Margarita snails (Margarites pupillus) are voracious algae eaters and move around the tank really fast. As a result, there are many hobbyists who keep Margarita snails (Margarites pupillus) as a clean up crew in their marine tanks.
On the whole, these snails could have been excellent pets if not for their sensitive nature, which does not allow them to be easily kept in captivity. This is the main reason for their short lifespan.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Margarita snails, including husbandry, habitat setup, diet, and much more.
Quick Notes about Margarita Snail
||Puppet margarite snail and Little margarite|
|Scientific Name||Margarites pupillus|
|Tank size (minimum)||10 gallons (~40 liters)|
|Average size||0.8 inches (2 cm)|
|Optimal Temperature||59 – 68°F (15 – 20°C)|
|Water type||SG = 1.021 – 1.025|
|Optimal PH||8.1 – 8.4|
|Optimal KH||8 – 12|
|Nitrate||Less than 20 ppm|
|Life span||up to 4 years (in aquariums 1 – 1.5 years)|
|Color Form||Orange, pearl-brown, lusterless, ashen or whitish|
Taxonomy and Identification Problems
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding in our hobby, and the identity of Margarita snails has been particularly difficult for simple hobbyists.
On forums, some people say that true Margarita snails should have a pink – orange, smooth, silvery shell, and not what most would normally expect from the average aquarium Margarita snail. For that, they use some photos as an argument that Margarite snails may be anywhere from near magenta to bright orange in color.
However, this is true only to some degree.
Based on the mentioned above studies, Margarites pupillus has a very variable shell. Therefore, we cannot rely on color when it comes to the identity of the species. For example, scientists mentioned that this species can be pearl-brown, lusterless, ashen or whitish on the outside, surrounded by green-brown threads.
Habitat of Margarita Snail
Margarites pupillus are found to be primarily subtidal species along sub-tropical coastlines from the Bering Sea to San Diego, California.
In their natural habitat, their population distribution is closely related to the abundance of the algal canopy.
Description of Margarita Snail
Margarita snails are small marine mollusks. The largest size is around 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length, but, in general, they barely reach 0.8 inches (2 cm).
- Their shells consist of 4–5 whorls.
- It has a conical form and is narrowly umbilicated.
- The base of the shell is flat.
- Circular aperture; arched columella: faux luminous, finely speckled.
Because Margarita snails are often covered with algae, it is almost impossible to see the natural color of their shells. In nature, algal growth on the shell may function as camouflage for predator avoidance.
Lifespan of Margarita Snail
Unfortunately, knowledge of these snails is scanty. There is no official data on the maximum lifespan for Margarites pupillus in the wild.
According to the study, sexually mature Margarites pupillus can live for at least 2 years. In addition, shell analysis of the wild species says that, potentially, they may live for over 4 years.
Unfortunately, Margarita snails can live for 1 – 1.5 years in aquariums, even with the best care.
The reason is pretty simple, as these snails are not tropical. Thus, our marine tanks do not replicate their natural environment. In addition to poor living conditions, feeding and shipment stress are other factors that can considerably shorten their lifespan.
Typical Behavior of Margarita Snail
Margarita snails are non-aggressive and docile by nature. They prefer peaceful tank mates to be happy.
Margarita snails do not even have a proper defensive mechanism. Unlike many marine snails, which can retreat into their shell and close it with a lid (operculum), Margarita snails use another anti-predator tactic.
If it is possible, they will try to outrun the predator by increasing their movement speed up to 4 inches/min (10 cm/min). Some of you may smile, but in snail’s world, this is pretty fast! In addition, they can flick their shells quite rapidly back and forth to shake off the predator.
Although these snails are surprisingly active even during the day, laboratory experiments show a negative reaction to light intensities corresponding to daylight illumination. Thus, they are still considered nocturnal animals, and the true peak of their activity starts at dusk.
Note: In nature, this nocturnal behavior is very common among small invertebrates as it is mainly associated with an attempt to avoid visual predators while feeding.
Margarita snails are not natural diggers and they do not stay in one place for too long. On the contrary, these snails are pretty active.
In the wild, these snails are found in high densities, but that does not mean that they are social. They simply do not care much about other snails unless they decide to mate.
- Social: No
- Active: At night
- Peaceful: Yes
- Burrowers: No
Feeding Margarita Snail
Margarites pupillus is an omnivore/detritivore species.
According to the study, a summary of gut analysis shows that although these snails ingest macroscopic algae and detrital elements, their primary food is diatoms. Relatively the same results were found in other study:
- 94% contained unidentified filamentous red algae,
- 86% contained diatoms,
- 79% contained sponge spicules,
- 64% contained filamentous brown algae,
- 21% contained remains of hydroids,
- 14% had remains of bryozoans,
- 7% contained filamentous green algae.
In aquariums, Margarita snails will be your unstoppable vanguard force against diatoms (brown algae), Green spot algae, debris, and waste.
This clean-up crew will take care of this for you in the absolute majority of cases. They are great scavengers.
In captivity, Margarita snails will also feed on leftover shrimp or fish food, such as pills, flakes, pellets, algae/spirulina wafers, frozen foods, etc.
Like all snails, these snails require calcium either in their diet or in the water (ideally, both) to make their shells hard. Keeping calcium levels between 350 and 450 ppm is optimal.
Are Margarita Snails Reef Safe?
Yes, these snails are completely reef safe.
Margarita snails will not damage anything in a reef tank. They are simply too small to bulldoze through the corals.
But the most important thing is that there is no need to worry that they may try to snack on your corals.
Keeping Margarita Snails
Keeping Margarita snails is difficult because they do have some specific requirements if you want to create an ideal environment for them.
It is imperative to have an established tank (meaning diatoms and algae) with an adequate temperature.
Because of their small size, there are no minimum requirements. Even nano marine tanks (10 gallons or 40 liters) will be good enough for a few Margarita snails.
Important: The main problem with small tanks is that it can be very difficult to keep water parameters stable. Therefore, unless you are already an expert, I would recommend staying away from such small setups.
In addition, in small tanks, Margarita snails may run out of food quickly.
Temperature: Margarita snails are sub-tropical mollusks. Therefore, the ideal water temperature for keeping them is between the ranges of 59–68°F (15–20°C). These snails do not like warm water and cannot tolerate it for long periods of time.
pH: Maintain optimal pH values of 8.1–8.4 for the snails to thrive in your saltwater aquarium.
Hardness: Keep water hardness values between 8–12 dKH.
SG: specific gravity is between 1.021 and 1.025.
Calcium and Magnesium: Keeping calcium concentration in the range of 400 to 450 ppm and magnesium between 1250 and 1350 are optimal.
Margarita snails are nocturnal animals. They do not really need light.
If you keep corals and fish in the tank, the lighting should be adapted to their needs.
There are no special requirements either. As long as you have got a filter that works great with the size of the tank you have got, you will be fine.
Margarita snails are not diggers, therefore, they do not have any preference for the substrate.
However, in my opinion, the best substrate for them is smooth gravel and rocks because it is better for algae growth.
This is not necessary, but your Margarita snails will appreciate all types of stones, rocks, PVC pipes, etc. in your marine tank.
It will give them some places to hide. In addition, they provide a lot of surface area for algae and diatom growth. Thus, any decor will be a good choice for a marine tank with Margarita snails.
Margarita snails are not hardy animals. On the contrary, they are very sensitive to even small changes in water values, especially, temperature. It can easily harm them.
That is why it is critical to acclimate them before placing them in the tank.
Do not rush the process. Do it very slowly to prevent any unnecessary stress. In general, 2 – 3 hours will be good enough.
Breeding Margarita Snails
Generally, Margarita snails do not reproduce in captivity. There are only a few reports of their successful breeding in home aquariums.
Currently, the pet industry completely depends on wild-caught species.
Some facts about mating and breeding Margarita snails:
- Margarita snails are not hermaphrodites; each individual organism is either male or female. There are no significant size differences between the sexes. Unfortunately, I could not find any research describing how males and females cannot be distinguished by external features.
- According to the study, veligers of Margarites pupillus hatch prior to torsion. Their shell secretion starts right before hatching. At first, the shell is soft, flexible and crumpled easily prior to and during torsion (72 hr) but it became rigid soon afterward.
- Margarita snails are broadcast spawners. It means that females do not lay eggs, instead, they release millions of oocytes (unfertilized eggs) into the water, while males release their semen (a cloudy white substance).
- The process of spawning usually lasts for 5–15 minutes.
Note: It will cloud your water in the tank, but you should not worry. The water will clear soon enough. In a community tank, corals and other filter feeders will eat the particles that make the water cloudy.
- There is no data on how long it takes eggs to hatch and metamorphose to the crawling stage.
Margarita Snails and Suitable Tankmates
These little snails can be good companions for shrimp and non-carnivorous fish. They are very peaceful and inoffensive.
For example, they are compatible with:
- shrimp (Sexy Shrimp, Pederson Cleaner Shrimps, Red Fire shrimp (Lysmata debelius), Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) or Skunk Cleaner (Lysmata amboinensis), etc.)
- snails (Bumble Bee Snail, Fighting Conch Snail, Cerith snails, Trochus Snails, etc.
Note: Potentially, Bumble Bee Snails can attack weak or up-side-down Margarita snails if there is not enough food in the tank.
Bad Tank Mates:
I would not advise keeping Margarita snails with:
- Large and/or aggressive fish,
- Aggressive shrimp (such as Coral banded shrimp),
- Most crab species,
- All hermit crabs species (including Halloween Hermit Crab, Blue Leg Hermit Crab, etc.)
The problem is that hermit crabs can try to kill them just for their shells. If you still decide to keep them with hermit crabs, it is crucial to make sure that the hermit crabs have numerous empty shells spread out through the tank. However, it can only reduce aggression, not eliminate it!
The trade in marine ornamentals has grown dramatically in recent years, with over 2 million people worldwide owning aquariums.
There are many snail species on the market, and one of them is Margarites pupillus. Aquarists often use them not because of their aesthetic value, but for their practical use (as a clean up crew within aquariums). These snails are excellent scavengers and will eat undesirable biotic matter including algae, diatoms, and biofilm.
The main problem, though, is that Margarita snails are cold-water snails, and their life span is dramatically reduced in reef (tropical) tanks. I need to repeat it once again: these snails are not hardy enough to live in tropical tanks.