Fish of the Month | Algae-eating Nerite Snails

Zebra Nerite Snail | Algae-Eating Cleaning Machines

We first brought Zebra Algae-eating Nerite Snails (Neritina natalensis) into the store in 2010.  These are great little creatures that love to eat algae.  I put several into my 55 gallon planted display tank and they have eaten almost all of the beard algae growing on the rocks.  Since then, I have put them into all of my planted tanks and enjoy watching them as they scour the surfaces clean.

Algae-eating Nerite Snails

Zebra Nerite Snail

There are many species of nerite snails.  People have used them mainly as a saltwater algae eater but now there are species such as the Zebra Nerites that adapt themselves to freshwater and can live entirely in it.  They have proven to be an excellent addition to planted aquariums as they eat algae and will not harm other living creatures.  In my tanks, they have never eaten any of the plants nor gone after any shrimp or fish.  I often find them hanging onto long plant leaves such as jungle vallisneria or sword plant leaves with no holes or other damage done.

Freshwater Red Spot/Onion Nerite Algae-eating Snail

Red Spot/Onion Nerite Snail

The Zebra Nerite Snail is beautiful, having a gold shell with black stripes running down it.  They grow to about 1 inch and are very hardy.  They like a tank temperature of 72-78 but I have customers keeping them in discus tanks with 84 degrees temperatures.   I have also read that they can tolerate an unheated environment as well.  They do need a pH of at least 7 and like hard water as their shell needs calcium to stay strong.  They are sensitive to high nitrates and any medications that are copper based.  Those can kill them.

Freshwater Algae-eating Sun Nerite Snail

Sun Nerite Snail

Zebra nerite snails eat a lot of algae.  They can do such a good job at cleaning the algae up that they may need to be fed other vegetable matter such as sinking algae wafers, sinking algae flakes, or even spinach or romaine lettuce.  When well fed, they will lay a lot of eggs which are white and scattered along the rockwork or wood.  These eggs need brackish water to hatch and so will disappear in time.  You will not see an explosion of snails in your freshwater environment. They will not become a pest like some of the other freshwater snails we see.

I have noticed that Zebra nerite snails are good at escaping their environments.  They can crawl right out of the tank.  However, they can live for some time out of water, so if you find one, simply put it back and it may revive.

Overall, these are wonderful additions to a freshwater environment, whether planted or not.  We try to stock at least the zebra nerites as well as other varieties such as the Onion Nerite and Sun Nerite.  We are hoping to bring in more species as they become available.  We house them in the planted aquariums until purchased; they have been fabulous at keeping these tanks free of algae..

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