Snail eating Fish (9 Great Candidates)

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Do you have a snail problem? Some freshwater snails like bladder snails can become a pest in aquariums because they breed so fast that it seems like they are going to take over. The worst part is that these creatures often sneak into aquariums on plants and decorations without us even knowing.

One way of managing the snail population in your freshwater aquarium is with snail eating fish. Some will even eat snail eggs, and that’s what this article is all about!

Keep reading to learn about 9 amazing fish that eat snails.

Are Snails Bad For Your Aquarium?

Snails are not bad for aquariums. In fact, freshwater snails are great for keeping your aquarium clean and healthy.

Let’s face it though, a snail infestation doesn’t look too great, especially when you’ve put a lot of time into creating a beautiful display tank. Some freshwater snails even eat fish eggs and aquarium plants. It’s not only the snails themselves that can be a problem, snail eggs can look unsightly too.

Not all freshwater aquarium snails are pest snails, of course, and many people keep ornamental snails because they are beautiful and fascinating creatures. Some snails are even amazing algae eaters that really do a great job of keeping a fish tank clean.

Let’s run through some of the worst and best aquarium snails that are kept in freshwater aquariums.

Bad Snails

Many aquarium snails breed freely in the aquarium. If there is enough food, their numbers can get really high really fast! The following common snail species are usually to blame for snail infestations:

Ramshorn Snail
  • Pond snails
  • Bladder snails
  • Malaysian trumpet snails
  • Ramshorn snails

Good snails

A few snails that are found in aquariums are actually great pets that do not multiply at all. The following ornamental snails will not multiply in your fish tank:

Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are excellent algae-eaters that do an amazing job of keeping your aquarium glass, plants, and ornaments free of algae. These beautiful snails cannot breed in freshwater, so you never have to worry about them breeding out of control.

Mystery Snails

Mystery snails are large ornamental snails that people often keep as pets. These snails need to lay their eggs above the water surface, so you can often prevent them from breeding by keeping your aquarium full.

What Are Snail-eating Fish?

Snail-eating fish are quite simply fish species that love to feed on snails. They can do this either by pulling the snail out of its shell, biting right through the shell, or even swallowing the snail whole!

Many freshwater fish will eat snails, but some target this food source more specifically. Most fish that kill snails will also feed on shrimps and other invertebrates, so you need to think carefully before adding them to your aquarium.

For fish keepers who don’t keep inverts, adding some snail eaters can be a great way to keep snail populations down. Let’s learn about some of the best fish that eat snails.

9 Best Snail Eating Fish

If you’ve got a tank full of pesky snails, I bet you’re itching to get rid of them with some hungry snail-busting fish. Adding fish can be a great option, but only if you’re sure your tank is suitable for them and that they will get along with the other fish you already have.

Some of the fish in my list are not exactly the most peaceful community fish, and some grow pretty large, so make sure you consider these factors. To make your choice a little easier, I’ve included a list of the most important information for each species, including:

  • Scientific name
  • Adult size
  • Temperament
  • Origin
  • Minimum tank size
  • Temperature
  • pH
  • Planted tank suitability
  • Shrimp Compatability

Now, let’s dive right in and meet the best fish that eat snails and snail eggs!

1. YoYo Loach

YoYo Loach in Aquarium
  • Scientific name: Botia almorhae / B. lochata
  • Adult size: 6 inches
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Origin: India
  • Minimum tank size: 55 gallon
  • Temperature: 66-81 °F
  • pH: 6-7.5
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes, may feed on soft plants
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

The yoyo loach is a great fish to help combat any pest snail infestation. These amazing tropical fish are proven snail eaters, and they look awesome too!

These bottom dwellers get their name from the interesting patterns on their bodies that can literally spell out the word ‘yo yo’. The yoyo loach is a medium-sized fish that will be a great option in medium to large aquariums.

Yoyo loaches are active schooling fish that should be kept in groups of at least 6 to avoid aggression.

2. Pea Puffer

Pea Puffer Eating Snail
  • Scientific name: Carinotetraodon travancoricus
  • Adult size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: aggressive
  • Origin: India
  • Minimum tank size: 5 gallons
  • Temperature: 72-82°F
  • pH: 6.8-8
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

The pea puffer is probably the smallest tropical fish that eats snails. These adorable little killers need to feed on small snails and other hard-shelled prey to keep their beak-like teeth worn down.

Pea puffers aren’t a good choice for a community tank because they can be pretty nippy with their tank mates. If you have a freshwater aquarium with a snail problem, setting up a nano tank for a pea puffer could be a great way to dispose of some of your unwanted snails!

3. Dwarf Chain Loach

Dwarf Chain Loach
  • Scientific name: Ambastaia sidthimunki
  • Adult size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful/ semi-aggressive
  • Origin: Thailand
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Temperature: 68-86°F
  • pH: 5.5-7.5
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

The dwarf chain loach is one of my favorite freshwater fish for eating small snails and snail eggs. These little guys can be pretty pricey, but you only have to look at them to see why. Dwarf chains are very small loaches which means they can be kept in a tank as small as 20 gallons.

Like the yoyo loach, these snail eaters are shoaling aquarium fish so be sure to buy at least 6. Any less and you might see some aggression and other bad behaviors.

4. Gouramis

Blue Gourami Fish
  • Scientific name: Trichopsis, Trichogaster, Osphronemus spp.
  • Adult size: 1.5- 20+ inches
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Origin: Asia
  • Minimum tank size: Species dependant, 10-250 gallons
  • Temperature: 75-80°F
  • pH: 6.8-7.8
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

Gouramis would not be your first choice when picking out a snail-eating fish, but they can definitely help! These beautiful little carnivores are from the same family as the betta fish and they will eat small snails when they see them.

There are many different gouramis in the aquarium hobby ranging from huge types like the giant gourami all the way down to the tiny sparkling gourami.

Dwarf gouramis are a good option for most small to medium aquariums and they come in some awesome color morphs including flame, honey, powder blue, and red varieties.

5. Bala Shark

How Does A Bala Shark Look Like
  • Scientific name: Balantiocheilos melanopterus
  • Adult size: 12-14 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Minimum tank size: 120 gallons
  • Temperature: 68-82°F
  • pH: 6-8
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

Bala sharks are another freshwater fish species that can be very helpful for keeping snail numbers under control. Bala sharks are omnivorous so they will eat snails and any other natural food source that they can fit in their mouths.

Bala sharks are huge fish though so don’t bring one home unless you have a tank of at least 120 gallons. These peaceful fish are also very social pets so be sure to pick up a school of at least 5.

6. Assassin Snail

  • Scientific name: Clea helena / Anentome helena
  • Adult size: 2-3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallons
  • Temperature: 68°-75° F
  • pH: 6.5-8
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

Ok so this next species is not a fish, but did you know you can control pest snails with other snails? Assassin snails (video source) are ornamental snails that actively hunt pond snails, ramshorn snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, and others.

Think carefully before adding this snail species to your freshwater aquarium though. Assassin snails do occasionally eat shrimp, and they can breed and multiply in your tank, which is not ideal for aquarists who don’t want any snails at all.

7. African Cichlids

African Cichlids in a Rock Aquarium
  • Scientific name: Trematocranus placodon
  • Adult size: 10 inches
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive/ aggressive
  • Origin: Lake Malawi
  • Minimum tank size: 70 gallons
  • Temperature: 75-82°F
  • pH: 7.6-8.8
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

Do you have a snail problem in your African cichlid tank? Many African cichlids will eat pest snails from time to time, but some species are more reliable than others.

The snail-crusher hap (Trematocranus placodon) is a great option if you have a large enough tank, although they are not always easy to find and need to be stocked carefully to avoid aggression with your other fish.

8. Goldfish

What is a slim bodied goldfish
  • Scientific name: Carassius auratus
  • Adult size: 6-8 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Origin: China
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Temperature: 65-72°F
  • pH: 7-8
  • Planted tank suitability: Possible, will eat many plants
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

Did you know that goldfish love to eat small snails and snail eggs? These classic freshwater aquarium fish are omnivores, which means they’ll eat just about anything that will fit in their mouths, snails included.

Goldfish are tropical fish, so don’t add them to a heated aquarium. These fish do best in cold water tanks, and there are a few great goldfish tankmates that you can choose from. Goldfish can be kept alone too, so don’t worry if you don’t have the room for a large group.

9. Zebra Loach

Zebra Loach in Aquarium
  • Scientific name: Botia striata
  • Adult size: 3.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Origin: India
  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
  • Temperature: 70-78°F
  • pH: 6-7.5
  • Planted tank suitability: Yes, may eat some soft plants
  • Shrimp compatibility: No

The zebra loach is a great snail-eating fish for a community tank. These stripey bottom feeders are a great option for smaller aquariums because they do not grow very large.

These peaceful fish can be pretty boisterous so they might intimidate shy tank mates. When they are not munching on pest snails, you can feed the zebra loach a diet of sinking dried foods, live/frozen foods like mosquito larvae, and even vegetables.

Zebra loaches need the company of their own species so make sure you pick up at least 5 or 6.

Other Fish That Eat Snails

The fish listed above are all excellent choices for controlling pesky snails, but they are not your only options. Many other tropical fish eat snails and their eggs too.

Here are eight more species that can help keep snail numbers down:

  • Clown loach
  • Striped raphael catfish
  • Betta fish
  • Paradise fish
  • Rainbow darter fish
  • Green spotted puffer
  • Cory catfish
  • Dwarf crayfish

Alternative Ways To Control Snails

Adding snail-eating fish is not your only option when it comes to controlling the snail population in your fish tank. There are some other effective snail control methods that you can try.

Read on to learn more:

Keep It Clean

Aquarium snails multiply when there is an excess of food in the tank. Their numbers tend to stay at more manageable levels in a clean, well-maintained aquarium. Avoid overfeeding your fish as leftover food will allow the snail population to grow.

Regular aquarium maintenance and partial water changes are very important in any fish tank. Use your aquarium test kit to monitor your nitrate levels and be sure to suck up as much waste and leftover fish food as you can with your gravel vacuum.

The Lettuce Leaf Trick

You can remove many of the snails in your tank by baiting them with something like a lettuce leaf. Weigh the leaf down on the substrate before going to bed and by the morning it will probably be crawling with snails.

You can simply remove the leaf and snails from your tank. Remember, always remove the leaf before it spoils in your tank.

Pick Them Out

Larger snails can be removed by hand as you see them. You won’t get all of the tiny snails this way, but every bit counts right!

How To Keep Snails Out Of Your Aquarium

If you don’t already have snails in your aquarium, you probably want to keep it that way! Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to avoid this problem before it starts.

Tiny pest snails usually find their way into your fish tank on aquarium plants. Live plants offer so many amazing benefits to your aquarium that you should not let the risk of introducing snails put you off too much, you just need to take some simple precautions!

Grow Tissue Culture Plants

The safest way to keep snails out of your aquarium is to grow tissue culture plants. These plants are grown under sterile lab conditions, so they are pest free!

Tissue culture plants can be a little more fragile and expensive than regular plants from the tanks at your local fish store, but the little bit of extra cost is worth it to avoid introducing pests and diseases to your tank. Our partner Buce Plant offers a ton of tissue culture plants that are pest free that you can purchase!

My Pick
Buce Plant

Buce Plant offers a wide variety of aquatic plants for sale. With one of the largest selections in the US, you will find what you need here. They are also a great source for freshwater shrimp!

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Sterilize Your Plants

If you don’t have access to tissue culture plants, your next best option is to sterilize your plants before adding them to your fish tank. You can do this by dipping your plants in bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or potassium permanganate. This is a great way to kill small pest snails that are hiding in the leaves.

Chemical Treatments

There are chemical treatments available to kill snails in your aquarium. Chemicals like copper sulfate can be highly effective for killing snails, but they can also be very dangerous for your shrimp. If you do use chemicals, remember to remove all the dead snails before they foul your aquarium water. The chemical route is not ideal if you plan to keep inverts and plants.

FAQs

What fish eats pest snails?

Many tropical fish are known for eating snails. Loaches like yoyo loaches and clown loaches are some of the best options, but even your betta fish will snack on some tiny pest snails from time to time.

What fish get rid of snails?

Loaches and puffer fish are some of the best fish species for controlling snail populations in freshwater aquariums. Assassin snails are another great option because they eat other snails.

What fish will eat snails but not shrimp?

Unfortunately, pretty much all the fish that feed on snails will happily take shrimps too. Assassin snails will occasionally eat shrimp, but they will mostly stick to eating other snails.

What fish kills snails?

Many popular aquarium fish eat snails. Tropical fish like the clown loach are well known for eating snails, but even cold water fish like goldfish can be very helpful. Some fish will kill snails without even eating them. Betta fish, for example, often nip at aquarium snails.

Final Thoughts

Controlling snails in your freshwater aquarium can seem like a bit of an uphill battle sometimes. It seems like for every snail you take out, five more pop up the next day.

Why not get some help from a few amazing snail-busting fish? All the fish in this list will love to take care of the problem for you!

What is your favorite snail-eater? Share your views in the comments below!

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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