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Care Guide for Nerite Snails – Favorite Nano Algae Eater

Nerite snails are beloved for their ability to eat algae in fish tanks without breeding out of control. We currently care for approximately 1000 of them in our retail store, warehouse, and personal aquariums. Find out how to keep these peaceful critters happy and thriving in your own home.

What are Nerite Snails?

Nerite snails come from the Neritidae family, which derives its name from a Greek sea god called Nerites. Many of them are found in coastal areas around Africa and the Indo-Pacific region. The species sold in the aquarium industry range from 0.5-1.5 inches (1.3-3.8 cm) and live about 1-2 years.

What are the different kinds of nerite snails? Depending on the species, their shells may have solid colors, stripes, dots, zigzags, and even little spikes. Popular varieties include zebra, black racer, red racer, tiger, and horned. Our favorite is the olive nerite snail because in our experience, it is one of the hardiest and easiest types to keep.

two types of horned nerite snails

Nerite snails come in a variety of colors, patterns, and shapes.

Can nerite snails flip themselves over? Yes, they are perfectly capable of righting themselves unless other animals are constantly picking on them. 

Why do my nerite snails keep dying? People usually have problems with them if the nerite snails aren’t getting enough food or minerals. They also can be sensitive to bad water quality. If your snail is hanging out of its shell or has an unpleasant smell, remove it from the tank so that the body won’t cause a toxic spike in ammonia or nitrite.

brown nerite snail on anubias in aquarium

Nerite snails require enough food, minerals, and clean water to live a healthy life.

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Nerite Snails

Given its small size, a nerite snail can live in a nano tank as small as 2-3 gallons within a wide range of tropical temperatures. Because many of them come from brackish water environments, they prefer freshwater setups with higher pH above 7.0 and lots of minerals. If you have soft tap water and notice your snails are getting cracked or eroded shells, increase the minerals in their water and food to keep the damage from progressing. We like to use crushed coral in our substrate and filter media to buffer up the pH. Then we add Wonder Shells or Seachem Equilibrium as mineral supplements that provide calcium, magnesium, and other trace elements.

These snails like to move up to the waterline to eat the white bands of mineral deposits left by evaporation and therefore may crawl out of the aquarium if you’re not careful. To prevent escape, make sure you have a tight-fitting lid and cover any snail-sized holes.

Can you have just one nerite snail? Yes, they are not particularly social animals and most likely gather together for breeding and feeding in the best locations.

nerite snail on glass with red cherry shrimp in planted aquarium

Larger nerite snail next to some red cherry shrimp

What fish can live with nerite snails? Keep them with peaceful tank mates that won’t eat them, like small tetras, rasboras, and corydoras. They can also live with similar-sized invertebrates such as ramshorn snails and dwarf shrimp. We do not recommend keeping them with pufferfish, snail-eating loaches, or fish that are likely to nibble on their antennae or head tentacles.

What do Nerite Snails Eat?

As scavengers, they dine on anything they can find, including algae, leftover fish food, and decaying leaves. (They are completely safe for aquarium plants and only eat unhealthy or dead vegetation.) However, nerite snails can starve to death if there is not enough algae in the tank or other fish are outcompeting them for food. To make sure they are well-fed, offer them algae wafers, blanched zucchini slices, and canned green beans to graze on. Our favorite snail food is Zoo Med Nano Banquet Food Blocks because they not only provide calcium, plankton, and spirulina in their diet, but they also slowly dissolve to add more calcium to the water.

horned nerite snail on rock covered in green spot algae

Nerite snails are one of the few animals that will eat green spot algae (GSA), which is difficult to remove from plants and hardscape.

How to Breed Nerite Snails

Breeding these snails is very challenging since the nearly microscopic larvae are notoriously hard to feed and require brackish or salt water to reliably hatch. A few hobbyists have recorded their experiences and recommend preparing a mature, algae-filled brackish or saltwater tank using marine salt and an air stone with very low flow. Unlike many aquatic snails, nerite snails are not hermaphroditic and cannot change sexes. Since it is a bit difficult to visually sex them, aim for a group of six or more to ensure you have at least one male and one female. Some people slowly acclimate the adult snails to brackish water and have them lay eggs in a brackish breeding tank. Others let the adult snails lay eggs on driftwood in a freshwater or brackish water setup and then move the driftwood to a fully saltwater breeding tank. Interestingly, the hard, white “sesame seeds” laid by the nerite snails are actually egg capsules that each contain dozens of eggs inside.

Depending on the water temperature, the larvae may hatch within a few days to several weeks. Feed them algae, infusoria, green water, golden pearls, powdered fry food, and spirulina powder. Once the larvae have developed into tiny snails with visible shells, you can start slowly acclimating them to fresh water by removing small amounts of salt water and replacing it with mineral-rich, fresh water over the course of 1-2 months.

While Aquarium Co-Op does not ship live animals, you can check out our preferred online retailers to browse their selection of nerite snails. Best of luck with these adorable cleanup crew members, and enjoy nature daily.

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