Nerite Snail Care: The Complete Guide

Snails must be one of the most underrated parts of freshwater fishkeeping:

They sift through your substrate, keeping it clean.

Nerite snails even eat algae.

Plus, they just look darn cool.

If you’re looking into getting nerite snails, you’re in luck. In this guide, I’m going to cover everything you need to know to successfully keep nerites.

Let’s start with what your tank parameters should be:

Parameter Acceptable Range
Care LevelEasy
PH 7.5-8.5
Temperature 72-85F
Hardness5-15 dKH
Lifespan 1 Year (On Average; Up to 2 years)
Size 1”
DietAlgae & Dead Plants + Calcium Source
Tank Size 5 gal for 1 snail + 2-5 gal per extra snail

There are also some mistakes that people commonly make that can cause their snail’s shells to be eaten away or them to be killed outright.

I’ll be covering some of those in the sections to follow.

Nerite Snail Behavior

Nerite snails are an amazing little creature.

They may be slow, but they do get around. They are excellent climbers, and they will spend their days climbing all over your tank eating algae. Take a look:

They will generally be awake for between 33-41 hours at a time, after which they’ll enter their sleep cycle. During this time, they’ll take seven 20 minute naps spread out over 13 hours. (Source)

Nerite Snail Lifespan

If you get a nerite snail, you can expect it to live about a year on average.

This might be longer or shorter, depending on the level of care you provide it.

For example, if your tank is inhospitable to snails – either wrong water conditions or because of fish trying to eat them – they may not survive the first night.

If you use medication containing copper, that will also kill them pretty quickly.

Given perfect conditions, however, they could live for two years or more.

We’ll cover more about this in the Water Conditions and Feeding sections.

The Great Escape

If you don’t provide the right conditions, nerite snails aren’t the type to just lay there and die.

Instead, they will likely stage an escape.

As I mentioned earlier, nerite snails are excellent climbers. If you don’t have a tight-fitting lid, they will quickly climb out of your tank and try to find somewhere else more favorable to live.

Most times this happens, you’ll find them dead nearby the tank.

When provided the proper water conditions, however, they should be less likely to try to escape.

Upside Down

Though they are good climbers, they will occasionally fall off something and wind up on their backs.

This could be because they were trying to climb on a plant that couldn’t support their weight or because they slipped and fell off the glass.

In some cases, it could also happen because your fish is bullying them.

If they don’t have anything they can grab onto, they might not be able to right themselves.

In that case, you should lend a hand and turn them right side up again.

spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis) eating on a rock in a fish tank
ID 166024520 © Juan Carlos Juarez |

Tank Setup

Tank setup is perhaps one of the most important aspects of keeping nerite snails.

Having the right food, water conditions, and habitat can set you up with an almost maintenance free addition to your aquarium.

If your tank is too far out of balance, however, you can spend a lot of time and effort trying to fix problems and save them.

Water Conditions

The first thing we need to cover is water parameters.

Nerite snails like relatively high PH of 7.5-8.5 (higher in this range is better) and water with a hardness of 5-12 (preferably towards the middle of this range).

This is important, because if your PH and dKH is too low, your snails can start developing holes in their shells.

The most commonly used test kit – the API Freshwater Master Test Kit – does not contain a test for Carbonate Hardness (dKH). You’ll want to buy a separate test kit for hardness and test that as well if you’re planning on keeping nerites.

If your dKH or PH is too low, you can raise them with products from Seachem or another manufacturer available at your local fish store.

Nerite Snails and Saltwater

There are some snails that won’t tolerate salt at all.

Even just adding salt to cure ich is out of the question.

Nerite snails are not one of these snails. They love salt.

Nerite snails can live in a wide range of salinity – from freshwater tanks all the way up to full saltwater reef tanks.

They are naturally found in estuaries where freshwater rivers are dumping into saltwater bodies, so they are used to being in an environment where there is a variable amount of salt depending on when and where they are.

More than just loving it, it is necessary to their lifecycle:

In order to breed successfully, they must be in brackish (semi-salty) water.

They’ll still lay eggs regardless, but we’ll cover that in more detail later.

Luckily, brackish water is only necessary for breeding them. They will live happily in freshwater, saltwater, or anything in between.

Nerite Snail Bioload

Nerite snails aren’t super messy (like mystery snails), but they do contribute to the bioload in your tank.

Their bioload would be considered “small”, but that doesn’t really say much.

How much bioload they have depends on what you’re feeding them.

For example, if your tank has enough algae that they can survive just eating that, they aren’t adding any extra ammonia into your water.

The algae is growing and absorbing algae from your water, and the snails are eating the algae and pooping the ammonia back into your water.

They do still add ammonia (since when it’s in the algae it isn’t floating around harming your fish), but they’re just recycling what’s already in your tank.

If your tank is clean enough that you have to feed them, however, they will be adding extra ammonia in from whatever you’re feeding them.

If your tank is already close to being fully stocked, the best advice I have for nerite snails is to slowly add them and continue to test your water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

This will also prevent you from adding more than your aquarium can feed.

If you want to see whether you can add nerites safely or not, check out the AqAdvisor app.

Feeding Nerite Snails

Nerite snails will ideally be able to survive solely based on the undesirable things that collect in your tank. (Such as algae.)

Some types of nerite snails will only eat algae (the horned nerite would be one example). Others have a more varied menu.

In addition to their food (discussed below), one thing you need to provide them is a source of calcium. This will help them in properly growing their shells.

This can take a few forms. The easiest and cheapest of these is just to get a cuttlebone and drop it in your aquarium.

You can pick one of these up in the bird section at Walmart or another local pet store. They don’t go bad, but they will eventually start breaking apart. At that point you can replace it with a new one if desired.

Do Nerite Snails Eat Algae?

They will eat most types of algae, including:

One type of algae they won’t eat, however, is blue-green algae. They also may not eat green spot algae. You’re on your own if your tank is infested with either of those.

An important note is that you shouldn’t expect your nerite snails to completely rid you of the algae in your tank.

If your tank has a little algae, adding a snail might be a good thing. If it’s being overrun with algae, you need to figure out the root cause and fix it.

Some of the things you can look at are reducing the amount of light your tank gets (add light blocking curtains to any nearby windows, and reduce tank lighting to 8 hours per day) and adjusting the balance of CO2 and fertilizer you add to your tank.

If your tank doesn’t have enough algae, you may be able to get your nerite snail to eat algae wafers, but this isn’t a sure thing.

Do Nerite Snails Eat Plants?

Nerite snails will also eat dead plant matter.

If you put a new plant in, and it starts to melt, the nerite snails will consider all of the melting leaves to be food.

In this regard, they can act as a clean up crew, eating things you’d otherwise have to cut and remove.

They won’t eat living plant matter, however, so if you see them “eating” your plants, it’s probably for one of these reasons:

  • The leaf or stem is dying, and they’re eating the unhealthy/dying part of the plant.
  • The leaf has algae on it, and they’re grazing on the algae (not the plant itself).

Either way, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.

Do Nerite Snails Eat Leftover Food?

Whether snails will eat leftover food or fish poop sitting at the bottom of your aquarium depends on the species of snail and – to a certain extent – the individual snail in question.

Some nerites – like the horned nerite – are extremely picky and will only eat algae. Others may eat algae wafers, leftover fish food, fish poop, or other waste. Some will eat cucumber or zucchini but not wafers or pellets.

You shouldn’t expect a nerite snail to eat any of these things. If they do, it’s a bonus, but if you’re looking for something that will clean up everything on the bottom of your aquarium, you’ll want to get a different type of snail.

In this case, you’d want to look at a mystery snail, which will eat pretty much anything from fish food to dead plants to dead fish.

Do Nerite Snails Eat Other Snails?

Nerite snails will definitely not eat other snails.

There are occasional reports of “my snail is attacking my other snail”, but these usually are just the two snails breeding.

They are peaceful snails and should be suitable for putting in tanks with other snails, shrimp, and fish, if those fish won’t attack them.

Let’s cover some good tank mates to stock with your nerites:

Tank Mates

As I mentioned above, nerites generally are peaceful creatures. This means you won’t have to worry about them harming anything else in your aquarium.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you can put them in with anything.

Some types of fish will attack or bully them, which can shorten their lifespan drastically.

Some snails (like the assassin snail) will outright hunt and eat them.

Here is an incomplete list of tank mates that you should be able to safely house with a nerite snail:

  • Shrimp
  • Snails (except ones like the assassin snail that eat other snails)
  • Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Barbs
  • Rasbora
  • Danios
  • Corydoras
  • Otos

Avoid aggressive fish like cichlids or pea puffers (which will kill all your snails for fun).

Nerite Snails and Betta

Betta are a mixed bag in terms of whether they can be kept with nerite snails or not.

Some of them love nerites.

Other ones will bully them constantly.

If you have a laid back betta, you can try adding a nerite in if you want. You should have another tank you can move the nerite to, however, just incase things don’t go well.

Breeding Nerite Snails

In a standard freshwater or saltwater aquarium, breeding nerite snails is pretty much impossible. (Note – there are reportedly some varieties that will breed successfully in full saltwater, but most of the available snails require brackish water to breed.)

Don’t get me wrong – they’ll still cover your aquarium in eggs.

Those eggs just won’t hatch into viable snails.

In order to make sure they can successfully breed, you need to put them in brackish water.

To create the right water, get a hydrometer and add marine salt to a breeding tank until you reach a SG of between 1.002 – 1.005. It’s important that you use marine salt and not aquarium salt for this.

You have two options from this point. Either:

  1. Move a group of nerites into the breeding tank (a large enough group that you know there are males and females both).
  2. Wait until eggs are laid and fertilized in your existing aquarium, and move the objects covered in eggs to your breeding tank.

From there, the eggs should hatch into baby snails.

These babies will need to feed on algae, so you should either wait until algae develops in your breeding tank, or you should move objects covered in algae over with the eggs. Putting the tank in front of a window may help in the growth of algae in the breeding tank.

Baby Nerite Snail Care

Once the babies hatch, you just have to provide them the right conditions until they are large enough to move back to your freshwater tanks.

You should remove any other snails from your breeding tank. This will ensure your babies aren’t out-competed for algae.

Perform normal maintenance on your breeding tank, and let them grow for at least a month before attempting to move them over to a normal tank.

Removing Nerite Snail Eggs

The biggest down side of nerites is that they lay eggs everywhere.

Especially if you have driftwood in your tank.

These eggs can be extremely difficult to remove, too.

Luckily, they usually will taper off and/or stop laying eggs eventually (until you get new nerite snails). The eggs, if left alone, will also eventually dissolve.

If you want to remove them more quickly, however, it can (mostly) be done.

There are two main tools for this that you need:

  1. A scraper. Can be a razor blade, toothpick, or commercial aquarium scraper.
  2. A brush. Can be a toothbrush or aquarium scrubber sponge.

It requires a lot of elbow grease, but it’s not that difficult to do.

Step 1 is to remove the eggs with your scraper. After that, take your brush to anything left of the egg that is stuck to the surface of your aquarium/decorations.

This can be considerably more difficult to do with driftwood (unfortunately their favorite thing to lay eggs on), but you can try it there as well.

There isn’t any way to stop them from laying the eggs in the first place though. If this is a deal breaker, you may want to look for another species of snail.

Nerite Snail Diseases

There isn’t a great deal of information available on diseases that nerite snails might get.

A few sources mention edema and other swelling related diseases, but I’ve not personally seen this or spoken to someone who had this happen in their nerites.

What is most common are things that result in your nerite snail constantly ending up on their back.

This can happen for a few reasons:

  • The water parameters changed drastically. (For example, suddenly adding a lot of salt can cause this.)
  • You recently used a medication that your snail is reacting badly to. A lot of medications and additives contain copper, which can kill your nerite snail.

In these cases, the best thing you can do is move your nerite snail to a new container of water and add something like Seachem Prime. Eventually, your snail will either die or recover from the irritation caused by whatever you added to your water.

Then, you can fix the water in your tank and reintroduce your nerite.

Another concern are parasites.

For example, if you have ich in your aquarium, you may notice white spots on your snail’s shell. These don’t seem to harm the snail, but ich is dangerous to the fish in your aquarium. Because of this, it should also be treated.

Be warned:

As we discussed above, a lot of medications can kill snails.

Whatever medication you use, it must be safe for nerite snails. Seachem ParaGuard is one of the medications that can safely be used with nerite snails. It treats parasites as well as a lot of other bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases in your aquarium.

Overall, nerite snails are generally healthy creatures that shouldn’t have too many diseases.

In Conclusion

Nerite snails are simple and easy to keep if you stick to the water parameters I listed above and make sure they have food and calcium available to them.

I definitely recommend them if you’re looking for a snail for your aquarium, as long as you don’t mind dealing with eggs everywhere.