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Mystery Snail Care, Information, & Pictures

Snails get a bad reputation as being impossible to keep their numbers from exploding once you buy a few. As interesting as they look, many aquarists avoid them for this reason. Fortunately, Mystery snails are some of the most well behaved types when it comes to breeding!

They are also impressively large and come in a variety of colors. While white, blue, and red snails are occasionally available, the purplish black and golden varieties are by far the most common. Mystery Snails also go by the name Apple Snails due to their size and shape.

Unlike most species, Mystery Snails actually have both gills and a primitive lung! Periodically, you will see your snail glide to the surface or as close as it can get. The snail then extends a siphon and sucks air into itself, inflating its lung.

This atmospheric air supplements the oxygen it gets from its gills until it needs a refill. Mystery snails are amphibious but still need to return to the water eventually.

In short, they breathe both water and air, are large, come in multiple colors, and are easy to keep under control! Sounds pretty ideal, doesn’t it? What else is there to Mystery Snail care?

  • Common Name: Mystery Snail, Apple Snail
  • Scientific Name: Pomacea bridgesii
  • Origin: South America
  • Length: 2-3 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 5+ Gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy

Mystery Snail Care

In this section we’ll learn about aquarium size, water requirements, and other things you should know when keeping Mystery Snails.

Aquarium Size

While Mystery Snails are larger than most they don’t require too much space. They can be kept in aquariums as small as 5 gallons, with 10 gallons being better if you have several.

They aren’t territorial at all – larger aquariums simply grow more algae and biofilm for a group of snails to feed on. The less food they have the quicker they may turn to grazing on your plants.

Tank size isn’t very important but a secure lid is. Mystery Snails occasionally leave the water, especially when they are ready to lay their eggs.

They usually don’t go much further than the water line or splash zone. But occasionally they get adventurous. Mystery Snails in an open top aquarium are very likely to end up on the floor at some point, slowly drying out. So keep a secure lid on your tank and don’t let them get lost.

Water Quality

Mystery Snails are very hardy and will thrive and breed in a wide range of water conditions. They can be kept in conditions ranging from 68-80℉, making them great detritivores for both cold water and tropical aquariums.

They also do well in both slightly acidic and alkaline conditions (pH 6.5+). Alkaline waters are preferred, though, because they typically contain higher levels of the mineral salts snails need for their shells.

In soft water their shells are continually being dissolved by the acidity. If they don’t get enough calcium and other minerals in their diets their shells become too fragile and eventually break.

One unfortunate thing to keep in mind when owning a Mystery Snail is that you need to remove it from the water ASAP if it dies. Since they can retract fully into their shells and close off their operculum (shell door) this isn’t always obvious.

But once a snail dies, it starts rotting fast. The decay byproducts include heavy amounts of ammonia, which can cause your other fish stress if your filtration isn’t prepared to process it.

The rot process also creates hydrogen sulfide and other noxious agents. As unpleasant as it may be, the smell test is one of the best ways to tell if your Mystery Snail is merely sleeping or dead. A whiff of rot tells you all you need to know.

But give the snail a poke in the operculum just in case. A live snail usually retracts even further if poked but a dead one won’t budge.

Plants & Substrate

When it comes to Mystery Snail care live plants are highly recommended. They provide a ton of benefits for your animals. Plants oxygenate the water through photosynthesis. They use ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate as nutrients to fuel their growth, which are waste products that can kill fish.

Plants also provide shade, encourage biofilm growth, and the decay of dead stems and leaves provides a ready food source for hungry snails.

Sometimes softer plants like Anacharis and Cabomba may be too tasty to resist even if you do provide plenty of alternative foods. If your Mystery Snails begin reproducing explosively, you’re also likely to see a few nibbles and holes in leaves. But they will rarely kill a plant outright.

Substrate choices are important for some snails that burrow, such as Assassin Snails. Since Mystery Snails don’t bury themselves you can keep them on either gravel or sand. They have no preferences either way!

I recommend considering whether to choose gravel or sand depending on the plants you intend to grow in their aquarium. Sand does have a slight advantage: detritus collects on the surface rather than getting lost between the grains.

Gravel can allow food for your snails to drift forever out of reach. But this can also be desirable since debris on the surface isn’t visually appealing. Either way, make sure your snails get enough to eat or they may turn on your plants.

Tank Mates for Mystery Snails

Mystery Snails are vegetarians and entirely peaceful towards each other and their tank mates. What’s more important is choosing animals that won’t cause them harm because their only defense is their shell.

Even if a fish can’t outright eat a Mystery Snail it can still cause it harm. Curious fish like Barbs and Dwarf Cichlids may decide to nip at their eye stalks. And of course, predators like Puffer Fish and Stingrays should be avoided outright.

Instead, stick to community fish of all sizes, including Goldfish, Gouramis, Tetras, and Livebearers. Mystery Snails are also compatible with most invertebrates except Crayfish and Crabs, which will eventually make a meal out of your snails.

Good Tank Mates for Mystery Snails

  • Gouramis, Tetras, Livebearers, and other Community Fish
  • Arowanas and other Fish-eating species
  • Corydoras, Otocinclus, other peaceful bottom dwellers
  • Shrimp
  • Other Snails

Poor Tank Mates for Mystery Snails

  • Cichlids
  • Larger Catfish
  • Barbs
  • Puffer Fish, Stingrays, and other Invertebrate-eaters
  • Crayfish and Crabs
  • Assassin Snails

Feeding Mystery Snails

Feeding is one of the easiest aspects to Mystery Snail care. As detritivores they will eat just about any sort of decaying organic matter. Dead leaves and other vegetable matter is their favorite.

They will also munch on leftover flake food and pellets that escape the notice of your fish. At night they use their antennae to sniff out food from in between the gravel grains and in driftwood crevices.

Mystery Snails also enjoy thick mats of green algae, especially green hair algae. However, they aren’t especially great for cleaning algae from plant leaves because they are very heavy snails. Nerite Snails and algae eating fish are better choices if you have plants with smaller leaves.

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Fresh, thawed, canned, or lightly boiled terrestrial vegetables like lettuce, spinach, green beans, and zucchini are also eagerly devoured by them. If you prefer feeding them prepared foods try vegetarian options like algae wafers.

Snails have a reputation for eating live plants but this is mostly mistaken. So long as they have adequate detritus and other food options they leave plants alone. Mystery Snails only turn towards eating live plants if they have no other options.

If you see your snails wandering about during the day they are likely hungry. If they end up on the glass, pay attention to their snouts. You may see their rasp-like radula scraping against the glass.

The radula is like a tongue with teeth that snails (and other mollusks) use to scrape away at algae, biofilms, and dead plant matter.

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Sexing Mystery Snails

At first telling the difference between male and female Mystery Snails seems impossible. Even when studied for a while they appear to be entirely identical! However there’s more to it than meets the eye!

To sex your Mystery Snail lift one out of the water and hold it so that the opening is upwards, facing you. Eventually the snail will retreat from its shell, trying to reach the ground and right itself.

As it does so, look just past the main body of the snail to the flesh that joins the shell. In female Mystery Snails you will see two holes.

Male Mystery Snails, on the other hand, have a single hole. The second “shoulder” hole is blocked by a penis-like organ that he extends into the female’s shell when breeding! Simple as that.

Breeding Mystery Snails

So long as you have at least a pair of Mystery Snails and ample food for them, you’re guaranteed to have babies! Fortunately, unlike Ramshorn Snails, Mystery Snails aren’t hermaphrodites (male & female at the same time).

One Mystery snail can’t clone itself into hundreds. They have separate genders and reproduce sexually. After being inseminated the female leaves the water to lay her eggs in a moist region.

Usually she chooses the water line as the best spot. The eggs develop in the air but the young quickly need to find their way back to the water.

As a result Mystery Snails are very easy to keep in control. If you find an egg case on the water line and don’t want additional snails, simply scrape it away and dispose of it. You can also create a Mystery Snail hatchery so you only get a few, rather than dozens of babies!

Once the eggs hatch, the baby snails quickly make their way down to the water. So long as there is plenty of algae, detritus, and other food for the adults, the babies will thrive and grow into adults within just a few months!

Jason Roberts
About Jason Roberts
Jason is an aquarium fanatic that has been a fish hobbyist for almost three decades.

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