Do Aquarium Snails Eat Algae? (How Snails Control Algae Growth?)

Image of an aquarium snail eating algae

Aquarium owners will have to deal with algae growth in their tanks at some time or the other. Small amounts of algae are normal. However, an overgrowth of algae will affect the quality of water and damage the look of the tank. You may have heard that many fish owners add snails to their tank to keep it clean. Wouldn’t it be a bonus if these animals could clean up algae as well? However, the question is, do aquarium snails eat algae?

Yes, most aquarium snails do eat algae. These snails can help to keep the algae growth under control in an aquarium. Out of the different types of aquarium snails, nerite snails are intense algae grazers. Other aquarium snails that eat algae are ramshorn snails, mystery snails, pond snails, etc.

Let’s talk about algae and algae-eating snails in more detail now.

What Causes Algae Overgrowth In Tanks?

Algae are tiny, aquatic, chlorophyll-containing organisms. They typically appear as a green, blue, or brown film on the glass, rocks, accessories, and substrate of an aquarium.

Algae need water, light, and nutrients to survive. However, when any of these three primary factors are available in excess, algae tend to flourish and get out of control. When algae bloom, they spread like weeds.

Excess algae growth will reduce the availability of dissolved oxygen in the water. It can adversely affect the health and well-being of the animals and living plants in the tank. If left unchecked, it can lead to illnesses and even kill the fish in your tank.

Common causes of algae overgrowth in home aquariums include the following:

  • Too much light: Direct sunlight promotes algae growth. So, if your tank is placed in sunlight for several hours a day, algal growth can get out of control. Artificial light also supports algae growth. Hence, any tank with access to bright light for more than eight hours a day can display excessive algae growth.
  • Increased phosphate levels in the water: When you feed your fish, the uneaten food will cause the phosphate and nitrate levels of the water to rise. It creates a favorable environment for the algae to grow and thrive. Hence, you should promptly remove any excess food from the tank to avoid algae overgrowth.
  • Water quality: The nitrate levels in a live tank builds up over time. Consequently, the chance of algae growth also increases. Regular water changes will reduce the extent of this problem. By preventing nitrates from accumulating in the tank, you can control algae growth.
  • Too many fish: When a fish tank is overcrowded, the bioload increases. It causes the water quality to deteriorate. The presence of excess nutrients in the water will also lead to algae proliferation.

Recommended Further Reading:

How To Control Algae Growth In Tanks?

Small amounts of algae do not adversely affect the water quality of an aquarium. However, the extent of the problem will depend on the type of algae. Some algae are more resilient and hence difficult to eradicate.

Green and brown algae are relatively easy to remove. Meanwhile, blue-green algae can spread rapidly and is difficult to eliminate. Red or beard algae is also difficult to control. Another type of algae that grows rapidly is hair algae. It is highly resilient and can quickly overtake a tank.

To get algae overgrowth under control, you should find out what is causing it. You can prevent algae overgrowth to a great extent by controlling the availability of light and nutrients in the tank. You can also keep the problem under check by eradicating any algae that you see as soon as it appears. Additionally, keep a check on the population of fish in your tank to prevent algal overgrowth.

Most aquarium owners use efficient filters and manual cleaning methods to rid their aquariums of algae.

You can also prevent algae outbreaks in an aquarium by introducing algae-eaters into the tank. Certain types of fish, shrimp, and snails eat algae. While some of them are picky about the type of algae they eat, others are less fussy in this regard.

Nonetheless, algae-eaters do a good job of tackling the problem and are an efficient choice to keep algae overgrowth under check.

Many aquarium owners prefer to use snails as algae-eaters since they do not need much care. Additionally, snails get along with most fish and do not disrupt the harmony of a tank. They also eat leftover food and decaying matter in the tank and improve its cleanliness.

Do Freshwater Snails Eat Hair Algae?

One of the worst and most persistent types of algae in freshwater aquariums is hair algae. It resembles stringy, matted hair and grows as nasty globs in an aquarium.

In large quantities, hair algae will cut out light from entering the water. It can also trap small fish in its stringy structures and kill them.

The main problem with hair algae is that most algae-eaters do not like it. Fortunately, nerite snails are an exception, and most varieties do not mind eating it.

You may like to look at non-horned nerite snail varieties for this purpose. They are more voracious eaters and tend to feed on all types of algae. So, they will help to keep your algae growth under check.

Related Further Reading:

How To Use Freshwater Snails To Control Algae?

Keeping snails is an easy and affordable way to solve your algae problem. Although they may not be able to entirely eliminate algae overgrowth, they will bring in some sense of control.

The following varieties are most effective in getting an algae problem under control.

1. Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are like bulldozers when it comes to clearing algae. These snails have a huge appetite for it.

They will even clean up the more resilient types of algae, like green spot algae and green beard algae.

They act quickly and clean up large areas in a short time.

2. Ramshorn Snails

Most snails that eat algae also like to feed on aquatic plants. However, ramshorn snails will eat algae but not harm any live plants in an aquarium.

They may not be as capable as nerite snails in cleaning up an aquarium. Nevertheless, they do a good job of trimming back algae and keeping it from overtaking a tank.

They will also clean the surfaces of the tank and the leaves of aquatic plants, thus improving the overall hygiene of the tank.

3. Mystery Snails

If you are looking for a snail that will make a beautiful addition to the tank for its size and usefulness, mystery snails are the best choice.

These snails will also eat most types of algae. However, they prefer to graze at the bottom of the tank.

Mystery snails do a good job of cleaning up algae on the substrate and along the walls and surfaces.

Do Freshwater Mystery Snails Eat Algae And Brown Algae?

Mystery snails will eat most types of algae, including brown algae. However, nerite snails are more efficient than mystery snails in consuming brown algae and keeping it under check.

Interesting Further Reading:

4. Pond Snails

The downside of using pond snails to clean algae is that they will also eat the live plants in the space. They will not spare floating or rooted aquatic plants.

So, you may end up losing your plant growth as well if you introduce pond snails into your aquarium to clear algae.

Do Pond Snails Eat Algae?

Pond snails will eat most types of algae in a freshwater pond. Nonetheless, they are not aggressive feeders.