Can betta fish and snails share the same aquarium?

Betta fish are unique fish that can live alone and be the king of the tank. Sometimes we would like them to have some company. In this post, we will talk about snails, whether they are good tank mates to Betta, their interaction, the suitable species to share the tank, and the relevant care with your new additions.

Can betta fish and snails share the same aquarium?

Yes, they can! Freshwater aquatic snails are sturdy creatures that share similar water parameters as most aquarium fishes. Thus, they can be a nice addition to a tank.

Before introducing a snail to your tank, it is important to know the types of snails that can be added to your aquarium, and understand their requirements. So, you will be able to care for them properly and avoid the nuisance of overbreeding.

Can Betta fish eat snails?

As carnivorous fish, Betta fish can eat snails. However, that doesn’t mean that this is bound to happen. Sometimes, nibbling or picking on snails happens out of curiosity rather than aggression. We must always consider the temperament of the Betta and the type of snail we want to add to the tank.

Male bettas tend to be more aggressive than female ones. They are more likely to attack a tank mate, especially when hungry or threatened by the presence of the new tank mate.

Preventing your Betta from eating snails

Before adding new companions in your betta’s tank, we must consider some things:

Betta fish temperament

Each fish has its temperament. Betta fish are semi-aggressive fish, but they are also known as Siamese fighting fish. Does that mean that every specimen will engage in fights? Not necessarily. Some bettas are quite calm.

Tank arrangements

Bettas are known to thrive in relatively small spaces – a minimum of 5 gallons (19 L) per fish. So, when we transform the betta tank into a community aquarium, consider increasing the size of the tank to avoid conflicts and ammonia build-up, which can compromise the quality of the water. Also, remember that snails reproduce and if not monitored they can overcrowd the tank.

The size of the snail

Considering the type of snail and its characteristics is of utmost importance to provide it a good environment in a community tank with a betta. Larger species of snail decreases the chance of a betta attack. The best choice is the snails that have a self-defense mechanism like a trap door, where they can hide inside their shell and avoid becoming prey. 

In the event of your betta biting an antenna or even an eye of the snail, relocate the snail to a spare tank. Its eyes regrow in about 3 weeks. If it doesn’t regrow, don’t worry. They still find other ways to thrive.

Betta’s Feeding   

Betta fish are very territorial, which means that they will attack anything they sense will threaten their dominance and resources.  Following a regular schedule of feeding, and a protein diet (live, frozen, or good pellets rich in fish protein) should keep your betta happy and less prone to attack your snails.

Snails diet – can they clean your tank?

Freshwater snails are omnivores and scavengers. They evolved to eat everything, and they frequently graze at the bottom part of the tank, feeding on debris and uneaten fish food, as well as plants and animals’ remains. Snails also eat the algae that grow off the sides of the tank, and the aquarium plants when there is not enough food for them. You can feed your snails with algae supplements, boiled vegetables, and lettuce in tiny pieces.

Although most snails eat algae, especially nerite, mystery, and ramshorn snails, that doesn’t mean that they will clean your tank.  Besides, snails produce a lot of organic waste, which means that keeping your tank clean is extremely important to guarantee the quality of water and consequently, the health of your betta fish.

Uninvited guests

Sometimes, our fish tank is just the way we want: clean, beautiful, and with a happy betta. But when we have a closer look, there’s an unexpected, uninvited snail too! How did it get there in the first place?

Surprisingly, there is more than one way that snails can get into our tanks besides us putting them there.  They can come via transparent eggs or tiny juveniles attached to the undersides of plants, decorations, and even in gravel that are reused from a different tank. When you come to realize, they are already breeding.

The most suitable snails to live with betta fish

Here are some examples of snails that make a good tank buddy for your betta fish:

Nerite Snail

Nerite snails (Neritina natalensis) are also known as tiger snail, zebra snail, and spotted snail.  are great betta companions. Some species live in brackish seawater while others live in the upriver and streams as their habitat. Some species are hybrid, so they can live in both seawater and freshwater.  and they surface out of the water for a few hours a day.  Thus, make sure your aquarium has a lid.

Even though nerites have differences between male and female specimens, female nerites are mostly identified when they lay eggs. However, these snails cannot reproduce in freshwater. So, they won’t overcrowd the tank. You can remove these eggs from the tank surface with a thin spatula.

Despite having antennas, there shouldn’t be a problem in having them share the aquarium with a betta. They tend to keep to themselves and even if your betta eats their antenna, it will grow in a matter of a few weeks.

Mystery snail

Mystery snails (Pomacea bridgesii) can also be found under the names of spiked topped apple snails. However, they are not to be confused with apple snails. They come in a variety of colors: black, ivory, magenta, gold, and jade. 

Mystery snails keep their antennae and eyestalks out but like nerites, they can regrow them. Females snails lay their eggs above the waterline, making their removal easy.

Although primarily carnivorous, they will eat some of the algae but refrain from the plants. That doesn’t mean that they won’t eat vegetables if given. Their diet must be rich in calcium and proteins. Since they don’t overfeed, they will not produce as many excretions as other snails.

Ramshorn snail

Red ramshorn (Planorbella duryi) and Great ramshorn (Planorbarious corneus) are known to be the best tankmates for a betta. They always go to the surface to breathe. Ramshorns feed on algae, dead plants, and food leftovers.

One downside of ramshorns is that they can breed quickly. Their eggs are tiny and can be found on plants, decorations, and driftwoods.

Pond snail

Often, uninvited guests, pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) feed on uneaten food, dead plants, and algae.

Rabbit snail

Also known as Elephant snails (Tylomelania sp.) are slow reproducers. They are very friendly and active throughout the day.

Turret snail

Turret snails (Melanoides turbeculata) are also known as Red-rimmed Melania or Malaysian trumpet snails that feed mostly on algae. They revolve the gravels, releasing trapped waste that can be otherwise filtered. The downside of these snails is that they can become a pest if not monitored since they breed quickly and lay fertilized eggs.

Assassin snail

Assassin snails (Clea helena), as the name suggests, will keep any unwanted snail guests at bay by eating them.  They are rather calm but if you don’t have a pest infestation, you might choose another tank mate since they are mainly carnivorous, which might be seen as a competitor to your betta fish.

Snails that should not share the same tank as betta fish

Apple snail

The Amazonian Apple snail (Pomacea diffusa), although a relative of the mystery snail, is an invasive species that will eat up all the plants in your aquarium leaving the rest of their tank mates without any food not to mention other snails.

Pest snails

Pest snails frequently come as uninvited guests in the aquarium via plants. They are hard to spot and might even carry diseases to your betta fish. You shouldn’t kill them but remove them. Having said that, do not release them in the environment. As their name suggests, they can easily breed and become invasive species in the released area.

Some important things to keep in mind when cultivating snails with your betta fish

  • The tank must be big enough so both betta fish and snails can have enough space for them. Bettas need at least a 10-gallon tank with an additional 5 to 10 gallons per snail, depending on their adult size;
  • Do not attempt breeding snails together with your betta fish. Snails in excess lead to poor water quality which is detrimental to the betta fish;
  • Remove any dead snail from your tank. I you want to leave their shell for additional water nutrients, make sure to monitor the tank’s nitrate and ammonia levels; 

Snails lifespan and cultivation parameters

SnailLifespanpHAdult sizeTemperature
Nerite1 yr.7.50.25 – 0.5” (0.635 – 1.27 cm)72 – 78 F (22 – 25.6 °C)
Mystery1 yr7.0 – 7.52 – 3” (5.08 – 7.62 cm)68 – 82 F (20 -27.8 °C)
Ramshorn1 yr.7.0 – 7.51 – 1.5“(2.54 – 3.81 cm)70 – 78 F (21- 25.6 °C)
Pond1 yr.7.51” (2.54 cm)70 – 78 F (21- 25.6 °C)
Rabbit+ 3 yrs.7.8 – 8.43 – 5” (7.62 – 12.7 cm)76 – 84 F (24.4 – 28.9°C)
Turrent1 yr.7.0 – 7.51- 5“(2.54 – 12.7 cm)70 – 78 F (21 – 25.6 °C)
Assassin2 yrs.7.0 – 8.03“(7.62 cm)75-80 F (23.8 – 26.7 °C)

Conclusion

Snails can be a good addition to your tank, depending on how aggressive your betta is. However, bettas might attack snails if hungry. So, make sure the feeding is regular and that both will have enough food for their needs.

Although some snails, like nerites, eat the build-up algae from your aquarium, they do leave plenty of waste. You will still have to maintain your tank clean and monitor its water quality regularly.

Remember not to breed snails in your betta tank, and to remove any dead snails from it to maintain the water quality of the tank.  Overcrowding your tank with snails can put your betta under unnecessary stress and incite aggression. If you’re thinking of getting snails to your aquarium, reserve an additional volume of 5-gallons per snail.

Do you think betta fish and snails can live happily under the same tank? Let us know your thoughts below.

Reference

Chaichana, R.; Sumpan, T. (2014). The potential ecological impact of the exotic snail Pomacea canaliculata on the Thai native snail Pila scutata. Asia, Science 40, p. 11-15.

Innes, W. T. (2015). The complete aquarium book; the care and breeding of goldfish and tropical fishes. Scholar’s Choice Edition, 334 p.

Prairie Research Institute – Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant & Illinois Natural History Survey. (2014). What’s in your aquarium? Protect our natural areas, purchase only non-invaders. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. IISG-14-90.

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