Mystery Snail Breeding 101: How to Breed Your Snails Guide

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Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: May 11, 2024
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This guide acts as a comprehensive reference, whether you’re dealing with a projected breeding process or an unanticipated egg cluster, incorporating all aspects of the reproduction of mystery snails – from coupling to gestation, to egg deposition. Mystery snails, also recognized as apple snails, are serene, slow-moving, freshwater residents frequently found in aquariums. Although they are well-known, the intricacies of their reproduction are often puzzling to many, potentially leading to an abundance of baby snails.

Read on to find an easy-to-read walkthrough guide on mystery snail breeding…

Article Summary

  • Breeding mystery snails requires both a male and a female snail, as they are not hermaphrodites.
  • Female snails will lay clutches of eggs above the waterline for easy access to oxygen; the eggs are delicate and should not be moved until they become more robust.
  • Baby snails can be placed in the same tank as their parents or moved to a separate nursery tank, depending on space and water quality.

How big do mystery snails get?

At maturity mystery snails grow to be about the size of a ping pong ball, or about 1.5 inches. At this size you can keep 1-2 snails per 5 gallon tank. Be aware that snails are fairly messy so the more mystery snails you have in a tank the more water changes you have to do.

FUN FACT

The apple snail wasn’t always the happy aquarium species we know today, in fact you might hear some people refer to them as pests. The species that they are actually referring to is Pomacea canaliculata, pond snails that are well known for feeding on and destroying aquatic vegetation.

Can you breed mystery snails?

Yes, in fact many mystery snail owners end up accidentally breeding their snails without realizing it. The more challenging part of breeding these amazing creatures is figuring out what to do with all of the baby snails once they’ve hatched from their egg clutches and how to keep the baby mystery snails alive.

Will mystery snails breed alone?

Mystery Snails
Mystery Snails

Unlike some snails, mystery snails are not hermaphrodites. This means that you will have to have at least one male and one female to produce fertile eggs. Since it is fairly hard to sex most mystery snails you will likely need multiple mating pairs in one breeding tank to successfully produce a clutch.

FUN FACT

Hermaphroditic snails have both male and female sex organs, so they can reproduce outside of a mating pair.

Can mystery snails reproduce asexually?

No, like we mentioned earlier in the article mystery snails are not hermaphroditic. However, some females will lay unfertilized eggs. Later in this article we will teach you how to identify a fertile clutch from an unfertile clutch and how to identify female mystery snails.

How often do mystery snails reproduce?

Female mystery snails will lay egg clutches at least 3 to 4 times per year but they lay eggs weekly. These weekly egg deposits can produce viable eggs, or unviable ones depending on how recently mating rituals took place.

FUN FACT

Females can store enough sperm to lay viable eggs weekly for up to 4.5 months! Alternatively they can store the sperm for up to 140 days.

How old will mystery snails have to be for mating?

It is hard to define an exact age when the mystery snail is sexually mature enough to mate since they have fairly short life spans. Instead, most aquarists agree that mystery snails are old enough to reproduce when they are roughly the size of a ping-pong ball, or about 1.5 inches.

Since most mystery snails grow to a maximum of 2-3 inches they are pretty close to adulthood when they reach this size. Depending on living conditions, and quality of food the growth rate of each individual snail can vary.

How to sex mystery snails

Sexing mystery snails is where the real mystery is. Many professionals and long-time breeders have trouble with sexing as the only surefire way to know is if you are able to see their genitalia.

To know the specific gender of your snails, pick them up out of the water and flip them on their backs. Blow on them gently to encourage them to fully extend from their shells and look to see if there is a penis sheath or not next to the gills.

Some aquarists claim that when they’re ready to mate the female will have dark spots at the top of her spiral and the male will not.

The final method to sex your snails is to watch how your snails mate. Male snails will always climb on top of the female snails, but this isn’t a fool proof method as sometimes males will climb on top of each other.

TIP

If your snail is crawling along the bottom of the tank and you see something extend from under them it’s likely their siphon. Sometimes mistaken for male genitalia the siphon is a breathing appendage used to acquire more oxygen. The siphon is an evolutionary trait used when these pond snails crawled along pond muck where there wasn’t much oxygen available for their gills.

How to breed mystery snails

Mystery Snails on Aquarium Glass
Mystery Snails on Aquarium Glass

While mystery snails are fairly eager to breed, and breeding conditions are easy to meet, breeding does require some forethought. The three main tasks when breeding mystery snails are the colors of the parents, choosing the breeding group, and setting up the tank.

Colors

So you’ve decided you want to breed your own mystery snails, maybe you want to acquire the rare golden mystery snail, or maybe you just want the challenge. Within a breeding group mystery snails should be the same color if you have a color preference for your baby snails. For example, if you want baby snails with jade coloring, all of your potential parents should have jade coloring for the highest probability for your babies to also have that coloring.

Breeding group

Since breeding mystery snails requires a female mystery snail and male snail you have to have at least one of each in your breeding group. We recommend having 6 or 8 snails in your breeding group to ensure that you have at least one of each sex. The more snails the better, but make sure your female isn’t overwhelmed by the amount of male snails that want to mate with her.

Breeding Conditions

Unlike breeding other fish, mystery snails have straight forward breeding conditions. Still, many of the same standards apply, be sure that your aquarium meets the parameter standards listed below as well as staying in temperature range to set the breeding mood.

Water Parameters

To induce breeding behavior your freshwater tanks must meet certain conditions (shown below).

Temperature68-84℉
pH7.0-8.0
General Hardness7-18
Calcium Hardness8

As always it’s important to keep your tank clean in order to have optimal water quality and encourage breeding. With poor tank conditions the female snail is unlikely to lay her clutch.

TIP

Be sure to lower your water levels by 2 inches before you begin breeding. Females will only lay eggs above the waterline!

Mystery Snail Breeding Temperature

Most importantly the water temperature needs to be between 73℉ and 78℉. To do so effectively place your mystery snail breeding group in your breeding tank and raise the water temperature by 1 degree every 2 days using a tank heater.

Food

It is also important to provide nutritious food to stimulate breeding. As omnivores, these apple snails happily eat algae wafers, live plants, small pieces of meat, and rotting plants or decaying organic matter.

The better your snails diet, the more they develop eggs. To increase the amount of snail eggs add a large amount of foods that contain calcium and protein to your snails diet and have vegetables and plant matter available to them around the clock. In other words, be sure to keep your mystery snail fat and happy.

TIP

Be aware that heavy feeding means more frequent water changes. Mystery snails tend to be fairly messy anyways and keeping your freshwater aquarium clean is a big part of the breeding process.

Unlike fish, there is no breeding behavior that suggests when a mystery snail is ready to breed. Instead, their tank requires consistent check-ins to make sure you are ready when your females lay eggs. Unless you are a night owl it is unlikely that you will see your mystery snails lay their eggs due to their preference to be nocturnally active.

Mating

Mystery Snail Mating and Gender

The breeding process is fairly simple, after choosing your breeding group, add your snails to your breeding tank. A male mystery snail will seek out a female small and crawl along the back of the female until it positions itself over the right shoulder. The male snail will extend its penis sheath and the mating process will begin.

Snail mating can take between 1 and 6 hours, the female snail might carry on with normal activities or curl up. You can even lift up the pairing without separating them, showing that once mating begins they are firmly attached to each other. It only takes one time of mating for the female to receive enough sperm to fertilize all of her eggs.

NOTE

Be aware that males can kill females by overmating, if you suspect your female snail is getting overmated you will have to separate her into a separate tank. Never separate snails in the middle of mating.

Hatching eggs

How soon your eggs hatch depends on the temperature of the water. Warmer temperatures will make your female snail lay her clutch faster, however, the average wait time for laying eggs is 3 to 4 weeks.

Females will lay their eggs above the waterline so they have direct access to oxygen. This means that the clutches will be easy for you to spot. Normally white or opaque eggs are generally laid in big bunches in one area above the waterline.

Once you see the first clutch don’t move it to a hatching tank immediately, the eggs are very fragile. After a few days when the eggs are more robust, you can use your fingers or a razor blade and transfer them to a hatching container. If you are leaving the eggs in the community tank make sure no large fish tank mates have access to them or else they will be eaten.

RECOMMENDATION

Lower your freshwater tank’s water line by about 2 inches so the female can lay her egg clutch. Keep the lid on the tank to maintain humidity so the eggs don’t dry out.

How frequently do mystery snails mate?

Snails Mounted on Each Other

Mystery snails mate fairly often, while the male snail can mate as many times as he is willing, the female can be over mated. Be sure to keep an eye on your female, overbreeding signs include skittishness and hiding. If your male is mounting your female multiple times a day he will need to be removed to give the female a break.

Despite the potential to mate often it’s not necessary, a single mating session will provide the female snails with enough sperm to fertilize multiple clutches. When conditions are ideal females will lay eggs 3-4x per year. Later in this article, we will discuss what to do if you notice your snails lay unfertilized eggs.

How long are mystery snails pregnant?

It takes 2-4 days for females to lay their eggs after mystery snails mate. If you’re curious whether or not your snail is pregnant you can flip her on her back and try to see inside her genital tube, you might be able to see snail eggs!

How long before mystery snails lay eggs after breeding?

As we mentioned above, mystery snails lay eggs 2-4 days after breeding. This short pregnancy time is fairly common for snail species, however, some species’ gestation period can last up to 4 weeks.

How many eggs do mystery snails lay?

Your mystery snail can lay a clutch that contains hundreds of eggs, but not all clutches are fertile. Generally, only 25-60 of those eggs will successfully hatch. When a fertile clutch gets close to hatching it will start to have white and black spots, sometimes described as being “moldy looking.” This appearance is due to the baby snails chewing through their egg shell.

If 3-4 weeks go by without any signs of this color change or your eggs have a weird odor, pink or red stain if dabbed with a paper towel, poorly formed eggs, or just won’t hatch your clutch is probably a dud.

Are baby snails born with shells?

Hatching Baby Snails

When they hatch baby snails do actually have shells even though it doesn’t look like it. The shell is soft and transparent and won’t harden until the snails are able to consume calcium. One of the first sources of calcium that snails consume is their egg casings, and sometimes they’ll even eat the shells of the unhatched eggs.

This need for calcium is also why it’s important to test your calcium hardness when you have a tank with any freshwater snails.

What color will my baby mystery snails be?

The color of your baby snail depends on the original colors of your breeding group. If your breeding group was all one color the babies will likely be the same, however this isn’t 100% certain. Due to dominant and recessive genes some colors that might be muted, or not appear or the parents could show on one of the hatchlings.

Potential mystery snail colors include: gold, jade, ivory, blue, chestnut, brown/black, magenta, purple, and albino.

How to get different mystery snail color breeding

To select what colors you want your snail hatchlings to be you need a quick lesson in genetics. Each baby snail will receive a color trait from their mom and one from their dad, some colors are dominant and others are recessive. Colors that are dominant are more likely to show over recessive colors.

If you’ve been breeding your snails for a while you might be able to figure out their genetics from their offspring. With two parents there is a potential for four different color combinations.

Let’s work through a hypothetical situation; here the male snail is heterozygous (one dominant color and one recessive color) and the female is homozygous (two of the same dominant colors). Generally darker colors are dominant so let’s assume both of our snails appear chestnut (demonstrated by “X”), but our male has a recessive gene for jade (demonstrated by “y”). We can create a punnett square to predict the colors of their offspring.

Xy
XXXXy
XXXXy

This offspring has a 50% chance of being homozygous for chestnut (XX) and a 50% chance of being heterozygous, but still appearing to have chestnut coloring (Xy). You can use these percentages and how many eggs you have to predict what all of your snails coloring would be.

Now let’s try another hypothetical where we take a heterozygous offspring (Xy) and a different heterozygous snail that has a dominant chestnut gene and recessive jade gene (XY).

Xy
XXXXy
yXyyy

This offspring has a 25% chance of being homozygous for chestnut (XX), a 50% chance of being heterozygous for chestnut (Xy) and a 25% chance of being homozygous for jade, a recessive trait (yy).

You can see how tracing mystery snail genetics can get confusing pretty fast, especially when you’re not completely sure of the traits of the parents. They’re also not 100% accurate, things like complementary traits where colors can mix can create new shades of classic colors. Most breeders just use the chart we’ve attached below.

Where do you put baby mystery snails?

You can place your baby snails in the tank with their parents or move them to a separate nursery tank. Make sure to plan accordingly for how many snails you have, if 60 of your eggs survive and you can have 2 snails per 5 gallons then you need at least 150 gallons of water to be able to keep and raise all 60 eggs.

If you are preparing nursery tanks be sure to fully cycle your tank before the eggs hatch and decorate it with lots of plants and other objects for algae to settle on to provide a constant food source.

Conclusion

We hope you find mystery snails as charming as we do, while we know it’s tempting to keep all of the cute baby snails, make sure to carefully plan out how you are going to breed, raise, and handle all of your mystery snails!

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