List of Saltwater Aquarium Snails: Pros and Cons

Saltwater Aquarium Snails Pros and Cons

If you are looking to adorn your saltwater aquarium with some new aquatic life, saltwater snails are some of the most efficient algae cleaners you will encounter. Even though each snail will have a slightly different taste and scavenging expertise, their appetites will always lead them to any detritus or algae and help maintain your tank’s cleanliness nothing but in style.

Finding the type of snail best suited to the particular ecosystem of your saltwater aquarium is crucial and these pros and cons can help guide you in your campaign to eliminate your algae issues.

Below is a list of the most popular saltwater aquarium snails. This article will help navigate you through the pros and cons of each snail species. In addition, I will provide some links to articles with deeper information into individual care. 

List of Saltwater Aquarium Snails.

  1. Astrea Snail
  2. Conch Snail
  3. Nassarius Snail
  4. Bumble Bee Snail
  5. Trochus Snail
  6. Turbo Snail
  7. Cerith Snail
  8. Abalone snail
  9. Nerite Snail
  10. Babylonian Snail
  11. Margarita Snail
  12. Cowrie snail
    Pest – Vermetid Snail

Types of Saltwater Aquarium Snails

1. Astrea Snail (Lithopoma tectum)

Astrea Snail (Lithopoma tectum, Astraea tecta)Native to the Caribbean, their textured beige shells give them the perfect camouflage as they rummage across the sand and rocks in your reef aquarium. As long as it doesn’t flip over onto its shell, the herbivore Astrea snail is one of the best algae cleaners your tank can get.

These snails are relatively small. Their size ranges from 1 – 6 cm (0.4 – 2.4 inches) with an average of 2 – 4 cm (0.8 – 1.6 inches).

Astrea Snail (Lithopoma tectum)
Pros
  • Their large appetite makes them efficient cleaners of detritus.
  • Astrea snails are herbivores who will eat almost any type of algae. They are a great way to help keep hair algae outbreaks in control.
  • These snails will eat diatoms (a brown powdery like substance, it appears within a week or so after a saltwatertank finishes its cycle.).
  • They are able to tolerate quite high temperatures of water. Once acclimated, they are very hardy.
  • Astrea snails are reef safe. They are a great addition to reef aquariums.
  • They have a protected underpart (operculum or trapdoor), which gives them some defense against crabs and fish.
Cons
  • They do require some time to accustom themselves to a new environment and water temperature.
  • They have some problems with eating very long strands of hair algae.
  • Astrea snails are incapable of turning themselves over if they happen to flip onto their shell. Therefore, they are likely to die if they fall into a rocky crevice or from a tank glass.
  • These snails do not climb very well the bigger they get. That is why they primarily stay on the substrate and rocks. Do not expect them to clean your front glass.
  • They do not aerate the substrate.

Read more about this species in my article “Astrea Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.

2. Conch Snail (Strombus sp)

Fighting conch snail (Strombus alatus)If the mesmerizing contour of the Conch snail’s shell doesn’t distract you, its curiously elongated mouth certainly will. Despite some of its appellation as a Fighting Conch snail, they will merge harmoniously into your tank’s environment as remarkable sand bed cleaners.

Conch snails have unique eyes that will watch the action around them. Every step you take, every move you make, they’ll be watching you.

In addition, these snails can grow pretty big in saltwater tanks. They can reach 7 – 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) in length.

Conch Snail (Strombus sp)
Pros
  • They have a strikingly unique shell design and overall appearance.
  • Despite some assumptions, they are completely unharmful to other aquatic life.
  • Conch snails use their strong foot to “catapult” to right themselves.
  • They are great sand bed cleaners by feeding on algae and organic waste.
  • Conch snails will aerate the substrate in your tank.
  • These snails are reef safe. They will not start picking at your corals in the tank.
Cons
  • Conch snails are big snails and require at least a 20-gallon (80-liter) tank.
  • They tend to enjoy voluminous bands of sand to feed in
  • It is recommended to stick to one male Conch snail per aquarium unless you would be interested in finding out where their name comes from
  • Their large appetite might require additional feeding
  • Conch snails prefer to stay on the ground or burrowed. They will not climb to clean your front glass.
  • It is better to firmly secure rocks and corals. Because of their size, Conch snails do can knock over some freestanding corals.
  • These snails prefer deep sand-beds in the aquarium. They do not like rocky substrate.
  • Conch snails are very difficult to breed within an aquarium.

Read more about this species in my article “Fighting Conch Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding”.

3. Nassarius Snail (Nassarius sp.)

Nassarius vibex snailDon’t be fooled by the Nassarius snail’s relatively small size (they can barely reach 2 cm (~ 0.8 inches) as it is one of the most skilled and voracious scavengers.

Their delicate toned shells can be seen peeking out of the sand as they forage for food and stick out their elongated siphon for any smell of food.

Although Nassarius snails spend most of their time buried, they move rapidly around the aquarium waving the siphon, once they smell the food in the tank.

Nassarius Snail (Nassarius sp.)
Pros
  • Nassarius snails are amazing sand sifters. They are able to clean and keep the sand well aerated by burying themselves in it.
  • They will consume any organic waste leftover.
  • Nassarius snails are very resilient and can tolerate a wide range of water parameters. 
  • They can be quite the showman by sticking their tube-like siphon out of the sand like a periscope.
  • Nassarius snails will also help to aerate the sandy substrate in your aquarium as they sift through the substrate while searching for food.
  • Their small size lets them penetrate even the narrowest crevice to clean it out.
Cons
  • There are also reports of attacking other snails. They are carnivores opportunistic eaters of the dead organic matter who do not eat any type of algae.
  • Their large appetite might need to be supplemented depending on how clean your tank is.
  • Nassarius snails prefer a well-established aquarium with deep sands. They do not like rocky substrate.
  • They are very difficult to breed within an aquarium.

Read more about this species in my article “Nassarius Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding”.

4. Bumble Bee Snail (Engina mendicaria)

Bumble Bee Snail (Engina mendicaria)Bumble Bee snails are distinctive in appearance and thus easy to recognize.  Honoring its name unequivocally, the gorgeous black and yellow stripes running across its shell will provide a colorful addition to any aquarium, so much so that many owners are willing to overlook its carnivorous nature.

The risk potentially posed to other snails remains a small price to pay for this the Bumble Bee snail’s unique design.

A Bumble Bee snail’s natural diet is mainly composed of other species of snails and worms, though they are also opportunistic feeders. They will eat almost anything that they can scavenge, and this includes decomposing fish and other small invertebrates.

These snails do well in captivity, and most will grow up to 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch long (~1.5 – 2.2 cm).

Bumble Bee Snail (Engina mendicaria)
Pros
  • Bumble Bee snails can eat Vermetid snails (aka pest snails).
  • They have beautiful black and yellow stripes enveloping their pointed shells.
  • These snails will aerate the sand by burying themselves in it.
  • They keep your sand clean of detritus and other organisms.
Cons
  • Bumble Bee snails can be also aggressive towards other species of snails of their size or smaller.
  • They are carnivorous and therefore serve little purpose in cleaning out any excess algae.
  • They thrive best in well-established tanks.
  • Their attractive shells are subject to algae contamination.
  • When hungry they will feed on reef polychaetes (including Bristle worms) and other microfauna that can be beneficial to a marine aquarium and your corals.
  • Additional feeding may be required to keep them from consuming other organisms in the tank.
  • Bumble Bee snails do not move a lot. Despite their beautiful coloration, they are pretty boring to watch.
  • It is almost impossible to breed them (if you are planting to do that).

Read more about this species in my article “Bumble Bee Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet and Breeding”.

5. Trochus Snail (Trochus spp.)

Banded Trochus Snail (Trochus virgatus)The pyramid-shaped Trochus snails are originally from the Indo-Pacific waters and bring a touch of the exotic with the maroon spirals around their shells. Perfectly adapted to reef aquariums, they tend to be highly independent, being of a peaceful nature whilst still maintain a strong defense against potential predators.

I strongly recommend these snails as they will become a valued part of the cleaning crew. Their relatively larger size is often preferred for their similarly voluminous appetite for all types of algae. Trochus snails will be very helpful in keeping your saltwater aquarium free from algae.

These snails can grow up to 1 inch (~2.5 cm) in diameter.

Trochus Snail (Trochus spp.)
Pros
  • They have a large appetite for various types of algae.
  • Trochus snails are very friendly and will not bother any other aquarium. inhabitant. Their average size makes them reef safe because they usually do not knock over rocks and corals.
  • They are fully able to flip themselves over and back if they happen to fall off from somewhere.
  • They tend to be quite durable with comparatively longer lifespans.
  • Trochus snails are hardy creatures and can withstand higher temperatures in saltwater tanks.
  • Trochus species are peaceful and reef safe.
  • These snails can shake their shells to defend themselves from hermit crabs.
Cons
  • They may knock over smaller rocks and corals.
  • Trochus snails are not able to burrow.
  • They tend to have shorter lifespans.
  • Their large appetite could leave your tank depleted of algae.

6. Turbo Snail (Turbo fluctuosus)

Turbo Snails (Turbo fluctuosa)Thoroughly praised for its ability to eat up large quantities of algae, including hair algae, the Turbo snail’s appetite certainly lives up to its appellation. Their asymmetric curled up shells remind one of land snails, whilst its rusty coloration stands out in the water.

Most aquarists believe that they are actually the best algae-eater snails in marine tanks.

Turbo Snail (Turbo fluctuosus)
Pros
  • They have a varied appetite for most forms of algae, cyanobacteria, diatoms, and detritus.
  • They will clean off your algae very quickly and efficiently.
  • Turbo snails do not eat or munch on corals.
Cons
  • They may cause damage to corals and rocks due to their strength and larger size.
  • Their numbers should be kept low to avoid them consuming all the available algae.
  • They are more suited for larger tanks, which provide an extensive area for them to feed on.
  • Turbo snails do not tolerate well high temperatures in the saltwater tanks.
  • Some snails can have problems to right themselves.
  • Dead turbo snails should be cleaned out immediately to avoid polluting your tank.

Read more about these snails in my article “Mexican Turbo Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.

7. Cerith Snails (Cerithium sp.)

Cerith snails (Cerithium sp) at the glassAlthough it may take time to fully grow out, the Cerith snail’s elongated shell hosts a surprisingly large appetite for both algae and living microorganisms. These snails are accustomed to the warm temperatures of their native waters in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific coast.

Cerith snails do not grow big as adults, their maximum size is usually about 1 inch (or 2.5 cm) in diameter.

Cerith snails are voracious when in feeding mode. They are able to eat a considerable amount of diatoms, cyanobacteria, film algae, detritus, and hair algae throughout the tanks found in Aquariums.

Cerith Snail (Cerithium sp.)
Pros
  • Being omnivorous, Cerith snails will eat anything from algae and cyanobacteria to organic waste and keep your tank sparkling clean of any unwanted detritus.
  • They also have the ability to bury themselves in the sand and help sift it.
  • If they happen to flip on their shell, they will be able to turn themselves back on their own.
  • Cerith snails have a protected underpart (operculum or trapdoor), which gives them some defense against crabs and fish.
  • These snails are peaceful and absolutely reef safe. Cerith snails will not harm your corals.
  • Cerith snails are extremely hardy and one of the easiest to keep in saltwater tanks.
  • Although these snails prefer to stay on the ground or burrowed, they will also climb to clean your front glass. It is not that much of a help, but still…
  • They can breed in saltwater tanks, however, the chance of successful breeding is not high.
Cons
  • Cerith snails often lay strings of eggs on the front glass. It does not look very pretty.
  • They are rather nocturnal creatures.

Read more about this species in my article “Cerith Snail – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.

8. Abalone snail (Haliotis spp.)

Abalone snail (Haliotis spp.)These flat gastropods might not be able to compete very well with the ornate shells of some other sea snail species, but they will surpass most in their ability to consume large quantities of algae.

They are able to move surprisingly fast to bring the lower half of your aquarium to life, but unfortunately not fast enough for them to have avoided ending up in people’s plates. This seawater snail has become increasingly less common to its native temperate climate but still manages to thrive in large aquarium tanks.

Abalone snail (Haliotis spp.)
Pros
  • Their larger size makes them efficient algae eaters.
  • There exists a type of Abalone snail known as Haliotis Asinina which doesn’t scratch acrylic tanks.
Cons
  • Abalone snails have the ability to clear off coralline algae from certain surfaces.
  • They require a sizeable tank
  • It can scratch acrylic tanks as it moves and contracts its sharpened appendage
  • Due to their thin shape, they may get stuck in a crevice
  • They are more accustomed to temperate water temperatures
  • It is better to firmly secure rocks and corals. Because of their size, Abalone snails do can knock over some freestanding corals.

9. Nerite Snail (Neritina sp.)

Nerite Snail (Neritina sp)Nerite snails are certain to catch anyone’s eye with their black and yellow vertical stripes. If their mesmerizing look wouldn’t already suffice to make them a great decorative addition to any aquarium, their small size lets them penetrate the deepest crevices of your tank and clean out any stubborn algae.

Nerite snails generally occur in the intertidal zone on rocky shores, in tide pools, and on reef flats. Although most species of Nerite snails tend to live in freshwater, there exist a few that can tolerate saltwater aquariums.

Nerite Snail (Neritina sp.)
Pros
  • Nerite snails mostly tend to consume diatom algae. They can also eat cyanobacteria and filamentous green algae when they get very hungry.
  • Their small size makes them ideal cleaners for any hard to reach crevice.
  • They are herbivores, peaceful and reef safe.
Cons
  • Unlike their freshwater counterparts, saltwater nerite snails’ appetite is just as small as their size.
  • They are quite good climbers and might even find their way out of their tank. They should be kept in tanks with lids.
  • Nerite snails often cluster in the corner of the tank during the day and stay that way for hours.
  • These snails are not active even for the snail’s world.
  • Nerite snails lay a lot of eggs everywhere. It looks really bad.
  • They are nocturnal.

10. Babylonian Snail (Babylonia spp.)

Babylonian Snail (Babylonia spp.)These omnivorous snails will adorn any sand bed with its sophisticated shell design which often earned it the name of Tiger or Leopard Nassarius snail. The problem is that these snails have nothing to do with Nassarius species!

Its nocturnal habits will have aquarium owners longing for a peek of its brown and cream spiral shell whilst it busies itself at cleaning and aerating the sandy substrate.

Babylonian Snail (Babylonia spp.)
Pros
  • Their shells are decorated by intricate designs that will stand out in any aquarium.
  • They are great sand cleaners.
  • They are efficient carnivorous scavengers.
Cons
  • When underfed Babylonian Snails can pose a risk to other snails and clams, they are mostly carnivorous.
  • There are reports that they can kill tridacnid
  • They may cause damage to corals and rocks due to their strength and larger size (up to 3 inches or 7 cm).
  • Babylonian snails enjoy a deep sand bed in a pre-established tank, so, it limits the options.
  • They will not reproduce in closed systems like aquariums.

11. Margarita Snail (Margarites pupillus)

Margarita Snail (Margarites pupillus)Its textured circular shell is well sought out for as one of the most efficient hair algae consumers. The Margarita snails originate from the cold depths of the Indo-Pacific waters where they first acquired a taste for their nocturnal lifestyle.

As long as one manages to keep their numbers in check, this snail will make you forget all about your troubles with excess algae.

Margarita Snail (Margarites pupillus)
Pros
  • Their appetite for hair algae makes them extremely efficient cleaners. Margarita snails will eat cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, hair algae, brown diatoms, green diatoms, etc.
  • These snails are avid herbivores, they do not pose any threat to corals.
  • They have a unique dark shell.
  • Margarita snails are peaceful snails, they will not bother anybody in the saltwater tank.
Cons
  • They may starve quite quickly if hair algae become scarce and may need to be supplemented by additional nutrients like seaweed.
  • They do prefer colder temperatures since they originate from temperate waters. Their ideal temperature is something around 15 – 20 C (60 – 68 F) which is not acceptable by most saltwater aquariums. Although aquarists still keep them in high temperatures, it will cause them a premature death at typical reef temperatures.
  • Their shells may suffer from calcium deficiency.
  • They will usually not reproduce in saltwater aquariums.

12. Cowrie snail (Cypraea spp.)

Cowrie snail (Cypraea spp.)The Cowrie snail distinguishes itself from others by its oval and comparatively thick shell. Spotted with a degradation of browns and maroons, it has a mantle which can cover its shell entirely or be quickly retracted in case of a threat. Perfect to blend into a rock aquarium, it will tend to hide around crevices as it scavenges for food.

Cowrie snail (Cypraea spp.)
Pros
  • Their unique shell design makes them a popular addition to any colorful saltwater
  • They can eat large amounts of algae and detritus.
Cons
  • They don’t tend to do very well in reef tanks. These snails grow big (up to 4 inches – 10 cm) enough to topple corals or live rock structures under their weight.
  • Larger Cowrie snails may start to feed on anemones or soft corals and slowly deteriorate the reef.
  • They tend to remain more stationary by settling on live rock.

Pest – Vermetid Snail (Cerithioidea)

Vermetid Snail (Cerithioidea)Although Vermetid snails have kept a hold of their appellation as “snails”, their behavior is far from traditional. They tend to plant themselves into rocks and remain completely stationary from then onwards. They feed themselves through a network of tubes that sprawl out of their bodies and catch any organic material floating nearby.

Their ability to reproduce quickly and increasingly damage corals has made them more into a snail to avoid rather than cultivate. Alike to fungi in many respect, these should be cleaned out of most aquariums they appear in to avoid damage to the pre-existing ecosystem.

Vermetid Snail (Cerithioidea)
Pros
  • Unfortunately, saltwater aquarium owners are yet to have found any benefits to the possession of the Vermetic snails.
Cons
  • Pests
  • They are stationary snails, which makes their aesthetic purpose somewhat less relevant. Frankly saying, ugly!
  • Vermetid snails can be harmful to corals by impeding their growth or even kill them.
  • They are able to quickly multiply in closed spaces like aquariums.

Acclimation

Before putting snails in your tank do not forget to acclimate them. Regardless of their hardiness, it will be better to acclimate any snail (read more about it here) as all invertebrates. 

Related articles:

Top 10 Corals for Beginners

Invertebrates: Best Reef Safe Clean Up Crew

List of Freshwater Aquarium Snails. Pros and Cons

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