Rabbit Snail: The Definitive Guide To This Marvelous Mollusk

The Rabbit Snail is an adorable and unique cleaning snail with a personality as colorful as their body.

These bright little gastropods are surprisingly fun to keep and care for.

There are many different species available and each has their own unique appearance. Even their cone shaped shells can have a wide variety of colors.

Rabbit Snails are very different from most aquarium snails.

Are you up to the task of keeping this snail?

Keep reading to learn more about this marvelous mollusk…

Rabbit Snail
Other Common Names: Sulawesi Snail, Elephant Snail, Bunny Snail
Scientific Name: Tylomelania
Family Name: Pachychilidae
Distribution: Sulawesi, Indonesia
Size: 3-5 inches
Color: Orange, yellow, gold, spotted, black, brown
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 1-3 years
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Peaceful freshwater fish and invertebrates

About Rabbit Snails

Yellow Rabbit Snail

Rabbit Snails include over 30 species in the genus Tylomelania. They come from the family Pachychilidae and are endemic to Sulawesi.

The most popular member of the family is the Orange Poso (Tylomelania zemis) and this is the focus of this article.

However the care advice mentioned here is applicable to all Rabbit Snails.

These snails are known for their long, twisted conical shells.

Their shells are prized by collectors for ornamental reasons. They come in beautiful color patterns that can be used to identify the different species.

Rabbit Snails are great for freshwater communities and will fit right into a 30 gallon tropical tank. Invertebrate enthusiasts just love these snails for their beauty and their usefulness. As bottom dwellers they make a great cleanup crew for your tank.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Invertebrate keeping
  • Nicknames: Sulawesi Snail, Bunny Snail, Elephant Snail
  • Color Forms: Orange, yellow, gold, black, brown, spotted
  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Tank Size: 30+ gallons
  • Tank Temperature: 68-86°F

Pros and Cons

  • Very good at cleaning up algae, dirt, and detritus.
  • Will not be disturbed by most fish.
  • Entertaining to watch.
  • Large enough to avoid being eaten.
  • Will not damage most plants.
  • Sensitive to water quality.
  • Can climb up out of the tank.
  • Susceptible to leech infestations.

Typical Behavior

Rabbit Snail Eating Algae

These inquisitive little snails love to explore the world around them.

You will see these guys at all levels of the tank.

Although they spend most of their time in the substrate you can even find them climbing on the glass near the surface.

Similar to other snails they will hide in their shells when they feel stressed or scared. Currents, bright lights, sudden movements, and being picked up and handled will cause your snail to retreat.

When they are out exploring they will probe the substrate with their antennae and their snouts, searching for food. Occasionally they will group up and share any spoils they find. If food is plentiful in one specific area of the tank, do not be surprised if all of your snails congregate in that one spot.

Then when it is time to rest they will burrow in the substrate or settle under logs.

Rabbit Snail Not Moving

If your Rabbit Snail is not moving then do not panic.

There are lots of reasons why a snail may be less active than usual.

A Rabbit Snail can sleep for up to 3-4 days before resuming their regular activity. This is especially true for snails that are new to the tank. They may still be adjusting to their new environment. Acclimating the snail by using the drip method will make the adjustment process easier, but it can still take a while before it is fully settled in.

Other reasons that a snail may be sluggish can be related to poor water quality or a temperature that is too cold or too hot. Snails are particularly sensitive to the environment around them.

Overall, a few days of inactivity is usually nothing to worry about.

Rabbit Snail Appearance

Yellow Rabbit Snail Close Up

The size of this snail depends on the species.

Orange Posos are one of the largest and can grow up to 5 inches long. Other varieties tend to grow between 3 and 4 inches long.

Most of the snail’s size is taken up by their long and pointed shell.

All species have a unicorn horn shaped shell – it is shaped like a cone with a sharp point at the end. How wide or narrow the point is can vary across the species.

Larger species will have a larger aperture. The aperture is best described as a doorway to the inside of the shell.

An opening and closing appendage called the operculum allows the snail to retract itself into their shell when they feel threatened.

Most species have 5 to 7 whorls (or twists) on the shell. Some may have as little as 4, while others can have as many as 8. No two shells are exactly alike across the different species. The shape and thickness of the shell has evolved based upon the location and environmental conditions of each species’ natural habitat.

Like all gastropods, Rabbit Snails have a muscular foot. This can be found on the snail’s underside and is used to move along the substrate. They also have long antennae that are used to detect movement in the substrate, and have a small blind eye behind each one.

Their skin is visibly wrinkled which gives them the nickname Elephant Snail.

Lastly, male and females look the same so there is no real way to tell the difference until you breed them.

Colors

  • Orange Poso (Tylomelania zemis): A bright orange snail native to Sulawesi’s Lake Poso. They have a black or dark brown shell and can reach 5 inches long.
  • Yellow Poso (Tylomelania zemis): This is a yellow variety of the Orange Poso. They have a dark brown or a mix of light and dark shades on their shell.
  • Gold (Tylomelania gemmifera): This species has a deep golden yellow body, with a black or dark brown shell.
  • White Spotted (Tylomelania patriarchalis): A salt and pepper colored snail that has a black body with tiny white polka dots. Their shell comes in mixed shades of red, brown, and white.
  • Gold Spotted (Tylomelania towutensis): This is similar to the black spotted variety, except they have golden yellow dots instead of white. Their shell has mixed shades of black, brown, and yellow.
  • Yellow Spotted (Tylomelania towutica): Do not get this confused with the gold spotted variety. This variety has larger dots that are more faded. Their shell is black, brown, and white.
  • Chocolate (Tylomelania perfecta): A chocolate brown body and a sandy colored, finely pointed shell.
  • Black (Unknown species name): A sleek black body with a black shell to match. This is a particularly rare species.

How To Set Up A Tank For Rabbit Snails

Tylomelania zemis

To keep these snails you will need a 30 gallon aquarium.

The water temperature can be anywhere from 68-86°F, but 72-75°F is ideal. You can use a basic aquarium heater in smaller tanks to reach this temperature. But in larger tanks you will need one that is a little more powerful.

You should keep the water flow very low and only use a gravel filter, hang on back, or a low power internal filter.

The pH should range between 7.0-8.5 and the hardness should be kept between 4-12 dGH.

Since these snails are such talented climbers you will also need a hood to keep them from climbing up out of the tank. The light should be moderate-high, but not so intense as to risk cooking your snails. Try to mimic the shallow waters that your snail would inhabit in the wild.

As for the substrate it can be any size but it should be very soft to avoid injuring your snails. They will want to burrow in it from time to time.

You can include just about any plant that tolerates tropical conditions, except for the Java Fern. Java Ferns are one of this snail’s favorite foods. Floating plants such as Hornwort and Waterweed are among the best kind for a Rabbit Snail tank. You can keep Anubias, Sword Plants, and other large leafy plants as well. You can even keep Marimo Moss Balls.

A few logs, driftwood, or natural bogwood can provide a great hiding place for a snail that needs some peace and quiet.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons
Tank Type: Tropical freshwater
Temperature: 68-86°F
pH: 7.0-8.5
Hardness: 4-12 dGH
Flow: Light
Substrate: Soft

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

These little snails can cover a surprisingly large distance in their daily adventures, so they should have at least a 30 gallon tank size.

Tank Mates For Rabbit Snails

Rabbit Snail Tank Mates

Because this snail is larger than most snail species, they can be kept with fish that you usually could not keep in a snail tank.

Nano fish such as Tetras, Rasboras, and Zebra Danios are some of the best tank mates.

If you keep your tank temperature towards the low end of the range then the White Cloud Mountain Minnow is another good addition to the tank.

Dojo and Kuhli Loaches are small and peaceful enough to get along just fine with this snail too. If you want to add a few Gouramis then the Honey, Dwarf, and Sparkling Gouramis are your best option.

Guppies, Mollies, and smaller Rainbowfish will add a splash of color to your tank and can be safely kept with Rabbit Snails too.

As for other invertebrates, you can keep any that are not known for killing or eating snails. Cherry, Amano, and Bamboo Shrimp are some of the best options.

Ramshorn Snails and other large Apple Snails are usually safe choices too.

Avoid any fish that are large enough to eat this snail, including Goldfish and most Plecos. All Cichlids should be avoided, even Angelfish and Dwarves. Larger loaches such as the Clown Loach should also be avoided because they are notorious for snacking on snails.

The Assassin Snail should be avoided.

Finally you should avoid large catfish or any other predatory fish.

Can You Keep Rabbit Snails Together?

Rabbit Snails do best when they are kept in groups of 3 or more.

In groups they will eat together and explore their environment together. When one snail discovers a food source, it will not take very long for the others to get in on the action. They will congregate in areas of your tank where a lot of detritus or algae builds up.

You might see them following one another or sheltering under a large leafy plant in a group.

Even different species of Rabbit Snails will interact together.

Rabbit Snail

Diet

Rabbit Snails are naturally detritivores, which means they scavenge for algae and detritus in the substrate.

They are primarily herbivorous so greenery should make up most of their diet.

While your snail may be perfectly content to munch on the algae and detritus in your tank this cannot be their only form of nutrition.

You can give them quick sinking flake or pellet foods with a high algae content. Make sure that they can reach the bottom before being eaten by your fish.

Green garden vegetables that are cooked and slightly blanched provide a delicious treat for your snails too. Try giving them broccoli, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, green peppers, or cucumbers.

Spirulina and calcium are two important supplements for a Rabbit Snail’s diet. Calcium helps to keep their shells sturdy and makes them less likely to crack or erode. Calcium can be given as a powder supplement or as crushed clam shells that you sprinkle into the tank.

You can also place a few Java Fern and Water Wisteria leaves at the bottom of the tank for them to snack on.

There is no need to feed these snails on any specific schedule, so long as you provide a continuous amount of food for them to eat throughout the day.

Just leave some food at the bottom of the tank and your snails will gobble it up.

Rabbit Snail Care Guide

Elephant Snail

When it comes to caring for these snails, your biggest challenges are water acidification, leech infestations, and metal toxicity.

Metal toxicity can be a big problem if you are medicating another fish in the tank. Many medications contain copper and zinc, which are highly toxic to the snails. If you cannot find a medication that does not contain these metals, you should isolate the sick fish or remove the snails until the medication regimen is over.

A leech infestation occurs when a leech makes its way into your snail’s shell and latches on to their body. If left untreated the leech can eventually kill the snail.

Any snail with a leech should be separated from the rest of the tank. You can then use a cotton swab doused in ethanol to kill the leech without harming your snail.

Also remember that any new snails should be quarantined before introducing them.

Finally, there is the problem of acidification.

When the water becomes too acidic it can cause the snail’s shells to break or corrode. To avoid this you should always monitor the pH levels and make sure that it stays within a healthy range (7-8.5).

Dead and decaying plants can raise the pH in an aquarium, so you should remove these as soon as possible.

Species History

Fossil evidence suggests that the Rabbit Snail actually originated in Australia before branching out to Sulawesi.

Both Tylomelania and a similar genus were once just one snail. However they were split into a separate genus about 30 million years ago. Both of these snails remained in Australia until about 4 million years ago, when the first Tylomelania species began to appear in the fossil record in Indonesia.

The discovery of the Rabbit Snail is credited to F. Sarasin and P. Sarasin in 1898.

They were found in Sulawesi’s Lake Malil and Lake Poso.

Throughout the 20th century this snail was subjected to lots of scientific studies to study the live birth in mollusks.

It is unknown exactly when the first Rabbit Snails showed up in aquariums. However Southeast Asian fish and invertebrates gained popularity in the late 90s, so it is likely this snail may have been one of them.

Even now they are not a particularly common sight in a freshwater aquarium.

Their popularity is restricted to invertebrate keepers and other niche hobbyists.

Rabbit Snail Breeding and Eggs

You will need to wait until they are mature (3.8cm long) before you can breed them.

Also, if you are planning to breed Rabbit Snails then you will need a large group. This is simply because it is impossible to tell a male and a female apart.

With a large group (10+) they will likely breed on their own. You can even increase the tank temperature to 75°F to increase the likelihood that they will breed.

Interestingly they are viviparous which means that the young are born live from an egg that is attached to the female.

Because of this females will only give birth to 1 or 2 offspring at a time.

With this species you can watch the breeding process in action.

So how does a rabbit snail lay their eggs?

The process starts by a male passing a shimmering spermatophore to the female. This egg will form in a little sac on the female’s body and it takes around 6 weeks to hatch.

Offspring will be born as miniature copies of their parents complete with a fully formed shell!

Your baby snail will immediately start searching the tank for food.

They can eat most of the same foods that their parents eat. For the best nutrition you can give them powdered algae flakes and crushed spirulina pellets.

Should You Get Rabbit Snails?

If you love snails then you will just love the Rabbit Snail.

Not only are they one of the most adorable aquarium invertebrates but they are also one of the most helpful.

This little scavenger is a very efficient tank cleaner and likes it best when their environment is in tip top shape and clean.

As an added bonus this snail gets along very well with their own kind and others, so they are a great choice for a freshwater community tank. Just remember that their shells are sensitive to water quality so you will need to keep your tank very clean if you decide to keep one.

A Rabbit Snail is definitely something to consider if invertebrates are your thing. Do your snails get along well with their tank mates?

Let us know in the comments section below…

About David Thomas

David Thomas David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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