Nassarius Snail – A Friend or A Foe

Nassarius Snail Infographic

You may know this useful snail by different names depending on where you are in the world. In the US, nassarius snails are referred to as nassa mud snails, but if you were to travel to the other side of the pond, to the UK, you’d need to call them dog whelks.

Nassarius Snail Infographic

What Are Nassarius Snails?

Nassarius sp snails are small-medium sea snails that can be found all around the world, with a huge range. The shell is quite beautiful and is often used for home decoration or in the creation of jewellery. That’s not the only use that the nassarius snail has, though.

Aquarium enthusiasts often call this marine gastropod “indispensable” because of its scavenger and foraging behaviour, which is quite something to watch.

Types of Nassarius Snails

There are several species of nassarius sp – more than 1,000. Although they are similar, they do have things that set them apart from one another. This includes habitat type, location, size, food preferences, coloration, shell design, and more.

There is a different type of the nassarius snail for all the parts of the world.

If you are considering adding the nassarius snail group to your marine habitat, you will likely purchase the scientific name Phrontis vibex.

How Big Do Nassarius Snails Get?

Different species of nassarius snail will grow to different sizes.

Nassarius acutus, found in the reef, coral and sand of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and some parts of the Atlantic Ocean, has a shell length of between 0.2 inches (6 cm) and 0.6 inches (1.5 cm).

Head to the Philippines and you might spot Nassarius samiae, which grows to a maximum length of 0.8 inches (2 cm).

Nassarius Snail in Aquarium

The Red Sea’s Nassarius dekkeri is only half the size of its Philippine-dwelling cousin, with a maximum length of 0.4 inches (1 cm).

Phrontis vibex, also known as bruised nassa snail, is the most common species/subspecies of nassarius snail used in tanks and aquariums. The elongated, twirled shell grows to between 0.4 inches (1 cm) and 0.8 inches (2 cm) in length.

And then there is the Super Tongan Nassarius snail, which is the biggest. Nassarius distortus can be up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in length, almost double the size of most other nassarius species. Now you can understand why they call them super!

How Long Does the Nassarius Snail Live?

Most nassarius snail species live for around two years, but it is not uncommon for them to live for longer than that, especially if tank conditions are right. This will include adequate food levels, correct nitrate levels, a deep sand bed substrate to burrow in, no predatory fish, correct copper levels, and more.

It sounds like a lot, but the scavenging nassarius snails are quite hardy and easy to keep alive. All aquarium habitats require work to achieve the right range of chemicals etc. in the water, and this snail requires no more care than everything else in the tank. The nassarius snail will probably be the easiest-to-take-care-of creature in the aquarium! (If they ever emerge from the deep sand bed.)

Are Nassarius sp Snails Good?

Yes! Nassarius snails are good, and not just because they look nice in amongst the reef.

Tank owners choose to add the nassarius snail because of what they eat: mess and fish waste that would need to be cleaned or filtered out of the water. The snails make up a vital part of the cleanup crew, keeping an aquarium free from uneaten food, fish waste, algae, diatoms, cyanobacteria, etc.

Are Nassarius Snails Reef Safe?

Yes, they are reef safe. They aren’t damaging or aggressive, and they clean up rather than destroy. These snails will be perfectly at home in a reef aquarium providing you give them with a deep sand bed substrate to forage for food in.

Are Nassarius Snails Poisonous?

No, nassarius snails are not poisonous.

They aren’t an edible species of snail, however. We don’t recommend eating them!

What Do Nassarius Snails Eat?

The feeding habits of the peaceful nassarius snail is what encourages many aquarium hobbyists to introduce them to their tanks, along with their beautiful shells, of course.

As well as feeding on green algae, red algae, diatoms, uneaten food, fish waste (detritus), dead marine life and decaying matter on the sand bed, these snails will also burrow down into substrate, aerating it and keeping it clean.

If there is enough detritus, etc. to sustain your nassarius snail’s appetite, you won’t need to feed it anything else.

If there isn’t enough detritus, however, you may need to supplement your snail’s natural aquarium diet with other items, like algae tablets. A well-established aquarium shouldn’t need extra, supplemental foods.

Nassarius Snail Aquarium Requirements

To keep your snails happy, your tank will need to have specific copper and nitrate levels, the right substrate, deep enough substrate to burrow in, plenty of algae and detritus to feed them, and lots of rock and reef.

The ideal substrate is sand, at least an inch or two deep. This allows your scavenger to burrow down and keep safe, while holding its siphon up in the air and seeing what’s happening near-by.

You should only have one or two of these snails per gallon of water because of their feeding habits (they are voracious eaters).

The pH level of the water should be 8.3 to 8.4.

You’ll need to watch out for temperature changes, which gastropods are super sensitive to. You should aim for a temperature of 72°F – 80°F.

Why Can’t I Find My Nassarius Snails?

Don’t worry; your nassarius sp snails probably haven’t somehow managed to escape the tank. It’s more likely the case that they have burrowed in the deep sand bed. they are quite small, after all. You might even spot the siphon poking through the sand.

They’d happily spend almost all their time down there, sifting through the sand substrate and looking for detritus, dead fish, and other waste matter to eat, like an almost invisible snail cleanup crew. The nassarius snail is one of the scavengers of the sea, after all.

If you’re worried about your gastropods’ behavior, add something meat-based to the tank, such as cut shrimp or fish. Keep watch and they’ll soon emerge from their little hiding spots in the sand, lured out by the smell of the meaty foods.

What Eats Nassarius Snails?

Aggressive fish can kill the small nassarius sp (and other snail species), and it’s not always for the purpose of eating.

Fish that have snails on their dietary list of foods, will eat your nassarius snails. This includes triggerfish as well as other predatory aquarium life.

The nassarius snail family is a peaceful one. It doesn’t have the appetite for confrontation, and it doesn’t really have that many tools to defend itself. It can burrow in the sand or hide in rock crevices, but that’s pretty much it.

Will Hermit Crabs Kill Nassarius sp Snails?

Yes, hermit crabs (scientific name for the family: Paguroidea) will kill nassarius snails – and they aren’t the only crab species to do it.

Crabs that ‘find’ shells and then move into them will quite literally attack your snail in order to get to what’s on its back when it’s dead. They may or may not look at them as food. For that reason, you would be ill advised to keep hermit crabs (and other crabs) and nassarius snails in the same tank.

Will Nassarius sp Snails Breed?

Even expert gastropod enthusiasts have trouble breeding the nassarius snail. It’s not so much the actual breeding process that’s difficult. Many people find that their snails breed and produce eggs without any problems. It’s at that point, things go wrong.

Those snail eggs are food to the other life in the aquarium. The tiny nassarius sp organisms that hatch also require a very specific diet, usually single-celled plankton, and those aren’t easy to incorporate into a simulated habitat.

You might get lucky, but there’s a high chance that any breeding attempts with the nassarius snail will fail.

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