Do Pleco Fish Eat Snails?

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Although many aquarists think that snails are only a nuisance in their fish tanks, I love keeping snails. I like them because they are great at cleaning up leftover food, fish waste and algae.

I keep various snails in my tanks including ramhorn snails, apple snails, nerite snails, trumpet snails and rabbit snails.

One day, I noticed something very strange in one of my fish tanks: more and more ramhorn snails were dying. I didn’t see the dead snails, just their empty shells.

When snails are dying in your aquarium, it is a bad sign – it is a sign of poor water quality.

The good news was that water parameters were good and no fish died.

What happen with my aquarium snails? My bristlenose pleco actually eat all those snails.

I couldn’t believe that a pleco fish will eat snails, until I saw with my own eyes, that this 4 inch bristlnose pleco was sucking out a big nerite snail from its shell.

Why do Plecos Eat Snails?

I thought that plecos are only algae eaters. This is true for younger plecos, but adult plecos will eat pretty much anything they find.

Plecos adapt very well to any conditions and they will consume almost any type of food they find when they are really hungry. Plecos will also eat dead fish.

So why did my pleco fish eat the snails?

I assume, that he was hungry. He grew to a decent size, and probably the algae tablets and boiled vegetables I was feeding to him was not enough.

I feed my fish every day, so I never thought he was hungry.

Cannibalism Become a Habit

After my pleco fish started eating snails, he couldn’t stop doing it. Even if he was well-fed, he still ate all the snails he can find.

Somehow, the snail eating became a habit for my pleco fish.

What Types of Snails did My Pleco Eat?

First, he started eating ramhorn snails, because they were the easiest ones to be sucked out from their shell.

After that, my pleco tried to eat the nerite snails. Nerite snails have a trap door, which is used to protect themselves, but somehow to pleco has managed to suck out that door and managed to eat the nerite as well.

The apple snails couldn’t stand a chance. The small apple snails were a good snack for my pleco.

After realizing that my pleco is eating all the snails, I’ve removed most of my snails from the tank.

The bigger apple snails and rabbit snails were all fine, but couldn’t save many ramhorn snails from my hungry pleco.

Because the malayisian trumpet snails are burrowed under the substrate, I couldn’t remove them.

Well, the pleco managed to eat some of those snails as well. I just found more and more empty trumpet snail shells on the substrate every morning.

Should You Keep Snails with Plecos?

If you are breeding and rasing snails, probably you should not keep them together with your adult pleco fish. Sooner or later the pleco will taste the snails, and there will be no stopping until all snails are gone.

Should you get a pleco to get rid of snails? No, you should not buy a pleco fish for the only purpose of eating snails. It is not 100% certain, that you pleco fish will start eating snails.

What Fish Will Eat Snails?

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach

If you hate snails and want to get rid of them, I highly recommend reading linked my guide.

There are many options to get rid of snails in your fish tank. One is to get loaches.

If you have a bigger tank, more than 100 gallons, you can get clown loaches to eat the snails.

For smaller tanks, that are bigger than the 30-40 gallons, you can use smaller loaches such as kuhli loach, yoyo loach or zebra loach to get rid of snails.

I would not recommend buying loaches for the only reason of eating snails.

Can Pleco Fish Eat Snail Eggs?

I’ve never seen my pleco fish eating snail eggs, so I can’t say it with confidence that pleco fish can eat snail eggs.

From what I saw, that the pleco fish is able to suck out a nerite snail from its shell, I assume that it can eat snail eggs too.

If you can crush the snail eggs with your finger, probably the pleco fish is also able to crush and eat them.

Does Pleco Fish Eat Dead Snails?

As I mentioned before, plecos will eat or munch on anything they can find. Plecos will eat dead fish and snails too.

They will also eat decaying aquarium plans, and will munch on some plants. My pleco loves munching on frogbit leaves.

Do Plecos Eat Other Fish?

No, plecos will not eat live fish, just because they can get away. Although, they can attack some fish if they are hungry.

Common plecos often attack fish that have a rich slime coat. For some reason, plecos love munching on the slime coat of other fish.

The problem with this is that the pleco can harm other fish and will cause them wounds, which can be a source of disease or infection.

My bristlenose pleco does not touch other aquarium fish, but common plecos are pretty aggressive and can harm their tank mates.

Wrapping Up

So, this is my experience keeping snails with pleco fish. I wish I knew this before, that bristlenose plecos will eat snails.

I’m also very interested in your experience on this topic. Please share your thought in the comment section below.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
Questions and Answers

Our pleco has collected all the snail shells from around the tank (we’ve never had live snails), and likes to lie on them. Funny things, pleco.

Mike Penny May 18, 2021 Reply

Hi Fabian, I also get a lot of snail shells in my one tank and always thought that the red finned shark was responsible although I have never seen it eat a snail. I must now assume that it is also my pleco

Hi Fabian,

I just caught my adult Bristlenose Pleco trying to eat my mystery snail. They have been together for quite a while, but suddenly this is happening. She has eaten a hole in the snails foot and chunks of her she’ll have been bitten off.

I just got the snail out and will need to set up another tank tomorrow. I hope she can recover. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Do you think it’s all pleco that eat snails or just the bristlenose?

    Common Pleco will definitely eat snails! I kept buying large snails, loonie size or bigger in my Goldfish tank that had 1 common Pleco. Then I acquired a lot of hitchhiker snails on some plants I purchased. Before I could find a way to get rid of them the Pleco ate them. From then on whenever I got an abundance of snails in my other tank I would drop them in with the Pleco and they were gone in a couple of days.

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