How to get Rid of Excess Snails

This page is about snail elimination, when snails become too numerous or simply if they damage the aquarium environment. The philosophy here is contrary to the site but many hobbyists require solutions to these problems so ... here it goes.

When one wishes to  eliminate snails, a little thinking is required first of all;  first of all the species to be eliminated needs to be identified and then there must be a choice of method;  the consequences of this elimination must be understood and mastered.

I'll try to present all possible cases in the simplest way.

First of all, determining the species will enable to know about feeding habits and therefore choose an adequate type of trap or predator.

For this determination, do not hesitate to visit the site, it cotains data on ampullariidae, melanoids, limnaea, planorbes, physa as well as other species.

It may become useful to list the above mentioned species according to their main type of food:

- Mainly algae: Planorbes / Physa / Limnaea
- Mainly omnivorous:  Ampullaridae
- Mainly waste: Melanoids

I consider the species listed above are the most likely to appear in the aquarium, I'll therefore focus on these ones.

The second step is to determine the probabla cause of the infestation as well as the size of the adult snail:

Species Adult Size

Probable cause of Infestation

Ampullaridae up to 10 cm Adequate environment + viable eggs
Planorbes up to 3 cm Abundance of food + no predators
Physa up to 1 cm Abundance of food + no predators
Limnaea up to 6 cm Abundance of food + no predators
Melanoïds up to 5 cm Abundance of food + no predators

Adequate environment and the absence of predators result in the multiplication of all species.

Elimination techniques

Except  Marisa cornuarietis, all ampullariidae lay their eggs above water, the only explanation for their number to have become a nuisance is the lack of care of the hobbyist.  Anyhow, the size of ampullariidae makes them easy to catch and remove manually.

One also observes that besides ampullariidae, only the melanoids are true waste eaters.

The technique of boiled lettuce, that consists in placing boiled lettuce in a recipient that acts as trap (such as a 1/4 Liter water bottle) may therefore be used to eliminate limnaea, planorbes and physa.  On the other hand, it will be totally ineffective against melanoids.  This technique has the advantage of not participating to the degradation of the aquatic environment.

Take a 1/4  liter bottle, clean it and remove the paper and  glue.  Place the boiled lettuce in it (one leaf should suffice).  Place the bottle in the aquarium - by day, only melanoids come out at night !  When the bottle is filled with snails simply retrieve it from the aquarium and empty its content in a small bucket ... the experience may be repeated as necessary.

I recommend to place the captured snails in a recipient - a bottle or whatever - as they may be useful for 'snail predators' breeders.

The lettuce may be replaced by a small piece of meat, if one wishes to also catch melanoids, but be careful as meat decays very quickly in these conditions and cannot remain underwater more than half an hour.  The inconvenient is that one also risks to capture fish.  To avoid this problem, place the trap at night.

NEVER crush the snails or eggs expecting that fishes will eat them afterwards. They will not and the aquarium is bound to become highly polluted !

Snail Predators

Another method of elimination consists in introducing predators; but these will inevitably have an influence on the aquarium life.  It is possible that this solution generates  other problems. Here are some possibilities:

Predator Effectiveness Requirements and Risks
Botia Macracantha Swift and total elimination Botias live in small communities, they require to live in small groups and need to be introduced as such and therefore to be included in the aquarium populaton permanently or another solution is to be considered.  Furthermore, their livelyhood may disturb other fishes.
Macropodus opercularis Slow elimination, the result is often not satisfying Macropodes or "paradise fishes" are very aggressive towards their own species and the rest of the aquarium population.
Crabs Slow but systematic and total elimination Whereas effective, they might attack fishes and cut plants.  their lifetime in aquarium is limited and they may be considered as nuisance themselves.
Tetraodons, namely Tetraodon fluviatilis Swift and total elimination Tetraodons require snail shells to wear their teeth.  In this case, the profit is doubled, snails are food and maintenance material. On the other hand, most of tetraodons do not dwll in freshwater.  They require a little salt and may be very aggressive towards surface fishes.

If you wish to see the predators mentioned above, click HERE

I also mention some methods in the melanoids page; as a reminder, in order to avoid useless work:  if the substrate is composed of thin sand,  simply sieve it to extract the snails. If need be, a total cleaning of the aquarium will be required, with substrate changing.

Finally and to come back to the site philosophy, try not to destroy completely a snail population that in all cases has a beneficial impact on the aquarium if controlled, be it the air draining of the substrate or fight against algae and waste.