Nerite snails are excellent cleaner pets, and they will graze on the algae in your aquarium as they move around. The snails are part of the Neritidae family, which has more than 200 species.
Although most of the snails inhabit marine waters in the wild, they have adapted to freshwater in captivity.
There are different varieties of the nerite snail, each with its colors and patterns. Some common nerites include:
Zebra nerite snails
The zebra nerite ranks as the most prolific in the aquarium trade, and it displays black and yellow stripes across its shell that point to the middle of the coil. Some varieties show irregular and thick stripes, while others have thin stripes that resemble pinstripes. The shade of the stripes can also vary between individuals.
Tiger nerite snails
Tiger nerites have a vibrant orange color. Its stripes resemble those of the zebra snails, but they are more jagged. The shell of these snails is punctuated by dark brown areas that form patterns similar to tiger stripes.
Black racer nerite snails
Black racer nerite snails can be easily spotted because of their ebony shell that has black, gold, or dark grey regions.
Olive nerite snails
Olive nerites are named for their olive-green bodies, and most of them lack a pattern on their shells. This coloration allows the snails to blend in with the vegetation in their native habitats.
Horned Nerite snails
These snails have thick black and yellow stripes, but they are mostly known for the short thorn-like tentacles that protrude from their shells.
In the wild, most nerite snails live in coastal habitats. They prefer mangroves and estuaries and have been recorded along the coastlines of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Native populations of nerites inhabit coastal regions of East and Southern Africa. Its scientific name natalensis was influenced by South Africa’s province of Natal, currently known as KwaZulu-Natal.
Nerites migrate back and forth between brackish and salty waters to feed, reproduce, and grow. The snails are not fully submerged in the wild because of the changing coastal tides. They can breathe above the water surface for several hours, and they carry some water with them in their shells.
Nerite snails thrive among rocks and other surfaces that support algal growth. Some nerite species live in freshwater habitats like mountain and forest streams, while other marine nerites have adapted to freshwater setups.
In the aquarium, nerites will graze on the algae that has collected on different surfaces. They can only live on algae exclusively if your tank is heavily stocked with it. You can give the snails algae wafers to ensure they are getting their fill. Ensure there are no leftover wafers in your setup, however, since they will start rotting and result in the growth of Saprolegnia.
You can also give the snails vegetables like lettuce and spinach. Substitution with wafers and vegetables may not be necessary if your tank is overrun with algae.
Water & Tank Requirements
Nerite snails are quite small, and you can keep one individual in a five-gallon setup. You can add five more gallons for every other snail to ensure there is sufficient algae for all the inhabitants.
Nerite snails are relatively hardy and adaptable to different water conditions. They thrive in established and planted tanks with stable water parameters.
The ideal temperature and PH range for nerites is 72-78ºF and 8.1-8.4, respectively. The appropriate salinity levels fall between 1.020 to 1.028 sg. Nerite snails are sensitive to the presence of nitrites and ammonia, so your tank’s water should be free of these elements. The nitrate levels should be kept below 20mg/L.
The shells of nerite snails can wear out if the calcium levels are insufficient. You can add pieces of crushed coral, limestone, or wonder shells to buffer the water and boost the quantities of calcium.
Nerite snails thrive under moderate lighting. They sleep in 2-3 day cycles and have seven bursts of sleep for a 13-15 hour period.
The tentacles of nerites are particularly delicate, and you will need to use a fine-grained substrate. You can use a sandy substrate or a calcium one to boost the levels of the element. The substrate should form a two-inch layer at the maximum and should be cleaned to get rid of any contamination.
Nerites will not eat plants, and you can, therefore, include slow-growing varieties like the java fern. Use rocks, driftwood, and other decorations to create cave systems that the snails can hide in. Nerites love hidden regions where they can tuck themselves away.
Your aquarium should be fitted with a lid since nerites are known to climb their way out of tanks. The snails like to climb out of the water surface at night, and you can lower the water level by about an inch.
The number of nerite snails you can keep will depend on the size of your setup and the quantities of algae in it. Nerites are not social, and one individual will be content in a tank. Nerites may be small, but too many of them will make the bioload of an aquarium unmanageable.
Nerites are easygoing and peaceful and will be at home in most community tanks. Couple them with small and peaceful fish like tetras, guppies, and barbs. You can keep the snails with shrimp and other nerite species. Other tank mates to consider include Ramshorn snails, trumpet snails, and ivory snails.
While nerite snails will breed and lay eggs in aquariums, the small snails can only hatch in brackish waters. This process is easier in the wild because the nerites can move from salty or freshwater to brackish habitats.
If you intend to breed the snails, you will need a separate brackish tank whose gravity is between 1.005 to 1.010. Keep a group of them to raise the chances of having a male and female in the tank. The snail eggs hatch into free-swimming larvae, which can easily get sucked in the filter. Use a sponge filter to minimize the chances of the young nerites getting sucked in.
Nerite snails are appreciated for keeping algae levels down in any aquarium. Their peaceful nature is compatible with other non-aggressive aquatic species, although you should avoid keeping them with large cichlids.