Artsy snails

Cold Water Snails: Species, Size, Breeding

Most snails in the fishkeeping hobby come from the warm, tropical waters of South Asia, Africa, or Amazonia. However, you can keep a few species with your koi, goldfish, or other cold-loving fish species.

Japanese trapdoor snails, apple snails, ramshorn snails, and pond snails all feel comfortable in temperatures below 20°C / 68°F. The pond snail can survive extreme cold, while ramshorns, as durable and prolific breeders as they are, might not be ideal for a tank with goldies or a pond with koi.

Their size is small enough for goldfish to eat them and, silly as the goldies are, maybe choke on them.

On the other hand, species like mystery snails and Malaysian trumpet snails could survive in lower temperatures, but they must be accustomed to the colder environment at an early age. That’s why our guide will focus exclusively on cold water snails that feel comfortable in cooler water by default.

Just to clarify, a cold water aquarium doesn’t mean a tank with freezing water. Rather, it is an aquarium that doesn’t have a dedicated heater and the ambient temperature is in the 15°-20°C / 59°-68°F range.

With this out of the way, let’s examine each cold-water snail species in greater detail.

Japanese Trapdoor Snails

Japanese trapdoor snails bring a lot of character to any aquarium. They look like mystery snails, but their shells are more conic instead of round. The bodies also look similar, but the trapdoor snails sport fewer colors than the mystery snails. They cannot breathe air either — one of the favorite pastimes for mystery snails.

Here’s what the Japanese trapdoor snails look like, in a nutshell:

  • Common names — Japanese trapdoor snails, trapdoor snails, Chinese mystery snails
  • Species name — Viviparus malleatus, Cipangopaludina chinensis
  • Size — 4-7 centimeters or 1.5-3 inches
  • Lifespan — 4-10 years
  • Origin — Japan, China, East Asia, the USA
  • pH: 6.8-8.5
  • KH: 5-10
  • GH: 5-18
  • Temperature: 18°C-24°C or 64°F-75°F
  • Diet: Omnivore, don’t eat healthy plants
  • Algae eater: Moderate, prefers soft algae

Indeed, nowadays the Japanese trapdoor snails have spread throughout East Asia and are considered native even in the US. The latter isn’t ideal, as they are essentially invading species and the state of Wisconsin has banned their sale.

Check whether owning them is permitted in your area, as species are labeled invasive for a reason. We, the owners of a couple of aquariums, might consider them harmless, but the repercussions of snail let loose can be dire, indeed.

Sexing Japanese trapdoor snails is rather easy with mature individuals, as the females grow considerably larger than the males. When younger, the differences aren’t as obvious. The males have slightly shorter tentacles, but that’s about it.

The Japanese trapdoor snails are livebearers, just like the rabbit snails.

Like most aquarium snails, the trapdoor snails are detrivores that like to munch on pellets, veggies, and whatever other fish food they can get. They consume softer algae, too, making them an OK option for cold-water algae eaters.

Pond Snails

Pond snails are the true cold-water champions. They could practice Wim Hoff, if they wanted to, as they can survive in freezing water. Their durability has put them on the list of pest snails for many, as they reproduce easily and like to sneak into aquariums unannounced.

Their large size makes them ideal for large fish like koi and goldfish, but their quick reproduction rate can still cause a problem. Goldfish are very likely to munch on snail babies. Which is fine as long as they pick up small snails and don’t choke like idiots on slightly larger ones.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the pond snails:

  • Common names — Pond snail, great pond snail, giant pond snail
  • Species name — Lymnaea stagnalis
  • Size — 3-7 centimeters or 1-3 inches
  • Lifespan — 2-3 years
  • Origin — Europe, initially, all around the world nowadays
  • pH: 6.8-8.5
  • KH: 5-18
  • GH: 5-15
  • Temperature: 0°C-32°C or 32°F-90°F
  • Diet: Omnivore, don’t eat healthy plants
  • Algae eater: Moderate

Pond snails can breathe air and can breed easily. They can survive in a wide temperature range, probably the widest in the hobby. However, the warmer they get, the more likely they are to start reproducing like crazy.

Of course, without enough food, their numbers will remain low, even without glutton goldies greedily munching on them. Pond snails eat some algae, lots of detritus, and enjoy wafers, pellets, fish food, and veggies.

Ramshorn Snails

If pond snails are considered pests, then ramshorn snails are synonymous with the term. Their prolific proliferation and proclivity to pop up uninvited have earned them a bad name in the hobby.

In reality, just like any other aquarium snails, ramshorns are extremely useful to an aquatic ecosystem.

Yes, they could overwhelm a tank and make it look messy, but that’s yet another side effect of overfeeding. If the tank is fed adequately, the population of ramshorn snails will remain under control. Whatever breeding happens, will be beneficial to the other livestock as fish like to eat baby snails.

Ramshorns also clear up algae quite well.

They come in a huge variety of colors but the shape is relatively stable: spiral shell and thin body, no operculum.

Here’s what they need to survive in a cold water tank:

  • Common names — Ramshorn snail, ram’s horn snail
  • Species name — Planorbella duryi, Planorbarius corneus
  • Size — 1-2 centimeters or 0.25-1 inches
  • Lifespan —  1-3 years
  • Origin — 
  • pH: 6.8-8.5
  • KH: 5-14
  • GH: 5-18
  • Temperature: 20°C-25°C or 68°F-75°F
  • Diet: Omnivore, don’t eat healthy plants
  • Algae eater: Moderate, prefers soft algae

20°C-25°C or 68°F-75°F is the recommended temperature, but ramshorn snails can survive and thrive 2-3 degrees either way without much effort. They are tough little gastropods.

To breed them, increase the temperature above 20°C or 68°F and feed heavily, The type of food doesn’t really matter, they’ll eat anything, from wafers and pellets to veggies like zucchini and cucumber. Ramshorn snails eat algae, too, and with enough numbers can do a job there.

Giant Apple Snail

Apple snails are often confused with mystery snails. No wonder there as they belong to the same family, Ampullariidae, and look fairly similar. Both species have round shells and their bodies can be spotty, but apple snails are mostly brown, with darker stripes across the shells. The color variety in mystery snails is staggering.

Another main difference is that apple snails grow considerably bigger than the common mystery snail. They can grow to the size of a golf ball or even larger (a small apple) and are far more destructive than mystery snails.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the apple snail.

  • Common names — Apple snail, giant apple snail
  • Species name — Pomacea maculata
  • Size — 6-16 centimeters or 2.5-7 inches
  • Lifespan — 3-7 years
  • Origin — South America
  • pH: 6.8-8.0
  • KH: 5-15
  • GH: 5-14
  • Temperature: 18°C-26°C or 64°F-78°F
  • Diet: Omnivore, can eat and uproot healthy snails
  • Algae eater: Not particularly good

Giant apple snails are excellent for ponds and aquariums with large fish, as even the hungriest goldfish won’t try to swallow these large gastropods. Their main downside is their destructive nature — they like to munch on plants and uproot them.

Cryptocorines and most other root feeders won’t suffer much damage but stem plants will often float for no good reason once the giant apple snails start rummaging around. Even small Amazon sword plants can become targets for these large snails.

On the other hand, the giant apple snails bring a lot of personality and beauty to the tank, swim around on floating plants, and act as the ultimate bosses of the aquarium.

They are omnivores that need feeding as they don’t eat algae that much. Breeding them is fairly easy: increase the temperature to about 22°-25°C or 71°-75°F and feed heavily.

Cold Aquarium Snails Are Peculiar, Awesome Creatures

These are, in a nutshell, the most suitable snail species for a cold water setup. Some are giants, others are tiny, but each species has its own peculiarities and personality.

While not quite as colorful as other popular aquarium snails like nerites — even though ramshorn snails come in several colors, too — they are pretty and very useful. All pond and aquarium snails process a lot of waste, creating biofilm and stimulating the growth of microflora and fauna.

In turn, these byproducts of their digestive systems strengthen the food chain in the closed ecosystem.

All in all, if you have the space, getting a few snails in there is a no-brainer.

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