You’ve probably heard of apple snails if you’ve dived at all into the home aquarium community. They’re recommended for tanks with excess algae, because they are prolific feeders of it. With special care, they also won’t overpopulate and infest your tank.
Are you sold on the idea of them yet? Why don’t I share with you a little more about these interesting gastropods?
What Are Apple Snails?
The name ‘apple snail’ is a catch-all name for a few different species of snail in a family called Ampullariidae. They are all in the genus of Pomacea, aquatic snails, common in the aquarium industry, and the family includes one of the largest freshwater-dwelling gastropods in the world.
As well as the fruity name, Pomacea snails are also sometimes called the following:
- Color mystery snails
- Golden mystery snails
- Mystery snails
- Inca snails
- Ivory snails
Both apple and mystery snails are in the Ampullariidae family, but they are different species. There are thought to be more than 150 different snails under the ‘apple’ name. A few of them include:
- Mystery snail – Pomacea bridgesii
- Spike-topped apple snail – Pomacea diffusa
- Channeled apple snail – Pomacea canaliculata
- Florida apple snail – Pomacea paludosa
- Island apple snail – Pomacea maculata
What Do Apple Snails Look Like?
Wild snails from this species can look rather different to ones sold for captive purposes. In the wild, apple snails can look rather like regular garden snails or some pond snails, brown in color with lighter or darker rings.
You’ll find these gastropods on sale in a range of beautiful colors, which is often why people want to add these to a tank. Colors can include white/ivory, silver, gold, jade green, brown, gray, black, brown, blue, purple, and more. Breeding is sometimes done for the purpose of getting specific, popular colorways. Rare colors usually mean a higher price tag.
The body can be a range of colors, too – grey, black, brown, dark green, and a blend of them all. The foot (body) also usually sports orange spots and rings,
How Big Do Apple Snails Get?
When you get young or new adult apple snails, they are usually only around 1 or 2 inches in length.
Some individuals will reach up to 5 inches in the wild, and up to 6 inches in captivity, where they usually live for longer. This is due to lack of natural predators, sustained perfect conditions, and a regular source of food.
As a side note, these gastropods tend to breed faster and live longer when they live in water that is at the higher end of the recommended temperature range.
How Long Do Apple Snails Live?
Some experts believe that this fruity little snail can live for up to ten years in absolutely ideal conditions. If you have your tank’s parameters set to perfect apple snail conditions, it is possible for your pet to live that long.
In the wild, these snails rarely make it to three years, and even fewer make it to five or beyond. They do seem to live for longer in warmer water temperatures, according to some research.
Where Are Apple Snails From?
The majority of all Pomacea apple snails species are native to areas in Africa and South America and nowhere else in the world. That is just in the world, however. In the aquarium industry, they can be found pretty much everywhere. They are a very common addition to any tank, and they are one of the main snails sold in many an aquarium store.
They tend to be found in bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, swamps, and ponds; and also around the edges, on land. The majority of their time is spent in the water, but they do like to come up to the surface and explore land from time to time, and only for short periods at a time.
Can You Have Apple Snails as Pets?
Yes, you can have apple snails as pets in your home aquarium, but you will need to make sure you’re meeting the necessary habitat requirements with regards to size, water temperature, and other parameters.
Apple Snail Care
Because of their mess and algae-eating activity, this snail is often incorporated into a tank to make up part of the clean-up crew. Apple snails are easy to take care of, relatively hardy, and they keep themselves to themselves.
You will need a completely secure tank for the apple snail. It likes to spend some of its time above water, so if it finds a way to escape during its above-water escapades, it will try to slip through. Even if you think it can’t fit, it still might, and it might also injure itself during the attempt.
Apple snails can live in relatively small tanks compared to other snails of the same size. The very minimum size is 5-gallons, but bigger is always better. The more space they have to grow, the more they will actually grow. (There are other factors, of course.)
These snails live in swamps, rivers, and ponds in the wild. Those places would naturally have rocky (perhaps) and muddy substrates. This can be hard work to take care of in a home tank setup, though, so sand is recommended. The snail will also be able to sift through and eat up any organic particles that float down there.
These guys aren’t all that picky when it comes to water conditions, but you will need to ensure certain water parameters are just right for this tropical freshwater snail. These include the following:
Temperature: 68 to 82 F (20 to 28 C)
pH level: 7.0 to 8.5
GH level: 8 to 18 dGH
Can an Apple Snail Live Without Water?
No, an apple snail cannot live without water. It can and will survive out of the water for brief periods of time. It has lungs, gills, and a siphon tube (snorkel-like tube) for breathing, so it has every possible way of breathing in its arsenal.
In fact, this species is known to do just that. Because of this, you will want to leave a little space at the top of the tank, and perhaps even add a platform or similar.
You cannot and must not keep apple snails in dry habitats.
Apple snails are pretty plant safe, so you won’t need to worry about them munching through your ornamental and sometimes expensive flora.
If you don’t provide enough food for your snails, they will start chomping on the plants – but that’s usually only because they don’t have anything else to eat. Keep them happy and fed and you won’t need to worry.
Your apple snail will clear your tank of algae, leftover fish food, and fish poop (detritus), but it’ll likely be the case that you’ll need to top-up the food levels with things like fish food pellets and flakes, algae wafers, and blanched green vegetables.
How Many Apple Snails Should I Have?
Ideally, you will only have one apple snail in your tank, unless you have a large setup. You will need at least two snails – one male and one female – if you want them to breed.
You won’t need to worry about the behavior of your apple snails in the tank because they are unlikely to cause you any problems. They are often confused with aggressive snails due to feeding on dead fish and other critters in the habitat.
Apple snails do not kill other snails or fish, however. They are a very peaceful and calm species.
A number of fish and other tankmates will eat or attack apple snails, so you must ensure there are no aggressive or snail-eating critters in there before you introduce them.
Incompatible tankmates for apple snails include:
- Assassin snails
- Puffer fish
- Betta fish
Compatible tankmates for apple snails include:
- Neon tetras
- Corydoras catfish
- Some minnows
Do Pomacea Hibernate?
In the wild, in really hot temperatures, apple snails enter a state of hibernation, known as estivation. This tool comes in handy when hot temperatures cause low water levels. They bury down into the mud substrate, using the snorkel-like siphon to still breathe above the surface. They also have a closing door to the shell, as such. This is called the operculum, and it’s used to ensure that moisture is locked in when the shell goes to summer-sleep.
It’s clever, right?
Apple Snails Breeding
These rabbits will breed like bunnies (as the old saying goes), which is good if you want them to. If you don’t, however, you should consider only having one snail, or making doubly sure you only have the same gender of snail (all males or all females).
One or two apple snails can easily become an infestation, so this is definitely something you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Are Apple Snails Hermaphrodites?
No, apple snails are gonochoristic, which means there are two genders: male and female. For breeding to take place, one male and one female must be in the tank. Some online and in-person stores will sell their gastropods by male/female, so if you know a reliable and reputable store, head there for specifics if you need specific genders.
Apple snail females lay their eggs above the water surface. This is for one main reason: to prevent the eggs from being eaten by other fish or freshwater life. This certainly makes life easier for you if you don’t want to breed them; it means you can remove them when you see them, and destroy them.
The eggs look pink in color. That’s the color of the sack they’re in. Some owners have reported it to be more orange than pink.
After approximately two weeks, the eggs will hatch into juvenile apple snails.
Are Apple Snail Eggs Toxic to Fish?
Yes, they are. If you have fish and apple snails together, it is important that you remove any pink (or orange-tinged) eggs in an egg sac that you see. This not only prevents an out-of-control population boom but also accidental poisoning of the other tank inhabitants.
Can Apple Snail Eggs Kill You?
If you ate enough of them, yes, apple snail eggs might kill you. Don’t eat them. (Obviously.)
If you are going to handle them, such as removing Pomacea eggs from the tank, always use gloves, and wash your hands and arms properly afterwards.
3 Fun Apple Snail Facts
1: The only animal believed to be able to eat the eggs of apple snails without succumbing to the toxic compounds is the tropical fire ant.
2: Golden apple snails were introduced into Taiwan to try and kick-start the edible snail industry, but it flatlined. The gastropods then escaped into the non-native country, established themselves, and ruined local ecosystems while simultaneously decimating rice fields and production.
3: Apple snails are edible, and there is even one species that only grows in Lake Catemaco in Mexico that is classed as a local delicacy. Apple snails generally are said to have a high protein content.
Are Apple Snails Invasive?
Yes, apple snails are invasive – and highly so. They have been banned from various countries for this reason, after both Spain and Japan faced serious problems with non-native populations making themselves at home.
Is the Apple Snail a Living Fossil?
No, but the slit-shell snail is. Mollusks from the Nautilus genus are, too.
Are Apple Snails Nocturnal?
They are more active at night than they are during the day, but it is not uncommon to see them outside of their hiding spots during daylight hours. They are thought to be a little more nocturnal in captivity than when they are out in the wild. Some tank apple snails are also complete the opposite, becoming more alert when tank lights are turned on. You may find this is different for each individual.
Are Apple Snails Illegal?
These freshwater snails were banned for a while in the U.K. and E.U. from 2011 to 2021, due to the problems caused by individuals that had made their way into the wild. This is usually down to the pet trade. Invasive species cause huge problems in non-native habitats, which is what caused the ban. Thankfully, as of 2021, they were available for release again – but only in the U.K., not in the rest of the European Union.