So, you’re thinking about keeping ramshorn snails.
If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably found out that ramshorn snails are one of the two most controversial snails in the hobby. (Next to the Malaysian Trumpet Snail.)
There is no shortage of people who will tell you why you shouldn’t keep them.
But are they the right choice for your tank?
In this guide, we’ll help you decide whether ramshorn snails are the right choice and, if not, what you should look at instead. I’ll also cover how to make sure they:
- Don’t become a giant headache.
Let’s start with the basics:
|PH||6.5-8 (7+ is optimal)|
|Temperature||60-85 (70-80 is probably optimal)|
|Hardness||Most – 7+ is optimal|
|Lifespan||1 Year Avg (up to 3-5 years reported)|
|Size||.25-1″ (Depends on age and variety)|
|Diet||Omnivorous (Algae, dead plants, leftovers, etc) + Calcium source|
|Tank Size||Any tank big enough for fish.|
Keeping them is the easy part, however.
In the rest of the guide, we’ll make sure that you’re able to keep them from overrunning your aquarium.
Should You Keep Ramshorn Snails?
There seem to be two main groups of people when it comes to ramshorn snails:
- Those who like them and actively want to encourage their role in the aquarium.
- Those who hate them and go to great lengths to eradicate them.
There doesn’t seem to be much of an in between.
One group will tell you that they’re super beneficial and you should keep them. The other group will tell you that they’re an abomination and you should eradicate them now while you still can.
I’ll try to cover things in a bit more balanced of a format in this article.
Let’s start with the benefits as well as the drawbacks.
- They eat algae.
- They eat waste, dead snails, dead fish, and most other things that shouldn’t be kept in your aquarium.
- They typically won’t eat healthy plants.
- They’re one of the easiest varieties of snail to keep.
- If overfeed or neglect your tank maintenance at all, their population will explode. (The more food there is, the more of them there are. The less food, the less of them.)
- They can out-compete your bottom feeding fish for food if you let them.
- If you starve them, they will start eating your healthy plants. (Especially ones with thinner, easier to chew leaves like anacharis.)
Whether or not you want to keep them comes down to your individual situation. For example, mystery snails and nerite snails have many of the benefits of ramshorn snails, but they won’t multiply and take over your tank.
On the other hand, if you want a dead simple snail that you never have to worry about, ramshorn is great. (Especially if you have a fish that will eat snails – like the pea puffer. This would work out great and save you money in food.)
For the most part, ramshorn snails are much like any other snail.
They mostly spend their time exploring your tank, looking for food.
What can make them interesting is that they have a primitive lung instead of using gills like a lot of other aquatic snails.
Because of this, you’ll often see them coming up to the surface for air or swimming upside down on the surface of your water.
The good news if you’re trying to keep ramshorn snails is that there isn’t anything special that you need to do for them to take off.
They will do well in most aquarium conditions where fish thrive. (Including tank size.)
Of course, some are better than others.
The two things you need to be concerned about when it comes to ramshorn snails is PH and KH.
If your PH or KH are much below 7, you may run into shell issues with your ramshorn snails. This can take the form of pitting or cracks. You may also notice your ramshorn snails’ shells turning white.
You can solve this by increasing PH if it is too low. Another way to help fix these issues is providing calcium for your snails.
Ramshorn snails can survive in a wide variety of temperatures, depending on species. I’ve listed it as 60-85, based on the most common recommendations, but I’ve heard of some varieties surviving under the ice in ponds during the winter months.
Ramshorn snails don’t require any special decorations or substrates.
Stocking live plants can be helpful, because it will ensure they always have plenty of food to eat. As your plant loses leaves, your snail will be able to eat them.
Diet & Bioload
Ramshorn snails will eat anything undesirable in your tank.
- Soft algae (green, brown, diatoms, etc)
- Leftover food
- Dead fish
- Dead snails
- Dead plants
Ramshorn snails generally have a low bioload, since you aren’t feeding them specifically.
Most of the stuff they eat lays in the bottom of your aquarium, rotting and producing ammonia. Some of what the ramshorn snails eat goes into growing the snail, and the rest is pooped back out into the tank.
Whatever gets pooped out, obviously goes back to producing ammonia. As long as you remove any dead snails, this still reduces the total amount of ammonia production in your tank.
As long as they have food, ramshorn snails will breed.
The more food you give them, they more they will breed.
They will lay egg sacs on hard surfaces as well as plants inside of your tank. If you move anything from one tank to the next, you may find that you bring your ramshorn snails with you.
The more difficult part of keeping ramshorn snails is preventing them from reproducing so fast that they overwhelm your tank.
Even though there are multiple ways of doing this, it’s still not easy.
You may reduce the amount you feed your fish and remove tons of them by hand, only to have them still fill your tank with more snails.
By combining the below methods, however, you should be able to keep them in balance with everything else in your aquarium.
The #1 reason why pest snails, including the ramshorn snail, are able to reproduce so quickly is because there is an abundant food supply within the tank.
Usually, this is a result of overfeeding your fish.
A good rule of thumb is to only feed each fish an amount of food roughly the size of their eye. Feeding what they can eat in two minutes is another common rule of thumb, but for some fish 30 seconds may be a better one.
Reducing food also may mean trimming dead or dying leaves off of plants and cleaning your substrate more often.
If you’re doing this, and it’s not working as well as you’d like, it’s time to move on to phase 2:
The next thing you can do to keep your ramshorn snails from breeding out of control is enlisting the help of predators.
The most popular of these is the assassin snail, but in larger aquariums you may also be able to stock fish like the rainbow shark or clown loach that hunt snails.
Pea puffers are another good option, though they don’t generally make good community fish. If you keep them in a separate tank, you can move the snails over to use as a live food.
Getting Rid of Ramshorn Snails
If you have decided you want to completely get rid of the ramshorn snails in your tank, the first two things you want to do are reducing the amount of food they have available to them and get rid of the ones that are there.
This can be using predators or by putting zuccini or cucumber at the bottom and removing it after it is covered in snails.
Once you’ve done as much as you can, it’s time to bring in the big guns:
If you don’t have any other desirable snails in your aquarium, a product like no-planaria (available on Amazon) is a good next step to make sure they stay gone.
I’ve heard of other people using this to get rid of massive pest snail populations in their aquariums, including the nearly unkillable Malaysian Trumpet Snails.
If you give it a go, it should work for ramshorn snails as well.
Because of how fast they multiply, ramshorn snails can go into aquariums with most species of fish.
Exceptions include some cichlids, as well as species like the pea puffer.
Pea puffers are homicidal little fish that will kill every snail in your aquarium even if it is well fed.
Tank mates that won’t harass them include:
- Mystery snails
- Nerite snails
- Malaysian trumpet snails
Some predators, like the assassin snail, will hunt them but won’t be enough to wipe them out in most cases.
Ramshorn snails are some of the easiest to keep of any snails in the hobby.
What’s more, they are incredibly useful:
They will spend their entire lives scouring your tank and keeping it clean of waste, dead things, and algae.
There is one massive drawback, however:
They are way too successful. They will breed out of control.
And a lot of people regret ever getting them. If you can live with that, they are a great addition. If not, mystery snails or nerite snails may be better choices for you.