Malaysian Trumpet Snails - Pros and Cons for Shrimp Tank

Malaysian Trumpet Snails – Pros and Cons for Shrimp Tank

by Michael

Scientific name: Melanoides Tuberculata
Water Type: Freshwater
Water Temperature: Warm and Cool
Gender: Gonochoric (Male or Female)
Temperament: Peaceful
Difficulty Level: Very Easy (Beginner)
Size: 1/4″ – 1″  (0.8-2.5cm)
Lifespan: 1-2 years
General: Hardy. Hard-working. Hard to kill.

Today let’s talk about Malaysian Trumpet Snail (short – MTS). How good can it be for the shrimp aquarium? Actually, almost everything written here can be useful for fish keepers as well. Well, People have a very contradictory attitude towards these mollusks. Some of them consider MTS as helpful and very useful pets for the tank. Whilst others see them as pest and hate them with all their heart.

This time I will give all the benefits (why I think they are so fantastic), negatives and how you can deal with them if you do not want to have them in your tank. So you will be ready for different scenarios.

OK, let’s start from the very beginning.

The Body structure of MTS

This species can be recognized by its long pointed shell which is usually a brownish color with darker flex as well as.   This mollusk has a characteristic shell in the form of a narrow cone. This structure of the shell is associated with the need to dig in the ground.

MTS has a small black shield known as an operculum with which they can seal off the entrance to their shells to protect themselves against aggressors and to wait out adverse environments. There is evidence that because of this ability, they could survive even after adding chlorine bleach to the water. They have a distinctive long black proboscis with which they sweep the aquarium substrate and glass seeking food.

Unlike the majority of freshwater snails, MTS has gills to breathe underwater, that is why they need aeration in the aquarium.

Reproduction of MTS

It is not uncommon for these snails to show up uninvited in an aquarium as the young aren’t much bigger than a grain of sand and they reproduce by parthenogenetic essentially. These snails are NOT hermaphrodite (they do not have both male and female organs).

Apomictic parthenogenetic means that the females give birth to more young female clones without a male to fertilize the eggs. As a result, one tiny snail can easily hitchhike along with plants or fish and overrun an entire tank in a fairly short time. There is a joke in the aquatic community that these babies are born pregnant!

The young can be as small as a grain of beach sand and hide between the substrate and plants or floating on top of the tank. Depending on the size of the female MTS, there can be up to 60 little babies. Baby snails grow at 5-6 mm per month.

Optimal water parameters for MTS to thrive in?

Minimal tank size Does not matter
pH 6.5-8.0
Temperature 18 -30 °C (64.4-86°F)
Water hardness 6-15 °d
Nitrite 0 ppm
Ammonia 0 ppm
Nitrate  Nitrate level should be as close to 0 ppm as possible (no more than 40 ppm).

In soft water or acid water (< 6 pH) their shell will dissolve and the snail will die. Also, they do not care much about water changes unlike shrimp or fish in the aquarium. MTS prefer soil or grain substrate at 1-4 mm size because it is easier to borrow in it. Nonetheless, they will not mind any sand or gravel. They are not very picky.

PROS:

Substrate Aeration

My favorite part about Malaysian trumpet snails is that they aerate the substrate and do an excellent job at breaking down unwanted food and rotting plants in the aquarium while still leaving the healthy plants alone.

They help aerate substrate gently much as earthworms do for soil which is especially beneficial in the planted aquarium. For example, if you mainly breed shrimp in pool filtration sand the Malaysian trumpet snails will bury themselves inside the sand and feed on the waste. Thus stopping any dangerous chemical reactions that can form inside the substrate.

These reactions cause bubbles full of dangerous gases that can escape into the water and wipe out your whole tank. Malaysian trumpet snails constantly stir the substrate so these gases do not have enough time to build up. Therefore, you can avoid the pitfall of wiping out your whole tank.

I would also like to mention about having too much substrate. People generally tend to have more than three centimeters of the substrate or more than one inch. This is really not recommended as it can pose toxins or gases to build up and kill your whole colony at a later stage.

Keep in mind that when you use Aquasoil or a heavy planted tank you can certainly use more than three centimeters. As the plants and roots create a different environment compared to just normal Pool filtration sand that might only have one or two plants.

Tip: just be careful to use Malaysian trumpet snails with Aquasoil. They tend to break down the granules to mash leaving you gunk rather than the substrate. Which in turn can also ruin your filter when it hit into it. This will take a long time though but it really can happen.

Provide Oxygen to Plant Roots and Safe for the Plants

First of all, they are absolutely safe for aquarium plants! Secondly, they are great because when they stir up through the substrates. Substrate aeration is a great benefit to planted aquariums as it promotes air exchange and root growth. Lastly, they also poop in the substrate, which provides some natural fertilization for the plants.

Helping the Cycling Process

Malaysian trumpet snails are great to use right after the tank is already cycled. When I am about to put shrimp in the tank I will usually put about 10 to 15 Malaysian trumpet snails in there first. The reason why I do this is that they always produce a high amount of bioload.

This is especially important if you cycle the tank for the first time and you are not using an existing filter. There will not be enough bioload in a brand-new filter. That is why snails will provide that bioload for the filter to keep the tank stable.

Warning: do not use Malaysian trumpet snails for cycling. Unlike pond snails (read more about them), they are more sensitive to ammonia.

Eating surplus food and Algae

Malayan trumpet snails feed almost on all uneaten food from fish or shrimp that is underneath the substrate! In addition, they will also snack on microalgae or bioform. MTS constantly scrape algae off your aquarium, plants, driftwood, rocks or any other decorations. They are one of the best algae eaters (maybe the second after Nerite snails).

Malaysian Trumpet snails are an excellent cleaning crew for any freshwater fish tank generating more natural look in your planted tank. 

Shrimp Eat Their Poop

Malayan trumpet snails eat surplus food and produce a lot of waste. This is a piece of excellent news for the shrimp because it benefits their digestion system. It is a great symbiotic relationship between snails and shrimp.

MTS will not spoil your view.

They spend a lot of time burrowing and do not generally sit on the glass like other snails. Therefore, you will not see them during lighted hours that much. Also, the Malaysian Trumpet Snail reproduces live young and does not lay eggs. It means that you will not have to see egg patches everywhere as well.

CONS:

Reproduction Speed

Malaysian trumpet snails can overpopulate any tank very quickly. The main reason is almost always – overfeeding. They are hard to eliminate, as mentioned before females give birth without ever mating.  So even one tiny solitary snail is enough to make a large population.

So, if you really have a problem with Malaysian trumpet snail you should feed less. Feeding your shrimp and fish less will definitely help. Unfortunately, it will take a long time before you reduce the numbers, by doing only that.

Potential Danger for your Filter

The last thing I would like to mention. Be careful. Their shells are quite hard and even a little Malaysian trumpet snail can cause damage to the impeller blades of your filter if it gets there.

Ways to control Malaysian trumpet snails

1. The first line of defense is to limit the amount of food available to them.
This will help to prevent them from overpopulating but will not eliminate MTS. These snails are also very capable of surviving long periods on very little food so reducing available food is not a great way to reduce an already existing population.

2. Removing them manually with long tweezers or with clean hands.

Just turn off you the bright light as they are more active during the dark and you will be able to see more Malaysian trumpet snails.

3. Another thing you can do is to remove the floating babies from the top of the water. Removing them is very easy with a net.

4. If you find yourself with too many trumpet snails, a very effective control mechanism is the assassin snails. Malaysian trumpet snails spend a lot of time buried underneath the gravel or sand so it may take some time even for assassin snails to find them all.

By the way, not only Assassin snails are capable of doing this.  For example, Loach and Tetraodon will help you with this matter. Unfortunately, you will need special conditions to keep them and they will eat all the shrimp as well. After all assassin snail is the best option here.

5. If your aquarium does not have many plants and it is possible to turn off aeration, you will force them to go to the surface to breath (MTS has gills and need aeration). This is the time when you can remove them.

Unfortunately, this method can work only if you do not have plants in the aquarium and the aquarium is actually empty from shrimp and fish.

6. Traps and Baits Snail trap

There are some commercial snail traps on the market to help you.

Rotten bananRotten banana bait. All you need is a peel of a banana. Leave it in the sun or on the battery until it is completely black. Then put it into the tank for a night. In the morning, you will see snails all over it. This way you can significantly reduce the colony of snails. The main downside of this method is that the peel adds extra organic matter to the aquarium. Therefore, if you already have a high concentration of ammonia (NH4) and nitrite (NO2) you can cause an ammonia spike and wipe out all your shrimps or fish. 

7. You can use a range of commercial liquids available to handle the snails.

For example, like Sera Snailpur, Sera Snail Ex, Sera snail collect, Tropical LIMNA TOX, and etc. Personally, I do not recommend using them if you have shrimp and fish in your tank. They can be dangerous for them as well.

Keep in mind that a lot of dead snails will cause ammonia rise due to the dead snails decaying in the substrate.

Read more about it in my article “How to Remove Snails from a Shrimp Tank”.

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