Margarita Snails: The Moody Teenager of Snails

Margarita Snail Infographic

Margarita snails are unique creatures with boast a disc-shaped shell with intricate spiral patterns. Those features are sure to catch the eye. But they’re not just a pretty face – these snails play an important role in maintaining the balance of a saltwater aquarium by feasting on algae growth. With a easy-to-care-for nature, margarita snails make an excellent addition to any tank. But their story doesn’t end there – they are known to have a fascinating behavior and diet that makes them not only beneficial but also intriguing creatures to keep and observe. Keep reading to discover more about these fascinating snails and why they should be on your must-have list for your next aquarium setup.

What Are Margarita Snails?

Margarita snails and margarite snails are the same thing; they’re just two different names commonly used for the same species – and they all come from the Margaritidae family, also known as turban snails.

If you’re hunting for margarites to add to your aquarium at home, the ones you are likely to buy are known as little or puppet margarites (scientific name: Margarites pupillus).

Other species include:

  • Giant imperial margarite – Lischkeia imperialis
  • Vortex margarite – Margarites vorticiferus
  • Vahl margarite – Margarites vahlii
  • Salmon margarite – Margarites salmoneus
  • and many more

What Do Margarita Snails Look Like?

The ‘turban snail’ family name gives the game away a little bit here. Margarita snails, from the turban family, look a little bit like little turbans, with a conical, whirled shell.

Margarites pupillus is usually white, black, grey, or a combination of them all in color. They often arrive covered in a type of pink-tinted algae. They can also be orange-tinged, brown, or pearl colored.

How Big Does Margarita Pupillus Get?

Little margarite snails are a little gastropod species. They grow to a maximum size of 1 inch in length, with the average being about 0.8 inches (2 cm).

How Long Do They Live?

The margarita snail lifespan is 1 to 1.5 years in captivity. In the wild, this peaceful gastropod is believed to live for up to 4 years.

Where Do Margarite Snails Live?

You’ll find Margarita pupillus in saltwater environments, in depths of up to 100 meters, from tidal areas of Southern California all the way over to the Bering Sea, which borders Russia and Alaska.

The largest populations of this gastropod live in areas where kelp grows rife. This is their main source of protection from predators, such as crabs.

In areas where the aquatic plant does not grow, the numbers of these snails decrease dramatically. Areas of high kelp growth could see as many as 350 to 450 snails, but only a handful of the species inhabits low-kelp spots.

Can Margarita Snails Live in Freshwater?

No, they can’t. Margarita snails are saltwater types, also known as marine snails. This species is difficult enough to keep alive even with perfect conditions, so you definitely do not want to introduce it to a freshwater tank.

What Do Margarita Snails Eat?

This gastropod is classed as a “generalized grazer,” which means it eats a wide variety of foods. It will essentially consume whatever it comes across providing it is edible.

Although margarites live amongst kelp, they are not believed to eat the aquatic plant. When studied, the stomachs of these snails had several things inside, including:

  • Silt and sand (probably accidentally ingested)
  • Fish poop (detritus)
  • Green, red, and brown algae
  • Diatoms
  • Sponge spicules

Are Margarita Snails Reef Safe?

Yes, margarita snails (or margarites) are reef safe! They like rocks, reef, and other things to slither across and inspect. They’ll consume algae on them and clean them right up!

Do Margarita Snails Make Good Pets?

There are both pros and cons for incorporating this gastropod into your home aquarium. They might not be too difficult to take care of. 

Like other gastropods, margarites is incredibly sensitive to changes in their habitat, especially when they venture out of the ‘comfortable zone’. Despite being found in tropical spots, margarites prefer slightly cooler temperatures than you’d expect: 59 to 68 F (15 to 20 C).

The pH level of the aquarium’s water should between 8.0 and 8.4.

You must use the slow drip acclimatisation technique when first introducing your new gastropod(s) to their new home. This is especially the case for margarites.

Some States in the US have restrictions on margarita snails, including California, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

Why is My Margarita Snail Not Moving?

Margarites are nocturnal, so it wouldn’t be all that unusual for them to sleep/not move much during the day and come alive at night. When awake, they do tend to move around a lot more than they stay still and are most active when the sun goes down.

They are very much like a moody teenager, though. It’s best to just leave them alone.

It could be the case that your snail has been spooked by something it believes is a potential predator. When under attack or feeling threatened, this sea snail will curl up inside the shell and lock the door, also known as the operculum. They prefer to live a solitary life, too.

Margarita snails can also move much faster than most snails when it counts. If curling up into the shell doesn’t work, this armored marine creature will literally run away at speeds of up to 4 inches per minute. That’s not very fast at all, but in snail terms it’s almost warp speed.

Do Margarite Snails Burrow?

No, they don’t burrow. They’re very active and always on-the-go during active hours.

Because they aren’t a burrowing animal, it is wise to add them to a tank that has more of a larger-bit or solid bottom, such as smooth rocks, pebbles, or gravel.

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