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Mystery Snail: Species Profile, Care, Breeding & More

Mystery snails are a unique addition to any freshwater aquarium, with the added benefit of being excellent clean-up crew members.

This aquatic snail will happily munch on food leftover by your fish, as well as help scrape off algae from your tank walls, plants, and decorations.

All of my freshwater tanks contain a group of mystery snails as they are invaluable to an aquatic ecosystem, and they also look very interesting due to their spike-topped shells and vibrant colors!

I only had a couple in each tank initially, but in just a few years, their population has grown tremendously and I now have hundreds.

If you’re considering owning these aquatic and peaceful invertebrates, read on, as I’ll be digging into everything about mystery snail care to help you keep your new pet happy and healthy.

Mystery Snail Species Summary

Scientific NamePomacea bridgesii
FamilyAmpullariidae
Care DifficultyEasy
Tank Size5 gallons
DietOmnivore
TemperamentPeaceful

What Is a Mystery Snail?

A mystery snail is a South American species of aquatic snail. It is one of the most popular freshwater snails in the aquarium trade due to its simple care, algae-eating abilities, and attractive colors. They can be easily found in most pet stores.

Origin

The mystery snail originates from South America and lives in freshwater rivers, swamps, and lakes in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil. They are very common in the wild and are actually considered an invasive species or pest snail in some areas, including Hawaii and much of Southeast Asia.

…mystery snails are scavengers and will consume algae, detritus, food leftovers, and dead fish.

Like most invertebrates, mystery snails are scavengers and will consume algae, detritus, food leftovers, and dead fish.

Do Mystery Snails Make Good Pets?

Mystery Snail On The Substrate
Mystery Snail On The Substrate (1)

Yes, mystery snails make great pets, especially if you’re new to fishkeeping. They are easy to care for and don’t require a large tank, with the bonus of helping keep your aquarium clean.

Are Mystery Snails Good for Your Tank?

Mystery snails are advantageous to all freshwater aquariums as they help keep the tank clean by eating leftover food, algae, biofilm, and detritus. This not only helps prevent fouling of the water, but it also makes your aquarium look cleaner.

Can I Hold My Mystery Snail?

You can hold mystery snails but only for a brief period (a couple of minutes at most) and only in necessary circumstances, such as moving them to a different tank.

Mystery snails are sensitive to touch and changes in light, so they’re likely to hide in their shells if you try to pick them up.

What Do Mystery Snails Look Like?

Mystery snails look like regular snails, but they have gills and a tube extension that protrudes out of their body that allows them to breathe underwater.

They have large, spike-topped shells that are typically banded, though patterns can vary, from speckled to solid color appearances.

Anatomy

The mystery snail has 2 large tentacles on both sides of their head, as well as 2 smaller ones underneath the mouth. Their complex eyes stick out and rest atop long stalks and work with the tentacles to detect light, motion, food, and danger.

Pomacea bridgesii
Mystery Snail Close-Up Image (2)

Compared to other snails, this species’ apex is located closer to the side of their aperture. They also have a nail-like operculum and big, horn-shaped shells that usually have no more than 4 whorls. The shell can reach up to 2 inches in diameter, so they can get fairly large!

One of the most interesting features of the mystery snail is the way they breathe. They are able to take in oxygen via their gills or an air tube positioned on the side of their head, the latter of which is used to pass water through the gills.

DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know that the sensory organs of the mystery snail (and all gastropods) include the olfactory organs, statocysts, mechanoreceptors, and eyes?

Mystery Snail Colors

The mystery snail comes in a huge selection of colors, including cream, dark grey, black, blue, purple and a gold mystery snail, though the most common variant is brown. Their shells can either be one solid color or feature several hues.

Personally, one of my favorite adult mystery snails in my tanks is a large, blue female – she’s stunning!

Mystery Snail Gender

Unlike most snails, species belonging to the apple snail family are not hermaphrodites. There are a couple of differences between sexes, but it can be difficult to spot these unless you happen to own both a male and female mystery snail.

Males are usually smaller than females. In addition, when viewed from underneath, males will have a visible penis sheath on the underside of their right shoulder, whereas females will have a hole.

Can You Have Just One Mystery Snail?

Yes, you can keep a single mystery snail. They can live happily alone without other snails and tank mates.

Can Mystery Snails Live With Bettas?

Mystery snails can live with betta fish as they are entirely peaceful. In addition, their shells help keep them protected from being eaten.

Suitable Tank Mates

A Snow White Crayfish and a Mystery Snail
A Snow White Crayfish and a Mystery Snail (3)

Mystery snails are docile and entirely passive, so they do best in a shrimp tank and with peaceful fish species and most other aquatic snails (except the assassin snail).

The best tank mates for mystery snails are:

  • Other freshwater snails (nerites, ramshorns, trumpets, Japanese trapdoors etc)
  • Bamboo shrimp
  • Vampire shrimp
  • Amano shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Betta fish
  • Dwarf gourami
  • Honey gourami
  • Neon tetras
  • Cardinal tetras
  • Ember tetras
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Platies
  • Guppies
  • Zebra danios
  • Swordtails
  • Mollies
  • Chill rasboras
  • Harlequin rasboras

TIP

If keeping mystery snails in community tanks, make sure your aquarium is large enough to accommodate all inhabitants. A minimum tank size of 5 gallons is required for one mystery snail.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a single mystery snail is 5 gallons. If you’d like to keep more than one, make sure you add between 3 to 5 gallons per snail as they have fairly high bioloads.

For instance, for a couple of mystery snails, you’ll need at least a 10-gallon aquarium.

Despite being slow-moving creatures, they like a decent amount of space to roam. In addition, planted tanks are ideal for this species as they eat a lot of plant matter and biofilm.

Substrate

Freshwater Planted Tank
Freshwater Planted Aquarium

The best substrates for mystery snails are sand, gravel, and small pebbles. Avoid substrates that are rough or with sharp edges as they could cause damage to your snail.

Lighting

Spike-topped apple snails can be kept in all lighting intensities, though they tend to prefer darker environments. It’s important to note that these snails can be sensitive to sudden changes in light, so aquarium lights that allow you to adjust the brightness in small increments can be useful.

Plants

Mystery snails don’t normally eat live plants unless they are very hungry, but they will happily eat algae and biofilm from plant leaves, as well as decaying vegetation. It’s best to use hardy plants that can withstand a bit of chewing here and there, such as java fern, java moss, hornwort, and anubias.

Other plants that have soft, fragile leaves like rotala indica or salvinia can be a tempting snack for these critters.

NOTE

Bear in mind that many plant fertilizers are harmful to mystery snails as they are highly sensitive to copper. In even small quantities, copper can interfere with the function of essential enzymes in a snail’s system, leading to cell damage and osmoregulation disruption. Make sure you only use products that do not list copper in the ingredients.

Water Parameters

The mystery snail is fairly hardy and can tolerate a wide range of parameters, so as long as your water chemistry is stable, they can thrive in most freshwater setups.

NOTE

Keep an eye out for signs of copper in your tank, especially if it’s filled with tap water.

Temperature

The spike-topped apple snail can live in tanks with a water temperature between 68°F to 84°F. If you live in a cooler climate, make sure you invest in a good-quality aquarium heater suitable for your tank size.

pH Level

Testing Water Using a pH Test Kit
Testing Water Using a pH Test Kit

Ideal pH levels for mystery snails is between 7.6 to 8.4 for good shell health. Any lower than this range can cause the shell to pit or chip. You can test the pH of your tank water by using a pH meter.

Water Hardness

Spike-topped apple snails prefer moderately hard water with high calcium levels for them to have strong and healthy shells. A water hardness between 12 to 18 KH is adequate for this species.

Can Mystery Snails Live Out of Water?

Mystery snails cannot live out of water indefinitely, but they can survive for several hours to possibly a day or two provided their body does not dry out. Mystery snails regularly go above the water surface to eat or lay eggs.

Do Mystery Snails Escape?

Yes, mystery snails are known to be master escape artists and always seem to find a way out of even the most secure aquariums. My mystery snails tend to climb the glass quickly to find an opening in my aquarium, even though it has a hood!

It’s also not uncommon for the species to climb to the top of the tank, then suddenly let go and free fall to the bottom of the aquarium.

If you notice your mystery snail is above the water line, gently pop it back into your aquarium so they don’t dry out or injure themselves.

What Do Mystery Snails Eat?

Mystery snails are scavengers and will consume anything they can get their mouths on. They are omnivores, so their food sources include meat and plant matter.

Mystery snail diet primarily consists of food leftovers (especially from fish that occupy the middle and upper water column), algae, debris, rotting plants, dead shrimp and dead fish and invertebrates.

What to Feed a Mystery Snail?

In a well-established community tank, mystery snails will not need much supplementation in their diet as they will munch on leftover fish food, deritis, biofilm, decaying live plants, and any algae in your aquarium.

However, a few times a week, you can feed them algae wafers, bottom-feeder tablets, fish flakes, blanched vegetables like zucchini, romaine lettuce, squash, and spinach. Veggies that are high in calcium are particularly advantageous for shell health.

Fish Food
Aquatic Pet Food

Personally, I feed my mystery snails 3 to 4 times a week, offering blanched vegetables at least twice. The rest of the mystery snail diet includes algae wafers and sinking fish pellets.

TIP

If your aquarium doesn’t contain fish, healthy plants, or a good supply of algae, you’ll need to feed your snails more often to ensure they get enough food.

How Much to Feed a Mystery Snail

Most aquarists feed their mystery snails every day or every other day in tanks without other fish. In community tanks with lots of vegetation, algae, and food leftovers, you won’t need to feed your snails as often as they will find food themselves.

If you feed your snail and the food is still there after a day, that’s a sign that you’re overfeeding and you should offer less food next time. In small tanks, this can quickly lead to fouling of the water as snails produce a lot of waste.

Are Mystery Snails Hardy?

Mystery snails are relatively hardy as they can adapt to a wide range of water parameters and don’t require complex care.

…they can be sensitive to poor water quality and fluctuations in water chemistry…

However, they can be sensitive to poor water quality and fluctuations in water chemistry, so make sure you clean your tank frequently and perform regular water changes.

Many aquarists conduct weekly water changes, removing around 25% of aquarium water. In large tanks, you can get by with less frequent water changes as parameters will be more stable. In a small tank, especially one that is overstocked, you’ll need to perform much more frequent water changes.

What Do Mystery Snails Eat?

Pomacea diffusa and Pomacea bridgesii
Two Pomacea Diffusa and one Pomacea Bridgesii fighting over some food (4)

As mentioned above, mystery snails consume a combination of leftover or excess food from other residents in the tank, detritus, biofilm, algae, decaying plants, and dead aquatic life. They are algae eaters, but they won’t survive on this alone, so make sure you add other food in their diet.

Common Diseases

Although mystery snails are fairly healthy species, they can be prone to a few health issues if their tank has poor water quality or their diet is lacking in the right nutrients.

Parasites can infect snails and use their bodies as hosts. Symptoms of parasitic infections in snails include white spots on the shell, shell discoloration, and lethargy.

You’ll need to quarantine the affected snails and gradually increase the water temperature of the tank to increase the parasite’s life cycle.

Mystery snails can become stunted if they are not fed a balanced diet…

Mystery snails can become stunted if they are not fed a balanced diet, so make sure you offer them calcium-rich foods like green vegetables and algae wafers regularly.

If there is not enough calcium in your tank water, your snail’s shell can become weak, brittle, discolored, and prone to chipping or cracked shells. Make sure your tank pH is between 7.6 and 8.4 and use calcium supplements if necessary.

How to Tell If Mystery Snail Is Dead

Mystery Snail Shell On The Bottom Of The Tank
Mystery Snail Shell On The Bottom Of The Tank

Mystery snails can sometimes look like they’ve passed away as they can be inactive for long periods, but there are clear differences between an alive snail and a dead one.

When snails die, they decompose very quickly and will produce a foul smell. Lift your snail out of the water and sniff inside its shell – if there’s a pungent odor that smells of rotten food or a blocked drain, your snail has likely passed away.

Examine The Shell

Another way to tell whether your snail is dead is by examining the opening of the shell. If the body isn’t present inside the shell or its hanging limp outside the shell, then the snail is probably dead.

Alive snails keep their trapdoor closed…

Additionally, in dead snails, the trapdoor on the body will be open. Alive snails keep their trap door closed to protect themselves inside the snails shells.

If you’re still unsure, take the snail out of the water and gently pull the foot (the flattened belly side of a snail) towards you. Healthy snails will quickly retract the foot back into the shell.

How Long Do Mystery Snails Live?

On average, mystery snails live for up to a year. Some specimens can live for up to 3 years with very good care, which can be achieved by regular tank maintenance, stable parameters, and a varied diet.

Do Mystery Snails Sleep?

Yes, mystery snails do sleep. They are most active at night and tend to sleep in 7 short bouts over a 13-hour period. After this time, they are normally awake for around 30 hours.

What Does Mystery Snail Poop Look Like?

Healthy mystery snail poop is typically dark brown and looks like C-shaped pellets or grass seeds. However, the color can vary depending on what your snail has eaten recently.

Why Is My Mystery Snail Floating?

Mystery snails can float for several reasons, including to eat protein film at the top of the surface of the tank, to move locations, or because they are unhappy with the tank water parameters.

The species can trap air in its shell to allow it to float…

The species can trap air in its shell to allow it to float and try to find a different location. This tends to occur in unstable water parameters, so if you notice this behavior in your snail, it’s a good idea to use a water testing kit to check your tank water chemistry.

In some cases, when a snail has passed away, it will float to the top of the tank.

Can You Breed Mystery Snails?

Yes, you can breed mystery snails. However, this species has set sexes, so you’ll need both a male and female to breed them.

How to Breed Mystery Snails

Spike-topped apple snails are gonochoristic egg layers, so provided there is at least one male and one female of the same species in your tank, they will mate without any interference. That being said, you can encourage breeding by ensuring your tank has a low water level, warm temperature, and offers plenty of food sources.

Mystery snails Held by Hand
Mystery snails Held by Hand (5)

When your snails are ready to reproduce, the male mystery snail will mount the female, often for up to 4 hours. If there are other males in your tank, they may compete for the female’s attention.

Where do Mystery Snails Lay Their Eggs?

Mystery snails lay their eggs at night above the water surface where the humidity is high, usually on the aquarium glass, tank lip, hood, or even behind your tank equipment.

The eggs are small, pink, and laid in clutches. After 2 to 4 weeks, they will hatch, and the baby mystery snails will drop down to the water. You can increase their chances of survival by moving them to a separate tank, especially if there are other species in your tank.

Once they’ve had time to grow, you can move the baby snails to the same tank as your fish and other snails.

Watch this video below to learn more about mystery snail breeding.

How to Breed Mystery Snails/Apple snail

What Do Mystery Snail Eggs Look Like?

Mystery snail eggs are small, jelly-like, soft and have a light to dark pink hue. They are laid in clutches and the egg clutches can usually be found above the water line on the aquarium glass.

Final Thoughts

I hope this mystery snail care guide helped you understand how to look after these gorgeous aquatic snails.

Did you decide to get one for your tank? Be sure to let me know on our social media platforms (I’d love to see some photos!, and share this post with your friends and family in the aquarium hobby so they can learn more about mystery snail care.

If you’re interested in more in-depth guides on fish species and aquarium equipment, take a look at our articles here.

(1) The original uploader was Sun-man at German Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons
(2) MdE (page at dewiki | page at commons), CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons
(3) Mlogic, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
(4) No machine-readable author provided. Soulkeeper assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
(5) CHUCAO, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Mollie Newton
Mollie Newton
Founder of PetMeTwice. I love all types of animals from fish to fluff-balls! I also enjoy writing short stories and helping train animals 🤩