Aquarium Snail Eggs: How do Freshwater Snails Reproduce?

Freshwater snails are widely distributed across the world. There are over 600 species of freshwater snails in ponds, lakes, and rivers in the United States. Snails are an important part of freshwater ecosystems.

They provide food for other animals, such as fish, frogs, birds, and crayfish. They feed on algae thereby controlling algae growth, especially in ponds. Apple snails are sold in many aquarium stores, and people interested in breeding apple snails need one male and one female.

Determining Sex

Female freshwater snails are usually larger and heavier than males of the same species. Some males have a distinct sex organ that protrudes from an area in front of the gills. In some species, the males are indistinguishable from females apart from physical size. Freshwater snails that have an operculum, or hatch-like covering over the opening in their shell, have separate sexes. Most freshwater snails in North America have an operculum. Snails that do not have an operculum have both male and female reproductive organs.


Snails reproduce by copulation. The male snail crawls onto the shell of the female snail and holds her shell with his foot during the fertilization process. Snails that possess both male and female sex organs also copulate. These snails exchange male sperm which they then use to fertilize their eggs. Snails with both male and female reproductive organs do not self-fertilize with their own sperm. Fertilization can last one hour to one day. Many females can store sperm for many months.

Laying Eggs

Female freshwater snails lay eggs in clutches usually above the water line or on the underside of leaves. One female can produce as many as 600 eggs in one clutch. In their natural habitat, freshwater snails found in temperate regions lay eggs from spring to fall. Freshwater snails in warmer environments may lay eggs year-round. The eggs hatch in about three weeks, or sooner if the weather is warm. Baby snails are able to eat algae and forage as soon as they hatch.

Live Birth

Freshwater snails in the viviparidae family give birth to live baby snails. After fertilization, the female snail keeps her eggs inside a special cavity in her body where they are protected. The eggs hatch inside her where the baby snails feed inside the mother’s body. The young snails crawl out of the mother’s cavity when they have consumed the stored nutrients and reach about 1/4-inch long. The female snail may incubate as 10 to 12 eggs inside her body at once.

Dennerle Snail Catcher

I use this handy snail catcher in my tank (click on image to buy on Amazon)


8 Responses

  1. I actually enjoyed your knowledge on aquarium and I wish to get more of that knowledge because I am interested in fish farming and fisheries

  2. thank you for the information,I really enjoy finding out about the baby’s nails bought a regular snail from a fish store few days after little funny snails came out absolutely fabulous! Also how long can I expect the snails to live

  3. I had a snail in my freshwater tank that died about 6-7 weeks ago – I never got any other snails. Now I’m finding a lot of little white “specs” clinging to the sides of my tank (that are moving). I didn’t think they could be baby snails from my one that died because of the amount of time that’s passed. Is it possible that these are her babies?

  4. Thank you, I just purchased 5 snails for my Betta tank. I hope to have baby snails without the Betta getting involved. Any tips? I have a 5 gallon tank and a few places for the snails to hide….Thoughts

    1. What did you find out? I’m having the same problem, (kind of)I had three babies snails in with the beta fish 🐟 now my granddaughters tank is overrun with snails ugh 😩

      1. Get an assassin snail or 2. They eat other snails. Their job is too keep the overpopulation down naturally. I’ve one assassin.

  5. I named my snail Gary (after SpongeBob) and got it with three other fish a month ago. I woke up this morning to a baby snail on the side of my tank out of nowhere. Needless to say I was in shock and am still trying to understand how this happened. Later on that night, my mom found a second baby. I have no clue how many their are going to be. I spent $10 on this snail and I guess I’m getting my moneys worth

  6. Two of my snails are apparently doing their reproductive thing. What do I need to do to assure successful hatchlings? (My tank water lowers and refills regularly, due to environment and tank cover issues).
    Do the eggs need to be above or below the waterline? (I initially had a large egg clutch when I first acquired the tank and fish – it was above the waterline, and dried out / never hatched).

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