Nerite Snails are some of the most useful invertebrate in any aquarium.
They are commonly used as algae cleaners and this is why they have become the most popular aquarium snail.
There are hundreds of different species for marine or freshwater tanks, so you can be sure to find just the right one for your specific tank.
Has the world of Nerite Snails captured your attention?
Keeping reading to learn all about how to care for this snail including: diet, breeding, tank set up and much more…
|Other Common Names:||Cleaner Snail|
|Minimum Tank Size:||5 gallons|
|Tank Mate Compatibility:||Peaceful freshwater or saltwater community|
Table of Contents
Nerite Snails refers to all the freshwater and saltwater snails in the Neritidae family.
Most of the aquarium friendly species fall under the Nerita, Theodoxus or Neritina genuses.
They are found in tropical and subtropical aquatic environments all over the world and just love to eat algae. Because of this they are often known as Cleaner Snails.
Nerite Snails are ideal for beginner setups and make great first aquarium pets for children.
They are most often used as janitors for freshwater tanks because they will eat algae before it becomes a problem.
Too much algae can foul your water quality, stain your aquarium glass and deplete the amount of dissolved oxygen in your water column. Chemical algaecides can be toxic to fish in your tank, so using a natural algae eater is a much safer way to deal with nuisance algae.
However, these snails are not just excellent algae eaters but vital contributors to your aquarium community. By grazing on algae and other primary producers, these snails leave room for more growth to take place. This improves the overall quality of your miniature ecosystem.
You can find Nerite Snails in most stores.
They are the most common aquarium snail and are often sold in starter kits for beginners.
Expect to pay $2-$5 per snail (depending on size and species).
- Experience Required: Recommended for beginners.
- Nicknames: Cleaner Snail.
- Color Forms: Various.
- Size: 0.75-1.5 inches.
- Tank Size: Minimum 5+ gallon.
- Tank Temperature: 72°F to 78°F.
Nerite Snails Care Sheet
These Snails are very easy to care for.
Nerite Snails make a great first time invertebrate and are valued by novices and experts alike.
Saltwater species are a bit more high maintenance than freshwater species, but still perfectly manageable for beginners.
A community centered around these snails is a great starting point if you are trying your first saltwater or brackish aquarium.
One of the main health concerns with snails is flukes.
While the flukes do not affect the snail, they can infect your fish once they leave the snail’s system. You should always quarantine a snail for up to 2 weeks before you add them to your tank.
Another common condition is edema. This normally affects older Nerite Snails at the end of their lives and is a buildup of fluid which causes their entire body to swell up. If the swelling is not visible then you can tell that a snail is suffering from edema if they are struggling to move around.
Unfortunately not much is known about how to treat edema. However, most of the time it will improve on its own over time.
How Long Do Nerite Snails Live?
Nerite Snails only live for about a year on average.
Their lifespan is affected by their diet, health, quality of care and environmental conditions.
If you want to increase their lifespan then make sure that your water parameters are consistent at all times and avoid sudden rises or drops in temperature. You will also need to make sure that your water column is free of ammonia, copper, and other toxins.
Some species live shorter lives than others no matter how well you take care of them. Even in the best conditions, no Nerite Snail is likely to live for more than 2 years.
In the wild this snail eats the algae that grows on rocks and other surfaces. They will eat all forms of algae, including black beard algae, filamentous algae, particulate algae and red, brown or green algae.
Nerite Snails also feast on cyanobacteria and the microbial biofilm that forms on the surface.
Algae is the main part of their diet and this is actually why most keepers want them in aquariums.
If your snail has enough access to naturally occurring algae in your tank then you will not need to feed them outside food. If you can see thin layers of green growing over the glass, substrate and rocks then your snails likely have enough algae in the tank. If this algae only occurs sporadically (in thin clusters scattered around the tank), you need to give the snails some outside food until more algae accumulates.
When there is not enough algae in your tank you can crush up algae wafers or spirulina tablets.
Seaweed is a form of algae, so nori and other types of seaweed make great options. Blanched lettuce, cucumbers and spinach can also make tasty treats.
You do not need to feed Nerite Snails at any particular time of day. Just place their food at the bottom of the tank and wait for them to come out and feast.
However just remember that these options should only be used if your tank is low on algae.
These snails are good at finding their own food and most of the time they are able to do this.
Nerite Snails are extremely peaceful and completely undisturbed by their own kind or the other critters around them.
These snails are surprisingly good climbers!
They have had plenty of practice in the wild climbing up on rocks and logs to graze on algae and escape high tides.
Because of this you will find them at all levels of the tank (including areas where you might not expect to see them). They are very good at winding up in interesting spots.
You will usually see Nerite Snails making their way up the walls of your aquarium.
They tend to gravitate to areas with a lower water level.
When they feel threatened they will retreat inside their shell or hide under a rock. If you pick one up, it will emerge from its shell and probe your palm with their tiny tentacles.
Habitat and Aquarium Set Up
The Neritidae family is found in freshwater and saltwater habitats all around the world!
All species thrive in moist conditions at water temperatures over 72°F and with very dense algae growth. There must be an abundance of algae for Nerite Snails to survive.
Most of the population lives in freshwater tropical and subtropical streams, pools, ponds and lakes. They inhabit the downstream areas where salinities are slightly higher and the water levels change with the tides. Usually, they congregate in areas with lower water levels.
Saltwater species are found in marine environments with salinities under 20 dGH. They are commonly found in mangrove swamps and coastal inlets.
Regardless of the species you have you will need at least a 5 gallon aquarium. A 5 gallon tank is suitable for a non-breeding pair of snails under 1 inch long. For snails over 1 inch you should use a 10 gallon aquarium. 4 Nerite Snails will need a 20 gallon tank.
The specific tank setup depends on if you have a saltwater or freshwater snail:
The water in your freshwater tank will need:
- pH: 7.5-8.5.
- hardness: 6-18 dGH.
- temperature: 72-78°F.
You can use a sponge, hang on back, or undergravel filter that generates a very light current.
These critters are excellent climbers so you will need to keep a lid on your aquarium. The tank should also not be filled right to the top.
Nerite Snails are sensitive to bright light so it is best to use a low to moderate light intensity (between 2 and 5 watts per gallon). Your tank should never be exposed to direct sunlight too, or they can dry out.
Algae is the most important part of any Nerite’s home.
You should let a fair amount of algae grow before you add any snails to your tank. However, you should not use chemical fertilizers to encourage algae growth because you might cause a harmful algal bloom.
Certain types of plants are known for attracting algae.
Cyperus helferi is one of the best.
You can also try Hornwort, Anacharis and just about any type of Liverwort.
Logs, driftwood and rocks should also be provided as hiding spots. Your snails will graze on the algae that grows over these surfaces.
Use a dark colored sand or mud substrate enriched with wet leaf litter to attract algae.
For a saltwater setup you will need to use marine salts to increase the water hardness. The hardness in a saltwater tank should start at about 15 dGH and never go over 20.
The substrate should be high in calcium as this encourages healthy shell development. Try to find a soft substrate with crushed shells mixed in.
You can use live rock to decorate your setup – not only does it look great but it attracts plenty of algae for the Nerite Snails to munch on.
If you want to simulate a mangrove swamp environment then you can use bogwood, mosses, liverworts and large roots.
|Minimum Tank Size||5 Gallons|
|Hardness||6-18 dGH (freshwater) | 15-19 dGH (saltwater)|
|Substrate||Dark sand or mud (freshwater) | calcium sand (saltwater)|
Nerite Snails Appearance
As you can imagine with so many different species, no Nerite Snail looks the same!
The shell color, shape and structure is highly species dependent.
However, each Nerite Snails follows a basic anatomy that identifies their family.
Each shell will have a single large whorl that leads to a central coil. This coil can be spiral or conical and can have additional features like spikes or bands. The aperture (or shell opening) allows the head and the body to peek out. A trapdoor-like structure called an operculum opens and closes so that the snail can poke their head in and out of their shell.
Inside the shell is a protective membrane called the mantle, this holds the shell to the body.
Many of the most popular species have banded or spotted shells. Others may be solid colored, ribbed, smooth, or even iridescent.
These snails have very soft bodies powered by a muscular foot on their ventral side. This foot is the identifying feature of all gastropods. It is powered by muscle contractions on the ventral side which allow the snail to drag itself along the substrate.
You will not see your snail’s head and body very often. The head has four delicate tentacles used for feeling around the substrate. It also has two very tiny eyes that are on two eyestalks. Their eyes are very simple and can only detect light and darkness.
They also have a radula which is a tongue-like appendage which is used for scraping algae off of hard surfaces.
There is no way to tell the difference between males and females.
You will just have to wait until your snails surprise you with a crop of eggs!
Types Of Nerite Snails
There are over 200 different species of Nerite Snails, but some of these are more common in aquariums than others.
Here is a basic description of a few of the most common species:
- Horned Nerites (Clithon corona) are named after the spikes on top of their whorl. It may be solid colored or banded. The shell is usually a yellow and black banded pattern. They can also come in spots or solid orange, black, or yellow colors.
- Black Racers (Neritina pulligera) are also called Military Helmet Snails. They have a shiny black or brown ribbed shell which grows larger than most other species. In addition to being larger, Black Racers move slightly faster than other Nerite Snails.
- Zebra Nerites (Neritina natalensis) are one of the most common species. Many keepers admire their showy black and yellow bands which can come in any size and thickness. Some specimens may have larger black bands and thinner yellow bands, or vice-versa.
- Tiger Nerites have a bright orange base color patterned with black speckles or bands. The speckles may be arranged in a broken banded pattern along the whorl. This species is certainly one of the most decorative and also one of the most popular. A cluster of them will draw attention to even the most basic substrate.
- Olive Nerite Snails (Theodoxus luteofasciatus) are one of the smallest Nerite Snails. Most specimens do not even reach an inch in size. They have a shiny olive green shell with a very distinct black line that follows the coil. The coil is flat and travels along a single whorl. Their size makes them easy prey even for smaller fish so make sure not to place them with anything that can fit them in their mouths.
These snails are very popular for community setups.
Nerite Snails are peaceful and are generally ignored by fish.
In the wild they live alongside small fish and invertebrates from high salinity areas. In the aquarium they can be kept with anything that does not have an appetite for snails.
You can keep them with any type of Tetras including the Lemon, Rummynose, and Ember Tetra.
Zebra and Celestial Pearl Danios make great friends for them as well. Strawberry, Harlequin, and Chili Rasboras will not bother your snails either. Cherry and Rosy Barbs are safe, though other Barbs are not.
Fellow bottom dwellers include Oto and Cory Catfish.
In a saltwater setup you can include small Gobies and Lawnmower Blennies.
Guppies, Mollies, and Platys make good tank mates in a freshwater or brackish water environment.
These snails get along just fine with other algae eating snails, including the Rabbit Snail and Mystery Snail.
Never place Nerite Snails in the same tank with any large predatory fish, including: Groupers, Scats, or Freshwater Sharks.
You should also avoid keeping this fish with Goldfish, Bettas, Cichlids or Loaches.
Keeping Nerite Snails Together
Any species of Nerite Snail can be kept together.
They will not interact together but they will cluster around the same feeding spots. Unless they are breeding, they will ignore one another.
Since they are so small it is very easy to include too many in one tank. Remember that you should allow 5 gallons of water for each snail.
Breeding Nerite Snails
Unfortunately it is fairly difficult to breed Nerite Snails in home aquariums.
Accidental breeding does happen, but it is rare.
This is because:
- The conditions that are needed for these snails to breed are rather difficult to simulate in an aquarium.
- You cannot tell the genders apart by looking at them.
These snails are more likely to pair off if you keep an even numbered group.
You should start by isolating breeding groups in a separate tank.
The breeding tank should have a brackish salinity and a temperature of at least 74°F. Make sure to include a sponge filter and some mosses or leafy plants in the breeding tank.
If your snails have successfully paired off, the female will begin searching around for a place to lay her eggs. Up to 200 yellow egg capsules will be laid on leaves, mosses or logs. These eggs will be externally fertilized and take up to 53 days to incubate. They will turn black just before they are about to hatch.
The larvae are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
They will drift along the water eating microscopic foods.
Once they develop their shells and settle at the bottom, they will start grazing on algae.
You do not need to feed the young snails but you can sprinkle powdered Spirulina along the substrate if you wish. Make sure that they have a source of calcium for developing their shells.
Once mature freshwater species must be quickly transferred and acclimated to a freshwater tank.
It takes a total of about 6 weeks for these snails to reach maturity, after which you can place them into your freshwater or saltwater community.
History and First Sighting
The Neritidae fossil record dates all the way back to the late Cretaceous (over 65 million years ago). And the clade Neritimorpha goes back even farther, to the late Devonian.
You will find the first recorded living species (Nerita albicilla) was discovered by Linnaeus in 1758. In 1815 Rafinesque classified this species and others under the newly established Neritidae family.
Nerite Snails were originally kept in aquariums for observation and study but these snails were promoted to pets after their amazing algae eating ability was discovered.
Their popularity exploded through the 1980s and 1990s and lots of new colorful species were created. It was during this time too that commercial captive breeding programs were established in order to breed more aquarium ready snails.
Snail raising and breeding has now become a niche hobby within the fishkeeping community.
This remarkable little snail is still one of the most well-known snails in the aquarium trade and their algae eating is very much appreciated by freshwater and saltwater keepers alike.
We hope this article has helped you pick out the perfect type of Nerite Snail.
All species in the Neritidae family can live in perfect harmony. You can create a diverse little group of algae eaters that enhance your community.
You do not need to do much for these low maintenance pets.
Thanks to their big appetite for algae these critters can take care of the green stuff before it becomes a problem for your little ecosystem.
There are so many different environments to design for them too including: paludariums, mini mangrove swamps and even live rock reefs.
What is your favorite kind of Nerite Snail? Let us know in the comments section below…