Mystery Snails: As Mysterious as They Sound?

Orange Mystery Snail

A snail that possesses both lungs, gills, and a breathing siphon, mystery snails really are a bit of a mystery, but that’s not the only interesting thing about this freshwater species. If you need an efficient algae eater in your home aquarium setup, you should come along with me to solve the mystery of this snail.

What Are Mystery Snails? Are They Really a Mystery?

No, mystery snails aren’t a mystery, but I can tell you a very funny story about them. Are you ready?

I genuinely once thought that ‘mystery snails’ was a term used for snails that ended up in tanks, by way of hitchhiking on plants and other things, which were unknown. I’ve since been educated, thankfully, and now I can educate you!

Mystery snails are a real freshwater species, and they are known by a couple of other names. These include spike-topped apple snails, common apple snails, and the scientific name Pomacea bridgesii.

Mystery Snails Infographic

What Do Mystery Snails Look Like?

These shells are classically round, very much like garden snails. They can come in a wide range of colors, some of which are rather bright, which is just one of many reasons why people the world over choose to add these to their tanks.

Shells usually have up to four whorls (complete swirls), and look very much like a few other snail species, making the species somewhat difficult to identify at first glance.

The shells of these snails can be a range of different colors, with often darker stripes or bands, including:

  • White
  • Yellow/gold
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Black/grey
  • Brown

The bodies (also known as the foot) of the snail can be anywhere from very pale and almost white to dark brown and black.

It is worth mentioning that mystery snails and nerite snails are different types of snails.

How Big Do Mystery Snails Get?

Mystery snails are rounded in shape, like a garden snail, rather than elongated and cone-like, like the aptly named cone snail.

The mystery snail usually grows to a maximum diameter of around 2 inches (5 cm), but this does depend heavily on the habitat and conditions. In less-than-ideal conditions, they tend to grow to around half the size. This includes poor water quality, incorrect parameters, incorrect tank size, and more.

Purple Mystery Snail

How Long Do Spike-Topped Apple Snails Live?

These snails tend to live longer when kept in predator-free, controlled parameter habitats, such as home freshwater aquariums and tanks. In the wild, they usually only live for about a year, because they are food for several predators.

In captivity, in absolutely perfect conditions, mystery snails can live for up to two years, but it is rare.

Where Are Mystery Snails From?

Although these gastropods can now be found in Florida, some places in southeast Asia, and Hawaii, they’re not native to there. In fact, they’re originally from:

  • Peru
  • Brazil
  • Bolivia
  • Paraguay

They are thought to have spread their way around by way of the pet industry. This snail is a well-known and much-loved member of the aquarium snail community.

Can You Have Mystery Snails as Pets?

Yes, you can have mystery snails as pets, providing you are willing to offer up a warm, tropical-like freshwater habitat for them to live in. The peaceful species gets on well with many other freshwater aquarium tankmates, and they’re very easy to take care of.


This species needs at least a 5-gallon (22 liters) tank for one snail. If you want to add more than one mystery snail, you will need to allow another 5-gallons (22 liters) for each one.

An example: If you want three mystery snails in your tank, you’ll need a tank size of at least 15-gallons (70 liters). The bigger the better.

Your tank or aquarium must be secure. These snails have the most amazing escape skills, and they will escape if you let them.


These mysterious gastropods aren’t really all that fussy when it comes to substrate. They’ll clean it regardless of what it is, sifting through it and consuming any edible organic particles it finds along the way.

Being a freshwater species, rocks, pebbles, gravel, and similar substrates are a good place to start. Think about the things you would normally find on the bottom of freshwater bodies of water.

It is ideal to add some sort of surface structures, such as rocks. The surfaces will start to become covered in algae, which the mystery snails will then eat in abundance.


These snails will nibble on your plants occasionally, and more frequently when there isn’t enough food. It’s for the best if you don’t add plants that are costly to replace, or that you’d rather keep uneaten.

Water Parameters

Having the right water parameters is vital to keep all fresh and seawater snail species happy and healthy. For mystery snails, this is what you need to know:

Temperature: 68F to 84 F (20 to 29 C)

Hardness: 12 to 18 kH

pH: 7.6 to 8.4

What Do Mystery Snails Eat?

In the wild, these snails would naturally eat vegetation in and around the bodies of water they inhabit, plus microalgae that can be found on rocks and other things. This is what you’d need to feed your pet mystery snail.

They will happily clean your tank of all microalgae and other microscopic organisms, which saves you the job of doing it. You will more than likely need to feel them other items, however. This includes leafy, green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and seaweed (including flakes).

It is vital that you add a source of calcium for your snails, too. If they become calcium deficient, their shells will become brittle and weak, and then damaged. Some minor damage can be repaired by the snail, but major damage cannot. Major damage to a shell will lead to death of the snail.

When to Feed Mystery Snails

You should feed mystery snails ‘human food’ only when there isn’t enough algae in the tank to sustain them. Adding too much food to a tank for the inhabitants to eat will lead to spikes in chemical levels in the tank, which can then kill or harm the inhabitants.

Mystery Snail Breeding Guide

The biggest problem people face when trying to breed mystery snails is trying to keep the juveniles alive. Ideally, these snails will be moved to a fish-free aquarium or tank when it’s breeding time; otherwise, the fish in the tank might eat the young snails.

Can Mystery Snails Reproduce Asexually?

No, these snails are not asexual or hermaphroditic. They are classed as ‘gonochoristic’, which makes them the same as cats, dogs, and other animals. There must be two sexes – male and female – for them to breed, and they are that sex for their whole lifetimes, with no chance to switch.

When Do Mystery Snails Start Breeding?

Most mystery snails reach the age at which they can reproduce at a few months old, but it does largely depend on the habitat and other situations. Most Pomacea bridgesii reach reproductive maturity once they reach around 1.5 to 2-inches in size (3.8 to 5 cm), which is around the same size as a squash or table tennis ball.

What Do Mystery Snail Eggs Look Like?

Although some snails don’t like to live by the ‘rules’, most mystery snails head to the top of the tank to lay eggs. More often than not, it will be close to or above the waterline.

The eggs won’t be individual eggs. Instead, they’ll be a clump of them. A very lumpy clump. They usually take two or three weeks to hatch little juveniles.

3 Fun Facts About Mystery Snails

1: If a mystery snail’s eyestalk gets amputated, it can grow a new eye right back!

2: The breathing aspect – a siphon plus lungs and gills – is very unique and not seen in other gastropod species.

3: These peaceful snails get on with most tankmates. Just be sure to avoid aggressive fish and snail eaters. The following should be avoided: cichlids, oscars, gouramis, striped convicts, goldfish, loaches, catfish, Bala sharks, puffer fish (green spotted, specifically), betta fish (sometimes good, sometimes bad), and most definitely the aggressive assassin snail.


Are Mystery Snails Hermaphrodites?

No, they are not. There are two genders, male and female. Both must be present for copulation and successful breeding to occur.

Are Mystery Snails Nocturnal?

It isn’t uncommon to see mystery snails out and about in the tank during the day, but they are most active at night. It is normal for them to hang out on the surface of the water overnight.

You May Also Like