Turbo Snail – Care Guide and Amazing Facts

Turbo Snail infographic

Turbo snails are a common gastropod in aquariums, because of their love for eating large amounts of nuisance algae on aquarium glass and rocks. They are particularly fond of hair algae and consume mass quantities of it. Ideal for reef aquarium beginners, ‘turbans’ have a low care level, but they do require specific conditions.


Turbo snail, also known as turban, top shell and Mexican turbo snail, are a family (genus) of peaceful, aquatic snails. And no, they are not super-fast.

What Are Turbo Snails?

There are many species of turbo snail – 66, to be exact. There are also five subspecies. Non-experts are unlikely to tell most of them apart, so it is recommended to get snails from a reputable dealer.

The top shell types you are likely to buy and add to your reef aquarium are:

•   Turbo fluctuosa – also known as Mexican turbo snail.

•   Turbo torquatus

Not a real turbo snail
Not a real turbo snail

How Big Do Mexican Turbo Snails Get?

The Turbo family is large, with individuals growing to around 2 inches (5 cm), depending on species/subspecies.

Astraea snail, the scientific name for spiny turbo snail, can grow a little bigger: 6 cm (2.4 inches).

Are Turbo Snails Poisonous?

No, Mexican turbo snails are not poisonous. Nor are they venomous, toxic or irritating to touch.

They are not aggressive, either. They are docile and peaceful.

Mexican Turbo Snail

What Do Turbo Snails Eat?

Mexican turbo snails graze and eat large amounts of nuisance algae. They are particularly fond of hair algae, making them great for a home aquarium. Scouring holes in natural reefs and rocks in search of food, they consume mass quantities of different algae types, which brings down the price (and effort) of cleaning a little.

These snails are basically a low-price aquatic janitorial team!

How Long Does Mexican Turbo Snail Live?

Most turbo fluctuosa live between one to two years.

It is not unheard of for well-maintained aquariums to house older individuals – up to five years.

Will Turbo Fluctuosa Make Good Pets?

Mexican turbo snails make great additions to saltwater aquariums and reefs, but they do have specific needs, such as water calcium levels.

Turbo Snail on a Reef

How Do You Take Care of a Turbo Snail?

It is not difficult to ensure your turbo snail thrives. This gastropod is often recommended to beginner reef aquarium hobbyists because of its low care level.

If you ensure they are well fed, have the right water parameters, and aren’t surrounded by combative fish/invertebrates, your turbo snails will live a long and healthy life. They will return the favor by keeping your aquatic home clean and the aquarium glass free from large amounts of nuisance algae.

If your turban snail crew does not have ideal conditions, they will quickly become unwell and die.

Can Turbo Snails Live in Freshwater?

No, turbo snails cannot live in freshwater. They are a saltwater snail, often found in holes in natural reefs in the sea.

In the same way that a saltwater fish would die in freshwater, a turbo snail will die if placed in a freshwater environment.

Can Turbo Snails Live in Saltwater?

Yes, salt water between 70°F to 73°F is the ideal range.

Although there are many different types of this gastropod, originating from different places, the turbo snail thrives in tropical saltwater spots – eg. Caribbean and Mexico.

How Many Turbo Snails Should I Keep in a Tank?

Inexperienced home aquarium owners often add too many invertebrates to a tank, resulting in overcrowding, insufficient food supplies, and – eventually – dead snails. Just because this snail thrives in crevices doesn’t mean you can squeeze loads of them into a small glass tank.

You should only have one turbo snail per 10-15 gallons of water. The tank also needs ample hiding places – lots of crevices and holes in the coral and live rock, for example.

7 or 8 gallons is the minimum water amount for one turbo snail.

You should only add more gastropods (eg. two in 20-30 gallon tanks) if there is sufficient algae growth, large spaces to graze, and ample hiding places – live rock, corals, etc.

Do I Need to Feed Turbo Snails?

If there is enough hair algae in your aquarium to sustain your turbo snail population, you will not need to feed your snail pet anything else. They love algae and will consume as much of it as they can.

If the algae levels fall short, however, you will need to subsidize with something else; otherwise, your turban snails will die of starvation. They will be more susceptible to disease and illness.

Dried seaweed is a good algae substitute for this herbivore. You can also use pellet foods that are vegetable-based, lettuce, and also blanched spinach or seaweed. Leaves can be wedged or inserted into crevices and holes.

Why Do My Turbo Snails Keep Dying?

Although relatively easy to keep, the health of a Mexican turbo snail can go into active decline if the marine and rock habitat isn’t right.

Here are a few factors that could cause your snails to keep dying:

1: Overcrowding

When you have too much marine life in a home aquarium, the tank contents will compete at feeding time. The usually-peaceful Turbo herbivore can become stressed out, acting in unusual ways.

This snail thrives in crevices in the live rock and reef, too. It needs ample hiding places and large, safe grazing spaces, all in the same tank.

2: Insufficient Food Supply

A solo turbo snail will starve if it goes in search of food – algae – and cannot find it. .

These always-active marine grazers should be introduced to an aquarium that already has large spaces to graze plus active algae growth. Supplementing the diet with other foods, such as dried seaweed, will ensure that your reef aquarium has sufficient supplies.

3: Aggressive Tank Mates

Aggressive tank mates come in many forms when you’re a peaceful, slow-moving snail, lugging a shell around the reef and rocks in search of something to eat. Even herbivore species will fight if they have the same diet and feeding habits.

Grazing fish and turbo fluctuosa do not make a great combination because they compete over food sources. They are both fond of hair algae and consume mass quantities of it.

Large fish are a problem for the Mexican turbo and other turbo snail types. Triggerfish and other predator fish eat top shell snails.

4: High Nitrate Levels

The Mexican turbo snail (and other types), like all gastropods, have an intolerance for high levels of ammonia, nitrates and copper in their water habitats.

If you need to use copper-based medication in your aquarium, you will need to remove your gastropod crew first. Alternatively, you should use copper-free medication.

5: Temperature Changes

As well as being very sensitive to nitrate changes in the water, the turbo snail is also sensitive to other changes in water parameters, such as temperature. It is important to note that you will need to slowly acclimatize this gastropod using drip acclimatization.

6: Low Calcium Levels

Gastropods like the Mexican turbo snail require specific water calcium levels. This is to sustain their shells and keep them healthy.

If there is not enough calcium, they will not be able to absorb and extract it. This leads to soft shells and sick top shell snails.

The recommended level of calcium in the water is between 350ppm and 450ppm.

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