Unarguably one of the best algae-eating snail species in the hobby, Neritina pulligera, also known as Black Military Helmet Snail, is a peaceful and excellent addition to community tanks.
Black Military Helmet snails are gorgeous, easy to care for, and low-maintenance pets. Thus, they can be easily recommended even for beginner hobbyists.
This profile guide will give a special look into this remarkable species. You will know more about Black Military Helmet snails including their behavior, feeding preferences, ideal tank requirements, and how to take good care of them.
Quick Notes about Black Military Helmet Snail
|Name||Black Military Helmet Snail|
|Other Names||Black nerite snails, Baseball cap nerite, Red lipped nerite, Dusky nerite or Black Racer Nerite Snail|
|Scientific Name||Neritina pulligera|
|Tank size (optimal)||10 gallons (~40 liters)|
|Size||up to 1.5 inches (4 cm)|
|Optimal Temperature||72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C)|
|Optimal PH||7.0 – 8.0|
|Optimal GH||8 – 30|
|Nitrate||Less than 40 ppm|
|Life span||up to 5 years|
|Color Form||From dark olive to almost dark|
Do you know that the name Nerites is of ancient Greek origin, Νηρίτης, (romanized: Nērítēs) meaning ‘sea snail’.
The name Pulligerus came from the Latin ‘Pullus, meaning ‘Young (as a noun) or dark-colored (as adjective)‘ and ‘Gero’, meaning ‘wearing or carrying’.
Basically, Neritina pulligera is translated as the dark-colored sea snail.
In Greek mythology, Nerites was a young sea god of stunning beauty. When Aphrodite fell in love with him, she invited Nerites to join the Olympian gods. However, he did not want to leave his family and refused the offer. Aphrodite got really angry and turned him into a snail for that.
Its taxonomy is still incompletely understood. This species reportedly presents a large morphological variability with several sub-species.
According to some scientists, there are some 40 taxa considered synonyms of Neritina pulligera. For example, Neritina petitii, Neritina canalis, Neritina knorri, are considered to be varieties or used as junior synonyms.
Origins and Natural Habitat of Black Military Helmet Snail
Neritina pulligera is widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific region (excluding French Polynesia).
These snails can be found in South India, Seychelles, Madagascar, Thailand, Indonesia, Northwestern Australia, Celebes, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Fiji Island, Philippines, Japan, Eastern Coast of Africa from Kenya to South Africa
Black Military Helmet snail is a freshwater gastropod. They are generally found in clear, coastal fast-flowing freshwater streams and small rivers with rocky substrates.
Description of Black Military Helmet Snail
Black Military Helmet snail is not a big freshwater snail species, reaching a maximum size of about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length, 1.2 inches (3 cm) in width, and 1 inch (2.5 cm) height of the aperture.
Nonetheless, on average, the shells are 1 – 1.2 inches (2.5 – 3 cm) in length.
Black Military Helmet snails are very unique and attractive animals, they possess these notable features:
- The shell of Neritina pulligera is dark brown, almost black, or sometimes olive-ish.
- The shell is thick and orbicularly ovate with an expanded aperture.
- Aperture is orange with a white edge.
- Black Military Helmet snails also have an operculum (the trap-door) which they use to completely close their shell when disturbed or threatened.
- Their bodies are dark with white spots.
- Columellar area is bluish-black on the outer half, gradually fading to the inner half.
- A deep orange band runs on the inner margin of outer lip.
- Its parietal wall is flat, black-greyish, but may vary towards yellowish; a wide orange band, parallel with the lip, provides the color of its aperture.
- Operculum – greenish-yellow with dark spiral bands.
Lifespan of Black Military Helmet Snails
Currently, there is no data available on the maximum lifespan for Neritina pulligera in the wild.
However, if appropriately cared for, Black Military Helmet snails live up to 4 – 5 years. In the aquarium, their life expectancy depends on a number of factors such as feeding, poor living conditions, and shipment stress.
Typical Behavior of Black Military Helmet Snails
Black Military Helmet snails are non-aggressive, solitary, and very shy animals. They need a calm aquatic environment and peaceful tank mates to be happy.
Like most snails, they are nocturnal. The pick of their activity starts at dusk and gradually stops before sunrise. This nocturnal behavior 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.
Black Military Helmet snails are not natural diggers. Even when they can burrow in soft substrate, they do not move under it.
These snails have a “door” (an operculum) which they use to completely close their shell when disturbed or threatened. It may take time before they start moving again.
- Social: No
- Active: At night
- Peaceful: Yes
- Burrowers: No
Feeding Black Military Helmet Snails
In the wild, they mostly eat algae and slime (biofilm) that builds upon rocks and plants. Therefore, it’s important to keep live plants in your aquarium to encourage algae growth and leaves for biofilm growth.
Black Military Helmet snails are great scavengers, they will be our vanguard force against algae and detritus. This clean-up crew will take care of this for you in the absolute majority of cases.
|Important: DO NOT count on their scavenger abilities to survive in your tank (unless you have a huge tank with lots of algae). This is a good way to starve them to death! Supplement their feeding with other foods.|
Foods Black Military Helmet snails will also enjoy:
- Blanched vegetables (like broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, corn, spinach, peas, squash, leafy greens, etc.).
- Fruits (apple (only sweet), banana, pearl, melon, mango, etc.).
|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”.|
- Diet Type: Mostly herbivore / omnivore
- Food Preference: Algae
- Feeding Frequency: 2 – 3 times a week
You can read some of my related articles (the principle is the same with snails):
Black Military Helmet Snails and Feeding Problems
Some aquarists complain that their Black Military Helmet snails do not eat anything else but algae and biofilm. Eventually, it can be a problem, once they clean the tank.
In this case, we have to grow algae and the easiest way to do that is to use rocks in a separate container.
- You need any transparent container (large bottle, spare tank, etc.).
- Fill it with water. Use the water that comes from water changes.
- Put there a lot of small rocks like marble chips and ceramic filter media (The rocks should be clean and aquarium safe, of course).
- Leave it under the strongest lighting you can find. Ideally – 24/7.
- Optional: Add any fertilizer to grow plants in a tank (it will boost algae growth).
- Optional: Use an airstone (it will boost algae growth as well).
- Once you see that rocks are turning green, take a few and place them in the tank to feed your snails.
- Repeat the process.
At the same time, do not give up and keep training your Black Military Helmet snails to eat algae wafers and vegetables. Give them time to learn that this can be a food source for them.
Are Black Military Helmet Snails Plants Safe?
Yes, they are absolutely safe to keep in planted tanks. Black Military Helmet snails really have no interest in eating live plants, they only graze on their surfaces.
Keeping and Caring for Black Military Helmet Snails
This freshwater species has a huge ability to adapt and live in unfavorable and fluctuating habitats. However, these snails will certainly do much better in a system that is more focused on their needs.
Therefore, if you want to create the best possible conditions for them in the tank, there are still some rules to follow and remember.
Black Military Helmet snails do not need a lot of space. Nonetheless, a 5-gallon (20 liters) tank is the absolute minimum tank size you can keep these snails in. There are 3 main reasons for that:
- Anything smaller and you may have feeding problems. Basically, there will not be enough algae, and biofilm in the tank.
- 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.
- Most hobbyists forget or do not know is that Black Military Helmet snails live in a river with relatively fast water flow. It can be hard to replicate in small tanks.
Therefore, in my opinion, 10 Gallons (~40 liters) is the optimal tank size you can keep 2 – 3 snails in.
Note: Black Military Helmet snails do not come out of the water often but it is still recommended to lower the waterline a little bit 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) and /or use a tight-fitting cover to keep the snail from crawling out.
Temperature: Black Military Helmet snails dwell in warmer waters in the wild. Maintain a water temperature range of 72 – 82 °F (22 – 28 °C). Ideally, it should range anywhere between 75 – 79 °F (24 – 26 °С).
pH: Keep your water hard and pH between 7.0 – 8.0. Although these snails have a very thick shell, that allows them to tolerate even slightly acidic water (pH 6.5), it is still not recommended. Acidic water slowly dissolves its shell (usually in form of tiny holes).
Hardness: Black Military Helmet snails prefer a tank that contains fairly hard – very hard water (8 – 30° GH). They will survive in soft water, although that might be detrimental eventually.
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.
The best substrate for the tank is smooth gravel and rocks because it is better for algae growth.
There are no special requirements as well. As long as you have got the filter that works great with the size of the tank you have got you will be fine.
Water flow and Aeration:
This is where most people make a mistake. Although Black Military Helmet snails are hardy species their lifespan can be reduced if they live in suboptimal environments.
These snails appreciate fast water currents and high oxygen levels to thrive. In their natural habitats, river water velocity is about 1 mph (0.5 m/s).
It is vital to have a high oxygenated tank. So 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 these snails to live longer than a few months.
The aim of incorporating decors in an aquarium is to replicate its natural habitat and provide the best environment for the snails.
Driftwoods, PVC pipes, leaves, rocks, live plants, fake plants, etc. have a lot of surface area for algae and biofilm growth. Thus, any decors will be a good choice for an aquarium with Black Military Helmet snails.
After buying do not simply drop them in the tank! Sudden changes in habitat can harm them.
Gradually introduce (acclimate) Black Military Helmet snails to the tank as all invertebrates.
Do not rush the process. Do it very slowly to prevent any unnecessary stress.
Breeding Black Military Helmet Snails
Black Military Helmet snails are not successfully bred in captivity. All available animals are wild-caught and present a potential biohazard as well as depleting natural populations.
Unfortunately, there are no reports in the available literature for their successful breeding in laboratory conditions as well.
The scarce information in scientific literature tells us that:
- Neritidae have internal fertilization and encapsulate their eggs after fertilization.
- Females can store semen received from the males, which permits continuous spawning.
- Black Military Helmet snails protect their eggs in a hard capsule.
- Egg capsules are relatively large (1.4-1.8 mm long).
- Each egg capsule contains 200 to 300 embryos (veliger larvae).
- Females deposit clusters of 4–39 egg capsules.
- Intervals between oviposition are around 10 min.
- They usually attach egg capsules to the rocky substrate and to the shells of other snails.
- Neritina pulligera species develop from veliger larvae.
- 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.
- The veligers remain in the marine plankton at least for several weeks where they complete metamorphosis into their small copies of adult Black Military Helmet snails.
- Their larvae can not develop in freshwater.
- The veligers feed on microplankton (Phyto and zooplankton).
Interesting fact: By laying egg capsules on shells of other snails, Black Military Helmet snails increase their survival rate. Do not worry the eggs and markings will eventually dissolve in freshwater.
Without a doubt, the Black Military Helmet snail is one snail that you won’t regret having in your community tank.
They are hardy and have a huge appetite for algae. They are also peaceful, undemanding, not prone to illness, easy to care for, and will not breed in freshwater tanks. Excellent snail for beginners and for advanced hobbyists.
|Black Military Helmet snail (Neritina pulligera)|
|Beautiful and gorgeous||Require brackish water to breed (if you want to breed them)|
|Amazing algae eaters||Can get out of tanks|
|Do not reproduce in freshwater||Require good water flow|
|Do not eat plants|
- List of Freshwater Aquarium Snails. Pros and Cons
- If you have more questions about snails, check out my article “30 Frequently Asked Questions about Snails in Freshwater Tanks.
- Benefits of Snails for a Shrimp Aquarium.
- Revision of the species complex ‘Neritina pulligera’ (Gastropoda, Cyclonetimorpha: Neritidae) using taxonomy and barcoding. Vie et Milieu 67(3-4)
- Predation on hardest molluscan eggs by confamilial snails (Neritidae) and its potential significance in egg-laying site selection. Journal of Molluscan Studies, Volume 76, Issue 4, November 2010, Pages 360–366
- New records of a genus and a species of Neritidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Cycloneritimorpha) from the South China Sea. Acta Oceanol. Sin., 2018, Vol. 37, No. 10, P. 209–211
- Ecological zonation of gastropods in the Matutinao River (Cebu, Philippines), with focus on their life cycles. Annls Limnol. 3 4 ( 2 ) 1 9 9 8 : 1 7 1 – 1 9 1
- On freshwater molluscs of Andaman and Nicobar islands. Zoological Survey of India. 77: 215-245, 1980
- A preliminary checklist of the freshwater snails of Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) deposited in the BORNEENSIS collection, Universiti Malaysia Sabah. 2017; (673): 105–123.
- Gerlach J, Madhyastha A, Köhler F, Van Damme D 2016. Neritina pulligera. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016
- Rosenberg G 2015. Neritina pulligera. In MolluscaBase. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species