View Full Version : Caring for Mystery Snails

Wild Turkey
02-23-2009, 10:01 PM
Mystery Snails

Mystery snails are probably the most available freshwater invertebrate out there, and have become quite popular in recent years. Unfortunately they are not a species that can be easily classified as a beginner pet, and often the information pertaining to the care of these inverts cannot be found even by those who wish to have it.

We are going to quickly examine some history, some things you should ask yourself before buying these snails, how to care for them, and a crash course in breeding.

Mystery Snails are a type of Apple Snail. We wont be going much deeper than that in this article. Species of apple snail are difficult to identify and are determined by the apple snail's shell shape and contour, not the colors. Colors have been bred out in these snails for commercial purposes. For our purposes, the species you select will not matter, and most common mystery snails are a crossbreed of several, since the species is often disregarded and takes a back seat to color-selective breeding.

Here are the most prominent of which, for any who wish to delve into their species further. "Mystery Snail" is not the species.

Pomacea (pomacea) canaliculata (Lamarck, 1819)
Pomacea (pomacea) insularum (D'Orbigny, 1839)
Pomacea (pomacea) lineata (Spix, 1827)
Pomacea (pomacea) doliodes (Reeve, 1856)
Pomacea (pomacea) haustrum (Reeve, 1856)
Pomacea (pomacea) gigas / maculata (Perry, 1810)

Questions you should ask yourself before purchasing:

Can I provide proper water conditions and feeding regiment?

Mystery snails require not only a high ph of 7+ but also water that is good and hard. Low KH/GH, low PH, and poor diet can all result in shell damage for the snail. Its not only unhealthy and dangerous for the snail, but it also leads to them looking aesthetically unpleasing.
A high calcium diet is a must. These are not a bottom feeder that will live healthily off of the scraps of fish flake that sink to the bottom. Fresh vegetables that are high in calcium, like kale are wonderful, alternatively you can buy calcium supplement powder online and add it to your veggie wafers by grinding them and adding powder + water, and re-freezing the mix. Adding calcium to the water directly has also been reported to help improve shell health.

Is there anything in my tank that might eat or bother the snails?

Even fish that are much too small to eat the snails, but eat crustaceans can mercilessly harass the Mystery Snail(s), since they still smell like a meal.

Am I prepared to deal with the snails breeding?

If you do not want offspring, simply remove the eggs which are laid above the water line with a sharp razor blade. I find if i leave the eggs for a few days and let them harden, it becomes easier. Don't let them go for more than a week or so, they usually hatch at about two to three weeks. They will appear like a wad of chewing gum, green, red, orange, or pink. It is not difficult to catch the snails in the act of laying, my snails never leave the water unless to do so and it usually takes a few hours from start to finish.

For the reason that mystery snails lay their eggs above the water line, the aquarium you keep them in must have the water level lowered an inch or two to reduce stress on the snails. It will also keep the mysteries from making escape attempts in order to lay eggs.


Is Shell damage Fixable?
That depends. Cracks and scuffs will eventually be replaced by new shell growth if the conditions and diet are improved. However, holes or pieces of the shell missing can only be repaired manually. A common practice is gluing a piece of an old shell or ceramic over the hole. Holes can be dangerous for snails, but pose less danger in a species only tank, and tanks without substrate.

How long do they live?
Mystery snails can live anywhere from 2 years to 10 years, depending completely on the water temperature. They can live fine in room temperature water, but will be active and live only a few years at around 80F. Usually a temperature in the low 80's is required for breeding.

Is my snail dead? He isn't moving.

Take him out and give him a sniff. Dead Apple snails will have a strong odor and begin to rot the aquarium and fowl the water almost immediately. If there is no smell, replace the snail. If the is not moving its a sign of stress and should be investigated.

If the apple snail is deemed dead, remove it and check any others than are not on the go. Checking for dead snails frequently is important, as one dead snail can rot and kill all the others before you realize he is dead otherwise.

How many snails can I put in my tank without overstocking?

There is no magic answer to this question other than: A lot. One can easily keep 20-30 in a ten gallon.

However, its important to note Mystery Snails are fast eaters and have fast digestion and expulsion due to their simplicity. This means that even though 50 snails can be housed in a ten gallon physically, just feeding them can give you small daily mini cycles. I was able to cause this with 50 or so in a 20g, by just adding one or two extra wafers I would get an ammonia reading when they were done eating.

Breeding FAQs

How do I sex my apple snail?

Apple snails are very hard to sex and usually its not possible until the snails begin spawning. It otherwise requires being able to see into their shell which is not often an option. In order to ensure a breeding pair, start with half a dozen snails or so.

What about the colors?

Its important to note that the mystery snail's colors have been bred out through genetics, all colors and species will interbreed so mixing most colors will result in brown, or otherwise aesthetically displeasing snail offspring.

What colors can I interbreed and not get brown babies?
Usually, Ivory colored snails when paired with other colors, will produce babies of: ivory, the other parent's color, mixes, blends and striped snails.

How do I stop my Mystery Snails from breeding?
You cant really, as long as there are males, females, and a food source the mysteries will breed. Signs of a healthy snail tank will be having to remove eggs quite frequently, and snails not having any shell damage.

Do I need another aquarium for this?

No. the snails will breed in the aquarium in which they live. When the snail eggs hatch, they fall into the water fully healthy and able to eat scraps just like the big ones.
One clutch of eggs can equate to hundreds of babies, and for that reason you should make sure you have the room to accommodate that many more snails before you let any egg clutches hatch.

What Temperature should I use for breeding?
Anywhere in the low 80's will work perfectly. I use 80, and if the snails don't feel like breeding, I raise the temp up a few degrees.

I think my Mystery snail is a male, I can see its thingy!?

Usually this is just the snails siphon being misidentified as a penis. Both males and females have siphons, which they use for taking in breathes of air by extending it to the water's surface. The difference between males and females is physical, but any characteristic that's easily viewable is not what you are looking for.

If you wish to determine the sexes by observation, applesnail.net has some diagrams that are quite helpful.

By now some of you are saying, "Okay, I can handle this, I want to breed these to sell or give away, or having a 10 or 20 gallon mystery snail tank is just right up my alley. Whats the easiest way?"


A small tank. 10-30 gallons is fine.
Good filtration and some intake extenders.
A Heater
A few pounds of crushed coral.
An old pair of pantyhose.
A top for the aquarium.

Even new that's about a $50-100 list, making this a very cheap breeding setup.

Setup your small tank, heater, filter, the works. Lower the filter intakes all the way down. Cycle it.
Cut the socked ends off of the pantyhose and weigh out a standard amount of crushed coral, say 1lb, or 2lbs, whatever. Fill both socks with the amount you've chosen and tie them off. Rinse and then insert them into the aquarium which is still bare bottom. The crushed coral will give you a higher PH and harder water and solve those shell problems for you as long as you mind the diet. The crushed coral will need to be replaced, monthly is usually fine, change one bag every two weeks to keep the parameters more stable. You wont need an air stone since your water level will be lowered.

Now, get your wafers and calcium supplement powder online. Steal moms blender, or beg the wife for permission and you are all set for breeding Mystery Snails!

Ive found this tank setup to be about as easy as it gets for mystery snail maintenance, mystery snails are messy eaters, produce a ton of waste for a snail, and the bare-bottom aspect of this tank is worth its weight in gold because of those factors. The "gunk" that usually builds in the substrate in normal tanks also lowers PH, which can mean doom for the snails, even if you don't mind the tank looking dirty. Most bare tanks look out of place or ugly, but i find that in a mystery species tank, the snails themselves make great decor and really make the tank look great by just being all over it.

Recap; reasons to skip this invert:

-Looking for something to clean the bottom of my tank
-If you don't test, or don't want to test your waters KH, GH, and PH regularly
-Having fish that eat inverts (even small ones)

Research! I hope if nothing else this article instills the idea that even the most simple inverts require complex care and should not be bought without proper research and preparation. In which case, it is quite possible to keep and breed these snails very successfully.

Written by Turk Watkinson

Wild Turkey
02-23-2009, 10:02 PM
it was 19 characters over so i shortened it to fit in one post. If anyone has any questions or anything to add, feel free and i will add it to this article when/if i post it in the future. Enjoy! :D

02-24-2009, 02:03 AM
You wrote a care sheet for mystery snail without including the most common of all - Pomacea bridgesii/diffusa?

It's the bridgesii that's been bred to have multiple colours, the ones you mentioned are usually not very colourful, they only have 2-3 colours to choose from. And they don't crossbreed with the bridgesii either.

Wild Turkey
02-24-2009, 02:06 AM
You wrote a care sheet for mystery snail without including the most common of all - Pomacea bridgesii/diffusa?

It's the bridgesii that's been bred to have multiple colours, the ones you mentioned are usually not very colourful, they only have 2-3 colours to choose from. And they don't crossbreed with the bridgesii either.

Ur right i missed it, to be completely honest i dont know them by heart at all. I'll go through and see if there are any others that i missed.

however, if i still had any i could show you how the shells are all different in the same batches. A few of them are really easy to identify

i wrote this mainly to have something to refer to on proper care, but if you want to give me some more history i can include it.

Deleted User
02-24-2009, 02:08 AM
That is a great write up WT. thumbs2:

02-24-2009, 02:13 AM
What would be the difference in care???

Wild Turkey
02-24-2009, 02:16 AM
What would be the difference in care???

Well, none whatsoever good sir :22: :hmm3grin2orange:

02-24-2009, 03:14 AM
Good write-up.

02-24-2009, 03:39 AM
Thanks for your contribution:22:

Wild Turkey
02-24-2009, 06:04 AM
Thanks everyone for being supportive, it goes milesthumbs2: thumbs2:

02-24-2009, 06:46 AM
Very interesting W.T, i can see now why some people dont have snails, they breed like flies. Nice and easy to understand aswell.
Well written.thumbs2:

Wild Turkey
02-24-2009, 03:17 PM
Thanks slimey:ssmile:

02-25-2009, 06:44 AM
Well written, great job, In my typically useless opinion this should be stickied. It provides a lot of good general info and gives a great description of how to keep snails. Excellent info and easy to read, thanks WT, I learned a bit about snail keeping here, not that i want snails, but if i did...

02-25-2009, 03:53 PM
I have been waiting for you to write this for months!
Very well written!
It should be a Stickythumbs2:

Wild Turkey
02-25-2009, 10:24 PM
Thanks guys :D

03-01-2009, 05:58 PM
thank you so much! my blue mystery snail just recently was looking dead, and now i realize why! he has a bit a shell damage, and thanks to your article i know what to do.

perfect timing. :)

03-01-2009, 06:02 PM
yup. he sure was stinky. ew.
good thing i separated him days ago!

Wild Turkey
03-01-2009, 09:45 PM
Im glad its helping someone already :D

03-09-2009, 08:20 PM
i hatesnails now. they hoarded my tank years ago(i was seven sue me) to the point where they outnumbered fish. it was embarissing.sorry about spelling.

Wild Turkey
03-09-2009, 09:15 PM
i hatesnails now. they hoarded my tank years ago(i was seven sue me) to the point where they outnumbered fish. it was embarissing.sorry about spelling.

Most likely pond snails. The guys in the article get very large, the size of a half dollar or more. Pretty colors too.


06-20-2009, 05:59 AM
:] nice write up i almost got some to cleanup my tank sticky totaly!!!!

07-09-2011, 05:54 AM
My daughter wants one of these, do they do well as a single snail or do there really need to be 2 or more?

Wild Turkey
07-09-2011, 06:21 PM
Thats a great question.

As far as I can tell, theres no real health or behavioral differences with a single snail, other than the lack of breeding.

07-26-2011, 06:12 PM
My daughter wants one of these, do they do well as a single snail or do there really need to be 2 or more?

They are great in singles. No problems. Please look over my Apple Snail Basic Training Link in my signature line. It can clear up alot of misconceptions about the Snails.