Nerite snail zebra

Nerite Snails – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding

by Michael

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let me introduce you one of the best algae eater – The beautiful and exceptional spot-algae warrior, Nerite snail! Applause, please.

Nerite snails are a great addition to any planted aquarium and they will be really good friends the dwarf shrimp. Unlike some other common aquarium snails, they do not reproduce in freshwater aquaria. Thus, they will never overpopulate your tank.

I suppose I should start off by saying that I wanted to write this article a long time ago. I have read lots of official reports and studies, Internet articles, guides and forums about Nerite snails. A lot of things contradict each other. It took me some time (frankly saying, a lot!) to process and systemizes all information.

I believe that this is the first article (of that size) on the Internet based on different studies. The point is that it supposed to be a simple topic; in reality, it is not simple at all. I think that you have already guessed that I am referring to the problem of breeding Nerite snails.

Anyway, without further ado let’s start.

Types of Nerite Snails

There are many species of Nerite Snails. Thus, there is a great amount of variability between their color patterning and shell shapes. However, one thing stays the same about all of them, they all look gorgeous and they are awesome algae eaters.

Now, I am not going to list all types of Nerite snails, there are simply too many of them (way too many!). However, the most popular ones in this hobby:

  1. Zebra nerite snails (Neritina natalensis Zebra)
  2. Tiger nerite snails (Neritina turrita)
  3. Olive nerite snails (Neritina reclivata)
  4. Horned nerite snails (Neritina Clithon corona)
  5. Black (Red, Gold) Racer nerite snails (Neritina pulligera, Vittina waigiensis)
  6. Red Spotted nerite snails (Neritina natalensis sp)

Have you noticed that in articles authors usually use common and scientific name when they talk about shrimp or fish? What about Nerite snails?

In most cases, you will not see their scientific names in the articles and guides. Do you know why? Because everything is just too confusing and nobody knows for sure who is who. For example, let’s take a Tiger nerite snail. We have Neritina turrita (Chemnitz, 1786) and Neritina turrita (Gmelin, 1791). Are they the same Species? 

According to one of the studies, “Nerites identification is still in the very complicated problem to solve. Some of the problems such as shell polymorphism, synonyms or multiple names that are used by the author, then it has not been published and identified”.

It took me some time to find the scientific name of Black Racer nerite snail and, actually, I am not 100% sure that it is right. Maybe it also belongs to Vittina waigiensis species. Nonetheless, despite all this mess, adult Nerite snails (on average) share approximately the same parameters and water requirements.

Quick Notes about Nerite Snails

Name Nerite Snails
Tank size (optimal) 1 per 5 gallons (~20 liters)
Keeping Easy
Breeding Difficult – Impossible
Size 1.5 – 2.5 cm (0.5 – 1 inch)
Temperature 20 to 30 C  (~65°F – 85°F)
Optimal PH 7 – 8
Optimal GH 7 – 15
Optimal KH 8  (5-12)
TDS (optimal) 150-250 (100-400)
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Algae eater/omnivore
Temperament Peaceful and solitary
Life span 1-3 years
Color Form Species-Dependent (huge variety of colors and patterns)

About Nerite snails

Nerite snails are widespread around the world. In nature, they live mainly on hard substrates such as rocks and driftwood. Rivers, streams, creeks, mangrove swamps, lakes, lagoons, ponds, and mouth area of rivers are all their habitats. Nerite snails are used to changing water levels, so they can live without any problems in the freshwater and brackish water aquariums.  

Description and Appearance of some Nerite Snails

Zebra nerite snailZebra nerite snail. The basic colors range between an intense golden-yellow and light brown, and from greenish-yellow to yellowish-brown. The strips are uneven. There can be big light ridges at the base of the shell. Variety of dark bands give the zebra snail its characteristic appearance.  An average length is about 2.5 to 3 cm, which makes it one of the most impressive snails. Mistakenly, it is often referred to as Vittina coromandeliana, or as Neritina coromandeliana. However, studies have shown that they have different stripes variations.

Olive nerite snail

Olive nerite snail. In some places, aquarists also call it “Black marble snail”. They have a rounded, smooth shell of olive to brownish-green coloration giving them their common name. The largest specimens of this species are less than an inch across.

Horned nerite snails

Horned nerite snails. The alternative names are Sunny snail or Bumblebee snail. The main feature is the small spikes protruding from the front of the shell. These spikes often break, but it does not affect the well-being of the snail. The snail will grow up to 1/2 – 2/3 inch (1,2-2 cm). Their antennae are very short which is a good bonus; if you want to keep them with fish, (they will not attract fish to nip at them).

Red racer nerite snail Red racer nerite snail has an interesting gleaming ebony color with slight grooves on its shell, running parallel to the aperture all the way back. The shells can have areas of dark gold, dark grey or even black. An average length is about 2.5 to 3 cm (about 1 inch). Interesting fact: they are the fastest crawlers compared to all other types of Nerite Snails.

Tiger nerite snail Tiger nerite snail has a dark amber color with small black markings (the patterns resemble tiger stripes) that form encircling stripes. Their maximum size is about 1 inch.

Every snail has a unique shell pattern variation and it makes them even more interesting to watch. 

The Diet of Nerite Snails. Algae

All nerite snails are detritivores and herbivores and are widely known as one of, if not the most, efficient algae eaters out of all aquarium snails. They really like soft algae, green algae, hair algae, brown algae, and even black beard algae if no other sources of food are available.

Nerite snails will make the slices, roots, plant leaves, and decoration items spotlessly clean. They move slow but leave nothing behind.

If there is not enough algae present in the aquarium, the diet can be supplemented with algae wafers or blanched vegetables such as zucchini or carrots (read my article how to blanch vegetables) . Otherwise, they will eat all the algae and then starve.

Note: Unfortunately, the supplementary food is not their favorite choice and it takes time for them to get used to. Yes, they are a little bit fussy in that sense but all in all Nerite snails are a very popular choice for keeping uneaten food and algae in check. 

Fortunately, unlike some aquatic snails, Nerite snails do not seem to eat plant leaves even when they are very hungry.

These snails move fast and work over the entire tank daily. The best cleanup crew in the hobby for planted tanks. They just keep working as fast as snails can do.

Note: Nerite snails eat a lot and poop quite a bit. All snails add too much to the bioload of the aquarium. However, your shrimp will love that! The snails’ poop has bacteria that is good for the digestive system of the shrimp. You can also read my article how shails benefit shrimp tank right here.

How many Nerite Snails do you need?

If you are buying them for algae control, the general rule is 1 snail per 5-10 gallons (~20-40 liters). Of course, it depends on the conditions of your tank and how many algae you have.

If the situation is totally out of control (as if you do not see the opposite side of your tank), aquarists recommend keeping 1 Nerite snail per 1-3 gallons (~10 liters). Personally, it seems a bit too much. There is no rush. Eventually, Nerite snails will deal with this problem and if you have lots of them, it will become problematic to feed them later.

The Behavior of Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are very peaceful and undemanding creatures. Once they have adjusted to new conditions in the aquarium, they become extremely robust and hardy enough.

They will not bother anybody in the aquarium. In addition, they usually do not sit in groups. Nerite snails absolutely do not care about a company of any other Nerite snail in the tank as well. So, do not think that they will feel lonely.

Nerite snails are not pure water snails and from time to time can climb outside of the aquarium. That is why, when keeping any type of these snails, it is a good idea to make sure the water line in your aquarium is not too high. These snails are well-known escape artists. Unfortunately, they often fall to the ground after that and have a hard time flipping over. Nerites left upside down can die that way.

Complex aquascapes can be dangerous for them because they can easily get stuck and lost.

Note: It is advisable to cover the tank, because these snails can escape from open top tanks.
Interesting fact: snails can be awake for 30+ hours with clusters of around seven bouts of sleeping over a 13-15 hour period.

 Gender difference of Nerite Snails

Nerite snail gender differenceUnlike some other snails, Nerites are not hermaphrodite. They have distinct sexes individually. The problem is that there are no external features that could distinguish between male and female. Therefore, nobody knows how to do it with the naked eye.

If you decide to breed them, you will need a group of 5-6 to improve the odds of getting both genders. Of course, you can be lucky with just two of the same species.

Note: Actually, there is a hypothesis that the sex of Nerite Snails can be determined if there are numerous individuals of the same age, kept in the same environment and fed the same foods. In this case, the females are a little bit bigger than the males. Frankly saying, I do not think that anybody can prove or disprove this hypothesis. It is just too hard to breed them even without these conditions.

Life Span of Nerite Snails

If you meet their needs, they can live for several years (at least 1-3 years). Some aquarists say that their Nerite snails lived up to 5 years. I believe that it really depends on the conditions you are keeping them, how well you feed them and the size they are when you get them.  

Keeping Nerite Snails

Although they have a different appearance, their care requirements are essentially the same.

What is really good about these snails is that they can take a wide range of water parameters. Nerite snails will accept the water temperature range from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, they can take even warmer temperatures (not extreme of course). Under low temperatures, their metabolism slows down, they eat and move less.

The optimal pH range is between 7 and 8 and they definitely prefer harder water. Keeping suitable pH is absolutely crucial for the snails. If it gets lower than the prescribed number, it will affect the snails harmfully because acidic conditions dissolve the shells of snails made of calcium carbonate. Therefore, harder water is generally better for the integrity of their shell.

They do not do quite as well in the low flow low oxygen setup.

Note: With time, when they get old, the shells of Nerite snails, show considerable deterioration while their inhabitants are still alive and reproductively active, giving them the appearance of dead or empty shells. Although the worn-out appearance of these shells may be an inevitable outcome of their tendency to dissolve in calcium-poor water.

Tip:  They are all sensitive to nitrates and need hard water. Pieces of limestone or crushed coral are also good in a tank with Nerite snails. Wondershells will buffer your water and increase calcium quickly. While crushed coral or cuttlebone will erode more slowly over time to help keep it stable.

I highly recommend to read my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.

Do not forget to acclimate any Nerite snail (the same way as shrimp) before putting them in the tank. Read it here

Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)

The Mating Process of Nerite Snails

During mating, the male stays over the right side of the female, inserting his male organ below her mantle edge. After that, the female uses her foot to transfer the egg capsules to the surface to fix them there.

Breeding Nerite Snails

Breeding these snails is a pain in the as… back. Everybody knows that Nerite snails can thrive in both freshwater and salt waters but require saltwater to reproduce. But how? Why even the most experienced aquarists and invertebrate keepers and breeders have not been able to successfully raise Nerite snails and why do we see fail after fail after all these years?

Why do we fail breeding Nerite Snails?

In my opinion, there are three main reasons why aquarists have a hard time doing it.  

  1. There are hundreds(!) of Nerite species, they live in a different environment and can have different types of development. People have a different experience with different species, which look very similar. I have already mentioned that even the biologists have difficulties with this. As a result, we do not have a systematic experience for specific species. So, when we start discussing this matter, the results do not match. Things start heating up, people call each other names and nobody knows for sure anything. This is not very productive.
  2. It is very hard to raise/feed them after hatching. We do not really know their diet and cannot fully replicate their environment.
  3. All “traditional” approaches are erroneous and based on false information. In the past, more than once aquarists have seen similar examples. Just think about it. How do Nerite snails end up in freshwater if they can breed only in brackish water? In some cases, it will take dozens of years for the snail to cross this distance.

For example, in the study about “Freshwater neritids (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of tropical islands, amphidromy as a life cycle, a review” biologists said and I quote “After a few weeks spent at sea metamorphosed juveniles recruit at river mouths and then migrate (often over 10 km) upstream where they spend the rest of their life… Juvenile forms have been observed to move together in long lines and ⁄ or dense aggregations. Such migrations of freshwater neritids were reported for example in Hawaii, Costa Rica, French Polynesia and Puerto Rico… until finding adult habitat. During the upstream migration, juveniles (6 mm) of Neritina granosa grow to about 9 mm over several months; growth then continues at a rate of 1-3 mm year, slowing until they reach a mean maximum adult length of 29 mm. Ford (1979) suggested a 10-year lifespan”. Who has Nerite snails, which are 8-10 years old? I have never heard about it.

Study of Breeding Neritina zebra snail

Anyway, I do not want to start another Internet “holy war” here. That is why I will refer to the study of Neritina zebra snail. The biologists researched the spawning and development of Neritina zebra under laboratory conditions and I would like to share their result with you. If you disagree, you can throw stones at them. 😀

Based on the larval ecology of benthic invertebrates, there are three main types of development:
1. Planktotrophic: when the development involves planktonic larvae feeding on external food particles;
2. Lecithotrophic: when non-feeding larvae will metamorphose after a period of a few hours or days in the plankton;
3. Intracapsular metamorphosis which occurs before hatching.

According to the study, Neritina zebra has a mixed development (Come on!). As are other snails of the same genus, which inhabit environments with a strong freshwater influence. Biologist observed that Neritina zebra has intracapsular and planktonic larval stages. Therefore, the whole process looks like this.

The egg capsules (intracapsular development) of Nerite Snails

After mating, the females deposit egg capsules on any available substratum such as driftwood, leaves, including shells of other snails.

At first, the egg capsules have a yellowish color when deposited. Then they become darker as development progresses.

Neritina snail egg capsuleThe egg capsules have an oval shape and extremely small (1-1.5mm long and about 1mm wide). The capsules also have a thin membrane surrounding the eggs. Each capsule has, on average, 68 eggs (ranging from 32-106). Surprise!

Note: Almost all guides about Nerite snails (even in the top of Google search) say that they lay eggs. Well, this is not correct! What you see and think are nerite eggs are actually capsules with dozens of little eggs in it!

Larval development (planktotrophic development) of Nerite Snails

After hatching, we have a release of veliger in the water. A veliger is the planktonic larvae of the snails. They are very tiny at this stage. (Of course they are! Almost 70 planktonic larvae can fit into 1,5 mm!).

Planktonic larvae (veliger) of Nerite snails

  • At a salinity of 5 ppt the capsules released veligers, after 21 days.
  • At a salinity of 15 ppt, development was slower than at 5, and after 25 days, despite having well-formed veligers, they did not hatch at all.

To induce hatching of these larvae, biologists decreased salinity from 15 to 10. The capsules opened 24 or 48 h after this salinity change releasing the veligers.

There were differences in the duration of embryonic and larval stages between the two salinities.

The differences in reproduction between Neritina species

Here comes yet another problem with Nerite snails. Although all species of the family Neritidae deposit their eggs in characteristic capsules, there are differences in reproductive strategies between species.

Three types of reproductive behavior have been described in science literature:

1. Freshwater species, for example, such as

  • Theodoxus fluviatilis,
  • Theodoxus danubialis,
  • Neritina virginea (marine species).

They hatch as miniature adults, a crawling snail (intracapsular metamorphosis).

2. Estuarine species (estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments), for example, such as

  • Neritina granosa,
  • Neritina listeria,
  • Clithon retropictus,
  • Neritina afra,
  • Neritina latissima
  • Clithon spinosus,
  • Neritina canalis.

They hatch as planktotrophic veligers larvae, and they can show amphidromic behavior.

3. Marine species, for example, such as

  • Nerita atramentosa,
  • Nerita plicata,
  • Smaragdia viridis,
  • Nerita albicilla,
  • Nerita funiculata.

They hatch as long-lived planktotrophic veligers larvae.

Feeding larvae Nerite snail larvae (veligers)

Like Amano shrimp larvae, Nerite veligers are also attracted to the light. Therefore, lure them to a spot with a flashlight or adjustable lamp to the corner of the aquarium. Once they are in the right place, it is easier to feed the majority of them all at once. You can use this trick to feed them more efficiently.  

Note: Unfortunately, nobody has conducted any research how often Nerite snail veligers need to eat. There are scarce pieces of information that 2-3 times a day might be good enough.

Examples of the diet of Nerite snail veligers

Yet again, this is the attempt to replicate of what they can possibly get in the wild.

1. Algae.
2. Golden Pearls (5-50 Microns) (link to see the price on Amazon).
3. Spirulina Powder (mixed with water) (link to see the price).
4. Phytoplankton (Tetraselmis) (link to see the price).

How often do Nerite snail lay egg capsules?

Well, this is another mystery. Some snails will lay eggs for a while and then stop completely. Others seem to lay in cycles while still others never lay eggs at all.

I have read in one of the guides that Nerite snails start breeding rapidly to get an optimal number of species in the population. However, if you increase the number of snails simultaneously living in a tank, they will stop laying the eggs.

Honestly, I have not seen anything like that anywhere. I have a hard time believing it.

Preparing Larvae Rearing Tank for Nerite Snails

You do not need a big one, 1-5 gallons tank is enough. Leave the lights on for 24 h (you need algae for the larvae to support them).

Prepare brackish water – 5-10 ppt. Increased temperature 80-85F (26-30) will help to speed up metabolism and growth of Nerite snail veligers. Filtration – little to no mechanical filtration. It can suck them up. Covering inputs with a net (or anything similar) will not prevent it. They are simply too small. An air bubble line should be set very low 1-2 bubbles every 1-2 seconds.

When the tank is ready, move the item with egg capsules to the rearing tank.
Note: do not even try to move the egg-capsules by scrapping them. You will damage them.  

Water changes in Larvae Rearing Tank for Nerite Snails

This is another uncharted territory. Larvae should not produce a lot bioload. Therefore, if your water parameters are good enough then there is no reason to do it. If you have nitrates, keep using the trick with the light to move any larvae over to one side, siphon from the other side, it might help to reduce losses. 

Tank mates for Nerite Snails (Shrimp and fish)

Nerite snail and shrimpNerite snail is a peaceful snail. It will not bother tank inhabitants. However, do not keep them with:

  1. Aggressive fish that may try to eat it such as Loaches, Pufferfish, Cichlids, Botia macracantha. (The same rules as with shrimp).
  2. Macrobrachium Lanchesteri shrimp. They are quite aggressive.
  3. Assassin snail (check out my guide here).

If you have other snails (for example, you can read my article about Malaysian Trumpet Snail), they will compete with them for food. So, keep it in mind. The same is with Amano shrimp (chech out my guide about this cool shrimp), actually. They are also voracious algae eaters. 

Warning

Many shrimp breeders treat Planaria, Vorticella, Scutariella Japonica, Hydra (you can read my articles about all these parasites) and other parasites and diseases with Fenbendazole (Panacur, Canine Dewormer ), No-planaria, Benibachi – Planaria Zero. These medicines are very dangerous for all snails. 

Conclusion

All nerite snails are excellent algae eaters that care mainly for algae coverings. They will be great neighbors in any shrimp tank. Unfortunately for some and fortunately for other, Nerite snails are extremely difficult to breed.  

Pros Cons
Nerite snails are great algae eaters so they make a great addition to your cleanup crew.  They will make your aquarium spotless in no time. They kept laying eggs all over the aquarium.
Nerite snail will not reproduce and overpopulate your tank. If you do not want that. Nerite snail will not reproduce and overpopulate. It is close to impossible to breed them at home. When you want that.
They will not hurt your live plants (even when they are hungry) making them great for a planted aquarium.  
They are beautiful. 

Some frequently asked questions about Nerite Snails.

Which Nerite Snail Species is the most Hardy?

Frankly saying, there is no difference in hardiness. More or less, they are the same.

 Is it dead? Snail does not come out of the Shell.

  1. It is sleeping or resting. Sometimes they can be still for hours and even days.
  2. The snail is reacting to the stress, which can be due to water quality issues or other irritation (somebody is bullying it).
  3. It is dead. When they are dead, they start smelling really bad.

What is the White Spot on the Shell of My Nerite snail?

Most likely, it indicates that Nerite snail has been kept in water that is too soft and acid. The shell is dissolving.

Do Nerite Snails Require Calcium Supplements?

If you have soft water, it will be a good idea but in moderate or hard water, it is not necessary. Note: You can use a crushed coral, and silica. They do not have an effect on the water.

Do Nerite Snails lay a lot of Eggs?

Yes, they do! However, these are not eggs but capsules. Each capsule contains about 70 micro eggs.

 Why is Nerite Snail Crawling out Of Water?

  1. Check your water parameters. Maybe it does not like something and it is trying to escape.
  2. If your water parameters are fine, well, this is what they do from time to time. Do not worry; they can live for a long period of time out of the water.

Do nerites clean algae better than apple snails or other snails do?

The short answer is yes.

How can I stop Nerite Snails to leave Eggs everywhere?

There are three options.

  1. Wait while they are mating and separate all males and females to different tanks. Note: According to one of the studies, the female snails can store the male sperm capsules for continuous spawning.
  2. Keep only one Nerite snail per tank.
  3. Keep one of each species.

Do Nerite Snails Crossbreed?

There is no scientific study of Nerite crossbreeding. However, according to practice, they do not crossbreed.
In general, I am not talking about Nerite snails, some snail can crossbreed.

Will Red Cherry Shrimp or Amano shrimp eat the Nerite snail’s eggs?

No, they will not. However, they can damage some of the egg-capsules but it should not worry you at all because it is almost impossible to breed Nerite snails anyway.

 

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Comments

  1. Hi I have one zebra snail and it has reproduced and at last count I have 11 baby snails. How is this possible from what I’ve read??!!!

    1. Author

      Hi, Lucy!

      Nerite snails do not reproduce in freshwater. This is absolutely not possible.
      Therefore, either these snail babies are not nerites (and you are confusing them with pond, bladder snail, etc, while they are young and tiny) or you have a slightly brackish tank and extremely lucky!
      Check your water parameters, record what you are doing.

      Best regards,
      Michael

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