Mystery snails are a unique freshwater species that has garnered a lot of well-deserved attention. With their interesting countenance and huge shell, they add a unique look and feel to your aquarium.
Perhaps you’re looking to introduce these lovely creatures into your home tank or are just curious about them. Whatever the reason, I hope this post answers any question you may have about mystery snail care.
Every seasoned aquarist can recall how they began when they fell in love with aquatic creatures and thought it a good idea to rear them in our homes. I remember my first aquarium; I must have been around five years old. It all started with an episode of The Little Mermaid. And that sealed the deal the moment my parents took me to the Sea Water Park while we were vacationing in Hawaii.
After the trip, I spent every available opportunity asking my parents for a small aquarium in my room. I must have nagged enough because a month later, they brought a nano aquarium. Initially, I wanted one of those multi-colored fish such as threadfins or a turtle. Heck! If I had it my way, I would have gotten a penguin for all I know.
The specialist at the aquatic shop had suggested a water snail. At first, I was disappointed, but I wanted to spend every free moment tending to my mystery snails (I had four in the minuscule tank). Twenty-five years later, I’m still hooked on the little guys. I have a much bigger tank. And although I welcomed a few dwarf shrimp, my favorite bottom dwellers are still mystery snails.
If you are a fan of aquatics or are thinking of starting a freshwater home aquarium, consider adding a mystery snail to the collection. They are magnificent tank cleaners besides being ornamental. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be inspired to rear one or two of these amazing mollusks in your freshwater home aquarium.
|Scientific name||Pomacea bridgesii|
|Other names||Mystery snail; Spike-topped apple snail|
|Max size||3 inches|
|Color||Variously colored shells and bodies|
|Nutrition||Dying plants; Algae; Uneaten fish food|
|Recommended tank size||> 5 gallons|
|Water parameters||pH 7.5 – 8.5; GH 5 – 8; KH 5 – 15|
|Temperature||68°F – 82°F (20°C – 28°C)|
What are Mystery Snails?
Mystery snails are a type of mollusk, a broader category of shelled invertebrates. They’re soft-bodied creatures with a shell that they trail along as they move. These shells are made primarily of calcium. But other minerals that the snail consumes also combine with calcium, solidifying into a well-formed shell.
A strong ligament and other soft tissues keep the soft-bodied creature permanently attached to the shell. The mystery snail’s shell serves as a protector against environmental elements and predators.
You must be wondering why these aquatic gastropods have a ‘mysterious’ name. It turns out there’s a story behind that. Females give birth to young, fully developed snails that seem to suddenly and inexplicably appear out of nowhere. I have to admit; I was amazed the first time I noticed this phenomenon.
Mystery snails are quite popular because of their vibrant colors and practicality. They work tirelessly to remove algae from panes, plants, and decorations, consume hair algae, and maintain your substrate clean and the right color. Mystery snails are entirely harmless to fish, shrimp, or vegetation.
Types of Mystery Snails
Mystery snails are a breed of Apple snails. Mystery snails are indigenous to South American countries such as Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia.
Currently, only two subspecies of mystery snails have been identified:
- Pomacea bridgesii diffusa
- Pomacea bridgesii bridgesii
Although people often confuse them with New Zealand Mudsnails, faucet snails, and banded snails.
You are bound first to notice the shell when you first encounter a mystery snail. This big, colorful feature will entice you with its vibrancy. The same species will appear in a variety of colors, different patterns, designs, shapes, and sizes.
The iridescently patterned bodies of these shelled mollusks also vary in color. So when you visit the fish store, don’t be amazed when you see olive, brown, gold, green, yellow, and even purple and blue hues. As a result, they’re perfect for adding decoration to any aquarium.
At the tip of a cephalic eyestalk, mystery snails have architecturally sophisticated eyes that resemble swinging tentacles. In the event an amputation occurs through the mid-eyestalk, they can fully regenerate the eye. Simply amazing!
At birth, they have both lungs and gills to survive outside water for a few hours. A siphon, a tiny tube needed to breathe air, is also seen in mystery snails. They come to the surface to breathe regularly.
Mystery snails are very peaceful creatures. They want to be left to their own devices. They seem unconcerned about what is going on in the tank.
Any potential threat will cause them to retreat inside their shell.
Mystery snails are gonochoristic, meaning they require both a male and a female for reproduction to occur. They prefer to lay their eggs above the water’s surface. It takes about 2–4 weeks for the eggs to hatch.
Mystery snail eggs resemble a small pack of rounded pebbles. They adhere to the tank’s rim or glass above the water surface.
One clutch of eggs can produce 20 – 40 snails, and a female will lay multiple clutches in one breeding season. From a single egg-laying episode, the mystery snails can generate as many as 200 progenies.
However, not all of the eggs are fertilized, and thus not all of the eggs hatch. These are a good food source for any carnivorous or omnivorous fish in the tank.
If your mystery snails share an aquarium with fish, ensure you transfer them to a breeding tank. The hatchlings are at risk of being eaten should you leave them in a mixed environment.
Provide enough food and calcium, so hatchling mystery snails grow quickly. Hatchlings are the size of a speck when they hatch and grow to pea-size in about a week.
It takes 2-3 months for mystery snails to attain the recommended breeding size. Typically, this is when they are the size of a regular golf ball.
The Birthing Process
A noticeable cleft runs the length of their delicate bodies on the right side. The encapsulated embryo slips down this transfer slot into the open during delivery to finish the birthing process.
Mystery Snails Diet
What makes mystery snails a favorite for planted aquariums? They are not fans of living plants. Mystery snails prefer bruised, dying, and dead vegetative matter.
They have a great sense of smell and will race towards food as soon as it is put in the water. Mystery snails are voracious eaters that will eagerly clean up any leftover food in an aquarium. Through digestion, they can break down food faster than shrimp. This is why we feel these snail feces are helpful to the diet of shrimp. As a result, these snails clean up and eventually provide natural nourishment, making them optimal tankmates.
In the wild, they eat withering plants as their primary source of nutrition. This implies that mystery snails will not eat healthy plants planted in the aquarium. They will eat plants that are dying or have fallen from the plant. Leaf debris will be ideal for these snails.
Mystery Snail Care Guide
For one snail, a minimum tank size of five gallons is required. Depending on how many different species of creatures you want in your aquarium, this makes them a suitable choice for nano tanks.
If you want to keep more than one mystery snail in your tank, you’ll need to make some additional room. A decent rule of thumb is to add five gallons for each additional snail.
Because these are small, slow-moving species, some novice aquarists believe they can be crowded together. This is far from the case. Like any other species, mystery snails require their own space because they are very active. You will spot them crawling along the sides or on the floor of the tank.
The high pH is something worth noting. Low pH levels can disintegrate the calcium carbonate shells of snails, leaving them vulnerable to attack by other fish.
Low pH and calcium levels might be indicated by cracked, brittle, or pitted shells. Calcium supplements for snails can aid in the health and strength of their shells.
Filtration and Aeration System
Keep mystery snails with some filter. To avoid a buildup in ammonia, you must constantly monitor your water parameters and perform water changes. And place sponge pre-filters over strong intakes to avoid snails getting stuck in the vents, which may lead to their death.
Are you thinking of bringing in neighbors?
Mystery snails are very docile and enjoy spending time by themselves. They will rarely interact with each other. But this does not mean that you cannot put them in a tank with other aquatic animals.
These peace-loving creatures will thrive with freshwater fish that aren’t aggressive. Try fish like Cory catfish, tetras, and killifish. Dwarf shrimp varieties like Red cherry shrimp also make good tank mates.
How Long Do Mystery Snails Live?
As a general rule, snails with an operculum live longer than those that do not. And since mystery snails have this feature, they fall into this category.
In Their Natural Habitat
Many mystery snails that live in streams and rivers can live for more than five years, but most species that reside in ponds and lakes live for less than 1.5 years.
These snails die off in large numbers and wash up on shore. This has grown into an environmental concern in places where mystery snails are endemic.
In-home aquariums and aquatic shops, mystery snails have a lifespan of 1 – 2 years.
An interesting fact about Mystery snails is that the faster it grows, the shorter its lifespan. They live longer in nutrient-poor environments. So do not overfeed them.
Where and How to Buy Mystery Snails
You can find mystery snails in your local aquatic stores. If they do not stock them, you can inquire whether they can purchase them on your behalf. If this isn’t possible, check Internet sources. You can also buy from an online aquatic shop or an e-commerce site. The price varies among sellers, but the average ranges from $4 -$6 for one mystery snail.
Snails can be a little smaller or a little bigger, but two inches is probably the most typical size. Larger shells are not always a depiction of healthy snails.
Go for active snails. You will quickly notice them crawling along the sides of the display tanks. Do not choose any that show signs of dormancy.
Opt for snails with sturdy, non-cracked, and non-pitted shells when purchasing Mystery Snails. Thin shells, pitted, or broken might indicate that the snail is sickly. It might also signify that the snail has spent enough time in a highly acidic environment that disintegrates and weakens its shell. Do not pick a mystery snail that displays one of these symptoms.
Are Mystery Snails Legal in the U.S?
We have seen just how these invertebrates are ornamental to home aquariums, but is it permitted by law to buy and own these aquatic creatures?
It depends on the state you live in. For instance, Minnesota law classifies mystery snails as regulated invasive species. What this means is, you can sell, purchase, transport, and rear mystery snails. However, it is illegal to return them to natural habitats. You cannot release them to public water bodies.
Thus, before you place orders online, ensure you check with your state’s wildlife legislature. Better yet, check local websites about aquatic animals to determine if it is legal to possess one.
The Bottom Line
Consider what you have in your aquarium when considering mystery snails for your tank. These species of mollusks are for you if your tank is lush with foliage and home to a tranquil population of fish and invertebrates. Beginners and professionals alike will enjoy these snails.
Mystery snails are a practical choice for a home aquarium. As a result, they have become one of the most popular freshwater snails in the world.