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Small water snail

I have a 5 gallon aquarium with shrimp and mystery snails. About a month ago, I added duck weed and today there is a tiny snail in my tank. I have no idea what type of snail this is. My mystery snails have not laid eggs.
Please help identify.

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  • I am not sure, if this is the best site for this. I know, that biology.SE does animal/plant identifications. Oct 10, 2023 at 5:52
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    And it might help to have a shot from the top of the shell as well.
    – keshlam
    Oct 10, 2023 at 6:31

1 Answer 1

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TL;DR

It's probably a red ramshorn, and they're generally harmless but can become prolific under the right conditions. In a well-aerated tank the worst they'll do is require you to change your filter a little more often due to excretion, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Identification and Living with Ramshorns

It's extremely difficult to identify the snail from the single photo you took, especially without additional angles on the shell. However, the spiral shape and red coloring of the flesh make it likely that it's a red ramshorn snail similar to this one:


Red Ramshorn Snail

Image Credit: Catxx, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Ramshorn snails are rarely harmful to an aquarium or its plant or animal inhabitants. In large numbers they can gum up filters with their excretions, but that's true of most snails because snails excrete a lot. They can also throw off your nitrogen cycle or raise ammonia levels if there's a sudden mass die-off, and dead snails do leave shells lying around—that can balance kH but just looks messy. Mostly, though, they breed to the level of available uneaten food in the tank; if your tank is being overrun by them, then you're probably overfeeding the tank anyway.

Anecdotally, I have a 10 gallon heavily-planted aquarium that currently has no other inhabitants. In my personal opinion, 5 gallons is too small for even a single mystery snail, especially as they like to climb. In contrast, if you like snails the ramshorns need almost no maintenance except a little spirulina or chlorella added to the tank from time to time to stay healthy in water that has a reasonable amount of calcium. If you have a healthy mystery snail, which requires high pH and enough calcium carbonate to grow to full size, the ramshorns won't need anything additional. They're pretty hardy, don't care much about pH, and if you don't feel the need to cull them you can mostly just ignore them. They won't bother the mystery snail, but might occasionally hitch rides on it as everyone moves around the tank.

I happen to like ramshorns, but not everyone does. If you want to remove it, I'd do it sooner rather than later because they are hermaphroditic and can breed a lot faster than you think, especially if you overfeed your aquarium.

Otherwise, take it as a life lesson to properly isolate and treat new plants before adding them to your aquarium in future. Ramshorns aren't really a problem, but other hitchhikers can be such as scuds, hydra, or leeches. Some pests can be almost impossible to eliminate from a populated tank, especially with more sensitive inhabitants like nerite or mystery snails, but ramshorns are neither hard to manage nor harmful, so it's up to you whether or not to leave it alone.

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