Snails in an aquarium are an interesting sight in any home tank. So far, the mystery snail is one of the most popular snails kept by aquarists worldwide. It is renowned for its ease of care and is also fun to observe. The snail keeps its surroundings habitable by cleaning up excess food particles and eating up algae on the aquarium decor, plants, and glass.
Since mystery snails are popular among both beginner and expert aquarists, there’s always the chance you might consider them for your tank. If you do, you should provide them with the best conditions to enjoy all their benefits.
Here’s all you need to know about keeping the mystery snail.
Scientific name: Pomacea Brigessi/ Pomacea Diffusa
Common names: Miracle Snail, Apple Snail, Spike-topped Apple Snail, Inca Snail, Cherry Snail.
History and the First Sighting
Mystery Snail originates from South America, predominantly occupying Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia’s swamps, rivers, and lakes. There are also rare cases of non-native populations in Southeastern Asia. The snail is typical in its natural habitat and has never been considered an endangered species.
Lowell Reeve first discovered the Mystery Snail in 1856 and classified it as Ampullaria Bridgessi. However, the classification changed later in the year to Pomacea Bridgessi, joining other snails in the Ampullaridae family and Pomacea genus.
Even though the exact date of the Mystery snail introduction to home aquariums remains unclear, they had become a common feature in the 1950s. They gained massive popularity in the United States between the 1950s and 1960s. Soon after, spectacular color variants of the snail began appearing.
Pomacea Brigessi cemented its place as the most popular in the 1990s. It remains the most dominant among hobbyists and retailers.
The Mystery Snail is one of the most, if not the outright, popular freshwater snails. Sometimes referred to as apple snail, or miracle snail, it is preferred by aquarists for all the right reasons. The snails help clean up excess waste and food on the tank and eat algae from tank decor, plants, glass, and gravel.
They are also loved due to their beautiful looks, primarily attributed to their large and colorful shells. Moreover, Mystery snails are peaceful and can coexist with other tank mates such as shrimps, plants, and fish.
Snails are unique due to their breathing and breeding patterns. They breathe via either the gills or a tube extending from the front side of their bodies. They extend the tube above the water level and then move it back and forth for air intake.
Mystery snails spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank near the substrate. This is primarily due to the accumulation of organic plants to feed on. They are adaptable and can quickly settle in almost any freshwater aquarium.
Mystery Snail’s Lifespan
The Mystery snail generally lives for around one year – a period similar to most other snails in home tanks. Even though some quarters have reported a longer lifespan, this is not verifiable. Snails are not animals whose lifespan can extend if you give them the perfect care. However, its life span can be shortened when you provide substandard care. Thus, whatever you do, do not expect the snail’s lifespan to go past one year.
To help them reach the maximum lifespan, ensure exposure to essential minerals like zinc, copper, and other metals. Also, avoid regular breeding, as too much of it can take a toll on their small bodies, reducing their lifespan.
Note that there are common cases of the mystery snail dying shortly after introduction to the tank. The main causes include differences in water parameters and stress from transportation from the store. To reduce the chances of death, try to mimic the water conditions of where the snail is from as much as possible.
The Appearance of Mystery Snail
The Mystery Snail is built like any other typical snail with a basic shell curve. However, it has a unique coloring from the other species. The shell comes in various colors and patterns, which you can easily observe from sight. Primarily, it is light brown in color or faded white. Other colors include dark gray, gold, purple, blue, yellow, and black.
The color scheme might be solid without patterns or deviations or split up by stripes or bands. When they appear on the shell, the stripes tend to be darker than the primary color and vary in width. The color play is also unpredictable; you can see a yellowish band followed by a brownish patch and other possibilities.
Regardless of the color, the schemes always beautify any home tank. You can also get to explore a variety, even if it’s the same species.
While the mystery snail has a regular anatomy, it belongs to the larger snail species. They come with shells of no more than four whorls, starting from the top of the shell. The thickest part of the snail is where the body lies.
The mystery snail has a standard head shape with eyes atop the stalks where it can quickly tuck in, in case of danger. The eyes detect light and motion and are the only sensory organ placed on the cephalic eyestalk.
The snail can keep away the tentacles and only show them out when looking for algae and plants to eat. It also has an operculum, a little lid used to cover up the shell when tucked away for safety. Usually, the operculum is thrown to the side when the snail moves around.
You can observe the operculum to determine the snail’s health. It immediately falls off in case a snail dies and doesn’t close properly if the snail has some health issues.
Mystery snails are large, with shells measuring from 40 to 50mm wide and 45 to 65 mm in diameter. The most accurate measure of the Mystery snail’s size is from the diameter due to its build.
How you care for your snail will affect its size. A well-taken-care of snail will grow to its maximum diameter. Therefore, stunted growth is a sign of poor care.
How to Take Care of the Mystery Snail
Taking care of the mystery snail is a simple task that anyone can manage, even beginners. However, that does not give you room to slack off when raring it.
While the snail does not have several strict requirements, it is keen on its surroundings. A significant change to its previous environment can lead to sudden death syndrome. At the same time, poor care will, in most cases, lead to stunted growth and a shorter lifespan.
Here’s how to best care for your mystery snail.
Anticipate and Prevent Their Escape
Mystery snails have perfected the art of escaping from the tank; they will always find a way to crawl from the water. Ensure they are always inside by performing periodic counts and thorough checks around the tank.
The mystery snails that escape the tank risk dying due to drying out or injuries when they fall. Keep them safe by keeping your tank closed up to considerable heights.
Food and Diet
The Mystery Snail has a simple diet requirement both in the wild and in captivity. Its main food in the wild is plants and vegetation—the same works when in a home tank.
The mystery snail spends most of its time in the wild scavenging for food. It moves around looking for plants and algae. It will do the same in a controlled tank – find an area with algae and edible vegetation, eat up, then move to another spot.
Thus, you should always ensure there’s some algae for your snail to feed on. Even though most aquarists struggle with this, it shouldn’t be so technical. Provide smooth spots where the algae can grow and some plants for organic debris.
Besides the natural algae, supplement the snail’s food with algae wagers and sinking flakes/pellets. Also, add some veggies like kale, zucchini, cucumber, and spinach.
Every snail has a vegetable preference, so try different options before settling on the best one. Remove any vegetable or supplement the snail is not interested in within two days. Prolonged staying of uneaten food in the tank will lead to water quality issues.
A concern about the mystery snail is the possibility of eating live plants. A well-fed mystery snail will only eat a live plant if it’s already ruined. Nevertheless, to avoid any possibility, only keep hardy leaf plants like Arbunias Barteri. Soft, delicate plants like floating Salvinia can make for easy food for the snail.
Provide Enough Calcium
Most aquarists struggle to keep snails alive, irrespective of the species. It has since become clear that lack of calcium in the water can be the issue.
With the snail’s shells made of calcium, you need to supply enough in the water. Consider adding wonder shells that are easily breakable into pieces or add crushed corals to increase water hardness and raise calcium values.
Moreover, feed them food rich in calcium like broccoli and other veggies. You can also drop cuttlebone into the water as it releases calcium, and the snails can chew on it.
Given their large size, ensure a regular food supply to mystery snails. Ensure they are always biting on something, at least some algae. They can only breed well with enough food.
The Right Tank Size
The ideal tank size for mystery snails is five gallons per snail. Depending on the other tank inclusions, you can easily keep them in nano tanks.
The more snails you want to keep, the more space you need. Have a rule of five gallons for every additional snail.
Some aquarists trying out the mystery snail for the first time think it can use a smaller space given its small size and slow movements. In reality, they need as much space as most other animals kept in aquariums.
The mystery snail is somewhat sensitive to light and would prefer a darker lighting option. It tends to be more active at night than during the day. Therefore, avoid strong lights and bright lighting fixtures to ensure comfort during the day.
Recommended Water Parameters
The Mystery Snail can be sensitive and react to sudden shifts in water levels. You must, therefore, pay attention to the water parameters to keep a healthy mystery snail. Ensure the tank conditions are stable and well-regulated before introducing the snail.
It can do well in a tropical community tank with moderately moving and well-oxygenated water. The snail can also survive in slow-moving and murky waters.
The ideal water parameters for this creature are:
- Water temperature: 64 – 84 Degrees Fahrenheit
- pH levels: 7.6 to 8.4
- Water hardness: 12 to 18 KH
Keep an accurate water testing kit to ensure proper conditions regularly. Additionally, ensure the water has enough calcium supply.
Avoid additives like plant fertilizers, medications, and treatments, as they can negatively impact the snail. Also, avoid additives with copper, Ammonia, and Nitrite.
What do Mystery Snails Need in Their Tank?
It would be best if you had useful additions in the tank to make it habitable for the Mystery Snail. Plants are ideal as they create an environment for the snails to find plant parts and algae for food.
There are different plant options to include in your tank. Consider options like java moss, Hornworts, and Anubias barteri. Go for hardy plants that can withstand nibbling, as the snail can chew on them occasionally.
Feel free to include substrate materials in the tank. Look for the ones that are compatible with the plants in the tank. If you have the space, you can also include a stone or two to provide a surface for algae growth.
A filter system is excellent for ensuring proper water conditions for the snail. It helps eliminate unwanted particles and debris from the tank, reducing the risk of bacteria-causing diseases.
However, the filter system can also be hazardous to the Mystery snail when not well placed. A strong filter intake can draw a snail looking for food, where it might get its head into the slots. Getting stuck can cause the snail stress, leading to its body swelling. The more it swells, the harder it becomes to get out, eventually leading to its death.
You risk injuring or killing the snail if you physically try to remove it. The best way out is to turn down the filters and let the snail try to wiggle its way out. To prevent such an occurrence, install sponge pre-filters to protect the snails from the filters.
Common Potential Diseases
Mystery snail has no particular disease that it’s susceptible to. While this makes it easy to rare, you still have to pay attention to the water quality. Even mild changes to the water quality can be stressful and have adverse effects.
Poor quality water hinders the snail’s growth and health. It can lead to massive parasitic attacks that eventually lead to the death of the mystery snail. The presence of copper in the water can also lead to fatal reactions as it is toxic to invertebrates.
Moreover, the mystery snail can suffer from shell deformities and irregular growth. Observe the snail regularly to note if anything seems amiss. Take action immediately when you see changes in the body or behavior.
Given that they are a generally active species, a mystery snail that fails to move for a while is likely either dead, stressed, or ill. Get to the root of the problem and provide the needed care.
Behavior and Temperament
Mystery snails are generally peaceful and can get along with their species and others. They often keep to themselves and spend most of the time at the bottom of the tank eating detritus, algae, and other leftovers.
Even though they are slow-moving creatures, mystery snails have a captivating jumping behavior where they climb the tank’s walls and then glide back down.
They protect themselves from danger by recoiling back to their shells and strapping into the operculum. Any other time, they will happily explore the tank and sit above it for oxygen.
The mystery snail tends to be docile and won’t need much to remain happy. This makes them ideal even for beginners.
Best Tank Mates
Due to their peaceful nature, mystery snails can make good neighbors to several fish species. You can keep it together with freshwater fish that do not have it as part of their diet.
Their passive and non-intrusive nature also means that other tank occupants would barely notice them.
Some of the best tank mates to consider for the mystery snail include:
- Tetras e.g neon, ember, green.
- Amarno shrimp
- Red cherry shrimp
- Ghost shrimp
- Nerite snails
- Cory catfish
Betta fish is another ideal pairing with the mystery snail, as they will often stay out of each other’s way. While the mystery snail feeds on the algae and other food particles in water, the betta fish will enjoy the clean water hence a peaceful coexistence.
Avoid keeping the mystery snail with large and aggressive species, as they are small and can’t defend themselves.
Mystery Snail Breeding
Mystery snails are gonochoristic, meaning there must be a male and a female to reproduce. Males tend to be smaller in size. However, you can’t rely on size alone when pairing them up for reproduction. The best odds are by placing around 5 to 6 of them together to increase the chances of having either gender simultaneously.
The male, in most cases, approaches the female from the back and then inserts its penial sheath into the female’s genital aperture. The mating lasts for around 1 to 5 hours. Through this period, the female can crawl and eat around while the male retracts inside its shell. They can even move out of the tank together without disrupting the mating process.
Mystery snails do not need any special conditions in the tank to mate. After mating, the female will lay egg masses above the water surface in a long, lumpy cocoon. The process is involving to females and is very interesting to observe. They mostly lay eggs in the evening or at night to avoid predators.
The eggs will lay around for a few weeks, after which babies will emerge. You don’t need to do anything to help the eggs hatch.
Gender Differences of Mystery Snail
Telling a female and male mystery snail tends to be a challenge to most aquarists. However, by paying attention to their physical characteristics, behavior, and shell color, you can tell their gender.
By turning the mystery snail upside down, you will observe that the male snail has a penial sheath next to the gills, while the female has none. The changes to the shell at a breeding time can also help determine gender. The female shell becomes translucent to detonate breeding time while the male shell remains the same.
By observing behavior, you will note that the male mystery snail climbs onto another one. It mostly happens during mating as both genders are needed for the snails to reproduce.
While some aquarists claim that male shells are brighter than female ones, it remains unverifiable.
Unfortunately, telling the gender differences of these snails while young is almost impossible. It would be best if you waited until the breeding time to be assured of the gender.
Mystery snail is a popular tank component for most hobby keepers. Hopefully, this guide has shown why. Apart from its ease of keeping, the snail comes with beautiful shells that make for decorative elements. They also get along with other creatures and make for an incredible sight. Furthermore, most aquarists rely on their algae-eating abilities to clean up their tanks.
If you are looking for an easy-to-care-for tank creature that would survive in any tank, consider a mystery snail. All you need is a spacious tank with good-quality water for your mystery snail to nourish.