The assassin snail is a freshwater snail of the Nassariidae family. These snails have brown and yellow striped shells and are popular among aquarists because of their hardiness, ease of care, and tendency to eat other pest snails.
Growing to be 0.8–1.25 inches long on average, assassin snails are small and well-suited to 10-gallon tanks.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Assassin Snail Facts & Overview
|Scientific name:||Anentome helenas|
|Common names:||Assassin snail, killer snail, bumblebee snail|
|Size:||0.8–1.25 inches on average|
|Life expectancy:||2-3 years|
|Color:||Light beige body with specks, brown and yellow striped shell|
|Minimum tank size:||10 gallons|
The assassin snail (Anentome helena) is native to Southeast Asia, commonly found in the lakes and rivers of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, though the snail also inhabits reservoirs and streams.
Due to their predatory nature, the species is often kept by fishkeepers who want to reduce pest snail populations.
Adult Size & Lifespan
The assassin snail is a small invertebrate that grows to around 0.8–1.25 inches, though some can reach 3 inches in length. Wild assassin snails are typically larger than those raised in captivity.
With the right care and water conditions, this species can live for up to three years.
Assassin snails are affordable and readily available at fish stores across the world. This species costs between $2 and $4 per snail, on average, and can be bought online from LiveAquaria, Arizona Aquatic Gardens, and Aquatic Arts.
Assassins are fairly solitary and don’t need to be kept in groups to thrive. However, a large group is needed if there is a large pest population that needs to be taken care of.
Ideally, there should be five snails per 15 gallons of water. A group of this size will cost around $13.
Appearance & Behavior
Assassin snails get their bumblebee nickname from their striking yellow-and-brown-striped shell. Although predatory to other freshwater snails, these invertebrates are peaceful toward fish and make wonderful additions to community tanks.
Colors, Patterns, and Size
The assassin snail has a grooved, conical shell with yellow and brown spiral bands. The snail’s body is a light beige with dark specks, and juveniles are paler than adults.
A siphon — a tube-like appendage that helps the snail breathe and detect prey — protrudes out from the shell.
The assassin has a pair of tentacles, a translucent muscular foot, and a special appendage known as the retractile proboscis, which allows it to reach deep inside another snail’s shell and scrape away at its flesh.
Unlike most snail species, assassin snails aren’t hermaphroditic and have distinct sexes. However, sexing them is impossible because females and males share the same appearance, size, and shape.
Signs of sickness or stress include shell changes, discoloration, and inactivity.
The assassin snail is slow-moving, feeds on small snails, and spends most of its time at the bottom of the tank burrowed in the substrate.
Despite its predatory nature, the snail gets along well with its own kind and won’t harm fish or large invertebrates. This species also won’t uproot or eat plants, making it ideal for planted aquariums.
The assassin snail keeps to itself and is rarely active during the day, preferring to hunt at night. A snail climbing to the top of the tank is often an indicator of poor water quality.
Assassin Snail Tank & Water Requirements
Caring for assassin snails is easy because they’re peaceful and can tolerate a range of tank conditions. However, these invertebrates do best in a setup that simulates their natural habitat.
The tank should be warm, at least 10 gallons, and have a soft-grained substrate.
Habitat and Tank Requirements
The assassin snail prefers moderately hard water on the alkaline side because alkaline contains minerals like calcium that help keep the shell healthy.
Plants aren’t necessary for this species, though vegetation can add some color to a tank and help disperse strong currents. Opt for hardy plants like Anubias and bolbitis.
The substrate should be soft, loose, and thick enough for the snail to burrow in, ideally between 2 to 3 inches. Ensure the tank is at least 10 gallons and increase the size by 3 gallons per snail. Provide this species 8–12 hours of light per day to mimic a natural day to night cycle.
Monitor water temperature with a thermometer and the pH level with a pH meter. Avoid filters that generate a strong current, because assassin snails are accustomed to slow-moving water. Cover power filter intakes to prevent the snail from climbing into the filter and getting hurt.
The ideal water conditions for an assassin snail are:
|Water type:||Slow-moving freshwater|
|Tank size:||Minimum 10 gallons, increase size by 3 gallons per assassin snail|
|Water temperature:||70–80°F (21–28°C)|
|Substrate:||Soft-grained, loose substrate|
|Tank setup:||Create climbing spots with driftwood and rocks. Invest in a secure lid to prevent the assassin snail from escaping|
|Acidity:||Slightly alkaline, 7.0–8.0 pH|
|Water hardness:||Moderately hard, 8–15 dGH|
|Filter:||High-quality filtration system that generates low or no current|
|Lighting:||All lighting types acceptable|
Assassin snails are sensitive to water fluctuations. Only introduce this species once the water parameters are stable and the tank has been fully cycled. Perform partial (25%) water changes weekly to keep nitrate and ammonia levels low.
Care & Diet
Assassin snails are easy to care for because they get along well with fish and tolerate a range of water conditions. In the wild, these carnivores eat worms, dead organisms, and small snails such as ramshorns and Malaysian trumpets.
The most common health issue that affects assassin snails is parasitic infections.
Diet and Feeding
Assassin snails will happily feed on unwanted pest snails in the tank, but other suitable foods include brine shrimp, water fleas, snail eggs, and bloodworms. Your assassin snail’s diet should also include protein-rich sinking wafers on occasion.
It’s good practice to top up live food regularly to ensure there’s always enough in the tank. As a rough guideline, these snails typically eat 1–2 snails per day.
The best time to feed them is at night because that’s when they’re most active.
Providing a diet rich in protein and calcium, and keeping water fluctuations at a minimum, gives assassin snails the best chance at living long, healthy lives.
Common health issues that affect an assassin snail include:
- Parasitic infection: Causes white spots on the shell, lethargy, and shell changes. Treatment involves breaking the parasite’s life cycle, though this isn’t always possible due to assassin snails’ sensitivity to chemicals. Quarantine affected snails immediately.
- Brittle shell: Causes the shell to break apart and is typically caused by a lack of calcium or poor water quality. Treat brittle shell by giving the snails more calcium and keeping water well-maintained.
- Stunted growth: Occurs when there’s a lack of nutrition or not enough space in the tank. Ensure the tank is an appropriate size and that the snail is fed enough protein-rich food.
Avoid adding medications containing copper into the tank because the chemical is toxic to assassin snails.
Is an Assassin Snail Dangerous?
The assassin snail is harmless to humans. When touched, this species often retreats into its shell and hides, making it easy to pick up and move between tanks. However, handling should be kept to a minimum to avoid stressing the snail.
Like all freshwater snails, assassin snails can harbor parasites and should be quarantined for two to four weeks before introducing them into the main tank.
Assassin Snail Breeding & Eggs
Assassin snails are egg layers. While easy to breed, this species reproduces at a slow rate, laying only one egg at a time.
Fishkeepers interested in breeding assassin snails should buy a group of six or more to increase the odds of having both females and males.
To induce breeding:
- Gradually raise the temperature by a few degrees and provide a protein-rich diet.
- Put the snails into a separate breeding tank to give the eggs the best chance of survival. Add a fine substrate and structures with hard surfaces, like rocks and driftwood, for the female to lay her eggs on.
- A pair locks together for up to 12 hours while copulating.
- The female then lays square-shaped individual egg capsules which are yellow, translucent, and around 1.0 to 1.5 millimeters in size. Assassin snail eggs hatch within three to eight weeks.
Juvenile assassin snails burrow in the substrate and reach sexual maturity at six months.
Despite their killer reputation, assassin snails won’t attack or disturb species larger than them. The snails are well-suited to community tanks with docile fish that share similar water preferences.
Ideally, tank mates should inhabit the top and middle levels of the aquarium.
Great tank mates for assassin snails include:
- Cory catfish
- Freshwater clams
- Cherry barbs
- Certain species of shrimp (like bamboo shrimps and ghost shrimps)
Avoid keeping these snails with boisterous fish and snail-eating species. Large bottom-dwelling fish, which are known to disturb snails, should also be avoided.
Should You Get an Assassin Snail for Your Aquarium?
The assassin snail has an eye-catching appearance and helps get rid of unwanted pests in the tank. This species can tolerate a range of water conditions, won’t eat or uproot plants, and is generally peaceful, making it suitable for community tanks or planted aquariums.
You should consider getting an assassin snail if your tank holds at least 10 gallons and has a soft, fine-grained substrate. Don’t get one if you struggle to keep water parameters stable or house boisterous fish in your tank.
With the right care and tank setup, the assassin snail will thrive and bring a pop of color to your home.