Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.
If you have a pest snail outbreak in your freshwater aquarium you may be considering adding some fish that eat snails to your tank. They’ll chomp up the offending invaders and your aquarium can go back to normal, you reason. It seems like an easy way to deal with the issue, and you get to stock some cool new fish.
However, there are some important things to consider before you run out and get snail-eating fish. Making a bad choice can doom not only your new fish but possibly your whole tank. While it’s always very important to research any fish you intend to stock, it becomes even more so when you bring in a fish to do a specific job.
While there are some benefits to keeping fish that can help regulate your snail problem, there are also a few pitfalls. With that in mind, here are a few things I’d like you to consider before you add any new fish to your tank.
Finally, before you go out and get new fish for your aquarium, take some time to learn how pest snail problems happen in an aquarium to begin with. It is often due to overfeeding, poor tank maintenance practices or other errors on the part of the fish keeper.
Understanding how to deal with these issues is part of the learning process, and if you can get them under control your snail problem may decrease or go away altogether.
With all of that out of the way, here are some popular freshwater fish that eat snails.
Here are some snail-eating fish to consider for your freshwater tank:
Below you can read more about each fish. Not every fish listed is appropriate for every tank, so do your research and learn as much as you can about them before purchasing.
The clown loach is a well-known snail connoisseur and a really nice addition to the right tropical fish tank. However, they do come with a few concerns. For one thing, they get really big, with some individuals topping a foot in length.
They are also best kept in schools of six or more. Logically, you’ll need a pretty large tank for a school of foot-long fish. I’d suggest 100 gallons or bigger. Most people don’t have a tank that size, and that means for most fish keepers the clown loach is not an appropriate fish. But, if you have a huge tank, they may be able to help you with your snail problem.
Clown loaches are scavengers and will munch up any fish food that falls into their domain, but it is still a good idea to feed them sinking pellets to make sure they get enough to eat.
If you are among the many for whom the clown loach is a poor choice, consider the yoyo loach instead. They only grow to around half the size of the clown loach, making them much better for most community tanks. And, like their bigger cousins, they are known for their appetites for snails.
Since you’ll want to keep them in small schools of six or more you’ll need a 55-gallon tank or bigger for these guys. Like the clown loach, you’ll want to feed sinking pellets.
I know it might seem like skipping the pellets will encourage them to eat more snails, and maybe that’s true. But remember that snails are only part of their diets, and they still need to get nutrition from elsewhere.
Many people swear gouramis will eat snails. I’ve kept dwarf gouramis, three-spots and, if memory serves, I once had an ornery kissing gourami. I never noticed any of them eating snails, or having any impact on the resident pest snail population.
However, if you intend to have them anyway, keep an eye out and see how they do. I’d be interested in hearing more information on whether or not they’ll do the job.
As with any fish, do your research beforehand. Gouramis have some complex behavioral issues that can sometimes result in bullying and stress for a weaker fish. And, as we know, stress is the biggest reason fish die in aquariums.
Do betta fish eat snails? Many fish keepers will tell you yes, but I have personally never seen it. However, I do think there are probably cases where they will. Bettas are opportunistic feeders in the wild, and if they come to think of snails as food I can’t imagine why they’d pass them up.
Another reason I think they might is because they sometimes pick on apple and mystery snails. If they’ll do that, there is no reason to think they won’t suck a pond snail right out of its shell if they can.
The truth is every betta behaves differently, and some are more likely to munch on gastropods than others. This is one of the many reasons you wouldn’t want to rely on a betta fish to solve your snail problem. Bettas can be community fish in certain circumstances, but you’d never want to add one to a tropical tank without putting a lot of thought into it.
Cories are a type of catfish. They probably will not eat snails, though some say they will eat small ones. However, they are industrious scavengers that may eat or damage snail eggs. These guys do a solid job of general tank maintenance all around, and so they are always a good fish to have in a community tank.
If they gobble up a few snail eggs here and there all the better. Even if they do, remember that there are places in the tank your cories are not going to be able to reach.
Again, always be sure to feed sinking pellets when you have bottom dwellers like cories and loaches in your tank. While they will eat some flake food that drifts down to the bottom, it is tough for them to compete with the fish swimming above them. Sinking pellets ensure they get the nutrition they need.
Long ago, before I knew enough about them, I had a pair of bala sharks in a 55-gallon tank. The tank had previously suffered from a small-scale snail outbreak. A few weeks after introducing the bala sharks I suddenly realized there were no more snails in the tank. In fact, months later, even after I had re-homed the bala sharks, the snails didn’t come back.
I didn’t have a lot of snails to begin with, but after the bala sharks came there were none. To be clear, I am not saying that bala sharks are the answer to your snail problem. In fact, they aren’t appropriate for most home aquariums.
As I discovered several years later, bala sharks are very large fish. They grow into huge fish as adults, and they need to be kept in schools. I wouldn’t try them again unless I had something like a 200-gallon tank, and even then I might think twice.
Large goldfish will often eat snails. I’ve written about a local pet store that would move this big goldfish from tank to tank in order to control the snails. Once he ate them all in one tank, they’d move him over to the next one.
I don’t think that’s a smart idea for most of us, but if you have a large cold-water tank and you think you’d like a goldfish in there he might just munch up most of your snails.
Be aware that goldfish are not tropical fish, which is why I said a cold-water tank. They need cooler temperatures. Many varieties also grow very large, sometimes over a foot in length. They should be housed in huge tanks or ponds as adults.
So, while goldfish may be among the most diligent snail-eating fish, unfortunately, they are not a good choice for fish keepers with average-sized tropical tanks.
If you’ve ever owned a green spotted puffer you know how important snails are. Puffers have bony plates in their mouths that will overgrow if they don’t eat hard foods to grind them down. Common pond snails are an important part of their diet, especially when they are young.
At one time I would go from pet store to pet store, asking them if I could have any pest snails running around in their tanks to feed to my puffer. They were usually happy to get rid of them, but it was a big hassle. Later I started a little snail tank so I could breed my own.
Most green spotted puffers will eat as many snails as you can give them, but they do come with very specific care requirements. For one thing, GSPs are cute little killing machines that will likely destroy any other fish you attempt to house with them. They also require brackish water as they age, and so would not be a good long-term community fish anyway.
But, if you wanted to keep a GSP in another tank, you’d always have something to do with your pest snails.
Never send a fish to do a snail’s job. The assassin snail is exactly what it sounds like: a snail that kills and eats other snails. It will eat other things too, like leftover fish food, algae wafers, and sinking pellets. That means you don’t have to worry about them starving if they do too good of a job.
While the speed of an assassin snail hunt will never remind you of a rerun of the Dukes of Hazzard, they are still pretty impressive in action. They will likely breed in your tank, but they won’t reach the maddening population levels of other snail species.
It should go without saying that you should never add snail-eating fish and assassin snails to your tank. While bigger and tougher than the average pond snail, they are still susceptible to predators that see them as food.
If you've read this far and none of the fish mentioned seem like they'd be a good fit for your tropical tank there is still hope. Many of the fish you already have in your aquarium would eat snails if they could. The problem is they can’t get past that shell.
If only they had some help. Maybe if there was someone big and strong enough to crush the shell so they could get to the meaty treat inside.
Hey, maybe that someone is you!
Did the screen just come rushing at you while the dissonant scrape of a violin sounded in the background, like some horrible aquatic horror movie?
Squishing up snails with your fingers so your fish can eat them isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. But it is a way to put all of those pest snails to good use. Some fish keepers simply pluck snails off the glass and crush them, and then drop them back into the tank.
Does it sound harsh? Maybe, but, if your snail problem is out of control the stark reality of the situation is that they must come out one way or another. Otherwise, they will continue to breed and overrun your aquarium. You can catch them in snail traps and chuck them, or you can put them to use feeding your fish.
Remember that a few snails in your tank isn't a problem, and might even be good for it. But once things get out of control you must intervene.
While there are some fun fish you might be able to add to your tank, it is easy to see from the list above that most of them come with their own issues you’ll have to deal with. So, I’ll reiterate what I said at the beginning of this article: Please don’t add any fish to your tank unless they are appropriate and fit into your overall stocking plan. Always do your research before choosing a fish.
I’d also avoid adding any of the fish mentioned above to a tank where you keep mystery or apple snails. You never know what they might do, or if they can cause any damage.
Finally, remember that good tank management practices can help you avoid a snail problem to begin with. Keep up with cleanings, learn to do easy water changes, and avoid overfeeding.
Good luck choosing the best snail-eating fish for your freshwater aquarium.
Julian on May 01, 2020:
Peapuffers are small puffers that can kill small-medium sized snails. If you get them as youngsters (which is most likely as stores sell them as young) and put them in last, they will get used to faster short finned fish. No guarantees,but it's very likely, as I first bought four, and then later 2 more. All 6 of them go well with my other fish, just one other fish has medium fin damage, but she seems fine. They don't always eat the snails. They just like to kill them...
scoolioo on November 15, 2018:
I had a platy that went ate snail eggs and newly hatched snails - but she was definitely pretty aggressive for a platy and I think this is not typical!
There are several options to get rid of pesky and unwanted snails and I have discussed on this topic previously on my other post on how to get rid of snails the natural and effective ways. Basically rather than picking up each and every one by hand that you can see, there are other options as well which are less time consuming. Furthermore, looking and eliminating the snails this way might not be effective at all, taken into consideration that there might be hundreds of young juveniles newborns probably hidden away among the plant leaves making your job difficult and don’t forget there might be those which have not yet hatch that would most probably gone unnoticed without realizing at all.
Using Snail Eating Fish ( a term used to describe fish that will eat snails as snacks ) is perhaps one of the best ideas and considered a fast and effective approach because generally in order to get started, you will only need to check on the fish compatibility aspect. As I have already mentioned throughout my aquarium fish topics, doing this compatibility check is necessary and crucial because different types of fish has different tolerance limit towards other species and as such it is good to confirm whether introduction of new pet fish friend can disrupt the peace and harmony of the aquarium system. One of the so-called snails eating fish that I would recommend that you get to contain your snail infestation problem is the Clown Loaches. Being a favorite among hobbyist for its moderate care requirements and an active shoaling fish, introduction of these loach species will usually help you to reduce and eliminate the snail population in no time.
Loaches while considered a very good alternative solution rather than manually picking up the snails, sometimes has its own limitations. Despite being an effective hunter which does a wonderful job, the fish can sometimes cause havoc to your aquarium community especially if you have small sized fish like the neon tetra, pencilfish, danios and others problems associated with having them around is that they are notorious for devouring eggs laid by your other community fish. Therefore to avoid the hassles of going through extra work needed to take care of them later part, before buying a new clown loach usually what I did previously to is ask a favor from a fellow hobbyist who owns one and borrowing it just for a short period of time. You might need a good friend though as nobody would want to part with his pet just like that.
If this is not an option, luckily there are other fishes that eat snails as hungrily as the loaches. One of them is a freshwater puffer fish . Little is known about this species as I’ve never had one before so it’s rather impossible for me to write about them. But however, based on my own experience relayed to me by a friend who owns this species, these cute little critters can also hunt down snails as effectively as what you would expect. So there you have it, two of the best fish for eating snails and they are the clown loach and the other is a freshwater puffer.
You might be interested on some other aquarium topics such as community tank ideas and suggestions and dealing with fish internal parasites
What Aquarium Fish Eat SnailsвЂ”Will They Eat Tiny Pest Snails
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Tiny pest snails can very easily take over your tank because most are prolific breeders. The majority of snails will reproduce in an aquarium, whether you introduce them intentionally or they hitchhike on plants into your tank.
What might seem like little unharmful babies or eggs, will within three (3) weeks be teenagers causing havoc in your aquarium, and ready to breed the next colony of nuisance juvies.
That said, adding some freshwater aquarium fish species is one of the most recommended solutions to a snail infestation. These fish munch on snails, with a school of the most efficient snail-eaters able to wipe out a whole colony in less than a fortnight..
So, the million-dollar question is вЂwhat kind of fish can you have in there that will eat snails?"
The short and sweet answerвЂ¦
вЂ¦botia loaches including zebra loach, yoyo loach, clown loach, skunk loach, and dwarf chain loach.
Dwarf pufferfish, some cichlids like the german blue ram and keyhole cichlid, and snails like assassin snail (Clea helena) are also good snail-eaters.
Fishes like bettas donвЂ™t exactly eat or kill snails, but they are known to snack on snail eggs hence are also useful at keeping populations down.
Below, IвЂ™ll give more insight on how to add these snail-eating fishes in your tank if dealing with a snaily-menace.
But first, here is a quick list of the tropical fish you should consider, just in case you only want to skim through.
Before you head out to your local pet store and pick up the first algae eater you find, you want to make sure that you’re selecting something that will fit the needs of your tank. There are quite a few things to take into account here. You want to make sure that the algae eater you buy is going to eat the type of algae you’re having a problem with. You’ll also want to check that your tank conditions are compatible.
Presumably, you’re buying an algae eater because you’ve got an algae problem that you need to be taken care of. You may be surprised to learn that there are many types of algae, and most algae eaters will not eat all the types.
In fact, rather than getting a single algae eater, you’re likely going to want a team of algae eaters to cover the various common types of algae and the different surfaces it can grow on. Some algae eaters will be better at covering flat surfaces, while others will be better at getting into smaller nooks and crannies. Making sure the different areas of your tank are covered from multiple types of algae will help prevent algae infestations.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of algae:
You’ll need to make sure that any algae eaters you buy are compatible with the environment of your tank. Aquatic creatures suitable for aquariums can come from different places all over the world. Freshwater conditions can vary wildly. You’ll need to either buy something that will thrive in your tank as is or change conditions in your tank to allow for the algae eater you want.
Most betta fish and freshwater snails in the list below are peace loving creatures, there’s a lot humans could learn from them. Can you keep betta fish with snails: yes absolutely. Things to keep an eye out for are male bettas, they have a much more varied temperament than females, and some of them just simply won’t be happy to share their space. The most normal scenario is the male “bumping into” the snail – this is more of a chest puffing routine and the snail is unlikely to notice nor even flinch its antennae. Female bettas on the other hand are unlikely to care at all. The worst case scenario begs the question below.