The smaller, less destructive member of the Apple snail family can make a charming and colorful aquatic pet for non-fish keepers.
Not to be confused with the larger and destructive Channeled Apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata), the Mystery snail (Pomacea bridgesii) is its much nicer cousin. Coming in many stunning colors and staying at a relatively small size of 2 inches, this aquatic snail is a hard worker when it comes to eating algae off of aquarium glass, decor, plants and even gravel.
They can live 2–3 years if given good water quality and are peaceful with other tank-mates, including fish and shrimp. They also won’t typically eat your live plants, but this isn’t a guarantee.
A few snails will do fine in a 10-gallon tank as long as you change the water each week. Several of them can be added to larger community tanks without issue.
A cover must be put on the intake valve of any filter, as some snails have been sucked in and received injury as a result of getting too close.
I’ve used AquaClear HOB filters with success. They’re fairly easy to clean; however, they offer limited space for bio-media. Opt for a larger filter size to get better filtration and more space for media.
If the tank is just for the snails, a bare bottom, sand or gravel is fine.
The temperatures Mystery snails can tolerate range from 68 to 75 degrees F. They also do best in hard water and at a pH of 7.6–8.4.
Mystery snails aren’t just a cleanup crew, and they do require their own food source.
To maintain shell health, Mystery snails need a decent amount of calcium in their diet and water. This can be achieved by floating a cuttlebone in the water or using a calcium additive.
The best way is to get it to them is through the diet. Feeding vegetables rich in calcium, like kale, spinach and mustard, turnip and collard greens, will definitely benefit them. They also like sinking algae wafers and pellets made for fish and invertebrates.
Holding these aquatic snails out of the water for a few minutes shouldn’t harm them. In fact, I’ve had some try and climb out of the tank, so keep a lid or cover over the aquarium to prevent escape.
If you have your hand in the tank, they may come and investigate you, or they may be afraid. It really depends on the snails. I had 1 or 2 that even tried munching on me before.
A Variety of Colors
Mystery snails became popular enough that breeders cultivated different colors for the aquarium trade. Most are inexpensive and readily available through the hobby both off- and online.
There are golden, purple and blue/black colors that have a lovely contrast with each other. You can also find both darker and lighter shades of these variations.
Personality and Behavior
One of the interesting things about these snails is their sociable nature with others of their kind.
I had my snails for a few years, and I sometimes miss witnessing their antics. Each had their own feeding techniques. One of them loved fish flakes so much that it would climb to the top of the tank and curl its foot to collect floating food. Others would inhale food while holding pieces of it in front of their mouths.
Learn more about aquatic snails in this video:
There were other activities my snails would take part in — other than eating and sleeping, I mean. One night, I caught them all following each other in a single-file line, like a parade moving across the tank.
They can also float or sink at will. They can float to the top to attach to the side of the glass or sink down to the bottom, using their foot like a parachute to cushion the landing.
They also have a siphon they use to breathe in oxygen at the top of the water line, as they have both gills and a lung. They use this little snorkel like there’s no tomorrow, so make sure they have a few inches of air above the water.
If you’re ready to take a dive with Mystery snails, check out the links below for extra reading.
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Angela DeRiso is a freelance writer passionate about the proper education, care and rescue of all animals we share our lives with. Her articles have been published on HealthyPets, Tampa Bay House Rabbit Rescue, the Suncoast Herpetological Society newsletter and more.