Apple Snail vs Mystery Snail: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Aquatic Pet

Apple snail vs mystery snail

Many aquarium enthusiasts are fascinated by snails and often wonder about the differences between apple snails and mystery snails. Both of these snail types belong to the apple snail family, with the mystery snail being a species within that family. While they share certain similarities, there are key differences in their appearance, size, and color that set them apart.

Apple snails exhibit various color combinations, including gold yellow, brown, and green, and sometimes have a mix of these hues. Their appearance differs from mystery snails, which are usually dark-colored, ranging from black, brown, to blue. Additionally, apple snails can grow significantly larger than mystery snails; the latter rarely reach the same size as their apple snail counterparts.

When it comes to their feet, apple snails tend to have olive-green feet, while mystery snails possess either white or dark-slate colored feet. Understanding these distinctions is essential for those interested in keeping and maintaining these intriguing creatures in their aquatic habitats. Taking into account their individual needs and preferences can help ensure a thriving, healthy environment for both apple snails and mystery snails alike.

Physical Characteristics

Apple Snail Features

Apple snails are known for their unique appearance, with olive-green feet and light shades of brown, gold, pink, burgundy, purple or blue shells. They belong to the Ampullariidae family and can grow quite large, with some species reaching up to 6 inches in diameter. This makes them one of the largest freshwater snails in the world. Their size, combined with their distinct foot color and shell variations, sets apple snails apart from other snail species.

Mystery Snail Features

Mystery snails, on the other hand, have a white or dark-slate foot and darker-colored shells, typically in shades of browns, blacks, and blues. They are also members of the Ampullariidae family but are smaller in size compared to other apple snails. Mystery snails typically grow up to 1-1.5 inches in diameter, making them much more suitable for smaller aquariums.

These snails are popular among aquarium enthusiasts not only for their unique appearance but also for their ability to help control algae growth within the tank. They are generally herbivorous and prefer to feed on dead plants, biofilm, and algae. This diet preference also sets them apart from other snail species that may consume live plants.

Both apple snails and mystery snails share some similarities in their overall shape and structure, such as having a spiral shell and a muscular foot for locomotion. However, it is their distinct coloration, size, and diet preferences that serve as the primary differentiators between these two snail types.

Habitat and Distribution

Apple Snail Habitat

Apple snails are native to South America, specifically in countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. They are commonly found in slow-moving freshwater environments such as ponds, swamps, and wetlands. Their preferred habitat offers abundant vegetation, as they mostly feed on plants and decaying matter. Nonetheless, some apple snail species are omnivorous or carnivorous, consuming insects, worms, and even other snails.

These snails are tolerant to a range of water temperatures, ranging from 65°F to 82°F (18°C to 28°C). They also require a moderate level of hardness in the water, to support their shell health.

Mystery Snail Habitat

Mystery snails, being a species within the apple snail family, also originate from South America, including countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. They inhabit slow-moving freshwater environments like rivers and ponds, where they can find sufficient vegetation for their herbivorous diet.

These snails require clean and well-oxygenated water for their survival, with water temperatures ranging between 68°F to 84°F (20°C to 29°C). Similar to apple snails, mystery snails need a moderate level of water hardness to maintain their shells. Calcium supplements can be added to their diet to support shell health, in case their food lacks sufficient calcium.

Diet and Feeding

Apple Snail Diet

Apple snails are primarily known for their opportunistic eating habits. In the wild, they consume a variety of food sources, such as algae, leafy plants, and small invertebrates. They are known to scavenge on dead insects, frogs, and fish, which makes them a good choice for cleaning your aquarium. However, it is essential to understand that some apple snails can be invasive and might not be suitable for all aquariums. For example, large apple snails like maculata and canalicuta should be avoided in most tanks.

Mystery Snail Diet

Unlike their apple snail relatives, mystery snails are predominantly herbivorous creatures. They prefer consuming dead plants, biofilm, and algae in their natural habitat. In a home aquarium, mystery snails can be fed a variety of vegetables, such as:

  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

Before serving these vegetables to mystery snails, it is advisable to soften them in hot water to facilitate easier consumption. Additionally, mystery snails enjoy eating algae pellets as an alternative food source.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Apple Snail Reproduction

Apple snails reproduce sexually, with both males and females required for successful reproduction. They mate by the male extending a specific reproductive organ called a pallial tube to transfer sperm to the female. After fertilization, the female lays her eggs in a cluster, usually above the waterline on tank walls or plants. These eggs are often brightly colored, making them easy to spot in the aquarium environment.

The incubation period for apple snail eggs varies depending on the temperature and humidity, but typically takes about two to three weeks. Once hatched, the young snails drop into the water and begin their lives, feeding on algae and other organic matter.

Mystery Snail Reproduction

Like apple snails, mystery snails also reproduce sexually, requiring a male and female for breeding. Their mating process is similar to that of apple snails, with the male extending a pallial tube to transfer sperm. However, mystery snails have a unique trait known as “sequential hermaphroditism.” This means that they can change their sex during their lifetime, ensuring a higher chance of successful reproduction when a mating partner is available.

Mystery snails lay their eggs in small clusters above the waterline, often on tank walls or plants. The eggs are typically encased in a gel-like substance that provides protection and moisture. Incubation time for mystery snail eggs is usually between two to four weeks, depending on temperature and humidity.


The average lifespan of apple snails is around two or three years, while the average lifespan of mystery snails is around one year. The quality of care provided is a significant factor that influences the life expectancy of these aquatic snails.

Impact on the Environment

Apple Snail Impact

Apple snails can have a significant impact on the environment due to their high reproduction rate and voracious appetite. Their feeding habits can lead to the destruction of aquatic plants and can disrupt the balance in aquatic ecosystems. In some cases, apple snails have become invasive species, causing damage to crops and native species in their new habitats.

Mystery Snail Impact

Mystery snails, on the other hand, are comparatively safer for the environment. They are herbivorous and not aggressive, making them suitable for community tanks. Unlike apple snails, mystery snails do not pose significant threats to aquatic plants and ecosystems due to their feeding habits.

Both apple snails and mystery snails require calcium for their shells to develop and maintain their health. Providing sufficient calcium will prevent their shells from cracking and becoming thin. As a responsible pet owner, it is important to meet their calcium requirements to keep them healthy and reduce any potential negative impacts on the environment.

Aquarium Care

Apple Snail Care

Apple snails, known for their relatively larger size, require proper care to thrive in an aquarium. They typically come in gold yellow color with variations of brown and green shades. It is important to maintain clean water with a suitable filtration system to avoid potential health issues.

These snails are omnivorous or carnivorous, depending on the species. Providing a balanced diet, including fresh vegetables, fish food pellets, and protein sources, will ensure their health and well-being. In addition, Apple snails need a good supply of calcium to maintain a strong shell. Calcium supplements can be added to the tank if necessary.

Mystery Snail Care

Mystery snails have a rounded shell and come in various colors such as white, golden, red, blue, green, brown, black, or purple. They are herbivorous and relatively smaller compared to other Apple snails, usually growing up to 1 to 1.25 inches in size.

These snails need a higher amount of calcium than Apple snails to prevent shell cracks or thinning. Providing calcium-rich foods like cuttlebone, spinach, and kale can help ensure a healthy shell. Clean tank water and proper filtration are essential for their well-being as well.

Mystery snails are excellent tank cleaners that easily control their population numbers. If females lay eggs, they do so in clusters of bright pink eggs above the waterline. To keep their environment clean and healthy, it is crucial to monitor the water quality, maintain optimal water temperature, and provide appropriate lighting conditions.

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