How to Get Rid of Ramshorn Snails in an Aquarium

A common species of freshwater or pond snails, the ramshorn snail belongs to the Planorbidae family.

Generally red, orange, or black, they have planispiral shells resembling a flat coil. 

Ramshorn Snails in an Aquarium

The foraging omnivore has a lifespan of 1-3 years and their growth is limited to a maximum of 1 inch.

The aquarists’ community is divided over their opinion about the presence of ramshorn snails in aquariums.

While some consider a certain number of these snails to be an aesthetic and a welcome presence (they can keep your tank clean and are believed to bring good luck), to others they are pests that need to be strictly dealt with.

Despite being a non-aggressive species that can peacefully coexist with almost all other organisms in an aquarium, ramshorn snails are considered a pest because of how fast they reproduce.

In the unfortunate event of an uncontrollable ramshorn infestation, you will have to take steps to get rid of the pesky invaders. 

There are many ways to get rid of ramshorn snails in an aquarium. Some of the more common ones ranked according to increasing levels of difficulty are as follows.

Cut Off the Food Source

Even though they breed fast, ramshorn snails can produce babies only by maintaining their eating habits.

That’s why all aquarium enthusiasts will agree that the quickest way to rid your tank of ramshorn snails is to cut off their food source. 

Leftover fish food is the snails’ primary source of sustenance. This means you need to feed your fish smaller servings to ensure there is nothing left over for the mollusks.

Ramshorn snails also eat algae, dying plant matter, and organic debris that accumulate at the bottom of an aquarium (under the substrate).

ramshorn snail in an aquarium

Ways to cut off ramshorn snails’ food sources include:

Additionally, if you starve your fish for a day or two, they’ll be ravenous and eat the mollusks, effectively tackling the snail problem.

The infesting population will be wiped out in a couple of weeks once their sustenance is cut off — the amount of time can vary depending on how many eggs the snails have laid or how bad the infestation is.

Manual Intervention

Whenever you spot a ramshorn snail in the aquarium, put your hand in and pull it out – just as the heading suggests! 

If the snails are small enough, you can even siphon them out using a gravel vacuum whenever you are changing the water in the tank.

If you don’t want to get your hands wet plucking out snails, you can always use a snail catcher to scrape them off the aquarium walls or bottom. 

Dennerle Snail Catcher

Also, make sure you scrape off all the snail eggs from inside the tank.

Ramshorn snails generally lay eggs in numerous small, brownish clusters on tank walls, aquarium plants, or the substrate. Easily visible to the naked eye, each cluster has about a dozen eggs.

Ramshorn snail eggs
Ramshorn snail eggs

Introduce Snail Traps and Baits to your Aquarium

If the infestation is so severe that manual control won’t help, the next best option to consider is snail traps made using vegetable baits. 

An effective trap utilizes vegetables such as: 

  • Carrots 
  • Cabbages 
  • Lettuce 
  • Zucchini 
  • Cucumber

You can drop a piece of any of these in your aquarium and let it sit overnight. In the morning, you’ll find it covered with feasting crawlers. 

Here’s how to set up a ramshorn snail trap using a banana peel bait:

  1. Peel a banana and keep the skin in a warm place for several hours. Putting it in the sun works best
  2. Once the peel darkens, place it in your fish tank and turn the light off. The snails come out to feed in the dark
  3. Leave it in place overnight
  4. In the morning, you’ll find several snails stuck to the banana peel
  5. Pick up the peel and throw it away (you can use a pair of tongs)
  6. Repeat the process till you have annihilated the ramshorn snail population.

Some aquarium owners even use DIY snail traps made using bottles with mouths big enough for snails to crawl through but small enough to keep the fish out.

Predatory Species Introduction

Another way to get rid of a ramshorn infestation is to introduce predatory species to your aquarium.

Several varieties of fish and some kinds of snails, like assassin snails, feed on other snails like ramshorn and trumpet and can manage the population in your tank.

Your best bet is pufferfish – from the tiny pea puffer to bigger green-spotted puffers – who primarily eat mollusks. They can crack through the hard shell of ramshorns and completely devour them.

You can also opt for loaches – large, freshwater, schooling fish that feed on ramshorn snails. These fish poke their pointy snouts into snail shells and suck out the insides.  

More varieties of predatory fish species that can beat your ramshorn infestation include: 

  • Clown loaches
  • Zebra loaches
  • Yoyo loaches 
  • Dwarf chain loaches
  • Large cichlids like Oscars 

You can also hire the services of some shrimp species or assassin snails who kill and eat snails.

However, exercise caution if you introduce assassin snails to your tank, because they can prey on weak, unhealthy fish.

Related: Which Aquarium Fish Eat Snails?

Chemical Treatment

The quickest way to control the ramshorn snail population is to douse your tank with anti ramshorn snail medicines available over the counter at most pet stores. 

Let the chemicals sit in the aquarium for the duration specified on the product label. Then clean out the dead snails before they decompose and damage the water quality.

The process is seemingly simple and preferred by beginners, but causes a lot of collateral damage because the copper content in almost all cleaning chemicals is poisonous for other species.

Passionate aquarium owners go so far as to say you shouldn’t opt for a chemical treatment unless you don’t care about the survival of other inhabitants in the tank. 

Start Afresh

Unfortunately, if you’ve got a severe ramshorn infestation and no other method to get control it works, your only option is to empty the tank and start over from scratch. 

In that case, you must take out all the fish, shrimp, plant, and every last gravel; put them in quarantine tanks; clean whatever can be cleaned thoroughly, and rebuild your aquarium.

Also read: How to Clean Aquarium Sand?

Here’s How You Got a Ramshorn Snail Infestation

Did you buy any aquatic plants recently? Or maybe a few fish? Because chances are that’s where the first ramshorn snails in your tank came from. 

At retail stores, plants are reared and stocked in close confines, providing snails enough cover to hide, lay eggs and multiply in peace.

A few might’ve slipped into your tank with the new plants you bought. Or maybe the retailer scooped up some gravel with the fish, accidentally picking up some snails or their eggs.

These pests can also get into aquariums while transferring fishes, plants, or other ornamentations between tanks. Sometimes, it’s not even grown ramshorn snails but a stray egg sac stuck to the underside of a leaf that snuck in.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

The best way to get rid of ramshorn snails from your aquarium is to never let them enter in the first place. When you buy new fish, make sure nothing from the retailer’s transportation bag is transferred into your tank – yes, not even the water!

When you get new plants, quarantine them in a separate tank and put them through chemical treatment before they are planted. You can do that by soaking aquarium plants in one of the following:

  • A gallon of water mixed with 2 tablespoons of alum for 2-3 days
  • A disinfecting solution of 1-gallon water mixed with 1.5 cups of bleach for 5 minutes
  • A solution of one gallon of water and half tablespoon of potassium permanganate for 15 minutes

Rinse the plants thoroughly with fresh water before having them planted, irrespective of the kind of disinfecting soak you use.

If you are using the bleaching soak, know that it can cause damage to fragile plants, but is also the most potent in killing ramshorn snails and their eggs.

Ramshorn snails feed on leftover fish food, and decaying organic matter which can be eliminated by cleaning your tank regularly.

Frequent water changes will also help prevent organic matter buildup. So make it a point to change the water every week.

When you drain the tank, also scrape algae off the walls and bottom, and vacuum waste accumulated under the substrate.

This will help maintain the overall hygiene of your aquarium and considerably minimize the chances of a ramshorn snail infestation.

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