Nerite snail
Nerite snail

Nerite snails

Nerite snails are found in saltwater, brackish water and freshwater. Although most think of marine aquariums when they hear the name Nerite snail, many species do well in fresh and brackish water as well. They do however need brackish water to breed. In the wild, Nerite snails are found in and around the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. This gives them a near global distribution although they are not found naturally in the Atlantic Ocean.  They come in variety of different colors such as green, tan, black, white and zebra patterned.

The Nerite snails quickly became popular in the aquarium trade as both the saltwater and the freshwater species are very hardy and because of the fact that they are very good algae eaters. Most species eat only algae and to a lesser degree other vegetable matter. If you have an aquarium with a stable population of algae you will not need to feed your snails. They will find the food they need. They are however ferocious algae eaters and they might eat your aquarium clean of algae at which point they need to be fed vegetable matter. Ideal food includes sinking algae wafers and vegetable flake food that sinks to the bottom. There is however species that are scavengers and these species will need a more diverse diet. All Nerite snails will leave living fish and fry alone. If you see one eating on a dead fish you can be sure that the fish died before the snail started eating on it.

Nerite snails don't grow very big; usually less than 1 inch / 2.5 cm and most species is best kept at around 72-77°F (22- 26°C) although they usually do well in unheated aquariums. The saltwater species do well in a reef environment and can be very helpful in keeping the reef and corals free from algae. They sometimes get introduced to the tank with live rock and if this happens I strongly recommend leaving them there as they will become a valued part of the cleaning crew. They are very friendly and will not bother any other aquarium inhabitant. 

Even though Nerite snails are very hardy they are sensitive to high nitrate levels. They are very sensitive against copper-based medications and such medications should never be used in an aquarium containing Nerite snails as a dead snail or two quickly can pollute the water. If you keep Nerite snails in freshwater they prefer hard water and should never be kept in aquariums with a lower pH than 7. Limestone is highly recommended in the aquarium when you keep Nerite snails in freshwater. When kept in brackish water you can follow the same advice as for saltwater.

Breeding Nerite snails

Some people find Nerite snails are very hard to breed while others state that they breed like rabbits. The truth likely depends on the aquarium in which they are kept and the exact species kept. They only breed in brackish water (1.005-1.010 salinity); they never be breed in freshwater and only seldom breed in saltwater. When they do breed in saltwater it is usually in water very close to being brackish. The snails need to be well fed to breed and the more you feed them the more they will breed. (Keep an eye on you nitrate levels.)

If you want to breed them I recommend setting up a special breeding tank. A small tank will work well as long as you can keep the water values up and stable in it. The substrate in the breeding tank should be fine crushed coral mix or another calcium rich substrate. The young will need the calcium for their shells. The water temperature is of less importance and Nerite snails can be bred in unheated tanks. The ideal temperature for breeding Nerite snails do however seem to be around 79°F / 27°C.

The eggs can be moved to a hatching tank but this is not necessary as the parents will leave them alone. The eggs hatch as larvae without shells. Move the newly hatched Nerite snails to a saltwater tank. Then when they have developed a little and “turned into snails” you can move them back in to brackish water and from there to freshwater if you want. You can also keep them in the saltwater tank if you want to.

Some saltwater fish keepers breed Nerite snails as fish food since young snails that haven't developed into “snails” are perfect food for many marine fish such as puffers. An extra bonus is that if they don't get eaten they don't pollute the water but rather develop into a valuable part of the cleaning crew.