The beautifully striped, tiny Bumble Bee Snail (Engina mendicaria) can be very beneficial for Marine Reef Aquariums. Also, known as Striped Engina, these members of Buccinidae Family have a striking black shell with yellow to white stripes on it. In this care guide, I will share with you how you can create a healthy environment for them, and some key issues you need to watch out for.
Bumble Bee Snails are carnivorous in their feeding habits. They can help you in getting rid of meaty food residues and decomposing organisms. However, the main reason of the popularity of these snails comes from their ability to consume other snails (like Vermetid snail, which are harmful to corals).
Due to their small size, they can easily access the small crevices and narrow places between reefs and rockwork. Bumble Bee snails can also burrow in the sand bed and aerate your substrate.
Quick Notes about Bumble Bee Snail
|Name||Bumble Bee snail|
||Striped engina, Wasp snail|
|Scientific Name||Engina mendicaria|
|Tank size (minimal)||5 gallons (~20 liters)|
|Size||1.5 – 2.2 cm (~1/4 – 3/4 inches)|
|Optimal Temperature||22 – 25°C (~72°F – 78°F)|
|Water type||SG = 1.023 – 1.025|
|Optimal PH||8.1 – 8.4 (7.5 – 9)|
|Optimal KH||7 – 12|
|Nitrate||Less than 20 ppm|
|Diet||Omnivorous / Carnivorous|
|Temperament||Peaceful (with caution)|
|Life span||up to 2 years|
|Color Form||Yellow and black bands|
Origins, Natural Habitat of the Bumble Bee Snail
They originate from the Indo-Pacific region. The Bumble Bee Snails are found in marshy islands and are very commonly seen in the waters of Florida, Indonesia, Chagos, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Hawaii.
Distributed in tropical and warm seas, they live on intertidal reefs, usually under rocks or exposed in small pockets in the reef in shallow water.
Description of the Bumble Bee Snail
Their shell has yellow and black bands pattern of wasps and bees (hence a common name). Generally, their size ranges from 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch long (~1.5 – 2.2 cm). The body is a light tan color with a long proboscis (mouth).
In captivity, a healthy Bumble Bee Snails can live about 1.5 – 2 years.
Interesting fact: Beads made of striped whelk Engina mendicaria beads have been recorded as early as the 5th millennium BC.
The Behavior of the Bumble Bee Snail
Striped Engina is predominantly nocturnal (active at night). They live on rocky shores and sand beds and spend the day hiding.
From time to time Bumble Bee snails burrow into the sand bed. However, they do not do it very often. Some aquarists claim that they have never seen them burrow and they are always on top of the sand in their tanks.
Note: It can happen if there is plenty of food around and (or) the sand bad is not deep enough.
Generally, Bumble Bee snails are pretty lazy and do not move too much. If they find a spot they like, they prefer to stay there for a long time.
Feeding Bumble Bee Snail
Bumble Bee Snails are carnivorous (predators), although the animals they eat are very small as well. They do not eat algae. This species eats dead organisms, and consume meaty leftovers. Bumble Bee Snails thrive on a high-protein diet.
Feeding Engina mendicaria is very easy as they find food with the aquarium. They can burrow in the sand bed and consume tiny worms dwelling in the sand.
If your aquarium cannot provide sufficient food, then you can supplement their diet. For example, you can feed them chopped brine and mysis shrimp.
|Calcium is vital for good shell growth. I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.|
Is Bumble Bee Snail Reef-Safe?
Bumble Bee snails do not eat corals, and therefore they are safe for reefs.
However, if sufficient food is not provided, they will feed on reef polychaetes (including Bristle worms, but do not expect them to control their population) and other micro fauna that can be beneficial to a marine aquarium and your corals.
Bumble Bee Snail and Vermetid Snails
Do Bumble Bee snails eat Vermetid snails? From what I have found, there are mixed reviews as to their efficacy against Vermetid snails. Some aquarists say that their Bumble Bee snails go right after Vermetid snails. While others are not that lucky and say that their snails never touched these parasites.
It is strongly recommended that you do not give Bumble Bee snails a lot of processed foods. The reason for that, if there is something tastier for them to eat other than Vermetid snails they are going to eat what is easy and tasty. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is always plenty of food in the tanks.
In addition, do not expect fast results. Bumble Bee snails are very slow even for the snails. Also, if you have an infestation, do not even think that one small snail can solve this problem. You will need at least a bunch of them.
Keeping and Housing Bumble Bee Snail
However, keep in mind that like other invertebrates, they are sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters, especially to elevated levels of nitrate. Make sure the tank has fully cycled before introducing them.
It will be a good idea to keep Bumble Bee Snails in tanks at least 5 gallons (20 liters) in size. Of course, bigger tanks have a greater capacity to absorb sudden water changes and shifts than smaller tanks do.
Ideal water conditions for them are as follows:
- SG: 1.023-1.025
- Temperature: 22°C – 25°C (72 – 78°F)
- pH Level: 8.1 to 8.4
- KH Level: 7 – 12
- Mg: 1300 – 1350
- Ca: 350 – 450
Ideally, try to maintain the Ca and Mg to help the Bumble Bee snails shells grow.
For keeping, provide sufficient hiding places in your aquarium to make them comfortable. Bumble Bee snails will thrive in aquariums with live rocks and deep sand beds (1 – 2 inches or 2.5 – 5 cm). As I have already mentioned before, they can also help you with ventilating your substrate.
Important: Do not forget to acclimate your snails. When adding new Bumble Bee snails to your tank, go slowly and gently. Read my article “How I drip acclimate shrimp and why” and use the same principle.
Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)
Breeding Bumble Bee Snail
Unfortunately, I have to start off by saying that due to many different factors, the breeding process presents various difficulties. Actually, breeding Bumble Bee snail is not just difficult, it is close to impossible. So far, there have been no reports of successful breeding them.
I have tried my best but could not find any information about it. There are not scientific articles and studies. There are no data about maturity size, mating behavior, egg number, hatching time, larvae feeding requirements, post-hatching development, etc. We do not know even how to sex these snails (it is indistinguishable).
Basically, we do not know absolutely anything about breeding Bumble Bee snails.
Note: It has been seen that some factors like an increase in water temperature, exposure to natural light, and ample hiding places can trigger breeding. However, these are just rumors.
Bumble Bee Snail and Suitable Tank mates
Bumble Bee snails are very peaceful and compatible with most tank-mates. However, if sufficient food is not provided, they may prey on other (smaller) snails. In general, they are predatory whelks that eat animals located in the sand. However, full-grown snails (Fighting Conch Snail, Cerith snails, Astrea Snails, Mexican turbo snails, etc) should be safe in any case.
It will be risky to keep them with wrasses, Coral banded shrimp and hermit crabs (like Halloween Hermit Crab, Blue Leg Hermit Crab, etc.). These snails are small and do not have mechanisms to defend themselves, except hiding.
Bumble Bee Snail, even without their beneficial task of consuming pest snails, are very personable snails that are quite beautiful in appearance.
They are very easy to care and can be a great addition to a reef aquarium. They will be your tiny cleaning crew and will consume any meaty residues. No matter what level of experience, any community tank will benefit from these small snails.