Horned Nerite Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Horned Nerite Snail – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding (Clithon sp)

Horned Nerite Snails are pretty popular aquarium snails, sold because they look attractive and eat algae in freshwater tanks, but do not multiply under aquarium conditions.

These snails can withstand varied ranges of salinity, from freshwater to brackish water. They are easy to care for and also add to the overall ecosystem of your tank as well, as they are great cleaners and will have your tank spotless.

In this detailed guide, I am going to take you through how to take care of Horned Nerite Snails, their feeding preferences, habits, behavior, breeding, and more so let’s begin!

Quick Notes about Horned Nerite Snail  

Name Horned Nerite Snail
Other Names Crown nerite
Scientific Name Clithon sp. 
Tank size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy to medium
Breeding Difficult
Size 0.5 – 0.8 inches (1.5 – 2 cm)
Optimal Temperature 22 – 26 °C (72 – 79 °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 5 years
Color Form Light yellow to dark 

Taxonomy of Horned Nerite Snail

Horned Nerite Snail – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding different speciesIdentification of the species of the genera Clithon is extremely difficult even for professional biologists. 

A significant problem encountered when attempting to identify them is the wide variation within a species in the shape, markings and color of the shells.

In addition, a variable character of these species is the presence or absence of spines. For example, Clithon diadema and Clithon spinosus always have spines, but the shell of Clithon corona and Clithon pritchardi may be with or without spines.

Natural Habitat of Horned Nerite Snail

Horned Nerite snails are majorly distributed in the western tropical Pacific Ocean (especially in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to Melanesia and north to the Philippines).

These snails prefer to live in fresh still waters (canals, swamps, ponds, etc.). However, they can also be found in waters with slow currents (streams, and rivers) sticking to small stones and pebbles. 

Description of Horned Nerite Snail

Horned Nerite Snail – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding (Clithon sp)
Clithon corona

Horned Nerite Snails are strongly polymorphic. They could be described as something of a snowflake of the snail species, in that no two snails will look alike.

This is thanks to their unique and spiraling shell, which other than the spiraling effect, differs in just about every other aspect. A single population can have specimens with spires of varying heights and coloration.

Shell globulose, oblong, striated, body whorl with peripheral long, often broken spines.

Horned Nerite snails are a smaller freshwater snail species, reaching a maximum size of about 0.5 – 0.8 inches (1.5 – 2 cm) in the aquarium setting.

Though these shells mostly feature natural-looking colors like yellow and dark (aperture white, apex often red), they each feature different colorizations and patterns. This makes each snail a wonder and beautiful addition to any tank.

Typically, they will grow live between 2 to 5 years, depending on their adventure to your

tank, acclimation, stress and of course feeding.

Behavior of Horned Nerite Snail

These snails are absolutely non-aggressive, solitary, and docile by nature.

Some guides say that the horns are pretty strong and may be used to attack a handler, etc. Well, this is not so.

Horned Nerite Snails do not use their 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.

Note: In scientific articles, there was a hypothesis that spines were present when these species lived in brackish water and were absent when they lived in freshwater. However, this hypothesis was not confirmed eventually.      

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.

Horned Nerite Snail Diet 

Horned Nerite Snail – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding (Clithon sp) Clithon diadema
Clithon diadema

They are considered to be generalist herbivores feeding on diatoms and green algae as well as cyanobacteria to

a lesser extent.

Horned Nerite Snails are 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, Horned Nerite snails will definitely help you to keep the tank clean. So, if you have Green spot algae or Hairy algae – they will deal with that!

In an aquarium, Horned Nerite Snails will appreciate algae wafers (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.

Interesting fact: According to the study, Clithon species, can also feed facultatively on the eggs of various other snail species after breaking the reinforced capsule wall by means of intensive radular rasping. This can be the answer to Nerite snails that leave their eggs everywhere!

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, Horned Nerite 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.

Horned Nerite Snail and Feeding Problems

It sounds counter-intuitive but your tank should have algae if you want to make these snails happy. A clean tank is a sure way to starve this species to death!

But … everybody hates algae! What can we do to fix this problem?

Luckily we can grow algae for them and the easiest way to do that is to use rocks in a separate container. It is very simple!

  1. You need some kind of transparent container (any large bottle, spare tank, etc.).
  2. Fill it with water. Use the water that comes from water changes.
  3. Put there a lot of small rocks like marble chips and ceramic filter media (The rocks should be clean and aquarium safe, of course).
  4. Leave it under the strongest lighting you can find. Ideally – 24/7.
  5. Use any fertilizer to grow plants in a tank.
  6. Using an airstone will boost algae growth as well.
  7. Once you see that rocks are turning green, take a few a place them in the tank to feed the snails.
  8. Return the rocks to the container when they are clean.

Are Horned Nerite Snails Plat Safe?

Yes, Horned Nerite Snails are plant safe. They are not really interested in eating up plants that are inside the aquarium. This is one of the reasons, why people love them and keep in planted tanks.

Note: Keep in mind that people often confuse grazing on (eating algae) with eating the plant. They only seem to eat dead, dying, or bruised plants.

Keeping and Housing Horned Nerite Snails

Care for Horned Nerite Snails is pretty easy. These snails are undemanding, easy to keep, and perfect if you are just getting into the hobby.

The most important factor in keeping them healthy is a stable nitrogen cycle. Sudden changes can put a lot of stress on the Horned Nerite Snails and cause harm.

Tank size

Although Horned Nerite Snails are small snails it is recommended to keep them in at least 5-gallon tank (20 liters) per one adult snail you plan to house in the tank.

Anything smaller and you may have feeding problems. Once they finish all the algae in the tank, they may start starving.

In addition, when the tank is small, it is difficult to be in constant control over your water parameters where everything can go wrong very fast.

Therefore, if you are new to the hobby, in my opinion, you should plan on housing them in a tank of at least 10-gallons.

Water parameters:

Horned Nerite Snails are not super hardy like some snail species, but they are not very fussy about water parameters as well. Like or Nerite snails, they can tolerate brackish water.

pH and hardness: Try to aim for a pH between 7.0 – 8.0 and a hardness between 4 – 20. Although these snails can tolerate pH 6.5 and lower, it is better not to leave them in acidic water for a long time (weeks). Acidic water slowly dissolves its shell (usually in form of tiny holes). The harder water the better it will be for their shells.

Temperature: Horned Nerite Snails thrive in warm temperature conditions 22 – 26 C (72 – 79 F). However, they will be OK in the range of 20 – 28 C (68 – 82F).

Filtration

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.

However, the first thing you want to address before adding a Horned Nerite Snail to your tank is the safety of your filtration system.

The point is that these snails will scour everywhere looking for food, and in some cases can travel across the filter and get stuck in the slats. In some cases, they are unable to get free and can end with serious injuries or even death.

So, if you have a hang on the back filter, it’s important to cover the filter with a sponge filter for this reason and eliminate the possibility.

Important: Before putting them into your tank do not forget to carefully acclimate them (read more about it) as all invertebrates. Do it very slowly. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough. A good thing is these snails are adaptable to a large array of water parameters. So acclimating them to your tank should be relatively easy.

Lighting:

Horned Nerite Snails do not really need light. Therefore, lighting should be adapted to the needs of plants and algae in the tank.

For more information, you can read my “Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting”.

Substrate:

Even though these snails can be kept in any tank with any substrate, I would still recommend smooth gravel over any other type.

  • Their natural environment is composed of smaller rocks, sand, gravel, and lots of boulders.
  • The main reason – it is easier to grow algae on them!

Decorations, etc.

Decoration, driftwood, and plants will provide more surface area for algae and biofilm growth. Biofilm is another of the favorite foods for snails and it plays an important part in their menu.

Do not forget that they need careful acclimation (read more about it here) as all invertebrates. 

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

Breeding of Horned Nerite Snails

Surprisingly, the reproductive biology of Horned Nerite Snails (Clithon sp.) is largely unknown. In addition, males and females cannot be distinguished by external features as well.

Note: According to the study, the gender was determined by the presence of either male organ or female ridge that can be seen only by boiling the snails in 80–95 C water for 30–60 s after which the soft part was removed from the shell following all aquarium observations. Please, do not do that!

The scarce information tells us that Horned Nerite Snails develop from veliger larvae found in fresh to brackish-water streams and intertidal areas. Like Nerite snails, they do not breed in freshwater.

Horned Nerite 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, Horned Nerite 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 Horned Nerite snails. For example, Vampire shrimpBamboo ShrimpAmano ShrimpGhost shrimpCherry shrimpBlue tiger shrimpSnowball shrimpCaridina cf. babaultiBlue Velvet Shrimp, Malawa Shrimp, etc.

Snails

Horned Nerite snail’s tank mates can also include other snails like Black Devil Snails, Chopstick Snail, 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 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. All of them can be very aggressive towards the snails. 

In Conclusion

Clithon species will be a great choice of algae-eating snail for any freshwater aquarists. In the aquarium trade, this species is known as the Horned Nerite Snails.

They will not overpopulate the tank because these snails require brackish and marine conditions for their larval states.

These snails are very easy to care for. As long as they have adequate minerals, food, and safety from their tankmates they will make great additions to your tank.

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.

Horned Nerite Snails (Clithon sp)
Pros Cons
Very beautiful Require brackish water to breed (if you want to breed them)
Amazing algae eaters Can get out of tanks
Do not reproduce in freshwater  
Great cleaners  
Peaceful  
Do not eat plants  

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