Freshwater Snail Removal


While you often hear hobbyists saying they can’t get rid of all the snails in their tank, having snails in your freshwater aquarium as a rule is actually quite beneficial. Most snails act as a “clean up crew” in the aquarium, eating excess food, decaying plant or fish matter, and moving gravel on the tank bottom. The problem with snails in an aquarium is that they reproduce very quickly, and can marr your beautiful tank by being stuck all over the glass and decorations. The real challenge is keeping the snail population in check.

Snails are most often introduced into an aquarium through plants, gravel, or decorations that have moved from other tanks that have snails. While the snails themselves may be small, their eggs are even smaller! Unless you are willing to thoroughly clean everything before it goes into your aquarium, snails will eventually be introduced to your tank.

Snail Eating Fish In most cases, this solution requires the least amount of work on your part. Results will vary with the type of fish, your feeding patterns, and the type of snail in the aquarium. Common snail eating fish include; Malawi Cichlids, varieties of Gourami, varieties of Bettas, and most Botia species.
Manual Removal This is simply just picking the snails out as you spot them. This is probably the most common method used by hobbyists, and the most immediately effective. Depending on what is in your tank, leaving a tray of food overnight will attract the snails, which can then be easilly removed by removing the container in the morning.
Reduced Feeding Snails can only populate a tank to a level that the tank will sustain them. This means that by cuttting down on feedings to your fish, you can effectively reduce the overall snail population.
Snail Killing Chemicals You’ll see snail remover chemicals sold in most pet stores. While they are usually effective, anything designed to kill snails is probably not healthy for other plants or fish. Even if the chemicals are harmless to the fish, the massive die off of snails will leave decaying snail bodies in your aquarium, which can affect the water quality.
Complete Cleaning As a last resort, and the only 100% effective method to remove snails, you can completely tear down your tank setup and clean everything. This includes gravel, the hood, plants, the filter… anyplace a snail may have been able to lay eggs. This extreme is probably not practicle for most hobbyists.

By: Phi Anderson

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Pure April 25, 2007 at 5:07 pm

The last 2 are my favorite methods. The chemical one works wellbut not on MTS. And no you don’t have to run out and get any special product for killing snails. Pure copper (I beleive it’s copper sulfate) found in most ich medications for sensative fish works just fine.

In older more mature systems massive die off isn’t that much of a concern as it is in newer systems. But IMHE I’ve never seen a mass die off of the snails with this method. Dose 2-3 times what the package says you should use for cureing ich and don’t do any water changes for about 3 weeks. over the course of those 3 weeks you will slowly notice that there are less and leass snails in the tank. The only word of caution i can think of is don’t use this on a tank that has other inverts you wish to keep as they will parish also.

The last method is my favorite. It works best, and from all the times I’ve had to do this I can tell you just toss the gravel in the trash and get more. Bleaching doesn’t effect MTS and baking dosen’t totally get rid of them either.

I’ve done this so many times I have a system to doing it, and I do not EVER have a bacteria bloom afterwords.

Brad Gray October 11, 2007 at 9:22 pm

I’m just wondering what “MTS” stands for as well as if it is cupric sulphate or pure copper? As the two are different.

Aimee January 26, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Cupric sulfate pentahydrate is CuSO4*5H2O, also known as “blue vitriol” and “bluestone”. That is to say, it is copper sulfate with five water molecules incorporated into a crystal structure. When you put it in water, the ions disassociate and you have free copper in the water. If you put pennies in your tank, small amounts of copper will dissolve into the water. So effectively, cupric sulfate and copper pennies will do the same thing. The difference is that if you use cupric sulfate, you know how much you’re putting in the tank, and you can limit it to exactly what will kill snails without harming fish.

If you use cupric sulfate crystals, it will harm amphibians and invertebrates – snails, as well as crabs, shrimp, frogs, etc. Cupric sulfate is blue…don’t use anhydrous cupric sulfate, as this will have more copper ions per gram, and your measurements will be off. If you only have the anhydrous form, leave it exposed to air for a while, and when it turns blue, that means it has absorbed water out of the air and become cupric sulfate pentahydrate. Make a 6.34% solution of the pentahydrate form (add 6.34 grams to 100ml of water), then use ONE DROP per gallon. You’ll have to do some water changes after that (do a google search to figure out how much).

You can prevent snails from getting into your tank by dipping them in a potassium permanganate (KMnO4) solution of 20mg/L for a minute, washing them off, and then adding them to the tank. It is a strong oxidizer and will react with organic matter (i.e. snails). If you want to put it directly into the tank, use 1.5-1.75mg/L. I got this info from and you should go there to see precautions and neutralization treatments.

Also, a quick google search yielded “Malaysian Trumpet Snail” as the first result for “MTS”. You should try google before asking questions on forums because it can take months for you to get an answer here.

Wolf February 17, 2009 at 6:01 pm

The only problem I had with snails when they appear in my tank were them getting into the filter. I purchased a plant and shortly thereafter I had hundreds of snails in my tank. On the glass, plants, rocks and filter. Looked pretty sweet. They helped with gravel aeration immensely. Eventually, I stopped feeding my fish for awhile and they ate the population down to a manageable level. Could use some more right now.

Lea July 7, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Thank you so much for the information. It was extremely helpful!

Lynn November 17, 2009 at 9:47 am

I’m just wondering what “MTS” stands for as well as if it is cupric sulphate or pure copper? As the two are different.

MTS – Malaysian trumpet snail

Paula December 18, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Hi my son has a fish tank and these snails clean it for us.

Zane January 18, 2010 at 6:28 am

An exellent and helpful bit o’ knowledge, thanks! I’m a little less scared of the concept of snails now. However I’ve heard to be fearfull of Flukes that these inverts carry and their possible health risks not only to my ADFs but humans as well. I wonder if these risks outweigh the beneficial properties that a snal population in a community tank can have…

anonymous May 24, 2010 at 8:09 pm

You people all disgust me. You act like snails have no brain or feelings. They are living beings just like you. You should all be ashamed.

random peep June 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Umm…just wondering, I have a male BP Cichlid, and hes about 5 inches long, I have had him for about..4 or so months now, if I get a snail for my tank will he eat it? I was thinking about a ‘Black Mystery Snail’, thanks.

Joseff September 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I use 4.5V batterie with 2 wires hanging over tanks adge – One of them is twisted together with 30cm bare copper wire and both wires / electrodes are submerged into the water.

After 1 day I cannot se any snails at all in my 2 tanks, Fishes and plants are OK. No ammonia / nitrite spikes. I plan to continue this so that new hatched snails get killed

jose December 30, 2011 at 3:28 am

I have my tank for 2 months, i went and got me some indian fern floating plants and after three weeks i found a slimmy freaking disgusting snail, now im thinking to giveup on the whole fish tank thing…

bartimaus January 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

To the person whining about killing the snails, shut up, just shut up. While I’m not insane, I did try to take the snails out of my hobby tanks and keep them in their own tank but they are unstoppable. It they only reproduced like most other snails, with a little moderation, most people wouldn’t mind, but when you literally have several hundred in just a 10 gallon aquarium and they foul the water so fast, killing them is the only way to slow the problem down, and even at that, you probably won’t stop it altogether. I did treat all of my plants with a hot salty water but that didn’t help last time and what was supposed to be a red cherry shrimp tank, has been over run with pond snails. I can’t do anything with this tank until the snails are dealt with, nor can I take the risk of infesting my four other tanks with them. The best way to get rid of them is to have a loach. It will eat them to near extinction, but the problem is, it will also eat any snails you want to keep, which I have non-pest snails in most of my tanks.

@Jose, don’t give up on the hobby. We’ve all been there, but you can find ways to resolve it. Another method is to put a small piece of algae wafer in something like the glass bottle of a clean salt shaker and the snails will flock to it, then you can dispose of them in mass without putting chemicals in your tank.

BRIAN February 15, 2012 at 5:49 am

what is a loach please is it a fish i have a 150ltr tank that is overun by snails i only have guppies in my tank
is the battery a safe way to please help im pretty new at this

Carlos Alfredo Rodriguez March 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm

How to get rid of snails in a home aquarium
“The Compressor Method” March 5, 2012
I have a 140 quart aquarium for warm water fish. A few months ago it was invaded by little snails that did not stop reproducing. Everyday I would crush 10-15 of them while they were climbing the walls. My search through the web indicated that it is impossible to get rid of these little pests permanently without the drastic resort of a complete cleanup of the substratum, filters, plants, etc.
I did get rid of them all in about two weeks without any drastic cleaning method or chemicals or killer fish or asian cannibal snails.
Simply I noticed that the snails reproduced under the aquarium substrate, under the plastic support (where the beneficial bacteria leave). I got a small portable compressor of the type used for tires, sold at any hardware store and connected it to the air intake. That produced an underwater tsunami, especially when I obstructed the two air exit holes. It forced all the air being blown to run under the substratum, and eventually leave through the gravel, and in the process seriously disturbed the snails’ reproduction grounds. I can imagine their eggs where dislodged from where the mother placed them and thus destroyed.
I repeated this procedure twice daily for about two weeks. The observed snails started being smaller in size and eventually also in number until one day I noticed that I had not seen a snail for the whole weekend. Since then they never came back!!!! So I found an ecological solution that did not distub the fish nor the beneficial bacteria…and it was effective. I must add that I also got rid of all plants and replaced them by pieces of my collection of Murano paperweights and small colorfull plates. They look splendid and are much cleaner and pest free.
Comments welcome!!
Carlos Alfredo Rodriguez

vicki March 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You said change the water , clean the rocks and plants. My concern is I have baby guppies. if I do that I might kill the babies. Yes I do have a problems with snails . But have heard you can put a loach in and also a bettas in .So I wounder if it would kill my babies guppies. Please let me know.

rob September 30, 2012 at 4:26 am

A tip for extracting really small snails, use a (clean) toothbrush! When they are on the glass push the bristles onto the snail and after a few seconds it will attached itself to the brush, then whip it out the tank.

podrek October 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I have noticed no one has mentioned the use of ‘Assassin Snails’ as method to control these snails. I just bought my first and have some MTS on their way to add to tank. I have 10gallon tank with mixture of ottos, hillstream loach, tetras and rasboras. with mix live and plastic plants and pebbles with some good algae growth. Sand and gravel substrate. I put a cat food pellet (after checking ingedients were safe for tank) and buried it so fish could not get to eat. returned home and their it was the assassin snail snorkel sticking out from sand where i put. If get too many snails then i need to put less food in for fish and perhaps add more assasin snails to clean up!

Richie March 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I was able to get rid of my snail infestation by dumping all my plants to my comets/koi pond outdoors with no gravel for a couple of weeks; . Goldfish are cold water fish.
This gives you enough time to siphon out all the remaining snails in your aquarium.
I noticed a rapid decrease in the number of snails. The snails that survived, grew large by eating debris and algae. It was easier to pick the few larger snails manually and throw them away. This worked out great for me; FYI ,my plants survived as well and flourished in my zero maintainence pond.

lily May 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I have two assassin snails in my 20L. They did a great job of bringing down the population of the snails in my tank (mystery snails I think. Tiny and dark brown or black and biggest one not much bigger than half a dime.) After two weeks of reducing feeding and introducing the assassin snails, I was finding little piles of empty shells underneath the decor. Dozens of shells per pile. I was also handpicking them out once a week to get the big ones. Can’t even tell I ever had them now. No chemicals, no massive deep clean. Just routine water changes, lowered the feeding, and the added assassin snails. I don’t mind a few snails because I know the benefits, but when there are so many that it could effect the quality of the water, the life of my fish and the live plants, the numbers have to be reduced. I can’t have sick fish and rotting plants.

Richard May 7, 2013 at 6:09 am

We have a big tilapia setup (niloticus) and they eat the snails if they get into the holding units but we use salt to get rid of them in the bio and settlement filters…

Andrey May 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Some clarifications to dispel a could of myths present in the above answers

– Pure copper is absolutely inert. It will not produce any copper ions in the water. Putting a penny in the water will not do anything, as well as using copper tubes for plumbing.

– Copper sulphate (“blue vitriol”) will successfully kill all kinds of snails. The claim that MTS can survive copper sulphate treatment are completely bogus. If you are treating a tank with fish, just carefully increase the concentration untill the snails begin to dire off.

– It is not a good idea to use fish medication that contains copper sulphate as one of the ingredients. Just get pure copper sulphate and use it.

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What wbout when (viviparous georgenius?)is in a lake? Weeds here are treated with (copper sulfate?) but there are still a lot.
Sometims. Find a ram horn shell. We cannot have cichlids to eat snail

Angelia September 17, 2015 at 11:59 am

I have a 20gal tank with a large population of guppies that are slowly dieing off because of the huge amount of snails that had started from bringing live plants into the tank. I’ve been told by my local pet store to raise the salinity of the tank, mind you this is a freshwater tank of fish. I have been putting 1 tablespoon each day after putting 4 tablespoons the first day for every 5gals of water. It’s been 7 days, very little improvement. But some. Only one fish has died out of ’35ish’ fish. I was also instructed I could invest in a Loach Clown fish to eat the snails. I did. I myself have not seen him much. He must be eating something or he wouldn’t be alive, he’s not eating my fish so he must be eating the snail’s. There’s so many tiny one’s it’s hard to know. I have a bucket full of the snail’s I’very taken out, and where I’ve put the live plant’s as well. Every few day’s I go in the tank and net out more, and put them in the bucket.

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