There are a bunch of unique and wonderful creatures in the ocean, but have you ever heard about the mystery snail? These little guys are freshwater snails and in fact, they’re an incredibly popular breed of snail for fishkeepers!
Why is this? Well, these snails are very useful for anyone with an aquarium since they are great at keeping the tank clean. This is because they will often eat the algae and detritus in the tank.
This snail is known by another name too - apple snails. Of course, they aren’t apple snails - this is a totally different species of snail. That species of snail can grow to the size of an apple. This isn’t the case with mystery snails!
These snails are fascinating to look at. They have vivid markings on their little bodies and long tentacles. They almost look like little aliens, and they are a real asset to any aquarium.
What You Need to Know
- Fully Grown Size: 2 inches
- Lifespan: Roughly 4 years
- Tank Size: 10 gallons
- Diet: Herbivore
- Behavior: Tranquil
- Water temperature required: 68 - 82 degrees F
The Origins of the Mystery Snail
You can usually find mystery snails in North and South America. These snails are known to be invasive in North America too. You can occasionally find them in places like China. When these snails are not domesticated, they will eat the algae and dead plant matter out in the wild.
What Do They Look Like?
You can find mystery snails in a plethora of different colors. You can get them in gold, black, blue, ivory and magenta. They’ll certainly add some color to your fish tank!
You will often notice that there’s a striped pattern on the shell of a magenta or black snail. The other colored snails tend to just have one color on the shell.
You may also find that different species of mystery snails can have varying kinds of colors on their bodies, too. For instance, it’s more common to find snails with yellow and black bodies.
Sometimes though, you may come across a mystery snail with a blue or white body. They can look very beautiful, and they also have iridescent patterns on their bodies. It’s a sight to behold.
Pick up a grain of rice - that’s how small baby mystery snails are! They do get a lot bigger as they continue to grow, but they don’t tend to get much bigger than roughly 2 inches long.
In some cases though, if you put them in the ideal environment and feed them optimally, they can sometimes get as big as 3 inches long. They will usually only live for around one year, but they can live up to 2 years if they are given the right care and environment.
What’s particularly cool about these snails is their organs. They are very different from other snails! These snails actually have lungs and gills, and this means that they can access oxygen much more easily.
They mainly breathe by taking in the air, but they can breathe underwater. If the snail is struggling with its oxygen levels, it will start to make its way to the surface of the water for more air.
They’ll then extend their siphones out of the water and it will begin to move back and forth, which is how they will breathe.
That’s not all either. These snails also have sensory tentacles positioned on the top of the head. They tend to be around half of the length of the snail’s body, and they’re useful as they allow the snail to figure out what’s going on in its environment.
They look kind of cool underneath the current in the water! If you look beneath the tentacles you will then see the eyes of the mystery snail, and beneath that there’s the mouth. This has a few additional tentacles that help the snail to feed.
Mystery snails also have something known as an operculum. This helps to seal the snail inside of its shell - it’s a protective layer. It means that the snail can be safe inside of its shell when it feels frightened. The operculum will help to protect it.
The Behavior of the Mystery Snail
If you’re looking for a peaceful species of snail for your fish tank, then the mystery snail is a good choice for you. You can have them alongside both freshwater fish and invertebrates.
It’s best not to get them if you have any large or nippy fish though. This is because the tentacles of the snail can look like worms, and the fish tend to try and eat them.
Goldfish and cichlids and other large fish can really harm the snails if they get the opportunity, regardless of the protection provided by the snail’s shell. For this reason, it’s important not to allow these snails to live with large fish.
So what do mystery snails usually do? Well, they tend to move along the surface of the glass in your tank, or they will move along other hard surfaces in the tank.
Sometimes they will venture down to the bottom of the tank looking for food that they can eat. In essence, they truly take advantage of all of the space available in your fish tank!
There are a couple of fish that are fantastic companions for your mystery snail, such as:
- Freshwater snails
If you wish to put a betta in a tank with a mystery snail though, you need to ensure that the betta is not an aggressive species. It’s best to ensure that you don’t get any fish that will try to bite the tentacles of the snail.
In summary, you can have pretty much any fish that isn’t too big or aggressive. You’re just going to need to ensure that the fish in question can live in hard water without much problem. Hard water is important for keeping the shell strong so that your snails can live their best lives!
How To Set Up The Tank
When you have got your mystery snail, he’s going to need a new home! It’s important to ensure that the tank is set up correctly for him. It’s also fun to watch them exploring the tank!
You should ideally be looking for a tank that’s 10 gallons. These snails can create a lot of waste despite their small size, and this can make the water too dirty in any tanks that are smaller than 10 gallons.
It also helps to ensure that your snails will have enough space and good water to thrive in. If you get a 10 gallon tank then you can easily house 2 to 3 mystery snails.
Now that you have found the right tank for your snails, the next thing that you will need to do is find a suitable filter. It’s best to use HOB (Hang on Buck) or canister filters for this kind of snail. This is the safe choice.
Why are these filters the best? Well, these will use biological and mechanical filtration. This means that there is even more filtration power for the tank.
You can sometimes use a sponge filter for these snails too, but you are going to need to have a gravel vacuum in order to remove any debris and feces from the tank.
If the debris remains in the tank for too long then it’s going to result in poor water conditions both for your snails and your fish. Mystery snails aren’t picky about the kind of water flow in their tanks, so it doesn’t matter what kind of current you have in your tank.
The next thing that you will need to do is figure out what sort of temperature you need for the tank. Thankfully, these snails can deal with low and high temperatures, which is very useful if you are also having fish in the tank.
They can manage to survive in temperatures from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. You may not even need a water heater if your house tends to be around 68 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the year.
Of course, it is worth noting that these snails generally don’t tend to like it when the temperature suddenly changes. For that reason, it’s a good idea to invest in a water heater.
Look for a heater that will give around 5 watts per gallon of heat. For instance, if you have a 10 gallon tank then you should be looking for a 50 watt heater for your tank.
Another thing that you will need to think about is the pH of the tank. This is because their shells can start to wear down if the pH is too low for them to handle.
You should get a pH test kit to see the pH level in your tank. You shouldn’t be putting your snail in a tank that has a pH of under 7.0.
What about the environment? Well, mystery snails are very fond of hanging out on surfaces, so you should make sure that they have the right surfaces in their tanks!
For instance, the snails would have a great time exploring things like driftwood or rocks in your fish tank. It’s good to provide the snails with somewhere to hide when they need some space too. You could put some driftwood, foliage or rock caves in the tank to provide this for the snails.
While plants are always a good thing for any species of snail, the mystery snail doesn’t necessarily need to have live plants. If you wish to have plants in the tank then some good choices include swords and anubias - plants that have broad leaves.
These are great since they give your snails something to eat, and they also provide a surface that your snails can explore. Mystery snails usually don’t eat plants that are living. Instead, they tend to eat plants that are decaying or dead.
For this reason, you have no need to worry if the plants start to rot. All the mess will be cleaned up by your mystery snails.
You also need to think about the substrate of your plant. A good option is soft sand, or round gravel and rock. The main thing to remember is to choose a substrate that is soft and doesn’t tend to have sharp edges.
You will want to avoid rough substrates since these can injure your little snails. If you choose the right substrate then you can avoid causing harm to your snails.
The last thing to consider is the lighting. Thankfully, you don’t need anything specific for your snails, and they can manage to thrive at any level of brightness. It is worth noting though that if you suddenly change the light it could possibly scare the snail.
What Should I Feed My Mystery Snails?
So what does a mystery snail eat? Well, your mystery snail is a herbivore. This means that they aren’t going to eat anything other than plants. When these creatures are in the wilderness they will usually eat algae and dead plants, along with other detritus.
If you provide this to them in the aquarium then they are going to eat it. It’s worth noting though that most tanks don’t actually provide enough detritus for them to be able to access their food at all times.
Instead, there are some key things that you can feed your mystery snails to ensure that they are healthy and well fed. Some of these things include cucumbers, zucchini, blanched leafy greens like kale or spinach, broccoli and algae wafers.
You should make sure that you are feeding your snails a minimum of 2 to 3 times each week. It’s vital to give them a sufficient amount so that they can eat it within roughly a day.
If there’s any food left over by the end of the next day then you should take it out of the tank, as it can compromise the quality of the water if it continues to rot in the tank.
If you take good care of your snail then it will keep on growing at a good pace. If your snail isn’t growing very much after a while, it may be a good idea to begin to feed them more food.
It is often rather challenging to figure out whether your snail is male or female, since the sex organs of the animal are contained inside of its shell. You can usually tell the gender when they are mating, however.
If they are mating, the male snail is going to be holding onto the female. He will then insert his penis into the female’s shell. There are a couple of other ways that you can figure out the gender too.
The main thing that you can do is grab the snail gently and turn it upside down. The snail will then try to make its way out of the shell in order to put itself back in the right position. As you do this, you can see the organs inside of the shell.
The penis sheath will usually be positioned behind the head of the snail and it will also be just in front of his gills. It will look like a lump of tissue, though this depends on where it is. The females will not have this.
If you are looking to breed the mystery snails, all you need to do is put two snails of the opposite gender in the tank and they will then begin to mate. It’s not difficult to breed them. The male will hold the female down against a surface.
When the male snail has gotten his partner into position, he then puts his penis into the female snail. He then releases his sperm after a quick rendezvous, and then they get on with their day. Very efficient!
Once this occurs, the female will hold onto the eggs. Eventually, she will release them above the water’s surface when they are mature enough. They tend to lay the eggs onto the glass of the aquarium, so it’s important to make sure that there’s some free glass at the top of the aquarium.
The main reason for this is because snail eggs will just rot in water, so they need to be in the open air. There will usually be around 200 eggs, and they look pink in terms of color at first. As they develop they will look more white. After 2 to 3 weeks, you will have more snails!
When the snails are born they will then gradually slither or fall back into the water, on the hunt for their next meal. Make sure that they have enough to eat - they’ll eat the same stuff as their adult counterparts.
Mystery Snail Diseases
It can often be difficult to figure out when a mystery snail is sick since it spends most of its time inside of its shell. There aren’t any medicines available on the market that you can use to treat different snail diseases either. The only thing that you have control over are the contaminants in the snail’s tank.
Make sure that you don’t buy any snails that have broken shells. It usually means that they have much weaker immune systems and they are more likely to experience premature deaths.
Try not to buy any snails that were previously living with dead snails too, since the ammonia can be breathed in by the snails which can cause illnesses.
You should make every effort to ensure that your snail can be comfortable in his new home. Make sure that you make a gradual transition to any chemicals that may be in the water. You can help to acclimate them by putting the snail’s original container into the tank.
Then, add some of the tank water to the container once every 10 to 15 minutes. You should do this for around an hour. It helps them to transition to the water much more easily, minimizing the risk of illness.
So how can you tell if your snail is healthy or sick? You need to pay attention to the behavior of the snail. If the snail is active then it’s a good indication that it’s healthy.
If a snail is sick then it won’t be as active, and will likely stay in its shell in one corner all day. If the snail is sick then the only thing you can do is make sure that its environment is safe for him.
Want to know if your snail is dead or alive? The smell is a dead giveaway. If your snail smells rotten then it’s probably dead. If you touch a snail’s foot it will also contract if it’s alive too. This will not happen if it is dead.
So, that’s everything that you need to know about taking care of your mystery snails! These little guys can be great fun to keep in your tank, and you can help them to stay happy and healthy by keeping their tanks in good working order.