Some people keep freshwater snails as pets. Others just want to know how to get rid of snails in aquariums.
Snails can be a cute addition to your tank. However, they reproduce really quickly, and you might find your tank swarmed with these little pests in no time!
Fortunately, there are many methods to get rid of unwanted snails in your tank. Throughout my aquarium hobby, I have tested 11 of them! Some are natural, and others require the use of chemicals, but one thing all have in common is that they really work.
So, if you want to find out how to get rid of snails in the aquarium, you have come to the right place!
Let’s jump right into the solutions!
How to Get Rid of Snails in Aquarium?
Getting rid of snails might sound cruel. They are living creatures that are inhabiting your tank, just like fish or shrimp.
Also, they are great cleaners, and some consider them one of the best poop-eating creatures for your aquarium!
Unfortunately, they are also pests that can disrupt the natural balance of your tank. They’ll eat live aquatic plants, increase ammonia levels, and ruin the life quality of your fish.
As you can see, I am not here to judge your choice to get them out of your tank.
Whether you opt for the most humane method from my list or you decide to go all in, I will help you get rid of pest snails as quickly as possible.
Without further ado, here is how to get rid of snails in the aquarium:
1. Manual Method
Let’s start with the most straightforward method. You can manually take the pest aquarium snails out of your tank.
You can use your hands to pick the snails, one by one, and get them out of the tank. Use an aquarium siphon for smaller snails that might be challenging to pick up.
Of course, this method is far from perfect. There is no guarantee you’ll manage to pick every last snail, and you might get your hands dirty or contaminate the tank. Not to mention how you might stress your fish out!
Also, since you already know just how fast do they multiply, if you miss just a single one, you’ll quickly end up with lots of new snails before you know it!
2. Lower the Amount of Food
If you don’t want to get rid of all of your snails but simply want to control their population, all you need to do is to limit their food sources.
The number of snails will decrease when the amount of food available depletes. From pond snails to carnivorous snails, no species will breed if it doesn’t have enough food to thrive.
Make sure there is no leftover food. Uneaten fish food is a great snack for snails. If you give your fish more food than it can eat in about half an hour, you can expect to have a snail population explosion in no time!
If all else fails, use an aquarium siphon to vacuum the gravel and make sure there are no food leftovers. This will also help keep the tank clean.
3. Snail Eaters
If you’d like nature to do its thing, you might want to add some snail eaters to your tank.
There are many aquatic animals that will eat small snails in your tank. This includes fish such as:
- Zebra loaches
- Clown loaches
- Dwarf chain loaches
- Yoyo loaches
- Cory catfish
- Bala sharks
Some crustaceans, such as crayfish, will also happily munch on your snails.
There is even a carnivorous snail species, known as the assassin snail! The use of assassin snails to eat smaller snails is a well-known tactic of many experienced people in the aquarium hobby.
4. Snail Traps
The next method might be to use improvised snail traps. No, I am not talking about devices similar to mouse traps, although a few such products exist. A simple lettuce leaf will do.
Take a piece of fruit or vegetables snails love (but make sure it isn’t toxic to your fish!) and drop it in the tank. This might include:
Leave it overnight. By morning, snails should be all over the desert! All you need to do is pick up the veggie or fruit and carefully take it out – and snails with it. This is how you essentially trap snails, as they cannot get off the veggie fast enough.
While this method likely won’t get rid of all the snails in your tank, it can help you reduce the population.
This might be the best way for getting rid of nocturnal species, such as the Malaysian trumpet snail.
5. Aquarium Salt
Aquarium salt is an amazing treatment for many health problems your fish might be dealing with. What many tank owners don’t know is that it can also kill the snails in your aquarium.
Also known as sodium chloride, aquarium salt (and any other type of salt, such as table salt) is extremely toxic to most snail species. Even many snails that need brackish water to breed cannot survive in salty water for very long.
In fact, the amount of salt used to treat illnesses such as fish ich is enough to kill most snails. By using salt, you’ll not only get rid of snails but also improve the health of the fish inside the tank.
Unfortunately, this method isn’t effective for all snail species. Ramshorn snails, for example, are more durable than others, and they can survive in brackish water for a decent amount of time.
Another good method is to use vinegar.
Vinegar is not as deadly as many other chemicals, but it can still kill snails. Many snail species are sensitive to changes in water parameters, and lower pH levels might harm them.
If anything else, snails will hate the smell of vinegar! They’ll do all they can to get away from it, and this can include coming out in the open. This can help you take them out of the tank using other methods.
Just keep in mind that vinegar is often used as a way to lower the pH levels in the tank. If your pH levels are already near the lower end of the desired parameter, I would advise skipping this method. Otherwise, you are risking the life of your fish.
7. Plant and Algae Control
Most snail species are herbivorous or omnivorous. They’ll eat live aquatic plants, algae, and biofilm.
Many times when you have a sudden influx of snails you also have an algae overgrowth. Snails will thrive in an environment filled with algae. This is like a never-ending buffet for them!
You must find out why you had an algae overgrowth in the first place. If you don’t get rid of the cause, there is no point in getting rid of the consequence. The usual reason behind this is too much light, too high water temperature, and infrequent water changes.
If you have too many live plants, this can also be a problem. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do but reduce the number of plants in your tank – or make sure you’ve gotten rid of every last single snail.
8. Disinfect the Plants
This is more a method of prevention, but a useful one nonetheless.
If you notice snails in your tank but you didn’t intentionally add them to the aquarium, they probably came with plants or decorations.
Most snails lay eggs on plants. When you buy a new plant and add it to the tank, you might be adding snail eggs unwillingly, as well – especially if you’ve bought the plant from the pet store.
It’s important to know when to add fish to a newly planted tank. If you don’t quarantine or disinfect the plant with bleach or salt beforehand, don’t be surprised if you end up with a few new pets!
Dip the plants into the bleach solution or vinegar. This is a great way to kill all snail eggs.
Another great option is to dip them in potassium permanganate. This chemical is rather effective in killing snails, but it won’t harm the plant itself.
Finally, don’t listen to pet store owners that will swear their plants are snail-free. Only tissue culture plants certainly won’t come with any pests.
9. Add Plants Snails Hate
If you’d like to keep your live plants but don’t want them to serve as food for snails, you might consider adding plants snails hate.
The most popular plant for this method is anubia. Anubias are thick-leaved plants that snails won’t eat.
By keeping anubias and not other plant species, you’re getting rid of one food source for your snail. Most snails won’t even eat a rotting leaf of anubia as they hate the taste!
10. Regular Water Changes
Regular water changes can help you with many things. For example, this will lower the chance of algae formations, the main food source for many snails. It will also keep the water clean from decaying plant matter, another tasty snack for most snails.
Not just that, but water changes can get rid of the snail eggs and tiny snails you might’ve missed otherwise.
While this isn’t the easiest way to get rid of snails, it certainly is one of the most effective ones.
11. Chemical Treatment
Many chemicals kill aquarium snails. These are powerful solutions that can be found in many pet stores. Most of these products contain copper sulfate, a chemical that is safe for most fish but toxic for snails.
Other pesticides contain iron phosphate or metaldehyde.
If you use them according to the instructions, they are safe for your fish… Most of the time.
While chemicals are effective, I would use them with caution. Copper sulfate is toxic to plants, as well, so you will likely kill them together with unwanted snails.
Also, most chemicals will kill other intervertebral pets, such as shrimp. Take your blue tiger shrimp out on time!
Not just that, but such chemicals can kill lots of snails at once. This will release ammonia which is highly toxic to fish.
Due to all of this, I would advise you to only use chemical treatment if all other options fail. These are dangerous solutions that might lead to the death of other tank inhabitants.
The Final Word
No matter if you love or hate snails, one thing cannot be denied: Most fish keepers will eventually have to learn how to get rid of snails in aquariums.
Snails can be adorable pets, but their fast reproduction can get the best of us. It doesn’t take long for a few cute snails to turn into an entire pest colony out to get your tank plants and oxygen!
Whether you opt for the use of snail traps, aquarium salt, or chemicals, you need to make sure you don’t hurt the fish in the process. Try not to stress them out more than you must.
Also, I would advise you to use the most humane method possible. It’s important not to forget that snails are living creatures that feel pain and can be stressed out. While it’s understandable that you must get rid of them, try not to be cruel.
In the end, we all do what we must to ensure our aquariums are the best living places for our beloved aquatic pets!
You know that calming feeling of tranquility and thrill while looking at a gorgeous, perfectly functioning tank? That’s why I became an aquarist.
To make a very long story short, I’m Noah, and I’ve started this site aiming to share the most helpful advice on creating thriving habitats for fish and underwater animals.