Hairy Snail– Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Hairy Snail (Thiara cancellata) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

The global aquarium industry is growing every year and the demand for some kind of unusual and interesting snail species is increasing as well. Therefore, today I would like to tell you about a snail with an original appearance – Hairy snail (Thiara cancellata).

Hairy snails are pretty hardy snails and can withstand varied ranges of salinity, from freshwater to brackish water. They are good Algae-eaters but what is more important, Thiara cancellata will only breed in brackish water! So, you do not have to worry about snail infestation in your freshwater tanks.

So, if you are looking to add some variety to your freshwater tanks, or maybe you just want a change of pace in your community tank, these fascinating snails can be a great choice.

The Hairy Snail (Thiara cancellata) is one of the most interesting and, at the same time, the rarest snail species in the aquarium hobby. Unlike fish in the ornamental pet trade that has generally been well studied, little information exists for these snails.

In this detailed guide, I have gathered all information about Thiara cancellata based on existing studies, researches, and experience of aquarists.

Quick Notes about Hairy Snails

Name Hairy snails
Other Names Hairy Trumpet snail, Hairy Tower Lid Snail, or Porcupine Snail.
Scientific Name Thiara cancellata 
Tank size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy to medium
Breeding Difficult
Size 2.5 to 3 cm (1 – 1.2 inches)
Optimal Temperature 22 – 25 °C (72 – 77 °F).
Optimal PH 7.0 – 8.0 
Optimal GH 3 – 18   
Optimal KH 2 – 12
Nitrate Less than 40 ppm
Diet Algae eater/omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Life span up to 3 years
Color Form Light brown, reddish-brown, or dark brown

Natural Habitat of Hairy Snails

The distribution of Hairy Snails is limited to the Philippines. So far there are no reports that these snails have been seen elsewhere.

Natively Hairy Snails prefer tropical brackish or freshwater water habitats like slow-moving streams, river mouths, and estuaries with a brackish influence where the depth ranges from 1 to 3 m (3 – 9ft).

Description of the Hairy Snails

Hairy Snail (Thiara cancellata) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding
foto by Bernd Kaufmann

Hairy snails are relatively small snails. Their size ranges from 2 – 4 cm (0.8 – 1.2 inches) with an average of about 2.5 – 3 cm (1 inch).

They are easily identifiable with a series of thin, long, and brittle spikes protruding from it in a spiral form.

The shell consists of up to 6 flattened whorls and may acquire a yellowish or dark brown hue. They also have easily distinguishable lines between the whorls.

The body of the snail is usually slightly darker than the shell. The tentacles are pretty short comparing to other freshwater snail species.

These snails can live up to 2 – 3.  However, in captivity, their lifespan can barely reach 1 – 2 years at most. The problem is the lack of care knowledge.

Behavior of the Hairy Snails

In spite of their belligerent look, these snails are absolutely non-aggressive, solitary, and docile by nature.

Hairy snails do not use their fin and long spikes as a defensive mechanism. The point is that these spikes can break easily. When it happens, don’t worry, it does not cause them any harm.   

They are nocturnal. The pick of their activity starts at dusk and gradually stops during the night, before sunrise. Smaller snails often display higher activity, reflected by more intense and longer movements.

This nocturnal behavior is not uncommon for 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 had maximum nutrients at the end of the photosynthetic period corresponding to profitable conditions for grazers to feed at the end of the light period.

Another way to avoid unnecessary attention during day time is to burrow. Keep in mind that sometimes Hairy snails can spend some time buried in the substrate.

When they burrow, they do not move under the substrate. They only dig deep enough to leave the back half of their shell exposed.

It can be the biggest drawback for those aquarists who want to add these snails to a display tank.

Note: Nonetheless, by doing so Hairy snails prevent the risk of a gas pocket being built up which can be very dangerous to your fish or shrimp.

Hairy Snails Diet 

They are omnivorous, great scavengers, and amazing algae-eaters! They have an appetite for algae that rivals Nerite snails

While they might not be a substitute for tank maintenance, Hairy snails will definitely help you to keep the tank clean. So, if you have hairy algae – they will deal with that!

Hairy snails can be a good replacement for Nerite snails especially because they do not eat only algae.

In an aquarium, Hairy snails will eat the same food you feed your fish and shrimp (shrimp pellets, shrimp granulesfish flakesalgae wafers, etc. – check out the price on Amazon), but mostly survive on what is in the tank.

It is also recommended to give them blanched vegetables like carrots, sprouts, spinach, cucumber, zucchini.

Important: Sometimes people think that they can treat these snails like other aquarium snails. Basically, it means that they are not feeding the snails, counting on their scavenger abilities. Well, this is a sure way to starve this species to death!

Like all other species of snails, you will want to provide White Wizard snails with some sort of calcium supplement to help keep their shell beautiful and healthy. Calcium will prevent shells from deterioration. So, I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.

Keep in mind that just like other invertebrates, Hairy snails are sensitive to copper and copper compounds (read more here). Therefore, when purchasing aquarium fertilizers ensure that they do not contain copper-based chemicals.

You can read some of my related articles (the principle is the same with snails):

Indian almond leaves and Alder Cones.
How to Blanch Сucumbers and Zucchini for Shrimp.

Are Hairy Snails Plat Safe?

Hairy Snail (Thiara cancellata) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding and plantsDo Hairy snails eat live plants and can we keep them in planted tanks?

These snails are usually compatible with planted tanks and do not feed on healthy plants unless they are starving. When food is not readily available, they may resort to munching on aquarium plants.

To avoid these incidents, the snail must be fed regularly or there must be natural food sources (for example, algae and biofilm).

Another potential problem with these snails is that Hairy snails can occasionally uproot plants. However, by moving substrate they also benefit plant as well! So, it is not that bad after all.

You can also read my article “Do Snails Eat Live Plants?”.

Keeping Hairy Snails

Hairy snails are pretty much straight forward and easy to care for. However, for optimal results, here are some handy tips that you should follow in order to keep them in an aquarium.

First of all, the tank should be cycled before adding them. This ensures you have the appropriate bacteria’s which will convert harmful compounds into less harmful ones. High ammonia and nitrates can still harm them.

Tank Size:

Hairy snails do not require a lot of space, however, it will not be a good idea to keep them in small tanks as well.

Therefore, 10 Gallons (~40 liters) is the optimal tank size you can keep these snails in. Anything smaller and you may have problems with aeration and water flow.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: The optimal temperature in the aquarium should be in the range of 22 – 25 °C (72 – 77 °F). In nature, these snails prefer warm water, so you might need an aquarium heater.

Under lower temperatures (21 – 22C  or 70 – 72F) their metabolism will slow down, which leads to your snail becoming a bit more sluggish and lethargic even than usual.

pH: Keep your water hard and pH more than 7.0. Ideally, Hairy snails do best in pH 7.0 – 8.0. PH.
Note: If you see shell deterioration, it may be a sign that the water is not hard enough for them.

Hardness: Hairy snails will appreciate optimal KH 3 – 15 and GH between 3 – 18 GH.

Substrate

Ideally, you need to have a substrate that will allow the 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, it can constantly stress Hairy snails and shorten their life span.

Lighting

All snail species 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.

Read more about it in my article “Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting”.

Water flow:

Do not forget that Hairy snails live in streams and rivers. So, it is important to have a high oxygenated tank.

Therefore, you need to have a suitably sized pump in there to push the water around sufficiently. That is why bigger tanks are preferred if you want them to thrive and live longer than a year.

Filtration:

If you are planning to keep these snails in small tank setups, I always recommend using sponge filters or matten filters. They are cheap, easy to maintain and provide a lot of surface to graze on.

However, for bigger tanks, sponge filters may not be the best option. In this case, you may need to either hang on the back or canister filters.

Also, DO NOT forget to acclimate Hairy snail before putting them in the tank (read more about it, the principle is the same).  

Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)

Hairy Snails Breeding

Unfortunately, there is no much information on breeding them in captivity. Even more, the reproductive biology of Hairy snails is largely unknown.

The only facts that biologists know is that:

  • Hairy snails are not However, males and females cannot be distinguished by external features as well.
  • These snails require brackish water to breed.
  • According to some reports, Hairy snails are livebearers. The breeding rate is very slow, about 1-2 babies a month. 

The limited information on this species suggests that Hairy snails (Thiara cancellata) have a free-swimming larval stage. The larvae can develop in a marine (or brackish) environment only.

Hairy Snails and Suitable Tank Mates

These snails will be a great choice for any community tank. 

Fish

Concerning the fish species and some natural enemies, Hairy snails should not be kept with Botia lohacata, Cichlids, Loaches, and Goldfish. 

Their tankmates should include other calm and peaceful community tank fish (for example, Panda Garra, Pygmy Cory Catfish, and Otocinclus Catfish).

Dwarf Shrimp

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

Snails

Hairy snail’s tank mates can also include other snails like Black Devil Snails, Brotia Pagodula snails, Rabbit snailsNerite SnailsMystery Snails,  Ramshorn snailMalaysian Trumpet snails, and others of their kind. Do not keep them with Assassin snails, they can eat them.

Crayfish

Also, keep Hairy 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. All of them can be very aggressive towards the snails. 

In Conclusion

Although Hairy snails are low maintenance and simple to care for, they are still rare guests in home aquariums. Mostly because their distribution is very limited in the world and they do not breed in freshwater.

I do hope that eventually, the aquarists’ community will find a way to breed them and create the proper protocol, so they will not be taken from the wild anymore.

Hairy snails (Thiara cancellata)
Pros Cons
Very beautiful Very rare in the pet trade
Amazing algae eaters Can get out of tanks
Do not reproduce in freshwater Require brackish water to breed
Great cleaners  
Peaceful  
Do not eat plants  
They aerate the substrate (prevent gas pockets, provide oxygen to plant roots)  

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