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Vermetid Snail Control and Removal (A Quick Guide)

In an aquatic environment like a simulated ecosystem in an aquarium, many parasites flourish. Some of the most destructive creatures that can be found in a fish tank are vermetid snails. Thus, controlling their growth or eradicating them is an essential move for the health of your collection.

This species of sea snails can be such a nuisance because vermetid snails are harmful to both corals and fish tank owners’ budget as our experts have often pointed out. The snails latch onto corals’ spongy and irregular surface and they can stunt their skeletal development. What’s more, they can suck the life out of corals and kill them. Luckily, there are ways to fight them off.

What Are Vermetid Snails?

Classifying and describing vermetid snails can be difficult, as they belong to a superfamily of gastropods called Cerithioidea, which is divided into three main families. The type of vermetid snails, aka worm shells, that plague fish tanks belong to the Vermetidae taxonomic family, which includes several species. Still, the three families share similar traits.

What sets the Vermitidae apart from their cousins is that they prefer to latch onto irregular masses, such as sponges, and they dwell below the coastal zone while in the wild. What is more, even though they are technically gastropods, they do not have coiled shells like other marine species from the same class do.

When a vermetid snail is born, it immediately seeks to build a home. It then attaches to a hard surface and builds a calcified tube, aka its shell. These formations are very similar to those built by annelid tube worms, which makes vermetids’ identification difficult to the naked eye. Still, a seasoned aquarium owner will be able to tell the difference between the two species.

In addition, these little guys spend most of their life in the same place. This might make one wonder how they manage to feed? The answer is simple. They spew mucus nets out of the ends of their shells, which they use to catch nearby detritus and plankton.

Vermetid snails in an aquarium can harm corals. They usually impede coral growth and damage corals’ skeletal structure. Therefore, if you notice any of these snails in your fish tank, it’s time to take immediate action.

How to Remove Vermetid Snails from Aquariums

Unfortunately, removing vermetid snails from your aquarium can be quite challenging. Still, it is worth the effort if you want to protect your corals (and hard-earned cash you’ve spent on them).

First, do not try to kill the tiny worms by sealing their exit from the tubes with superglue or other substances. Once the worms die and start decaying, they create a nutrient imbalance in the water, which ups the water’s toxicity and creates a perfect environment for other fish tank parasites like bryopsis.

If you remove a rock or sponge with a snail’s corpse still latched onto it, you will notice a foul smell. If the odor affects you, just imagine how much damage it can do to your fish and the ecosystem you have built.

Many hobbyists have tried a direct approach to the issue. Identify the rocks or sponges that have vermetid snails nesting on them and remove them from the aquarium. Then, wash them thoroughly with a 10% to 20% solution of hydrochloric acid. This is the best solution although it may seem drastic.

The substance will eat away snails and remove them completely from the rocks and sponges. If it takes too long for the parasites to wash off, you can let the rocks soak in the hydrochloric acid solution for a couple of days. The rocks should be white and clean at the end.

The Bottom Line

Vermetid snails are common fish tank parasites that build their own calcified tubes. They reside inside the tubes their whole lives and they cause great damage to corals. To wipe them out, you will need to remove the rocks or other props that they have attached themselves to from the fish tank, and thoroughly clean them with HCL. It is a drastic measure, but 100% effective.

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