Nerite Snail Care, Feeding, Breeding, Buying

Algae are among the commonest challenges in the fishkeeping hobby. Luckily, nerite snails are among the popular gastropods in the hobby, too.

Nerite snails are the best algae-eating aquarium snails. While others nibble occasionally, nerites actively seek algae to graze off the glass, driftwood, hardscape, and substrate. Pair this with their amazing looks and you end up with some of the prettiest, most useful additions to your aquarium.

On top of that, nerite snails are relatively hard to breed and that ensures that you won’t have unwanted snail population booms, even if you overfeed. (You should not overfeeed.)

Do they have any downsides?

Not really. But, as is the case with any addition to your aquatic ecosystem, there are certain considerations to go through before adding nerite snails.

Let’s go through them.

Nerite Snail Anatomy and Behavior

Nerite snails come in many colors and, indeed, shapes. While size across subspecies remains roughly the same — around 2.5 centimeters or 1 inch — their coloration changes drastically.

The foot and body of the snail remain relatively similar across the subspecies — darker or brighter shades, oscillating between yellow and brown, they aren’t as captivating as mystery snails. But when it comes down to external appearance, nerite snails are simply stunning.

Their shells can have dots, stripes, or other swirly patterns. The shell usually is yellow and the pattern brown or black, but the shell can also be red or brownish and the pattern black.

But again, the variations are numerous.

The shell can even have horns!

Rumor has it that fish enjoy music; I am not sure whether nerite snails like metal music, but they definitely have the styling.

  • Common names — Nerite snail, spotted nerite, zebra nerite
  • Species name — Vittina natalensis
  • Size — 2-3 centimeters or 1-1.5 inches
  • Lifespan — 1.5-2 years
  • Origin — Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa

Now, in terms of behavior, many nerite snails are more active at night. I wouldn’t qualify them as exclusively nocturnal creatures like, say, the inverted catfish, but most nerites I’ve seen roam around at night.

They have short bursts of activity in daylight hours too, but don’t be overly surprised if your nerites are shelled up when the lights are on, with their operculum shut tight.

Nerite Snail Water Parameters and Tank Setup

For optimal care of nerite snails, a tank should sport efficient filtration, substrate devoid of sharp edges, and hard water. Sand is probably the most suitable substrate, but gravel, pebbles, or specialized aqua soils will also work.

Generally, nerite snails prefer more alkaline water. If they are bred in captivity in water with lower pH, they may very well tolerate it, but their natural breeding habitat is brackish.

Maintain the following water parameters:

  • pH: 7.5-8.5
  • KH: 5-18
  • GH: 5-15
  • Temperature: 21°C-26°C or 70°F-78°F

Unlike rabbit snails or Malaysian trumpet snails, nerite snails do not disturb the substrate at all, allowing flexibility in choosing preferred substrate types. In terms of lighting, nerite snails prefer moderate strength but can tolerate any lighting setup.

While nerite snails can endure water temperatures up to 28°C or 82°F, their optimal range lies between 22°C-24°C or 72°F-76°F. Lower temperatures can slow metabolism, potentially prolonging their lifespan and promoting stronger shell development.

Maintain pH levels above 7.5. Appropriate water hardness helps with shell formation and growth while buffering against pH swings.

As is the case with most snails, good filtration and regular water changes until the tank is established are necessary. Snails are sensitive to dirty water, even though nerite snails are hardier than mystery snails.

Filtration and water changes can inform how many nerite snails you should keep per gallon. They aren’t as big as apple snails, but 20 liters or 5 gallons is a good starting point for a single nerite snail with adequate but not excessive filtration and weekly water changes.

Make sure to put a lid on the tank, as the nerite snails are able climbers who like to explore beyond the water surface.

Added Calcium in the Water Column

As is the case with most aquarium snails, they appreciate any extra bit of calcium in the water column.

A cuttlebone will do for small tanks, but for anything above 20 liters or 5 gallons additional calcium supplements would be better. They can come in the form of commercially sold calcium supplements or homemade alternatives.

Crushed eggshells are the most common and accessible way to add calcium to the water column. I prefer using boiled eggs, as it is easier to remove their membrane when peeling the shell. A bit of membrane isn’t the end of the world, the nerite snails and bottom-dwelling fish like corydoras or plecos will eat it, but too much of the stuff could foul the water.

Crush the eggshells to powder using a blender or mortar and pestle and drop them in the water. For better aesthetics, let them sink at the back of the tank, so they stay largely hidden. Eggshells have a relatively long-lasting effect. Two to three eggs will provide enough calcium for a couple of snails for a couple of months, at least.

Still, observe your snails and be ready to add more calcium if you see any signs of wear and tear.

Tankmates for Neite Snails

Given their peaceful nature, nerite snails will do well with peaceful fish in a community tank. No yoyo loaches or fish that like to nibble on their exposed antennae. Cichlids are out of the question and so are goldfish.

Assassin snails can also prey on the nerites.

Nerite Snail Diet and Feeding

Nerite snails are the best algae eaters in the hobby. They are excellent cleaners, too, happily eating decaying plants and other waste. That’s why they feel more comfortable in an established, heavily planted tank. Even though they could withstand a new tank syndrome, it is not recommended to put them early on.

However, feeding them with wafers, sinking pellets, or the occasional vegetable — zucchini, cucumber — will ensure they don’t starve. Water snails need more food than you might think, as their digestive tracts aren’t very efficient and can’t absorb that many nutrients from any single meal.

Nerite snails do not eat healthy plants and can’t uproot well-planted plants, regardless of whether they are powerful root feeders or stem plants.

Nerite Snail Lifespan and Growth Rate

In captivity, nerite snails typically live about 1.5-2 years, but their lifespan can even double that. Compared to mystery snails or Malaysian trumpet snails, that’s excellent.

What’s more, nerites don’t grow all the time like rabbit snails, making them more suitable for nano tanks. Nerite snails rarely become larger than 3 centimeters or 1.5 inches in diameter.

Nerite Snail Breeding

Nerite snails are with fixed sex, so you’ll need a pair to produce offspring. Telling males apart from females isn’t easy just by observing their bodies. It is best to procure several snails, if you intend to breed them, as this increases the chance of landing both sexes.

However, when the mating ritual starts, the male chases the female around. He must be persistent, as she will turn him down more than once.

After the mating takes place, the female nerite snail will lay egg-bags or capsules around. Each pouch contains 30-100 eggs.

The problem — or blessing, if you don’t want too many snails — is that nerite snails will mate in brackish water. Unless you set up the right conditions, you won’t have any success producing nerite babies.

The baby nerite snails eat the same stuff as their parents, i.e. everything. Keep them away from fish, though, as their tiny size makes them a perfect, sought-after snack for even the most peaceful fish.

As a side note, some nerite species will reproduce in salty water. Yes, there are nerites coming from the Caribbean that are good for seawater setups, but then they will be living in a saltwater tank to begin with.

Potential Diseases

Sturdy as they are, nerite snaNerite Snail Care, Feeding, Breeding, Buyingils aren’t immune to disease. Watch the operculum (trap door) and shell for any signs of wear and tear. The operculum of most snails will benefit from increased protein intake, whereas weak shells can be helped with calcium.

Parasites within the shell can be hard to spot but white dots can betray their presence. Nerite snails tolerate salt pretty well, so using aquarium salts to treat them could work.

When Purchasing Nerite Snails

Take your time to observe the snails before purchasing. Pick up active individuals that have no shell damage.

Make sure they have no missing antennae and that their foot is flat and healthy.

As long as you provide your nerite snails with adequate water, devoid of ammonia and nitrites, and peaceful tankmates, they will take care of most algae and detritus and add color to your tank.

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