Chopstick snails (Stenomelania torulosa) are one of the most beautiful and gorgeous freshwater snails in the aquarium hobby.
Chopstick snails are very hardy and easy to care for. Therefore, these snails can be recommended even for beginners. They also do not breed in freshwater, so it makes them an excellent choice with controlled population.
Unfortunately, the ecology of Stenomelania torulosa is poorly researched and much is still unknown about these snails. Even though they are pretty common in South Asia, these snails are rather rare on the Western pet trade market yet.
In this guide, I gathered everything that is currently known about Chopstick snails including ideal tank setups and how to care for them.
Quick Notes about Chopstick Snail
|Stenomelania torulosa (Synonyms Melanoides torulosus, Thiara torulosa)
|Tank size (optimal)
|10 gallons (~40 liters)
|up to 4 inches (10 cm)
|24 – 27°C (75 – 80°F).
|7.0 – 8.0
|1 – 12
|Less than 40 ppm
|up to 4 years
|From light olive to dark brown
Origins and Natural Habitat
Stenomelania torulosa species can be found in India, Ceylon, Andaman-Islands, Malay Archipelago, Taiwan, Philippines, Solomon-Islands, Tamil Nadu: Porto Novo
Their habitat is areas nearby rivers and streams.
The maximum population density of this species has been registered beyond the mangrove in a freshwater environment where penetration of saltwater occurs only occasionally during extremely high tides.
Chopstick snail is a relatively large snail. They can grow up to 4 inches (about 10 cm) long. However, in most cases, the average size of the shell is around 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) in length.
The shell is elongated and sculptured with strong spiral ridges. The whorls are rather flat and do not have deep sutures. Full-grown shells have up to 12–14 whorls.
The color of the shells ranges from light olive to dark brown. Although the shell is thick and strong, the apex is often eroded.
In young snails, the top whorls are generally lighter and often spotted with small brown spots and lines. Adult snails are mostly coated by a thick black layer.
Chopstick snails also have an operculum (the trap-door) which they use to completely close their shell when disturbed or threatened.
The cephalic tentacles are moderately long.
Lifespan/Longevity of Chopstick Snail
Currently, there is no data available on the average or maximum lifespan for Chopstick snails in the wild.
However, they can live for 3 – 4 years in captivity, if appropriately cared for.
Chopstick snails are non-aggressive and docile by nature. They do not have any means to attack other tank inhabitants and have only its operculum and shell for protection from aggressors.
These snails are nocturnal, during the night they are crawling on the surface and may bury or hide at day.
This kind of behavior should not surprise you. As a matter of fact, it is pretty common amongst grazing invertebrates and is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.
Interesting fact: On a 24-h cycle, dusk is a period in which algae has maximum nutrients at the end of the photosynthetic period corresponding to profitable conditions for grazers to feed at the end of the light period.
Chopstick snail is a burrower type of snail. So, they will continuously turn your substrate in the tank. Actually, it is very useful in preventing anaerobic pocket problems.
- Social: Yes
- Active: Yes
- Peaceful: Yes
- Burrowers: Yes
Chopstick snails are omnivorous, scavengers, and will consume any organic food source available to them.
In an aquarium, these snails will be your clean up crew against algae, biofilm, debris, and waste.
However, because of their size, I would definitely recommend supplementing their diets with vegetables and commercial foods.
They will eat the same food you feed your fish and shrimp, for example (links to check the price on Amazon):
These foods will sit on the bottom of the tank and stay there until Chopstick snails come across them.
|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. Therefore, I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.
You can read some of my related articles (the principle is the same with snails):
- Diet Type: Omnivore
- Feeding Frequency: 1 – 2 times a week
Chopstick Snail and Live Plants
Generally, these snails do not eat healthy plants and can, therefore, be kept in beautifully planted aquariums.
The only problem is that Chopstick snails are burrowers. So, they may dig up and uproot some plants with weak root systems.
Keeping and Housing Chopstick Snail
Chopstick snails care is quite easy and straightforward. They are low-maintenance pets and can withstand varied ranges of water parameters.
Of course, you still need to address their core needs! Here are some care guidelines to help you out.
The minimum recommended tank size for Chopstick snails is a 10-gallon (40-liter) tank. They are big and pretty active, these snails need a lot of room to crawl, eat and explore.
Anything smaller and you may have feeding problems. Basically, there will not be enough algae, and biofilm in the tank.
In addition, keeping stable water parameters in smaller tanks can be a challenge even for experienced aquarists. Unfortunately, in small tanks, everything can go wrong very fast.
Temperature: Chopstick snails can easily live in a wide range of temperature conditions 20 – 30°C (68 – 86°F). However, the optimal temperature in the aquarium should be in the range of 24 – 27°C (75 – 80°F).
pH: Try to aim for a pH between 7.0 – 8.0. Keep in mind that most snails do not like to stay in acidic water (less than 7.0) for a long time (weeks). Acidic water slowly dissolves their shell making them fragile.
Hardness: Chopstick snails will appreciate hardness between 1 – 12 GH. The harder water the better it will be for their shells.
Salinity: Stenomelania sp. is mainly active in freshwater and more-or-less rests when
the water salinity rises. They usually retract into the shell when placed in seawater and immediately regain activity when transferred to freshwater.
There are 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.
If you are planning to keep Chopstick snails in small tank setups, I always recommend using sponge filters or matten filters. These filters are cheap, easy to maintain and provide a lot of surface to graze on. This is exactly what they need.
I have to repeat that Chopstick snails are nocturnal creatures.
Therefore, the lighting is mostly up to your taste and how well you want your tank to be illuminated.
If you are planning to have plants, in this case, lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants (and/or algae if needed) in your tank.
Ideally, you need to have a substrate that will allow Chopstick snails to bury. Therefore, sand and soil substrates will be the best choice.
Note: In nature, they are usually found on the sandy substrate. We need to replicate their natural environment. Otherwise, an inappropriate environment can constantly stress them and shorten their life span.
Aeration and Flow:
During my research, I have found that Chopstick snails need high levels of oxygen to thrive. Because they are morphologically suited to a life in streams with a surface current from 0-30 cm/sec.
Although this is not necessary your snails will appreciate all types of leaves, rocks, woods, PVC pipes, etc. in your tank.
- It will give them some places to hide.
- Décor will provide a lot of surface area for algae and biofilm growth.
Important: Before putting Chopstick snails into your tank do not forget to carefully acclimate them as all invertebrates. Do it very slowly. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough.
Lastly, be careful with chemicals like copper (read more). Snails do not tolerate copper-based products because of the reaction between the mucous produced by the snail and the copper.
Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)
Sexing Chopstick Snails
This species is not hermaphrodite. Stenomelania torulosa is gonochoristic (each individual organism is either male or female).
Unfortunately, I could not find any study describing how males and females cannot be distinguished by external features as well.
Breeding Chopstick Snails
Once again, the reproductive biology of Chopstick snails is largely unknown.
Currently, the pet industry completely depends on wild-caught species. I do not know a single successful case of breeding them in captivity.
The scarce information in scientific literature tells us that:
- Chopstick snails develop from veliger larvae.
- They are ovoviparous and have a brood pouch where they carry eggs until they hatch into a larval form.
- In nature, females release free-swimming veligers from the brood pouch into the freshwater water, where the larvae are swept by water flow into brackish water lagoons or in the open
- Their larvae can not develop in freshwater. They live only under the brackish-water influence where they complete metamorphosis into their small copies of adult Chopstick snails.
- The veligers feed on microplankton (Phyto and zooplankton).
There is no information, how much time it takes to complete their development.
Chopstick Snails and Suitable Tankmates
Like most snails, Chopstick snails are harmless creatures. They will be a great choice for any peaceful community tank.
Concerning the fish species and some natural enemies, these snails should not be kept with big or aggressive fish like Botia lohacata, Cichlids, Loaches, and Goldfish.
Shrimp species that prefer slightly alkaline water will be the best choice to keep with Chopstick snails. For example, Vampire shrimp, Bamboo Shrimp, Amano Shrimp, Ghost shrimp, Cherry shrimp, Blue tiger shrimp, Snowball shrimp, Caridina cf. babaulti, Blue Velvet Shrimp, Malawa Shrimp, Ninja shrimp, etc.
Chopstick snail’s tank mates can also include other snails like Black Devil Snails, Brotia Pagodula snails, Rabbit snails, Nerite Snails, Mystery Snails, Ramshorn snail, Malaysian Trumpet snails, and others of their kind.
Do not keep Chopstick snails with Assassin snails. Even their large size cannot guarantee their safety.
Personally, I would not recommend keeping them with large crayfish and most types of freshwater crabs.
There should not be a lot of problems with dwarf crayfish species (like Cambarellus Diminutus, Cambarellus pure, etc.). They are too small to overpower the snail, however, they can nip off the antennae periodically.
Chopstick snails are rare pets that do not pop up immediately in our minds when it comes to keeping pets.
Nonetheless, they are excellent scavengers and easy to care for once you understand their needs and preferences. Generally, they are low-maintenance pets.
These large snails are a great option for someone looking for a change from fishkeeping or from common freshwater snail species.
|Chopstick snails (Stenomelania torulosa)
|Large and gorgeous snails
|Produce a lot of waste
|Fully freshwater snail but can tolerate brackish water
|Require good water flow
|Will not overpopulate the tank
|Need brackish water to reproduce
|Good algae eaters
|Can get out of tanks
|Do not eat plants
|Can borrow and aerate the substrate