Ramshorn Snails are a controversial topic among aquarists. Some people love them, others hate them.
This is because some people choose to keep them as pets, whereas others have these snails enter their aquarium secretly as pests.
There are advantages and disadvantages to keeping Ramshorn Snails, it is up to you to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons.
This article will cover all the important information surrounding Ramshorn Snails, including what they are, how to care for them, and how to control them.
|Color Form:||Black or red|
|Size:||Up to an inch|
|Minimum Tank Size:||5 gallons|
|Tank Set-Up:||Freshwater with live plants|
In the aquarium trade, Ramshorn Snails (Rams-Horn Snails) are a small group of snails with coiled shells.
The most common examples are from the Planorbidae family, particularly Planorbella duryi and Planorbarius corneus, but other species can be found too.
Out of the aquarium trade, the name specifically refers to aquatic pulmonate gastropod mollusks, which are all in the Planorbidae family.
Ramshorn Snails have a cosmopolitan distribution; the various species live worldwide and can be found on most continents.
Many stocks sold today have been bred in captivity though.
Most pet stores that sell aquatic snails will probably stock Ramshorn snails, so you shouldn’t have to search for long before you find some.
They are very affordable too. They’re often sold in groups; 10 could cost just $5 or even less. The price might be higher for stocks that have been selectively bred for a particular appearance.
In a healthy environment, these snails can for up to 3 years, though 1 year is a common lifespan.
Ramshorn Snails are peaceful creatures. They stay out of the way of other animals, instead of focusing on finding food. This means they can be kept with lots of different tank mates; just avoid species that are known to eat snails.
The only things that might be at risk from these gastropods are delicate plants. Ramshorn Snails sometimes nibble at plants, especially if they can’t find food elsewhere.
Most species can withstand the eating, but delicate, slow-growing plants may not survive.
Though they move slowly, these snails spend most of their time exploring the tank for food. You will spot them on various surfaces around.
Ramshorn Snails breathe air so sometimes they “swim” along the surface to access oxygen. They maintain balance here by controlling the amount of air in their shell; if they sense danger, they quickly expel the air to sink to the bottom of the water column.
Are Ramshorn Snails Pests?
Some aquarists consider these snails as pests. They grow very fast and can be introduced to an aquarium without your knowledge. Hidden eggs are commonly transported attached to live plants.
Other aquarists consider them a helpful addition to a fish tank. They are great at keeping a tank clean by clearing up excess algae and uneaten food. They are commonly kept as pets.
They do produce feces of their own though, so don’t populate your tank beyond its biological limit.
Once part of an aquarium, it is hard to remove them. They grow and asexually reproduce quickly, so if you’re adding some intentionally, be sure that you have thought the decision through.
Ramshorn Snails in the Planorbidae family come in two main colorations: black and red.
Black snails have melanin in their skin, which is a very dark pigment. Red snails lack this pigment, so their skin appears red because that is the color of their blood.
Red blood is uncommon in snails. Most snails produce green hemoglobin, producing greenish blood, but Ramshorn Snails have red hemoglobin.
Selective breeding has produced some pink and blue individuals, but these stocks are rare. The offspring of pink or blue snails would most likely resemble their wild form.
Their shells can vary in color from translucent to almost completely black. The differences are thought to be due to their diet.
This could be why darker shells are more common in ponds or the wild because the foods they eat here aren’t as available in an aquarium.
Older snails also seem to have darker shells.
The shell itself is quite circular and spirals sinistrally, which means the opening is slanted to the right. Air-breathing snails don’t have an operculum, and Ramshorn Snails are no exception.
They are usually very small, but their shells can grow up to an inch in diameter.
You might see some stocks of “Columbian Ramshorn Snails” or “Giant Ramshorn Snails” that can reach 1.5 inches. These are misnamed, they are actually apple snails.
Sexing Ramshorn Snails is largely irrelevant. They can reproduce sexually or asexually, so only one individual is needed to generate more snails.
Habitat and Tank Conditions
When caring for any animal, it is important to recreate their natural habitat in your aquarium to give them the best chance of staying healthy.
Ramshorn Snails live all over the globe, so their natural habitat can vary greatly. This is useful because it means their preferred conditions are broad, making it easy to create a healthy environment.
There are a few similarities in their habitats though. These freshwater species mostly live in ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers.
A few species can tolerate brackish water, but this isn’t advisable for care at home.
They tend to like water, slightly alkaline waters. These would have a low oxygen content, but Ramshorn Snails are adapted for this with their air-breathing abilities.
Below we describe an ideal tank for your Ramshorn Snails.
There are lots of options when picking a substrate, Ramshorn Snails don’t need a particular type.
Fine-grained sands are good because they create a smooth surface along the bottom of the tank. This is less likely to scratch your snails or any bottom-dwelling fish you keep.
Live plants make a great addition to the tank. These snails particularly enjoy when dead parts of a plant fall to the substrate to be eaten.
Occasionally a snail might nibble at a live plant, but this should be rare if they’re getting enough food elsewhere. Strong, fast-growing plants should be able to survive the damage.
Add some decorations like bogwood or rocks to provide lots of surfaces for snails to climb over.
The water should be slow-moving, so you do not need an air/water pump. Low oxygen is fine for these species since they get oxygen from the air, but the needs of fish might change this.
Use a heater to maintain a temperature between 70°F and 78°F. A pH between 7 and 8 is important too. Standard aquarium lighting should be fine.
What Size Aquarium do they need?
These snails are very small so they can fit into little tanks. Your aquarium could be as small as 5 gallons; they don’t need much space to be happy.
If you want a community aquarium, the tank will likely have to be larger. A bigger tank is always the best choice.
How Many Can be kept per gallon?
Their small size means you don’t need a big tank to keep a large group.
If Ramshorn Snails are the only occupants of your tank, you could fit 1-2 per gallon, but reduce this in a community. It’s important not to overload your filtration system.
These peaceful creatures can live alongside lots of different tank mates; they fit well into a community aquarium. They have no way to directly harm others, instead, they hide in their shell when they feel stressed.
They have no operculum, so they can’t seal their shell once they’ve retreated inside as other snails can. This leaves them a bit more vulnerable.
You should be avoiding tank mates that are infamous for eating snails. Certain loaches and goldfish have been known to do this. Snails are slow and not good at escaping.
Always check that the fish you want are compatible before purchasing some. You don’t want your snails to start disappearing because you didn’t do the research.
There are lots of fish that are safe to keep. Small species are usually a good idea as they’re physically unable to eat a snail. Try Tetras, Danios, and Corydoras Catfish, they’re easy for beginners to look after.
Fellow invertebrates can be good companions too, as long as they’re peaceful towards Ramshorns. Shrimps (like Amano Shrimp or Ghost Shrimp) work well, or you could even mix in some other kinds of snails.
Some invertebrates, like crayfish, will greedily consume snails.
Can You Keep Ramshorn Snails Together?
Yes, Ramshorn Snails do very well in a group. They mainly ignore each other and focus on their own goal of finding food. There is no risk of aggression between them.
Keeping these snails singly is fine, but you probably won’t be able to. A single individual can multiply on its own.
Feeding Ramshorn Snails is easy. They eat virtually all organic matter in a tank, living or dead.
They are nearly always grazing algae and microbial films, which is one of the reasons aquarists might want them in their tank. This should mean that you spend less time wiping away excess algae.
If you have too many snails, your filter won’t be able to cope with the biological input, and you’ll produce the opposite effect.
Along with algae, they eat dead fish, dead plants, fish waste, and fish foods (flakes and pellets).
They clean up whatever falls to the substrate. This might save you the job of removing uneaten food that was intended for your fish.
Your live plants should be left alone if your snails are finding enough dead organic matter. Tough plants will be able to survive small amounts of damage easily.
You can add green vegetables to the tank as a way to mix up their diet. Try cutting up things like cucumber, spinach and zucchini.
These vegetables should introduce some more calcium to your snails’ diet too. Calcium is important for developing a strong and sturdy shell, so a snail is vulnerable to damage without it.
Ramshorn Snails find food using their powerful sense of smell. Their sensitive antennae can detect when food is around and will move backward and forwards when excited.
Anyone can care for Ramshorn Snails, it’s difficult to go wrong. They are very hardy creatures that can survive a few mistakes, so beginners shouldn’t be too worried.
They are used to living in environments with poorer water quality, such as areas with low oxygen. They can live in a range of conditions and can adapt to slight changes in water conditions.
This has helped them to become successful pests.
Though they have a high tolerance to poor conditions, you should still be striving to keep your aquarium as clean as possible, to give your snails the best chance of survival.
This means performing regular water changes, removing uneaten food, and wiping away excess algae. Don’t wipe too much algae or your snails might struggle to find food.
Common health problems usually involve a snail’s shell. They need plenty of calcium in their diet to grow a strong one.
If the Ramshorn Snails don’t eat enough, their shell growth could become stunted. The opposite can happen if they eat too much, the shell grows faster and discolors.
Watch out for white spots on a snail’s shell, this could be a sign of parasites. These snails are not afflicted by other pathogens very often.
Copper is toxic to most invertebrates. Never add anything to your tank if copper is listed as an ingredient unless you’re trying to remove invertebrates from your aquarium.
Controlling Ramshorn Snails
If Ramshorn Snails have gotten into your tank unintentionally, or you just want to control the size of your population, there are a few things you can do to handle them.
Removing them by hand is one option. This takes effort and will need to be done regularly. You won’t be able to find and remove every individual though, so eradication is virtually impossible.
Using chemicals is a more effective eradication technique. You can buy copper-based fish medications that will kill Ramshorn Snails. Be careful though, this will harm all invertebrates in your tank.
After using chemicals, look out for dead snails and remove them before they can decay and ruin the water quality. Regularly test the water quality to check that the parameters are safe.
A more natural control technique is to add tank mates that eat snails. Fish like certain loaches, goldfish and cichlids won’t eradicate the Ramshorn Snails, but they should keep numbers under control.
Assassin Snails are another potential tank mate that enjoys eating small snails.
Breeding these gastropods takes very little effort on your part. It should happen without your intervention; in fact, you won’t be able to stop it.
Ramshorn Snails can reproduce both sexually and asexually, the latter means that only one snail is needed to produce more.
This is one reason why they can easily get out of control and become pests in an aquarium.
These species are hermaphrodites, so they can produce genetic clones of themselves through asexual reproduction. This method means they miss out on the advantages of sexual reproduction, such as the ability to develop new adaptations.
Not long after entering an aquarium, Ramshorn Snails will start laying clutches of transparent eggs over various surfaces around the tank.
They do this in pet stores too, see-through eggs attached to live plants are hard to spot and might be transported when you buy them.
The eggs are protected in tough gelatinous material to reduce the chances of them being eaten.
It takes about 3 weeks for an egg to become an independent snail. After hatching, they bury themselves in the substrate, coming out at night to feed.
After a couple of months, the young snails will be able to reproduce themselves.
Ramshorn Snails can breed in most water conditions, so there’s not much you can do to stop it. Limiting the amount of food they receive might help. The more they eat, the more energy they will have for reproduction.
Are Ramshorn Snails Suitable for Your Aquarium?
Hopefully, this article has helped you to decide whether you want to purchase some Ramshorn Snails. If they’ve entered your tank accidentally, you can now decide whether you want to keep them or remove them.
We’ve discussed a few ways to control them, some will eradicate them completely, others will just keep their numbers low.
There are benefits to keeping them Ramshorn Snails in your tank though, such as their grazing behavior helping to stop algae from getting out of control.
Ultimately this could save you time and keep your aquarium a bit cleaner.
Whatever your decision, you should now feel confident about how to proceed. These snails aren’t for everyone, but they deserve their place in the aquarium trade.
Do you love or hate Ramshorn Snails? Let us know in the comments below…