Black Panther Snails – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Black Panther Snails (Sulcospira testudinaria) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Sulcospira testudinaria, commonly known as the Black Panther Snails, is one of the rarest snail species in our hobby. If you by chance see or buy one you will be surprised to find out how little is known about them.

When I saw them for the first time, I got curious and decided to do some research. I found out that Black Panther Snails are pretty hardy. Additionally, they can serve as exceptional cleaners for aquariums. Nevertheless, they do have particular needs, such as warm water and some water flow.

Lots of aquarists are always on the lookout for unique and rare species to add to their collections, and I am not an exception. In this guide, I gathered everything we currently know about Sulcospira testudinaria including tank setups, habits, diets, etc.

Quick Notes about Black Panther Snails

Name Black Panther Snails
Other Names Javanese snails and Susuh Kura snails
Scientific Name Sulcospira testudinaria
Tank size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Medium
Size up to 3 inches (7.5 cm)
Optimal Temperature 79 – 89°F (26 – 32°C)
Optimal PH 7.0 – 8.5 
Optimal GH 6 – 15   
Nitrate Less than 60 ppm
Diet Algae eater/Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 5 years
Color Form Dark brown to black

Etymology of Sulcospira Testudinaria

The genus name “Sulcospira” is derived from the Latin words “Sulcus,” meaning “Groove,” and “Spira,” refers to a spiral shape.

The species name “Testudinaria” is also derived from a new Latin word ”Testudo”, which means “Tortoise” and ”-aria” meaning ”relating to”. Therefore, “testudinaria” could be interpreted as something resembling a tortoise or having some characteristics similar to a tortoise.

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
  • Phylum: Mollusca (mollusks)
  • Class: Gastropoda (snails and slugs)
  • Subclass: Prosobranchia (gilled gastropods)
  • Order: Caenogastropoda (snails)
  • Family: Pachychilidae (river snails)
  • Genus: Sulcospira
  • Species: Sulcospira testudinaria

It is quite an interesting fact that even though Sulcospira stands as one of the oldest taxonomically recognized genera within the Pachychilidae family but also one of the most poorly known genera of Pachychilidae.

Distribution of Black Panther Snails

Black Panther Snails (Sulcospira testudinaria) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding destributionSulcospira testudinaria is endemic to Indonesia with a wide distribution across freshwater habitats, particularly prevalent on the island of Java.

It can be observed in various locations such as Central Java (Code River, Pegunungan Sewu), West Java (Bogor, Jakarta, Cikeruh River), and East Java (Meru Betiri National Park, the Brantas River).

Habitat of Black Panther Snails

In their natural habitat, Black Panther Snails primarily occur in relatively fast-running waters, such as rivers, streams, or creeks. However, sometimes they can be found in lakes, and even irrigation canals of rice fields.

Description of Black Panther Snails

Black Panther Snails (Sulcospira testudinaria) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding profileSulcospira testudinaria is a species of freshwater-gilled gastropod.

  • Size. Sulcospira testudinaria is a relatively large snail. They can grow up to 3 inches (about 7.5 cm) long. However, in most cases, the average size of the shell is around 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) in length and 0.4 – 0.8 inches (1 – 2 cm) in
  • Shell. The shell is quite variable. It can be either turreted or elongate conic, with a spire angle of about 30 degrees. The shell’s surface is smooth. The suture is narrow and shallow. The shells usually have 7 to 9 flattened whorls.
    In adult specimens, the apex of the shell is often completely eroded.
  • Operculum. The operculum is oval-shaped with 3 to 4 whorls increasing in diameter.
  • Aperture. The aperture is oval with a straight outer lip.
  • Shell Color. The shell can be dark brown to black, or yellowish to brown, often adorned with brownish flames.
  • Body color. The head and foot of this species are usually dark grey to black. The mantle edge is also dark grey or palely pigmented.
    The head, tentacle, and neck are pigmented dark grey to black.

For a detailed description of Black Panther Snails, you can refer to this scientific paper.

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Lifespan of Black Panther Snails

Currently, there is no data available on the maximum lifespan for Sulcospira testudinaria in the wild.

At the same time, based on the sizes of these snails, if appropriately cared for, the expected average lifespan can range from 3 to 5 years.

Behavior of Black Panther Snails

Black Panther Snails are completely non-aggressive by nature. They do not have any means to attack other tank inhabitants and have only their operculum (trap-door) and shell for protection from aggressors.

These snails are not obligate diggers. Although they can burrow in soft substrates, they generally do not move under it.

Black Panther Snails are nocturnal, during the night they crawl on the surface and may hide during the day. 

Note: The nocturnal behavior is not uncommon for grazing invertebrates and is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.

Features:

  • Social: Yes
  • Activity level: Average
  • Peaceful: Yes
  • Burrowers: Yes

Diet of Black Panther Snails

Black Panther Snails (Sulcospira testudinaria) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding 2
photo credit to Wibowo Djatmiko

These snails are omnivorous and great scavengers. According to the study, Black Panther Snails can reduce the total organic matter in waste by up to 87%.

While they might not be a total substitute for tank maintenance, they will definitely help you keep the tank clean

In aquariums, their diet consists mainly of grazing on:

Additionally, I would definitely supplement their diets with vegetables and commercial foods. They will eat the same food you feed your fish and shrimp (such as flakes, algae wafers, pellets, and granules).

Important: Do not forget that calcium plays a huge role in snails. Calcium is needed for several vital life processes in snails, the most obvious being the formation of shells. 

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Features:

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Feeding Frequency: 1 – 2 times a week

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Are Black Panther Snails Safe to Keep in Planted Tanks?

Based on my research, I did not find any mention of these snails consuming live and healthy plants. Therefore, with a certain degree of confidence, I can say that there should be no issues with Black Panther Snails in planted aquariums.

Keeping and Housing Black Panther Snails

Black Panther Snails care is quite easy and straightforward. They are low-maintenance pets and can withstand varied ranges of water parameters. According to the study, Sulcospira testudinaria is quite tolerant of even polluted waters.

Nonetheless, If we want them to be healthy and happy, we still need to address their core needs and create optimal conditions.

First of all, it is important that you cycle your tank before bringing snails home. Once the tank is cycled you need to check the quality of the water using a test kit.

Tank Size:

The minimum recommended tank size for Black Panther Snails is a 10-gallon (40-liter) tank. These snails need a lot of room to crawl, eat, and explore.

If the tank is smaller, you may have feeding problems unless you supplement their diet. Basically, there may not be sufficient algae and biofilm present in the tank to sustain them.

Water parameters:

Temperature: These snails require warm water. In their natural habitat, they inhabit within the normal range, around 86°F (30°C). Therefore, the optimal temperature in the aquarium should be in the range of 79 – 89°F (26 – 32°C). 

In some cases, they may be found in temperatures as low as 71 – 75°F (22 – 24°C). However, it is not ideal for them.

pH: Try to aim for a pH between 7.0 – 8.5. Keep in mind that Black Panther Snails do not like to stay in acidic water (less than 7.0). Acidic water slowly dissolves their shell making them fragile.

Hardness: Black Panther Snails will appreciate hardness between 6 – 15 GH. Harder water benefits their shells.

Dissolved oxygen: >6 mg/l.

Salinity: Sulcospira testudinaria is a freshwater snail. They do not tolerate salinity very well. They usually retract into the shell and immediately regain activity when transferred to freshwater.

Aeration and Flow:

In the natural ecosystem, Black Panther Snails inhabit shallow streams and rivers where the current is moderate or even fast. They are morphologically suited to life in streams and need high levels of oxygen to thrive.

Of course, it is absolutely possible to keep them in an aquarium without a strong current. However, ensuring ample oxygen supply is essential in such setups.

Lighting:

No special requirements.

Black Panther Snails are nocturnal creatures. So, they could not care less about it. Lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants (and/or algae if needed) in your tank.

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Filtration:

No special requirements.

As long as you have got the filter that works great with the size of the tank you have got you will be fine.

Substrate:

In their natural environment, Black Panther Snails inhabit rivers with sandy, muddy, and rocky substrates.

Although they can be kept in any tank with any substrate, I would still say that smooth gravel will be a better choice.

  • The main reason – it is easier to grow algae on them!
  • Additionally, these snails do not burrow a lot and too deep. So, there is no need for the soil or sand substrates.

Decorations:

The main purpose of adding decor to an aquarium is to recreate natural habitats and create an optimal environment for the snails.

Therefore, driftwood, PVC pipes, leaves, rocks, live plants, fake plants, and other decorations offer ample surface area for algae and biofilm to thrive. Thus, any decors will be a good choice.

Acclimation

Once you get these snails, avoid simply placing them directly into the tank, as sudden changes in habitat can harm them.

Instead, acclimate snails to the tank gradually, as you would with all invertebrates. Take your time, do not rush the process. Do it very slowly to prevent any unnecessary stress.

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Breeding Black Panther Snails

Unfortunately, very little is actually known about the life cycle requirements of these snails.

Here’s all the breeding information I found in scientific literature.

  1. Sulcospira testudinaria is not a hermaphrodite species.
  2. Females are fertilized internally.
  3. They are
  4. On average, females can produce from 100 to 150 similarly-sized embryonic shells.
  5. After hatching, the embryo is about 1.00 mm in length.

Currently, it is unknown how these snails differ by gender, as well as the gestation period and the rate at which they reach sexual maturity.

Black Panther Snails and Suitable Tankmates

These snails are completely harmless animals. They can be a fantastic option for any peaceful community tank  as long as tankmates share similar water preferences and don’t bother them.

Fish

Their tankmates should include other calm and peaceful fish such as:

Dwarf Shrimp

Shrimp species that prefer slightly alkaline water will be the best choice to keep with Batman snails. For example, Vampire shrimpBamboo ShrimpAmano ShrimpGhost shrimpCherry shrimpBlue tiger shrimpSnowball shrimpCaridina cf. babaultiBlue Velvet ShrimpMalawa Shrimpetc.

Snails

Any type of freshwater snails will be good tank mates, except Assassin snails.

Avoid:

Also, keep these snails away from all types of Crayfish (even Dwarf Mexican crayfish), most types of freshwater crabs, and even some types of predatory shrimp such as Macrobrachium family (such as Red Claw ShrimpWhisker shrimp, etc.).

They should also be kept away from large or snail-eating snails, such as puffers, including Dwarf puffers.

In Conclusion

Sulcospira testudinaria can be a great addition to an aquarium. However, there are several (I would say significant) drawbacks that may hinder their popularity among aquarists.

  1. These snails are highly heat-loving and prefer relatively strong water currents.
  2. They resemble Black devil snails.
  3. As they age, the apex of the shell is often completely eroded, significantly affecting their ornamented appearance.

References:

  1. Marwoto, Ristiyanti M., and Nur R. Isnaningsih. “The freshwater snail genus Sulcospira Troschel, 1857 from Java, with description of a new species from Tasikmalaya, West Java, Indonesia (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Pachychilidae).” The raffles bulletin of zoology60, no. 1 (2012): 1-10.
  2. Hertika, Asus Maizar Suryanto, Diana Arfiati, Evellin Dewi Lusiana, and Renanda BDS Putra. “Performance of Metallothionein Biomarker from Sulcospira testudinaria to Assess Heavy Metal Pollution in the Brantas River Watershed, Indonesia.” Journal of Ecological Engineering24, no. 3 (2023).
  3. Adharini, Ratih Ida, and Putri Latifa Arumsari. “Structure and Distribution of Macrobenthos Community in Code River, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.” Indonesian Journal of Limnology2, no. 2 (2021): 21-27.
  4. Susilo, V. E., V. Doviyana, and N. Mujiono. “The diversity of gastropoda in meru betiri national park.” In Journal of Physics: Conference Series, vol. 1465, no. 1, p. 012011. IOP Publishing, 2020.
  5. Lailiyah S, Arfiati D, Hertika AMS, Arum NDK, Noviya CB. 2021. The effectiveness of Filopaludina javanica and Sulcospira testudinaria in reducing organic matter in catfish (Clarias sp.) aquaculture wastewater. Jurnal Ilmiah Perikanan Kelautan 13 (1): 106-113. DOI: 10.20473/jipk.v13i1.23085. 

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