- Common names: Ramshorn snail
- Family: Planorbidae
- Maximum length:
- Minimum tank size: No minimum
- Hardiness: Easy
- Aggressiveness: Peaceful
- Distribution: Can be found on most continents throughout the world.
- Diet: Algae, uneaten fish food, dead fish, dead plants.
In the aquarium trade, the name Ramshorn Snail is used to describe a variety of species of snails that all get classed as one breed. In most case, snails with planispiral shells (similar to a ram’s horn) are called Ramshorn. Most of these snails are species in the family Planorbidae which is the largest family of aquatic pulmonate gastropods.
Some pet stores also sell snails called Giant Ramshorn or Colombian Ramshorn snails. These species are not the same snails as the small Ramshorn. They are actually a species of Apple snail, quite easy to spot the difference as these have two pairs of tentacles (Ramshorn only have one pair of tentacles) and will grow large. Both the Columbian and the Giant Ramshorn snails feature a yellowish shell with brown stripes spanning the length of the shell.
Ramshorn snails are usually found in two different skin colorations: black or red.
Unlike other snails that have a green or black skin coloration, the red Ramshorns have blood containing hemoglobin and the skin lack the dark pigment called “melanin”. Consequently, the red Ramshorns have a red skin, which is the color of their blood. Their shells can range in color from varying shades of browns to deep black. Some can even be translucent. It is believed that the darker colors are the result of dietary materials that are usually found in ponds or swampy areas (usually not available in the aquarium).
Ramshorn snails are lung breathers that use large folds of skin to trap air in a pulmonary sac located in the outer whirl of the shell. It is sometimes possible to see the pulmonary sac by placing the snail in front of a light (look for an air-filled space).
They lay eggs in globules that contain about a dozen or so eggs. The globules are translucent, so it is possible to visually see the new snails develop in size. The newborn snails are clear-white.
Benefits of growing Ramshorns
Many aquarists consider the Ramshorn snail to be a good addition to the clean-up crew. They have a strong appetite and will get rid of all algae in no time. They also clean the surface of the plants. They will travel around the aquarium, eating rotting leaves, algae, and also carcasses that have been missed.
Ramshorn snails breed like rabbits. Because of their hermaphroditic ability, they breed prolifically and will easily take over your tank and it can be difficult to remove them successfully. In addition to this, they produce lots of excrements. They can also eat your plants and eat the food meant for the shrimp while kicking the shrimp to the side.
Another major inconvenient one should be aware of is that red ramshorn snails are known to carry various parasitic flukes, which can be transmitted to the fish. Most of these flukes, or Trematodes as they are sometimes called, require intermediate hosts so that leaving the snails isolated for at least a month will eliminate the disease.
Overfeeding is the number one cause of snail outbreaks. If you see more and more snails in your tank, then there is a good probability that you are overfeeding. Before trying any other method of control, you can simply reduce feeding a little. This should help a lot.
Some aquarium species will eat ramshorn snails. Some of the best fish for Ramshorn control are the members of the genus botia such as the well-known clown loach. Bettas, crayfish, most gouramis, and apple snails will also prey on these snails.
Since Ramshorn snails are often introduced in the aquarium as egg bundles hidden in newly acquired plants, treating the plants can help a lot. One way to treat hardier plants is to soak them in a solution of water and chlorine bleach for 10 minutes (20 parts of water, 1 part of bleach). When treating my plants with bleach, I always avoid treating the roots to not damage them. A bleach bath should always be followed by another bath with water containing a dechlorinating agent. A more gentle treatment calls for 5-10 tablespoons of alum to 1 gallon of water for 2-3 days.
The other way to treat the plants is to quarantine them and treat them with snail poisons. This way, you don’t have to use poisons in the main show tank. I know that some people will tip the plant in saltwater for 5 minutes to kill the snails or eggs but I don’t know how much salt they use for that.
I use this handy snail catcher in my tank (click on image to buy on Amazon)
To help to remove the snail, some aquarists will use lettuce or cucumber to bait them. There are snail traps available to buy. These traps work quite simply by adding some food into a chamber that the snails can get into but can’t get out.
Another effective way of removing the snails manually is to stop the aeration. The snails need air so they will soon climb to upper levels in order to breathe. It is very easy to take them out as they reach the surface. Planted tanks may not have an air pump since the plants alone are enough to supply the air. In this case, leaving the light off for some time (plants only produce air during daytime) might help.