Vermetid snails are a very unwelcome guest in many home tanks and aquariums. The natural hitchhiker is small enough at first to get away with sneaking in, but after making themselves comfortable, they sure can cause some damage!
If you think you might have vermetid snails in your tank, here’s everything you need to know about getting rid of them and preventing them in the future.
Why Are Vermetid Snails Bad?
If you asked ten different aquarium enthusiasts why they didn’t like the family of vermetid snails, they’d probably give you ten completely different reasons. It could be said that there are quite a few.
1: Vermetid snails latch on to items in the tank before growing their calcified tube shells. Because of this, they can damage those items.
2: They also send out a mucus-made fishing net, to catch food and sperm, which irritates the coral. Over time, this distress can be fatal. Repeatedly replacing coral can be expensive.
3: The mucus fishing net can completely cover the coral, essentially suffocating and starving it.
4: They’ll compete with tankmates (that you actually want to stick around) for food and other resources.
5: They look very unsightly and destroy the aesthetics of the aquarium.
6: They can grow rather large, up to four or five inches in some cases, which takes up space.
7: The sometimes-rough edges of the tube-shell can cause injury or damage to tankmates.
8: They grow quickly and reproduce fast, soon leading to an uncontrollably infestation.
As you can see, the list is long!
How to Get Rid of Vermetid Snails (Worm Snails)
There’s good news and bad news here. The good news is, you have plenty of options when it comes to getting rid of those pesky pests. On the downside, none of the solutions are particularly easy, some of them are dangerous to you and your tank’s inhabitants, and all of them require a fair bit of dedication and patience.
Method 1: Rocks + Hydrochloric Acid
For the most part, vermetids will latch on to surfaces that aren’t flat and uneven. The glass of the tank is out, and coral plus other decorations or items are in. This makes life a little easier for you because you can remove (some of) the items, with the snails still attached, and then deal with the problem.
Once removed, rocks can be placed into a hydrochloric acid solution of around 10-20%. It’ll kill the snails and dissolved the calcified tubes.
You will need to ensure that the rocks are properly rinsed and cleared of acid before placing back in the tank.
This approach is dangerous to both you and your tank’s inhabitants and is best used as a last resort.
Method 2: Remove, Destroy, Replace
If you aren’t too attached to the decorations and rocks that the vermetids have latched on to, you could always destroy them, killing the snails in the process, and then replace them with worm snail-free decorations instead.
Just make sure you properly prep and quarantine the new items before placing into the tank to avoid the possibility of another infestation.
Method 3: Superglue (For Vermetid Snails on Coral)
This is another approach that isn’t advised unless other approaches have failed, mostly because you’re going to be putting superglue in the tank. Even in small amounts, it can still have some impact on the water.
And that’s not all…
The idea is that you use the superglue to trap the worm snail in its calcified tube. Once trapped inside, it can’t feed, so it will slowly starve to death. That doesn’t solve the entire problem, however. You will still need to find a way to get the calcified tubes out of the tank along with their dead inhabitants.
If you leave dead vermetids or any other animal in the tank, it will affect the water parameters and cause other problems, such as an increase in algae growth.
Method 4: Choose Violence
Okay, so I might’ve been a bit overenthusiastic with the heading, but sometimes you might need to use sheer brute force to get rid of the worm snail problem.
If possible, take the latched-on item from the tank, then use something like a screwdriver, ice pick, a coral cutter, a bone cutter, or similar to literally whack the tube off. You could also use a blade or scalpel. Sometimes, you might need to use a combination of all of them.
If you use the superglue method beforehand, you won’t need to deal with the live snail at the same time. They usually sit in the base of the tube, so knocking it off violently is likely to cause some harm.
Corals can be removed from the water for some time, so there’s no need to rush. The important thing here is to do the job properly. The entire tube must be removed, with the worm snail inside, right from the base. Bashing off the top won’t do you or your tank any good at all; the critter will be hiding right at the base of the tube.
Method 5: Add a Predator
There aren’t many animals that prey on vermetid snails, mostly because they’re quite to get to. When they wait right at the base of the calcified tube, predators may not have a way to access them, or even know they’re there.
There are a couple of crab species that are reported to eat worm snails, such as the emerald crab. You might have luck with snail-eating bumblebee snails, but the vermetid won’t be the first thing on the menu.
Method 6: Stop Feeding Them
If possible, spot-feed the coral in your tank and don’t add any more food. The worm snails will only flourish if they have enough food to do so. If you stop adding food, they won’t have anything to eat and then will starve to death.
You will still need to remove them if you kill them in this manner.
How to Prevent and Control Vermetid Snails
You can prevent vermetid snails from ever entering your home by properly prepping all items you plan to insert into the tank or aquarium. This process looks different for different tank owners, but usually consists of a thorough cleaning plus a quarantine period.
Cleaning and Dipping
Before you start any kind of cleaning escapade, especially with some of the products mentioned here, make sure you are going through the process in a safe and healthy manner. Well-ventilated rooms, gloves, and proper disposal of cleaning products (in the water) are vital.
Coral cleaners can be used to do just as the name suggests, and you can use similar aquarium-safe cleaning products to clean decorative items, rocks, and more. Some tank owners suggest using an insect killer and letting the items soak for 15/20 minutes, and even go as far as saying you should do it twice… just to be on the safe side.
All throughout the process, you should also use your eyes. Can you see anything that shouldn’t be there? Look under different lights, shine a torch through the coral to highlight problematic spots, and really be diligent about it. It just takes one missed egg or teeny-tiny vermetid to start an infestation.
Brush off Bits
A wire brush can be used to lightly go over the shell of a snail to ensure that no bugs or other hitchhikers get a free pass into a new luxury home.
On more delicate items, use a soft toothbrush, such as a baby toothbrush.
All rocks, decorative items, corals, etc., should go through a quarantine process before they are added to the tank. This process means that potential parasites are starved out (you can spot-feed coral) or spotted.
Ideally, this quarantine process should last for at least 30 days.
By taking the time to clean and quarantine every new item or tankmate, going through the process properly and thoroughly, you massively reduce the risks of experiencing an infestation of something unpleasant. It also ensures that diseases are killed off (or the hosts are) before they have a chance to enter the water and exterminate everything.