Nerite snails are simple, often beautiful addition for virtually any freshwater aquarium. These snails are known for their simplicity to take care of, as well as their vibrant colors and patterns. As a bonus, Nerite snails even clean algae and grime from the tank!
Nerites are from the crowded Neritidae family, along with over 200 other species. Some originate in bodies of saltwater, such as oceans, and others hail from freshwater areas, such as rivers and streams. As a result, Nerite snails come in both saltwater and freshwater varieties.
It is said that the freshwater snails originated in Eastern Africa, while the saltwater snails hailed from the waters of the Pacific or Caribbean coast. These origins can be seen in the preferences and requirements for Nerite snails, which will be covered in detail throughout this overview.
Characteristics & Types of Nerite Snails
Nerite snails come in saltwater and freshwater species, however freshwater varieties are far more common and are more widely available. In captivity, these snails can be expected to live between 1 and 2 years. However, most owners report their snails generally live closer to the one-year mark.
These snails can range from 1/4” to 1” in captivity. As a result, many people opt to get a few different types of Nerite to ensure that they’re noticed in the tank.
Nerites are admittedly not the most active sea creatures. They prefer to find a spot of their liking and can remain there for hours on end. However, their shell colors can be quite striking and can be reason enough to add a few to a tank setup.
There are many varieties of Nerite snails living both in captivity and in the wild. However, some of the most popular snails for captivity are Zebra snails, Tiger snails, Olive snails, Horned snails,
Black Racer snails, and Red Spotted snails. These snails do have slight differences in personality and preference, but their primary difference is in their appearance.
Certain owners may be looking to get different things with their Nerite snails. For example, owners looking to provide their tank with vibrant colors and patterns will likely opt to include Zebra, Tiger, and Red Spotted Snails. Those just wishing for an inconspicuous snail to feed on algae should look at the Olive and Black Racer snails. For a unique addition and conversation starter, the Horned snail is also a great option.
Again, these snails are largely different based on appearance alone. As a result, the guide that follows is applicable to nearly any species of Nerite snail.
One of the best things about Nerite snails is their simplicity. They are adaptable to virtually any environment, and thus don’t require a complex tank setup to care for. However, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to keep Nerite snails happy and healthy.
Nerite snails prefer water that reflects a tropical climate. Thus, they thrive in waters between 72 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as they are adaptable and fairly hardy, it is speculated that they can live in waters ranging from 65 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Nerite snails, like all marine wildlife, also require a certain pH to survive. This pH has been established as being between 6.5 and 8.5.
Regarding both pH and temperature, it is important to keep the established value stable. While durable, these snails will struggle in constantly-changing conditions. If it is a new tank set up, measurements should be taken constantly to ensure that values don’t fluctuate to an appreciable degree. Even in an existing tank, weekly measurements should be conducted to ensure stable values.
Nitrate content is also a factor that must be observed when housing a Nerite snail in an aquarium. It should be below 20 milligrams per liter. In a tank, nitrates are typically caused by fish waste and decomposing fish matter. So, a tank with many fish and live plants will likely contain far more nitrates than a non-populous tank with artificial plants and decorations. Nitrates are extremely toxic to fish, so this number should be carefully watched.
Nerites, as with nearly all marine life, survive best in clean water. (That is, of course, as long as there is enough algae to go around) To ensure clean and healthy water, a filter should be used in all aquariums to clean water of potential contaminants, like nitrates and ammonia.
These snails also have very little limitations regarding tank size. They can exist in a tank of only 5 gallons. In addition, they can also exist in larger tanks with many other snails and fish. It should be noted that the waterline should be located fairly deep down from the top of the class. These snails tend to crawl a bit above the waterline, and thus pose a bit of an escape risk in a full aquarium. A lid can also effectively eliminate this risk. However, when purchasing a lid, it is important to ensure that the lid allows enough light into the tank for algae to grow.
Nerite snails can survive in nearly any substrate. Multiple owners report vastly different findings regarding their Nerite’s compatibility with certain substrates. However, if they find a particularly comfortable substrate, they will often bury themselves in it. As a result, owners should consider trying a variety of substrates to evaluate which one best fits the Nerite. I know, it’s difficult to gauge the particular affinities of a snail, but try your best!
Finally, Nerites enjoy being in locations with live plants. These plants often shed and leave resultant plant matter that Nerites will gladly eat. Nerite snails aren’t picky; largely any types of plant will suffice. (Also, they won’t eat the live plant itself, so there’s no need to worry about a Nerite chowing through a pant)
The feeding regimen for Nerite snails is actually quite beneficial for an aquarium owner. This is because these snails feed primarily on algae that grows in the tank. This means that they help to clean the tank as they eat algae present on tank walls.
It is important to recognize whether a tank has enough algae to support a Nerite snail. In general, if the tank gets a proper amount of light and has high nutrient content, then it will produce enough algae to support a Nerite snail with little supplementation.
If there are multiple Nerites in a tank, or if enough algae doesn’t grow to support a Nerite, they will need additional food. They will eat a variety of fresh vegetables, and of course, algae wafers. As with nearly all living beings, Nerite snails have preferences when it comes to eating. This is different between every snail, so an owner should experiment and see which foods their Nerites enjoy.
Many owners also report that their snails prefer to graze on a piece of driftwood in the tank. This may be an opportunity to provide some variation in food for a Nerite.
Because of their limited scope of food, some Nerites may require calcium supplementation. This is often done with the use of a cuttlebone. Calcium is a necessary mineral that will keep a Nerite’s shell strong.
As with all aquatic life, it is possible to overfeed a Nerite snail. Overfeeding is characterized by excess waste production in the tank. This can lead to dirty water and in-tank contaminants that are dangerous to other fish. This can also have negative health implications for the Nerite itself, so it is important for a user to ensure that their snail is getting the necessary nutrients without providing too much food.
Tank Maintenance & Care
Tank maintenance for a Nerite snail is incredibly easy. Actually, because of their algae-eating properties, a Nerite snail may actually make tank maintenance easier. Owners of Nerites will find that their tank-cleaning time is substantially reduced with the addition of a few Nerite snails.
One important note is that Nerite snails have difficulty righting themselves when they are flipped over. If a Nerite finds itself on its back, it will likely not be able to move until it is flipped over by an aquarium owner. For this reason, it is important to give Nerite snails daily attention to ensure they don’t accidently flip over.
To this effect, owners should ensure to never drop a Nerite into its tank with its shell facing down. This could lead to them laying on their back and unable to move.
Of course, it is also important to routinely monitor water pH, alkalinity, nitrates, and overall cleanliness. These is standard procedure for nearly all aquarium setups, and it keeps aquatic life healthy and happy.
Because Nerite snails are unaggressive, they are compatible with a great number of aquatic life. In fact, it’s easier to explain which fish can’t live with Nerite snails. Largely, the Cichlid family is out of bounds because of their inherent aggressiveness. Crayfish and goldfish are also largely off limits as well. However, even semi-aggressive fish as the Betta fish, have been deemed as safe to put in a tank with a Nerite snail.
Nerite snails can also coexist with other algae eating organisms such as themselves. As long as there is enough algae to go around, there will be no problems between these creatures.
In essence, it’s important to keep Nerite snails away from creatures that may do harm to them. Fish do, in fact, have personalities, and sometimes a certain fish will act totally different than a fish of the same breed. As a result, if incorporating new fish into a Nerite tank, their interactions should be closely monitored for the first couple of days in order to ensure amicability.
Keeping a tank balanced and conflict-free is essential to the wellbeing of the creatures, so it is important to choose tank mates wisely.
Diseases and Treatments
Nerite snails are not immune from a variety of diseases that often plague marine life. One of the most common diseases facing the Nerite snail is called Oedema. This disease results in substantial swelling of the snail’s body.
Oedema is said to be caused by an imbalance in the snail’s fluids. If a snail is exhibiting symptoms of this disease, the owner should consider moving the affected snail away from other snails in the tank.
There is no true cure for this disease, but it is typically only deadly when affecting an old or unhealthy Nerite snail. If the snail unfortunately dies, it is important to remove the snail from the tank immediately so as to not risk spreading disease throughout the tank.
There is also the issue of a parasite infecting a Nerite snail. This is typically identified by the presence of white spots on the snail’s body and shell. These parasites can be deadly and should be taken care of upon recognition by the owner.
The most popular protocol for getting rid of a parasite in a Nerite snail is to raise the salinity of the tank to a specific gravity of 1.003. This can aid in eliminating the parasite from the snail’s system and prevent the parasite from spreading.
As with the aforementioned Oedema, it is important to move affected snails away from the general population if they are believed to be infected.
Breeding Nerite Snails
Breeding Nerite snails can be a bit tricky. For freshwater snails especially, this task can be extremely difficult.
Most snails typically reproduce asexually. This means that they can reproduce on their own and don’t require a partner. However, Nerite snails are different. They require a female to lay eggs and a male to fertilize the eggs.
This is because Nerite snails can reproduce and lay eggs in freshwater, but the larvae don’t typically survive in freshwater. This can be good news for individuals who don’t want snails to reproduce, but it is tricky for those looking to breed their snails.
However, there is a way around this. Individuals looking to breed freshwater Nerites can move larvae into water with a mix of salt and freshwater. The best way to do this is to slowly increase the saltwater content so as to not shock the snail.
After the first couple of weeks, the expected life span of these snails greatly increases. This is because the first few weeks of a Nerite snail’s life are the most difficult. As a result, proper care must be taken to ensure that these snails are in pristine conditions to thrive when they are born. Otherwise, they likely won’t make it to the 2-week mark.
Nerite snails are a simple and useful addition to nearly any tank. Beginners and experts alike can enjoy the vibrant colors of the Nerite snail while also reducing their tank-cleaning time. Nerites are non-aggressive by nature, and thus don’t have issues living alongside a vast amount of other sea creatures. However, care must be taken not to pair the Nerite with a predator that might view it as an easy lunch.
With a 1-2 year life expectancy, Nerites are hardly a life-long commitment. However, after owning one, many owners opt to replenish their aquariums with Nerites for a long time.