If you’re on the hunt for an attractive snail that is active within an aquarium, is relatively easy to keep happy, and will eat the green stuff that you’d otherwise need to clean away from inside the tank. There’s not a lot you can’t like about this marine gastropod, and that’s why I’m excited to talk to you about pet conch snail care today.
Are Conch Snails Reef Safe?
Ναί, conch snails are reef safe… sort-of.
These snails won’t snack or attack your corals, but they are quite large, with a large and heavy shell, so damage can happen by accident.
There is one main species you are likely to encounter the most when going on the hunt for reef-safe conches. That is the fighting conch snail, also known by the scientific name Strombus alatus, which is nowhere near as feisty as the name makes it sound.
Tiger conch and spider conches are also sometimes seen in home aquarium setups but are harder to buy. Queen conches were sometimes added to aquariums, but they are on the verge of becoming a protected species, with populations declining in many waters of the US.
Larger conch species, such as goliath, spider, and queen conches require much larger aquariums and a lot more food than the smaller species. They’re quite difficult to keep happy and healthy in most home-sized setups.
Why Have Fighting Conch Shells in an Aquarium?
This snail is usually added to an aquarium for two main reasons:
- They make up an excellent and very efficient part of the clean-up crew.
- They look amazing and are incredibly interesting to look at*.
*Sometimes, but not always.
Conches are incredibly fast-working cleaner snails. If you have a very green sandy or gravel substrate, one of these snails will have things all cleaned up within just a few days. Once they’re done, they’ll even get started on cleaning the glass and other areas of the tank.
Those reasons are often enough to make people go hunting for conches to buy and add to their tank.
Conch Snail Care
Fighting conches are very easy to take care of provided you place them in a habitat that is well suited to them. The habitat should mimic their natural ones are closely as possible if you want to ensure they live a long, healthy, and happy life.
How Many Conch Snails Per Gallon?
You need to bear in mind that fighting conches can grow to 3 to 4 inches in length (7 cm to 10 cm), which is bigger than many other aquarium snail species. Other conches, such as spider conches, can grow considerably bigger. This is something you will need to factor in when working out how big a tank size you need, or how many snails you can fit in.
Ideally, you will want to take a bigger-is-better approach. Some experts believe a 20-gallon tank (90 liters) is enough for once conch, but other specialists argue that 50 to 60-gallons is best (225 to 270 liters).
Your conches will only grow to the size your tank allows. If you want a happy, large, thriving conch, opt for a bigger tank; otherwise, you might end up with a sad, depressed, not active conch.
Do Fighting Conch Snails Fight?
If you have two males together in a tank, they will probably fight over territory and potential partners. That is the only time the conch will ever become a ‘fighting conch,’ however. It actually doesn’t deserve the violent name, because it’s quite a calm and peaceful species at all other times.
Conch Snail Water Parameters
These snails naturally live in sub or full tropical salt water habitats, so you may need to install a heater into a tank if there isn’t already one in there.
Ideal water temperature for this species is: 75 to 84 F (24 to 29 C).
pH level: 8.1 to 8.4.
Calcium: 420 to 440 ppm.
You must ensure that there is zero trace of copper in the water, as this will be incredibly detrimental to the health of your conch and could even kill it. Levels for nitrates and nitrites, ammonia, phosphates should be as close to zero as you can get.
Substrate: Do Conch Snails Bury Themselves?
Yes, conch snails, including fighting conch snails, do bury themselves. They will spend many hours of their day sifting through the sandy substrate, looking for food, aerating it, and generally giving things a good clean.
You will need to ensure that your marine setup has a deep enough substrate layer to allow your large snail to burrow, sift, and hide from things that scare it. Sometimes, this can be up to six or eight inches with the fighting conch snail and will be considerably more for larger species.
Substrate should be sand, or sand mixed with small and soft-edged gravel pieces. This is exactly the type of habitat the conches would inhabit in the wild.
Conch Snail Diet
Fighting conches eat algae, other diatoms, fish poop, substrate bacteria, leftover fish food, and other decomposing organic matter in aquariums, but they feed at such a fast pace, it won’t be long until they’re finished with those things and will need something else – that YOU will need to provide.
Algae in your aquarium is not going to be enough food to keep conches going for very long, and it’ll last even less time if you have more than one of them. Natural tank food should be subsidized with the following:
- Fresh leafy greens and other vegetables (or dried)
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- Fish food
- Algae flakes or pellets
As with all gastropods in tanks or captivity, you will also need to ensure that your conch snails get all the calcium they need to have a strong shell. Something as simple as cuttlefish can help to boost calcium, but there are other ways of doing it, too.
Conch Snail Breeding Guide
If you want to breed these marine gastropods, there are a few things you should know…
It’s no big secret that these snails are difficult to breed in captivity. Males and females must come together for egg fertilization to take place. The species is not hermaphroditic, but it’s not overly difficult to determine the gender of an individual.
Females can hold on to male sperm for a while after the actual copulation process takes place, in some cases many weeks. During that time, she may breed with more than one male if they are available. This can and often does lead to the female laying eggs that are fathered by different individuals at the same time.
Fighting Conch Snail Eggs
Fighting conch females can lay up to 182,000 eggs in a single line or stream, and you’ll likely see the mass attached to plants, decorations, or the glass of the tank. It can reach just over 3 inches in length (8 cm).
Snails do not emerge from the eggs; larvae do. They stay in their larvae form for around 3 weeks (approximately 18 to 25 days), at which point they go through a process that is not too dissimilar form the metamorphosis of a butterfly, except a little conch snail emerges.
A huge number of the larvae will not make it to juvenile metamorphosis stage.
Conch Marine Snail Tankmates: Good and Bad
It is not a good idea to put conch snails in with shell-stealing marine life, such as hermit crabs. The latter will attack the former for the shell, and the wide opening gives the attacker enough room to get in, kill the inhabitant, and then make the shell its own.
Snail-eating and aggressive fish aren’t great tankmates, too… for obvious reasons.