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Rabbit Snail 101: Care, Feeding, and Breeding

Aquarium snails like the Rabbit Snail prove that freshwater tanks have options that compete with the marine hobby. These snails are large, colorful, and active. Rabbit Snails also feed on problem algae and prevent leftover fish food from turning into ammonia. Best of all, they won’t overwhelm your system with eggs and snail babies. They will find a welcome spot in almost any aquarium setup.

Rabbit Snail 101: Care, Feeding, and Breeding
Seriously Fishy

What is the Rabbit Snail?

Elephant Snails are endemic to the large island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia. An endemic species is one that is found just in a small, well defined region of the world. 

Almost all of the snails in this group live just in Lake Poso and the surrounding area. So they are quite vulnerable to pollution and local development as the country modernizes.

At the moment Rabbit Snails are not considered threatened. And since they do breed in captivity with little difficulty they are in no danger of going extinct anytime soon.

Rabbit Snails are large and active. A few even have rich, colorful skin, making them some of the more unique freshwater snails to choose from.

  • Common Names: Rabbit Snail, Elephant Snail, Giant Sulawesi Snail
  • Scientific Name: genus Tylomelania
  • Origin: Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Length: 2 to 4 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 10+ gallons
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Ease of Care: Very Easy

Rabbit Snail Care

Whether you have an Orange Rabbit Snail, a Golden Rabbit Snail, or some other variety, their care is identical. These snails are uncomplicated and easy to feed. Well cared for Elephant Snails will even breed, though never to the point of getting out of control.

Rabbit Snail Lifespan

Rabbit Snail lifespan is average in length for an invertebrate. These animals are often not very long lived. One to three years is typical for a Rabbit Snail. Since these snails do breed in captivity it is not difficult to have a new snail to replace the old one, however.

Rabbit Snail Lifespan
Aquatic Motiv

Sometimes you might fear the worst if you find your Rabbit Snail not moving. Before you rush to collect and throw it out, take a moment to watch the snail. They are infamous for resting for long periods along the tank bottom. 

If the snail remains unmoving take it out and give it a sniff. Snails start to rot very fast once they die. So if your snail isn’t stinky it’s still alive, even if it isn’t moving. 

A smelly snail should be removed as soon as possible, though. A dead snail will cause ammonia levels to skyrocket and smaller tanks have a harder time with this.

Rabbit Snail Tank Size

Rabbit Snails are some of the largest freshwater snails in the trade. But, like any snail, they aren’t all that active. Therefore, your Rabbit Snail tank size does not need to be too large. I would hesitate to add one to a 5 gallon aquarium. Not because they will outgrow it so much as the snail will eat all of the algae too quickly.

A 10 gallon tank is more comfortable. It will grow enough to keep the Elephant Snail well fed and provide bottom space for additional tank mates.

Water Conditions for Rabbit Snails

Rabbit Snails are very flexible when it comes to aquarium temperature. A range of 66-84°F is ideal for them. You could keep Rabbit Snails both in coldwater and tropical aquariums.

Water Conditions for Rabbit Snails
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Something to watch out for is shell wear. All invertebrates extract calcium and other building blocks from their water and their diet. If they aren’t getting enough calcium shell and exoskeleton growth slows or stops. 

Snails kept in acidic water conditions will start to see wear as they lose minerals to the surrounding water. A dKH (carbonate hardness) of 2 to 15 ensures that they will maintain shell density and form.

Rabbit Snails prefer conditions that are neutral to moderately alkaline (pH 7.0-8.0). Acidic conditions (pH <7.0) are not good since the water will wear away at the snail’s shells.

All invertebrates are sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Rabbit Snails are still hardy pets but you need to keep up with your water changes and filter maintenance. They should never be the first pets you add to a tank. Make sure your biological filtration is established before buying Rabbit Snails or any other invertebrate.

Do Rabbit Snails Eat Plants?

Despite their name Rabbit Snails are more or less plant safe. They don’t eat plants unless they are starving. Instead, they feed on soft algae and biofilm that accumulates on plant leaves, aquarium glass, rocks, and driftwood. 

Do Rabbit Snails Eat Plants

Elephant Snails do have a taste for dead and decaying plant matter as well. So any leaves that are starting to rot will be eaten. Which will create the appearance that Rabbit Snails are eating your plants when they are just scavenging. 

By eating decaying plant matter they are helping your plant remain vigorous. Rot is prevented from spreading into the main body of the plant by this feeding behavior.

Some aquarists report that Rabbit Snails will eat Java Ferns. If this is true then they are one of the few animals with a taste for them. Java Fern is one of the more vegetarian-safe plants out there. 

Being such a slow-growing plant the leaves are too tough and bitter for most animals. Since Java Fern is found in the native habitat of Rabbit Snails it makes sense they’d evolve to eat it. 

That said, most plants are safe from Rabbit Snails as long as you feed them enough biofilm, algae, and prepared food.

Rabbit Snails also like to burrow into soft substrates like sand. Often in response to your aquarium lights being too bright. If you have plants rooted in a sand bottom they will be disturbed to the point of being pushed into the water column. 

A planted sandy aquascape is not the best aquarium for a Rabbit Snail to live in if you value your plants.

What Do Rabbit Snails Eat?

Rabbit Snails are known as detritivores. Meaning they feed on leftovers like decaying plant matter, fallen fish food, algae, and biofilm. 

Biofilm is the pale, slimy growth that covers almost every surface in your fish tank. It’s made of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa – a thick, nutritious soup for freshwater shrimp and snails.

Some plants, like Java Fern, may be on the menu for a determined or underfed Rabbit Snail. But they do prefer the slime and leftover fish food that finds its way to the bottom over healthy leaves.

If your fish are too good at eating everything before it hits the bottom, think about adding a small piece of algae wafer at night. The nocturnal Rabbit Snail will find it by smell and have something to graze on. Extra food will also discourage the snail from feasting on your healthy plants.

Rabbit Snail Tank Mates

Choosing Orange Rabbit Snail tank mates need not be complicated. These large snails are peaceful and don’t bother other animals or even each other. Your main worry should be keeping animals that might eat your snails out of the tank.

Rabbit Snail Tank Mates
Jungle Aquashrimp

Predators like puffer fish should be avoided. Even the tiny Pea Puffer may be tempted to bite the sensitive antennae and eyes of a much larger Rabbit Snail. Tiger Barbs are also known to get nippy when presented with waving fins and antennae.

Most Tetra fish, Livebearing fish, Gouramis, and other general community fish will live peacefully alongside these snails. Nano fish, Cherry Barbs, and even other invertebrates like Red Cherry Shrimp are great additions.

Rabbit Snail Breeding

Rabbit Snail breeding is unlike that of other freshwater snails. These snails don’t lay large numbers of eggs at once, unlike a Ramshorn Snail. Instead they deposit a creamy white sack with a single fully formed baby inside. 

Caring for Rabbit Snail Eggs

Since they just have a single baby per egg laying event it is not hard to keep their numbers under control. Here is a video breaks down everything you need to know about breeding and caring for Rabbit Snail eggs:

Conclusion

From feeding to breeding, Rabbit Snails are one of the easiest aquatic pets you could ever own. Just be mindful of your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. And make sure that the pH never becomes acidic, as their shells will be worn away. You will then have a snail that is (relatively) long lived and does a great job of keeping nuisance algae in control.

More Frequently Asked Questions about Rabbit Snails

Rabbit Snails are still not too common in pet stores. So many aquarists have questions when they see them for the first time. Here are a few of the most frequently asked ones I receive.

How Big Do Rabbit Snails Get?

The name “Rabbit Snail” refers to an entire genus of freshwater snails from Sulawesi, Indonesia. Thus their final adult size will range, depending on the snail. You should expect an Elephant Snail to reach 2 to 4 inches in your aquarium.

How Do Snails Have Babies?

Snails might seem like something of a mystery. It’s rare to find two snails mating – eggs and snail babies often just appear as if by magic. That’s why I put together this article on What to Do If Your Snail Lays Eggs in your tank.

Do Rabbit Snails Hibernate?

Rabbit Snails will take long periods to rest. During the day they will rest either on or under your substrate. Or they might hide behind a piece of aquarium decoration. They don’t hibernate – but a well fed snail may stay in the same place for a few days. As long as your snail is not dead then you have nothing to fear.

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