Do Aquarium Snails Eat Live Plants?
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Live plants are a great asset in any aquatic setup, but things as never as smooth as we’d like. Plants require specific living conditions, including lighting, adequate fertilization, a balanced water pH, and, most importantly, safety.
There’s no point in adding live plants to an aquarium filled with plant-eating animals.
Today, we will discuss snails and their predilection for plant-based meals. The exciting thing about snails is that not all of them will consume live plants.
Knowing what to get for your aquarium can make a huge difference.
Snails that Won’t Eat Aquarium Plants
While snails are primarily omnivorous, many of them will refrain from consuming live plants. Many species are algae-specialized eaters, which make them a great addition to algae-infested environments.
Others will only consume live plants when there’s no other option available, only when they’re hungry.
For the most part, plenty of snail species will only eat live, fresh plants when starving, and there’s no other option available.
Here are some of the snail species that are considered safe for planted aquariums:
- Nerite snails – These are professional algae eaters, so you don’t need to worry about them attacking your live plants. Even so, you should provide nerite snails with food supplementation in case the algae content in the tank isn’t sufficient. These snails can have quite the appetite, causing them to graze for algae throughout the day.
- Bladder snails – This species showcases a scavenging behavior, as it typically consumes dead and decaying matter, including dead leaves. It will ignore live plants for the most part unless that’s the only food source available. Keep your bladder snails full, and you won’t have to fear them threatening your live plants.
- Assassin snails – These snails make for the safest choice around for obvious reasons. Assassin snails are carnivorous, so they won’t consume any plant matter, dead or otherwise.
- Black devil snail – Black devils are notorious scavengers with an appetite for algae. They aren’t good tank cleaning animals due to their size and weight, so expect them to feed mostly on the substrate. Black devils only attempt to eat soft leaves of live plants when they’re absolutely starving and have nothing else to munch on. Keep them satiated, and you won’t have to fear their plant-eating tendencies.
Fortunately, most snail species are omnivorous scavengers that prefer to consume dead matter and food residues from other tank inhabitants.
But are there snails that do consume live plants? Sure, there are.
Snails that Will Eat Aquarium Plants
There are several snail species that aren’t exactly fit for planted aquariums due to their predilection for live plants.
To name a few:
- Pond snails – As the name suggests, these snails are better kept in outdoor ponds. This way, they can consume leaves landing into their habitat, outside the normal food you’re already providing them with. Pond snails are herbivorous, so they will eat all plant matter, whether dead or alive.
- Apple snails – These snails are probably the worst choice for planted aquariums. This species will ignore algae and focus on everything else instead. This includes live and dead plant matter. It also doesn’t help that apple snails have a competitive appetite, so they won’t be ashamed to eat as much as they can. You can use the snails in heavily planted aquariums with adaptable and hardy plants. Other than that, stay away.
- Rabbit snails – This is a peculiar entry since rabbit snails don’t typically consume live plants. They do show a weird appetite for Java fern, though. So, you should keep track of your snail’s activity and feeding behavior to prevent that.
- Ramshorn snails – This snail doesn’t typically eat plants, but we had to include it on this plant-eating list due to the fact that it often does. It may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. Ramshorn snails are generally safe for planted aquariums, except when they’re not properly fed. Starving ramshorn snails will undoubtedly turn on your live plants to meet their nutritional requirements. These snails are also notorious for eating live plants with soft leaves. So, don’t take this species for granted.
- Giant Colombian ramshorn snail – This is among the worst snail species, alongside apple snails, for planted aquariums. The Colombian giant will consume live plants with an unmatched appetite, even when other food sources are available.
An interesting entry here is the Asolene spixi snail. The purebred doesn’t consume healthy plants since it mostly exhibits scavenging behavior.
The problem is that Asolene spixi is often crossbred with the Giant Colombian ramshorn snail, and we’ve already discussed what that one can do.
This wouldn’t be a problem if one could identify the hybrid, except you can’t really. The crossbred hybrid is pretty much identical to the original Asolene spixi.
This can lead to confusion, causing you to introduce a plant killer to your serene and lush planted aquarium.
So, always be aware when buying an Asolene spixi. The only way to determine whether you have a purebred or a hybrid is by assessing the snail’s behavior. If it shows a predilection towards live plants, you have your answer.
Aquarium Plants that Snails Won’t Eat
There aren’t really any plants that plant-eating snails won’t eat. If they’re hungry, they will eat anything available to them without making too much fuss about it.
There’s nothing you can do if you have a plant-eating snail except maybe going for a hardy plant that doesn’t mind being eaten occasionally. Frogbit comes to mind, as well as java fern and other species.
The problem is that if you have a lot of snails with a healthy appetite for live plants, no plant will survive in their environment. The solution is to focus on scavenging species that don’t show much of an interest in live plants. This is the only way to pair the 2.
How to Prevent Snails from Eating Aquarium Plants?
There are several ways by which to discourage snails from eating your live plants.
- Choosing the right plant species – This is the safest and most obvious way to go about it. Simply stick to a snail species that you know doesn’t eat plants. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
- Feeding the snails properly – Different snails have different appetites. Figure out how much your snail eats and how often and put together a reliable feeding pattern. Keeping your snail full is the best way of preventing plant munching.
- Avoid rooted plants – Go for floating plants instead. This won’t discourage snails from eating your plants necessarily, but it will make it more difficult for them. The snail won’t be able to eat as much live plant matter as it wants, allowing the plant to recover from the damages.
- Crushed shells – Sprinkle some crushed shells around your plants’ stems. Snails don’t like crawling over spiky stuff, so they will ignore the area. Unfortunately, this only works in aquariums with low water currents that won’t disturb the shells.
Ultimately, I think the best way to go about it is to invest in a scavenging snail species. You have nothing to fear if your snail doesn’t like live plants to begin with.
Can You Feed Snails Aquarium Plants?
Yes, you can feed snails with aquarium plants, but it depends on the species of snails. Some, like the Assassin, will not eat plants at all since they’re carnivorous snails.
Others, like bladder snails and black devils, will eat live plants occasionally if there’s no other food available.
If you want to feed your snails live aquarium plants, make sure you choose a snail species that loves live plants.
Otherwise, you will force your snail to starve. In this case, the snail will eat live plants, sure, but they won’t get adequate nutrition, and they will certainly not be happy.
Do Mystery Snails Eat Plants?
Mystery snails are omnivorous, so they will consume a variety of foods, including fish food, algae, blanched vegetables, biofilm, etc. These snails are true scavengers, so they won’t make too much fuss about their food.
They aren’t great live plant eaters, though. Mystery snails will only eat plants if nothing else is available, so they’re safe to use for planted aquariums.
Do Rabbit Snails Eat Plants?
Despite their name, rabbit snails don’t eat live plants as a general rule. They have been observed to eat java fern, though, so you should keep an eye on that.
Do Ramshorn Snails Eat Plants?
Ramshorn snails don’t like live plants, but Giant Colombian ramshorn snails do. Don’t confuse one for the other, especially since they have similar shells.
Do Bladder Pest Snails Eat Plants?
Bladder snails won’t eat live plants as part of their normal diet. These snails are born scavengers, and they will only consume dead matter, food residues from other tank inhabitants, and algae.
That being said, these snails are known as pests due to their unmatched appetite. You need to provide bladder snails with constant food to prevent them from turning their attention to the live plants.
The problem is that the excess food will cause the snail population to bloom. So, keep an eye on the snail’s mating and reproductive frequency.
Do Pond Snails Eat Plants?
Pond snails eat everything, especially live plants. They also breed fast, are resilient, and display extreme appetites.
These features alone explain why pond snails rank as pests pretty much all over the world.
That being said, there are multiple pond snail species available and not all of them eat live plants.
For instance, the big ear pond snail displays a more scavenging-type behavior, while the great pond snail will eat almost anything, either dead or alive.
Choose your fighter carefully!
Snails aren’t necessarily pests. Some are quite beneficial to aquariums, thanks to their predilection towards algae grazing.
If you want to use snails as algae deterrents, do so, but be careful about your snail’s dieting. Some will undoubtedly turn on your live plants if sufficient food is unavailable.