Aquarium snails are not dangerous. However, some snail species affect the aquarium’s aquatic life by eating plants and clogging the filter intake tubes, which causes a burden on biological filtration. Other than this, wild freshwater snails can be deadly to humans as they cause Schistosomiasis.
There are no bad snails as such. However, a few snail species breed very fast and overrun an aquarium in a short time. Let’s dive deeper to understand how snails affect humans, plants, fish, and other creatures in the tank.
Can Aquarium Snails Be Dangerous To Fish And Plants?
Aquarium snails are preferred by many aquarists because of their algae-eating ability. This helps in keeping the tank clean.
Though snails look harmless, they grow in large numbers even before you realize it.
Snail infestation is the last thing you may want as it will affect the aquatic life in the aquarium.
Aquarium snails are indeed beneficial as they feed on the leftover fish food and accumulated detritus in the tank.
However, if snails are not kept in check, they may pose several problems to the plants and fish.
Let’s see how snails are dangerous to live plants and fish.
Why Are Aquarium Snails Dangerous To Live Plants?
Snails mainly thrive on algae. However, when there are not enough algae in the tank, snails will look out for other food options.
In such a scenario, snails like pond snails look upon plants as a food source.
Lack of food may encourage the snails to start eating aquarium plants.
Why Are Aquarium Snails Dangerous To Fish?
Aquarium snails do not pose a direct threat to the fish.
However, they cause severe damage to the tank conditions if their number increases.
This will affect the fish and other creatures in the aquarium.
Snail infestation becomes a nuisance if not controlled on time.
Snail species like Bladder snails and Malaysian Trumpet snails breed like crazy.
The more the number of snails, the more will be the waste created in the tank.
The waste will break down into ammonia and nitrates, thus contaminating the tank water.
This will adversely affect the fish as they will become prone to diseases.
Apart from defecating frequently and polluting the tank water, excessive snails will also lead to oxygen consumption.
Another problem that arises is that since most of the snails are small in size compared to fish, they jam the block inlets.
This results in the clogging of the filter intake tubes.
This is highly dangerous as the filter will not work efficiently and impact water quality.
Since snails bury themselves in the substrate and are mostly active at night, you may find it difficult to realize how severe the snail infestation has become.
It may sometimes go out of control before you take any steps to prevent the increase of snails in your tank.
To add to the problem, there are nuisance snails that are difficult to eradicate once they enter your aquarium.
One of the best ways to eliminate unwanted snails is to introduce a snail species that eats other snails.
Alright! It’s clear that too many snails are detrimental to your fish and live plants.
But are snails dangerous to humans as well? Let’s find out.
Are Aquarium Snails Dangerous To Humans? Why Are Freshwater Snails Deadly?
Aquarium snails are not dangerous to humans as such.
However, freshwater snails in the wild can be deadly to humans because they spread the Schistosomiasis disease.
Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by snails that leads to chronic ill-health.
People get infected when they come in contact with the freshwater infested with the larval forms of parasitic blood flukes, known as schistosomes.
Freshwater gets contaminated by schistosome eggs when infected people either urinate or defecate in the water.
These eggs hatch when there are appropriate species of snails present in the water.
The parasites then infect, develop, and multiply inside the snails.
The parasite leaves the snails and enters into the water, where it survives for a couple of days.
When people contact the contaminated water while swimming, washing, or bathing, it enters the human body by penetrating the skin.
Schistosomiasis’s common symptoms include enlarged liver, abdominal pain, blood in the urine or stool, and problems in passing the urine.
Chronic infection is fatal as it even leads to bladder cancer or an increased risk of liver fibrosis.
Millions of people worldwide suffer due to Schistosomiasis disease.
This infection is predominantly prevalent in poor tropical communities and subtropical areas where there is a lack of adequate sanitation.
Which Wild Snail Is Dangerous?
Many aquarists prefer to keep freshwater snails as a pet.
The same cannot be said about their wild marine counterparts as they are poisonous and can threaten human life.
As per the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, one such wild snail is Conus geographus.
It’s a type of cone snail. These snails are mainly found in the tropical and subtropical seas.
They hide under the sand in coral reefs with their siphon sticking out in anticipation of prey.
These cone snails are very poisonous, and small fish are their primary prey. They rely on their venom to catch the fish.
Once they approach the fish, the cone snails use their proboscis to engulf them.
The cone snails then pump several drops of venom on the fish, which paralyzes them.
They do this to immobilize the fish so that they can swallow the entire fish at once.
Now, these snails are not too dangerous to humans directly as they do not target us.
However, when a person picks up a cone snail, the snail may strike in self-defense.
Depending on where the person gets stung, there can be swelling, numbness, nausea, pain, or difficulty in breathing.
Okay! Now that we have discussed a lot about how snails are dangerous to humans and aquatic life, you might be wondering which aquarium snails are safe to keep as pets?
Which Aquarium Snails Are Safe To Keep?
Aquarium snails are beautiful creatures that not only add beauty to a fish tank but at the same time help to maintain it.
Freshwater aquarium snails are hardy creatures that thrive in the same water parameters as fish and are easy to maintain and care for.
There are many snails, and it’s nearly impossible to cover all of the species.
However, to make things simple, we will cover some of the popular snail species preferred by aquarists worldwide.
Given below are some aquarium snail species that are safe to keep:
- Nerite Snails: Nerite snails are widely popular amongst aquarists for their unique color patterns and ability to clean off the tank’s algae. If you have nerite snails in your tank, be rest assured that you will not need to scrape off the algae from the tank decoration or plants. Nerite snails will clear all the algae from aquarium glass, plants, decoration, and keep the substrate clean. Another advantage of keeping nerite snails is that they do not reproduce in freshwater. Hence, your tank will never get overpopulated with snails. Also, a nerite snail is very peaceful and safe to keep with any fish, shrimp, live plants, or other snails.
- Mystery Snails: Mystery snails are yet another snail species that are popular amongst aquarists. These little creatures stand out in any tank due to their colorful patterns. Mystery snails are known to keep the tank clean by eating any leftover food, dead fish, rotting plants, and even algae. Mystery snails, just like nerite snails, are incredibly peaceful and get along with most of the fish. Besides, they are easy to care for and do not prefer eating plants. Hence, they are not a threat to your live aquarium plants. The only problem with mystery snails is that they reproduce a lot in freshwater. However, if you do not want to overpopulate your tank, you can keep a single mystery snail or just dispose of their eggs.
- Black Devil Snails: As the name suggests, black devil snails are pretty much black. These snails are like rabbit snails; they grow long compared to other snail species. One advantage of black snails is that you will not face the infestation problem in your tank. These snails mainly breed in brackish water, and hence their eggs do not hatch in freshwater aquariums. The only problem is that black devil snails do eat live plants. If you have a planted aquarium, you need to be careful. These snails will not hesitate to eat the live plants if they do not find enough algae or other food to munch on.
- Ramshorn Snails: Ramshorn snails easily stand out in tanks due to their distinct horn-like shell. Like mystery snails, ramshorn snails also help to keep the tank clean by eating leftover food, debris, detritus, soft algae, and dead or decaying plant matter. Ramshorn snails are very active. You will often see them engaged in some activity like climbing on the plants or moving along the sides of the tank.
- Japanese Trapdoor Snails: Japanese Trapdoor snails come in various colors like golden, white, green, and dark brown. They make any tank look attractive. These snails are small in size and grow up to 2 inches. Despite their small size, these snails are voracious eaters and clean all the algae and detritus in the tank. They usually don’t eat live plants as long as they are well fed. If you do not want to breed these snails, the best way to prevent breeding is to keep a single snail.
How Many Snails Kill Humans In A Year? What Disease Can You Get From Snails?
Freshwater snails are deadly as they carry a parasitic disease called Schistosomiasis, resulting in many deaths worldwide.
The most affected continents are Asia, Africa, and South America.
Apart from this lethal disease, there are numerous snail-borne parasitic diseases that pose a threat to human health, like angiostrongyliasis, clonorchiasis, fascioliasis, fasciolopsiasis, opisthorchiasis, and paragonimiasis.
These diseases target many human body parts such as the liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, and brain.
This results in cancer, infertility, organ failure, and sometimes even death.
Since snail-borne diseases are fatal, several physical, biological, and chemical methods have been introduced to prevent the spread of these diseases from the host snail population.
Is It Ok To Touch Freshwater Snails?
Freshwater snails are mainly found in rivers and streams around the world.
However, these snails carry illnesses, which may infect humans when they come in contact.
So, you should never pick up a freshwater snail and put it in your aquarium.
This is dangerous not only to you but also to the fish in your aquarium.
Even when you purchase snails from a local pet store, you need to be extremely careful.
You should always wash your hands after you handle the snails.
You should be cautious to not touch your eyes or mouth after touching a snail.
This does not mean that you should not handle your snails at all. You can touch your pet freshwater snails.
The only thing to remember is to wash your hands properly before touching your face and maintain hygiene.