Mexican turbo snail – Turbo fluctuosa
 Turbo fluctuosa

Mexican turbo snail – Turbo fluctuosa

Mexican turbo snail
Mexican turbo snail – Turbo fluctuosa
Picture by Brett and Brett's Reef

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Mollusca
Class:            Gastropoda
Order:           Archaeogastropoda
Superfamily: Trochacea
Family:          Turbinidae
Genus:           Turbo
Species: fluctuosa

Turbo fluctuosa is known under several different names in English, including Mexican turbo snail, Mexican turbo grazer, Top shell snail, Turban snail, and Trochus snail. 

Turbo fluctuosa is not included in any CITES appendix or listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Turbo fluctuosa is an ocean-dwelling gastropod mollusc. The term molluscus means “soft” in Latin and all molluscs have soft-bodies. Some molluscs have developed shells to protect them, and the Mexican turbo snail is one of them. The body of the Mexican turbo snail is found inside a hard external shell composed of calcium carbonate.   

Geographical range, habitat and habits

The Mexican turbo snail lives in the Gulf of California in the Pacific Ocean. The Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortéz or Mar Bermejo, is a body of water which separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland.

The Mexican turbo snail is a night active species that prefers to stay hidden in reef crevices during the day.

Size and appearance

The Mexican turbo snail can reach a size of 4 in / 10 cm, but such a large size is uncommon and most specimens never get bigger than 2 in / 5 cm.

The Mexican turbo snail is protected by thick brown shell shaped like a top or a turban. When the snail is frightened or wants to rest, it will withdraw itself into the irridescent interior of the shell and close the opening with a cover, a so called operculum.

The Mexican turbo snail moves using its foot which can be extended out of the shell. The mouth and eyes can also be extended out of the shell, but all body parts are instantly retracted if the snail is spooked.

Mexican turbo snail care

The Mexican turbo snail is an efficient little helper in the aquarium since it eats algae and decaying organic matter (detritus) and help sifting and aerating the substrate. You can read more about its feeding requirements further down in this article.

The Mexican turbo snail is reef-safe and peaceful towards other animals in the aquarium, including members of its own species. Avoid housing it with aggressive marine invertebrates.

How many specimens you can keep together mainly depends on how much food there is for them to eat. If you don’t wish to supplement with sheets of dried seaweed, 20-30 gallons / 75-115 liters of water will normally be necessary for each snail (provided that you don’t keep other algae eaters).

The Mexican turbo snail will appreciate live rock in the aquarium. Provide it with holes or crevices since it is used to hide inside reef crevices during the day in the wild. Be careful when you decorate the aquarium, because this an impressively strong little snail that can bulldoze loose rocks in search of algae.  

Try to resemble the natural environment of the Mexican turbo snail in the aquarium. The water temperature should be kept at 72-80 degrees F / 22-27 degrees C, the specific gravity in the 1.023-1.025 range, the pH-value between 8.0 and 8.4, and the water hardiness around dKH 8-12. It is also important to keep the calcium level up in the water; you can read more about this further down in this article under “Feeding Mexican turbo snail”.

Just like most other invertebrates, the Mexican turbo snail is highly vulnerable to copper and you will not be able to use copper based medications in the tank without killing or seriously harming it. It is also sensitive to nitrate so keep an eye on the organic waste levels.

Feeding Mexican turbo snail

The herbivore Mexican turbo snail feeds on algae, including hair algae, cyanobacteria and diatoms, and is therefore a popular addition to marine aquariums with algae problems since it will devour algae types shunned by many other algae-eaters.

The Mexican turbo snail will remove algae from various surfaces, including live rock, corals and aquarium glass. It will also sift through the substrate, which is beneficial since it helps to keep the substrate aerated.  

The Mexican turbo eats using its radula; a type of tongue with a rasp like texture. As the snail proceeds over a surface, the raspy radula efficiently do away with even really hard-to-remove algae types. The Mexican turbo snail prefers to eat when the aquarium is dark.

The Mexican turbo snail is a veracious eater and even a severely algae infested aquarium can be cleaned in a fairly short period of time, especially if you get several snails. You should therefore be prepared to supplement the naturally occurring food sooner or later; otherwise your snails might starve. You can for instance serve your snail dried seaweed sheets.   

The shell of the Mexican turbo snail consists of calcium carbonate and the snail must therefore be able to continuously absorb calcium from the environment; otherwise the shell will become fragile or fail to grow properly. The calcium level in the water should be kept between 350 and 450 ppm, and it can also be a good idea to give your snail calcium as a dietary supplement (but don’t overdo it). 

Breeding Mexican turbo snail

The Mexican turbo snail (Turbo fluctuosa) does not generally breed successfully aquariums. There are no definite ways to distinguish males from females. You can expect your snail to live for 1-2 years, but some specimens get a bit older than this.