nerite snails care guide

Over the years, I have come to find that Nerite Snails are some of the most useful and interesting creatures to keep in a home aquarium.

Aside from being premier algae eaters, they are very peaceful and will always add a dash of color to any aquatic landscape.

nerite snails for sale

Quick Intro To Nerite Snails

Family NameNeritidae
Scientific NameNeritina natalensis, among others. Depends on the region they come from.
Other NamesSpotted Nerite, Zebra Snail, Tiger Snail, Zebra Nerite Snails, Tiger Nerite, Olive Nerite Snail, Horned Nerite Snails, Tiger Nerite Snail
Care LevelEasy
Region of OriginEast and South Africa
Distant RelativesSaltwater Nerite Snails that originate in Pacific coastal areas. There are over 200 different species of snails in the Neritidae family.
Habitat TypeFreshwater and brackish streams with sandy substrate, caves, and plenty of algae.

General Appearance

Nerite Snails come in a range of shell colors ranging from golden to brown, yellow, and black. They also have black stripes or striations of different colors and patterns.

Males vs. Females

Unlike Mystery Snails, Nerite Snails do not change gender over time. They are just one gender, male or female, from the time they hatch.

It is often difficult, if not impossible to tell the difference between male and females until females lay eggs.

Nerite Snails behave, move, and look the same regardless of gender.

How They Move in the Tank

As with other snails, Nerites move slowly over various surfaces in search of things to eat. They may also reach the top of the water surface, and then float lazily downward.

Optimal Water Conditions For Nerite Snails

Although they are hardy creatures, good water quality is still essential. In this case, you will need to pay more attention to carbonate hardness as well as general hardness as snails are heavily dependent on the water for meeting their mineral needs.

Water Temperature72 – 78 degrees fahrenheit
pH8.1 to 8.4
Tannins (Y/N)No

As with other freshwater snails, a great deal of a Nerite Snails energy will go into maintaining its shell. This, in turn, means that snails will need calcium-rich, hard water in order to have healthy shells. 

Aquarium Salt

Most freshwater Nerite Snails come from brackish water, or can live in both marine and freshwater environments.

You will need to ask the seller more details about the creatures you are purchasing in order to determine how much aquarium salt will be of benefit to them, and if it is necessary.

Water Flow Rate

Nerite snails used in freshwater tanks usually come from either fast or slow-moving streams. Start off with less water current, and then gradually increase it.

If you see the snails being pushed around by the water current, it might be best to see if you can create some areas where the water flow is reduced so they can get from the bottom of the tank to the top as easily as possible.

Tank Setup

Minimum Tank Size1 gallon tank
Optimal Tank SizeNerite Snails can be placed in tanks of just about any size.
Best Filter TypeAll
Testing Schedule First YearFor newly cycled tanks, check the pH, carbonate hardness, general hardness, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, and salinity on a weekly basis. 
Testing Schedule After 1 Year Drop back to bi-weekly or monthly depending on the needs of other aquatic species in the tank.

Optimal Tank Shape

Low and long tanks will suit this snail well, as will taller tanks. Regardless of the tank’s height and size, Nerite Snails will go up to the top every few days. If you do not have a tight-fitting lid on the tank, they will simply crawl out.

Since these snails are fairly small, they can also latch onto the underside of an aquarium lid and work their way out through small feeding holes. Therefore, along with a tight-fitting lid, you should use plastic canvas over any holes that the snail might escape through.

Extra Air and How to Provide It

For the most part, Nerite Snails do not require more air than is supplied by the filtration system. If you do need to add extra air for other species in the tank, use air stones and curtains set to a low or medium setting.

Creating the Landscape

Rocky substrate or gravelMinimal, or use rounded gravel that doesn’t have sharp edges. 
Sandy substratePreferred because the snail’s body can easily be scratched or damaged by sharp substrate.
Overhangs and cavesYes
Open waterSome. Nerite snails also need to be able to climb above the water level. Leave about 2 inches at the top of the tank so they can latch onto the sides during the evening hours. 
Densely plantedPatches that tend to accumulate algae
Best PlantsNerites will do fine with carpeting plants, as well as tall sturdy ones that they can climb around on in search of algae. Add some slow-growing plants to the tank, and they will take care of any algae that tries to accumulate on the leaves.
Best LightingAll
Best DecorationsNerite snails will enjoy any surface that they can crawl along in search of algae or something else to eat. They will also do fine with caves and overhangs to hide in.
Decorations to AvoidThe undersides of a snail are quite fragile. Avoid sharp, rough, edges that may cut into the snail’s body. For example, if you put driftwood into the tank, make sure it is sanded down so that there are no sharp surfaces or splinters that the snail might get snagged on.

Physiological Considerations

nerite snail on glass Atublhats
By Atulbhats – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Maximum SizeApproximately 1 inch
Rate of GrowthWill reach full size in about 1 year
Life Span1 to 2 years
Preferred Tank RegionBottom, but they will go to the top on a regular basis as part of their own unique sleep/wake cycle.
Shell ThicknessEven though Nerite Snails have a robust shell, it is not enough to protect them from being killed by some antibiotics. It is best to avoid treatments that would not be safe for invertebrates as well as fish that do not have scales, or have very thin scales.
Gill ConsiderationsNerite snails do have gills, however they don’t require especially fast moving water for good gill health.


Nerite Snails are mostly solitary, peaceful creatures. Unless they are mating, or the tank is too small for their population, it is not likely you will see these snails grouped together. 

  • Male to Female Ratio – Unless you are looking to breed snails, there is no specific male to female ratio. If you intend to raise snails, however, you will need at least one male and one female in the tank.
  • Schooling Behaviors – Nerite Snails usually do not group together. They hunt alone mostly travel on their own without seeking to coordinate with other Nerites in the tank.
  • Suitable Tankmates – Nerites will not attack or bother other creatures in the tank. They are safe with all creatures. This is one tankmate that will do especially well with bettas as well as other solitary fish that may poke at them from time to time, but will have no interest in eating them.
  • Species to Avoid – Avoid fish or other aquarium inhabitants that eat snails or tend to be overly aggressive.

Common Behaviors You May See in Aggressive Nerite Snails

Changes in Eye ColorNo
Circling with Fins SplayedSnails fighting may rear up facing each other, but that is about it.
Fins Splayed as Other Fish Approach or When Approaching Other FishNo
Intensified ColorsNo
Mouth to Mouth BitingNo
NippingPossible among themselves, but extremely rare

Anti-Bullying Solutions That Work Best With Nerite Snails

Add More Snails of the Same SpeciesNo
Add More Males or Females You can try adding females if no snails in the tank are laying eggs.
Increase Number of Hiding PlacesYes
Isolate the Bully Yes
Move Decorations to Shake Up Territorial BoundariesNo
Move to a Bigger TankYes
Water Chemistry or Temperature ChangesNo

Change Feeding Methods, Quantity, or Number of Feedings

Snails can get as “hangry” as any other creature, so if you do see signs of aggression, targeted feedings may be helpful, especially if the snails are being bullied or harassed by other creatures in the tank when they try to consume algae or other edibles in the tank. 

nerite snail in fish tank
 Bernat Arlandis on Flickr

Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations

Along with Brine Shrimp, Nerite Snails are one of the few creatures that I would say you can try breeding from animals available at the hobbyist level.That being said, there is no telling if you have mixed species or hybrids on your hands that won’t produce viable offspring in a home tank. 

Nerite Snails are also notoriously challenging to breed because some do require brackish water for the eggs to hatch, while others will do fine with freshwater. Therefore if you are committed to succeeding in breeding these snails, it may be worth your while to purchase certified breeding viable animals. 

How to Recognize Breeding Pairs

There really isn’t a way to recognize breeding pairs of Nerite Snails. Basically, all you will see is a bunch of eggs in the tank. If a male is present, then it is likely the eggs will be fertilized.

How Many Babies Do They Have?

Female snails may lay anywhere from 20 to 50 eggs.

Do They Need A Separate Hatchery?

Even though Nerite Snails will mate in a freshwater aquarium, the eggs aren’t likely to hatch unless they are in brackish or salt water. If you are interested in breeding Nerite Snails, you will need to know the amount of salt required to ensure the snails will produce viable offspring. From there, you can set up a nursery tank and then keep a few snails in there for breeding purposes.

Special Needs for the Fry

After the eggs are hatched, you can let baby snails grow to about ¼ inch, and then begin acclimating them to the salinity level in your community tank.

Managing the Babies

You will need to put the eggs in a brackish tank to hatch, or partition off the parents, since adults will consume the eggs after they are released by the female.

Nutritional Needs

zebra nerite snail in aquarium
By TheJammingYam at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

For the most part, Nerite Snails are herbivores. Unlike Mystery Snails, they don’t especially like rotting food or decaying leaves. No matter whether you feed them algae or vegetables, it is best to provide them with fresh food. If there are leftovers in the tank, remove it to avoid fouling the water.

Wild FoodsAlgae and diatoms
How ObtainedNerite Snails will move slowly along rocks and other surfaces and consume any algae they come across.
How to ReplicateUse algae wafers, or do not remove algae from the tank unless it is approaching overgrowth.
Best Sustenance FoodSinking algae wafers. Break the wafers up so that the snails have a better chance of finding them.
Additional Foods for Optimal HealthYou can feed them lettuce, zucchini, spinach, and other green, leafy vegetables.
Special Foods for Color and GrowthSpinach and other calcium-rich vegetables will help improve shell health and strength. You can, and also should add calcium supplements and other mineral supplements made for snails. 

When and How Often To Feed based on Place in Life Cycle

If the tank has enough algae, you can add vegetables every 2 – 3 days.

Otherwise, add small bits of algae sinking wafers once a day.

Adult snails and juvenile snails will find their food using the same methods, and will usually search for food all day long.

Finicky Snail Management Troubleshooting Checklist

Check (and get rid of) Ammonia and NitritesYes. 
Lower Nitrates to Level Suitable for (name)Nerite Snails do best water with Nitrites less than 20 ppm.
Test (and Adjust if Needed) Other Water Chemistry ParametersYes.
Check for IllnessYes. Pitting in the snail’s shell may point to a dietary problem, or a point where a disease-bearing organism may have gotten under the shell.
Look for Signs of Bullying Such as Missing Scales, Nipped Fins or other DamageYes, especially look for cracks in the snail’s shell.
Observe for Possible Environmental StressesVibrations in the tank
Try These Frozen/Thawed or Live FoodsFrozen diatoms or fresh algae

Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them

As with Mystery Snails, Nerites are most inclined to have diseases related to their shells. Most of these can be avoided by keeping the snails in hard, calcium/mineral-rich water. Here are the most common disorders:

  • Edema, or Body Swelling – this usually occurs with old age in snails. Basically, the soft body tissue swells up and makes the snail look swollen. There is no cure for this condition.
  • Uneven Shell Growth – this can occur when the water falls outside of the optimal temperature range. It can also occur when the snail is eating too much or too little. 
  • Parasites – you may seen signs of infection on the shell that include pitting, holes, and ulcers that extend into the soft flesh of the snail. These can be very difficult to treat. Only use antibiotics that are safe for snails.
How to avoid species specific diseasesKeep the water chemistry within optimal ranges for Nerite Snails, and pay careful attention to dietary intake. It is also important to keep these snails with other peaceful aquatic creatures that will not harm them.
Best antibioticsThis can be very difficult because snails are killed by most antibiotics on the market. You can try saltwater baths for parasites, and then dietary changes for shell disorders.
Treatments to avoidDo not use any treatment that isn’t specifically safe for snails.
Food recommendationsAs with other aquatic creatures, Nerite Snails do best with live foods. In this case, live diatoms and algae will work best. If you can find a medicated anti-parasite food that is safe for snails, that will also be useful.
Isolation or Hospital Tank?Not needed, although you may want to put snails with edema in a tank by themselves if you see other inhabitants of the tank picking on them.

3 Interesting Facts About Nerite Snails

  1.  In terms of evolution, Nerite Snails have remained unchanged for longer than many other organisms. This may include their ability to avoid dehydration and other problems when they move between brackish and freshwater settings. 
  2. Nerite Snails do not follow a 24 hour sleep/wake cycle. Theirs is closer to 45 hours, with approximately 15 hours of sleep at a time. 
  3. In their native habitats, juvenile Nerite Snails of some species may attach themselves to older snails in order to cross larger geographic distances.

As your aquarium ages, there will come a time when doing a lot of water changes no longer makes sense. At that point, you may have some challenges when it comes to controlling algae while keeping stable water chemistry.

Nerite Snails are the perfect solution because they have a tiny bioload, and will also consume as much algae as they can find in the tank. If you are ready to give your fish the best possible habitat, Nerite Snails should be a part of your plans.

Where to Buy Nerite Snails

While you can find Nerite Snails at most pet stores that sell aquatic pets, our preference is Amazon for convenience.

Here’s our top recommendation:

nerite snails

About The Author

1 thought on “How to Care for Nerite Snails: A Complete Fact Sheet, Breeding, Behavior, and Care Guide”

  1. Thank you for all the time and energy you spent in setting up this website to help all of us who are learning how to care for our aquatic pets!

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