pellets, or wafers to their diet.
Baby snails do not need any special type of food either, as they begin scavenging straight away and readily consume whatever algae, biofilm, and plant matter they find in the tank. However, you can also add blanched vegetables or fish food to their diet.
To help keep their shells strong, you should consult your breeder about appropriate water hardness and calcium requirements.
A quick guide to snail care
No matter what species of snail you get, most freshwater snails have similar care requirements. They are very tolerant of nitrate levels (<20ppm) but are intolerant of any ammonia or nitrite in their water. Therefore, freshwater snails are more suited to a cycled tank or pond.
Water that is rich in minerals is also great for snail shell health. Water that is lacking in minerals can cause a snail’s shell to deteriorate, or your snail to die.
Before adding snails to your tank, do a pH and hardness test. Test your gH (general hardness) and keep the water in the ranges recommended above.
The unit used to measure general hardness is degrees of general hardness (dgH). Water with low levels of hardness is considered ‘soft,’ while higher levels are considered ‘hard.’
- 0-3 is considered soft.
- 3-6 is moderately soft.
- 6-12 is slightly hard.
- 12-18 is moderately hard.
- 18-25 is hard.
- Anything over 25 is very hard.
Although it doesn’t make too much of an impact on shell health, pH is important as well. Most snails will thrive in a neutral (7.0) to more alkaline (>7.0) environment.
Just like other tank inhabitants, oxygen is important to snails. In fact, snails can be a good indicator of low oxygen levels as they will usually congregate at the top of the tank where there is more oxygen.
Some snails will even use a siphon to get oxygen from the air above the tank. This is more often seen in amphibious species.
All snail species except Assassins also cope with a good amount of algae in their tank. Snails also enjoy a wide variety of vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, blanched spinach, and blanched carrot.
They will also eat a range of dry foods made for bottom feeders, such as shrimp pellets or algae discs. However, snails tend to eat any food that finds its way to the bottom of the tank.
Since algae is a big part of their diet, snails do not need to be fed every day. You should feed your snails around two to three times a week, and make sure to remove any food that hasn’t been eaten after 24 hours.
Water flow should be minimal to average in your tank, and you often don’t need a powerhead to achieve this. Your average aquarium filter should be enough to provide an adequate amount of flow for any snail.
A quick guide to breeding snails
The most important thing when breeding snails is that you create an environment where they can live safely. This means an environment where there is access to food and no predators. As long as you put them in a tank within their preferred parameters, your snails should breed pretty quickly.
Before you start breeding snails, call your local fish store first, especially if you plan on selling to them. You should check what color and species of snail they would like.
Of course, you can breed whatever snail you’d like, but if there isn’t a demand for the species you breed you may be stuck with them.
While most snail species have a lot in common, they still have their differences so it’s important to research the species you want before you start breeding them.
If you want to breed in larger numbers, you should put them in a designated tank. This makes for more successful breeding. While it’s not impossible to breed them in a tank with fish, it is certainly harder.
Also, remember to be mindful of how many snails you remove from the tank and sell. It may take several months for you to achieve a decent amount of snails.
Before you sell the baby snails you will have to wait for them to get to a suitable size, and if you remove all of your new snails eventually the older breeders will die of old age.
Carefully monitor how many snails you have in the tank, and make sure you evenly add and remove snails as needed. This way your colony should be able to sustain itself.
A 10-gallon tank is usually large enough to create a decent colony of snails. However, larger species like Apple, Rabbits, Trapdoor or Devil Spike snails will need a 20 or 30-gallon tank.
Once you have an established colony you can start selling to your local fish store, or online.