Betta fish {Betta splendens} are solitary creatures, and indeed the species is nicknamed the siamese fighting fish for a reason; males don’t get along with one another in close proximity.  They are native to the mekong basin in south-east Asia, hardly the small Betta aquarium bowl that we keep them in. But what is their natural habitat like? Obviously, one would assume there are snails there but can Betta fish live with snails in harmony in captivity? Our marine biologist has worked with Betta’s in their native environment and in the aquarium, and we address whether Betta’s and snails are suitable in such close proximity.

Can Betta Fish live with Snails?

can betta fish live with snails

A good, healthy siamese fighting fish tank needs suitable room, ideally a specific Betta Fish Tank and then suitable plants for their space. Can snails live with betta fish? The short answer is yes, but in reality there are some snails that aren’t suitable. The longer answer is that sometimes it’ll actually be the fish harassing the snail and it depends on many variable factors. Saying that, aquatic snails are durable, it’s in their DNA to be thrown around by currents and streams, and they are fairly safe in their shell. Remember it’s only smart snail eaters like the roach clownfish that is clever enough to attack them. We’ll need to look at several species of snail that can live with betta fish, most of these are freshwater snails {Lymnaea stagnalis} like the Zebra Nerite or the Mystery Snail.

It is true, not all species of aquarium snails can live in peace with siamese fighting fish, but that doesn’t mean we should concede defeat, with a little research we can find a snail safe for various species and gender of Betta fish. A lot of these snails are common waste lovers, feeding off algae, foliage and tank waste alone. Some rarer snails are carnivorous by nature and will need supplementary aquarium snail food. In this article we’ll list exactly what you’ll need for for a successful transfer of snails in a Betta fish tank.

Use the contents below to skip to the area you need advice with concerning Betta Fish and snail compatibility:

Do Betta fish get along with snails?

Most betta fish and freshwater snails in the list below are peace loving creatures, there’s a lot humans could learn from them. Can you keep betta fish with snails: yes absolutely. Things to keep an eye out for are male bettas, they have a much more varied temperament than females, and some of them just simply won’t be happy to share their space. The most normal scenario is the male “bumping into” the snail – this is more of a chest puffing routine and the snail is unlikely to notice nor even flinch its antennae. Female bettas on the other hand are unlikely to care at all. The worst case scenario begs the question below.

Will Betta Fish bite snails?

It’s an important and serious question, which is why we’ve included it. We’ve not seen a Betta ever ‘bite off” a snail antennae, but the worst case is that this happens and you simply separate the snail and fish. The snail will recover and some snails like the mystery snail will regenerate an eye in around 3 weeks [see scientific study]. If a snail, for whatever reason, does not regenerate its eyes, don’t panic, snails work off different feedback loops than you and I, and they’ll continue to eat and thrive.

What snails are suitable for Bettas?

snails and betta fish compatibility

Here’s our top two choices for Betta fish/snail compatibility. Remember, with these two you absolutely can’t go wrong, but we list more secondary choices further down.

Top choice: Nerite Snail {Neritina natalensis}

nerite snail with betta

Nerite snails are both beautiful and compatible with Betta’s

Also known as the spotted Nerite, tiger snail or zebra snail, these are foliage eaters, and are extremely hardy fish. The Nerite is a species of small freshwater snail that grows to just over an inch in diameter as an adult, making the Nerite snail with betta fish a perfect space companion.

As prolific algae eaters, the zebra snail needs adequate food source. If you put these snails into a brand new tank or bowl, they aren’t going to last long. Although there is little scientific data on pain in Gastropods (snails) in general, it’s not nice to think that you’re just starving a creature to death. As a marine biologist, I highly recommend you introduce Nerites into tanks or bowls that are established and have never had all the water replaced at once. If not, you can always buy algae wafers.

Saying that, Tiger Snails are hardy creatures. The vast majority of the species live in brackish seawater, which is where they reproduce. A few species live upriver and in streams, and some live in both. The hybrid species originate from Eastern Africa, where they would get a mixture of salty and fresh water. It might seem strange to keep snails with betta fish that aren’t from the same part of the world, but they get along just fine.

Tiger snails are known for sliding up out of the water, they like to be out of the water sometimes, so leave room at the top of the water for them to climb out. This means any tank with Nerite snails in them is required to have a lid and be careful when taking the lid off, I’ve had Nerites hiding in the darker corners of the lid and falling out when you remove it!

Another great benefit of keeping Tiger snails with Betta fish is the ability to keep the population under control. Given their natural habitat, they only breed in brackish water. Snails will only lay eggs once they are happy with the environment, we have not seen Tiger snails lay eggs in freshwater. If you do want to breed tiger snails, check out our article on that.

In conclusion Nerite’s are a popular choice when it comes to betta fish with snails compatibility. They are hard workers, diligent algae consumers, and can thrive in both salt and freshwater alike. Since they can only reproduce in brackish water, you have no risk of over-population, and no excess eggs to deal with. They are totally peaceful creatures, and are therefore safe with your Betta fish, be it male or female.

Second top choice: Mystery Snails {Pomacea bridgesii}

mystery-snail-for betta fish

Mystery Snails make perfect additions for a Betta Fish tank

Also known as the spiked topped apple snail, or mystery snails. Please note: these are not genuine apple snails as described below, those are an invasive species in North America and not suitable . These are much larger snails than the smaller tigers, and reach an adult size of about 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

These snails are a little harder to look after, in the sense that they aren’t as self sustaining. They often need an extra food source to survive. Shrimp pellets, algae pellets and blanched veggies suffice. These are food sources high in calcium and protein and without them they don’t do too well. It doesn’t take much so there’s little risk of polluting the tank with excess vegetation and food waste.

Mystery snails are diverse and have a varied color spectrum, from gold to even purple. In the absense of selective breeding, their natural and wild color is black and gold. Hence these are typically the variant available in most pet stores. When Authority Aquarium’s pet store was running in the early 2000’s this is the color we stocked most frequently.

As mentioned above, the snails are a larger freshwater species, and they’re tough. They can regenerate their eyes in a remarkable way, albeit, smaller eyes than the originals, and they’re very resistant to most fish behavior. You won’t find these snails getting aggressive or bothering sleeping fish, unless accidentally. Keeping Mystery Snails with Betta fish is very uneventful.

If you Betta dies during the night and you have multiple Mystery snails, don’t be alarmed to find virtually no remains of the little guy in the morning!

Alternative Best Snails for a Betta fish

Nerite snails and Mystery snails are commonly available, but if for some reason you are unable to find any in your area, there are a few alternative snails:

Japanese trapdoor snail {Viviparis malleatus}

Also known as the Japanese mystery snail, these snails are one of the most beautiful snail for aquarium hobbyists. The ‘trapdoor’ part of their name comes from their operculum, which is an oval corneous plate that they can seal off their shell with – making this snail able to protect itself from an angry betta fish. They are an ideal choice in a shared aquarium, as they don’t eat fish or plants. They are predominately algae eaters and will diligently keep a tank clean, if you have no algae at all, you must provide algae pellets to substitute their source.

As a bonus, I call the Japanese trapdoor snails ‘future teller’ snails, because they are known to retreat into their shell and not come out again if there is a problem with water quality, giving you ample time to address the issue before your fish inhabitants die.

Red-rimmed Melania {Melanoides Tuberculata}

These freshwater snails, sometimes known as Malaysian trumpet snails, are a burrowing species, most active at night. They are quality algae and substrate cleaners and algae is its primary food source. Again, in the absence of algae you will need an alternative food replica. These snails are sometimes pest snails, depending on the environment, based on their ability to reproduce quickly and give birth to live snails, they have been known to carry diseases but this is only in the wild, like any animal we keep as pets, wild dogs often have transmissible diseases too.  They are particularly useful due to their ability to churn the substrate, which releases trapped waste that can then be processed by the aquarium filter and nitrogen cycle. They are small snails, with a shell diameter less than 0.5 inches, and a length just shy of 1 inch.

Rabbit Snail {Tylomelania}

Rabbit snails, also known as Elephant snails and often by the varying types available; such as Yellow Rabbits and White Spotted Rabbit Snails, this species is a slow reproducing species that are larger than other snails on this list. Due to their larger size, they might not be suitable for smaller betta fish tanks, reaching a length of nearly 4 inches on average. There are mini rabbit snails, selectively bred for their smaller stature.

These snails are ideal for any tank environment, they are peace loving and are popular because of their active lifestyle, known to be always moving around the tank, be it day or night.

Assassin Snails {Clea Helena}

The snail of choice if you have unwanted snail visitors from plants. If you have a snail pest problem, these guys will quite literally consume the issue. Calm and peaceful, they make good partners for solitary Betta fish. Remember to feed a little extra protein in their diet for optimal health!

Snails to avoid in a Siamese fighting fish tank

snails to avoid with betta fish

Apple Snails {Pomacea Diffusa} – The amazonian Apple snails are a relative of the mystery snail and are sometimes carelessly called “Blue mystery snails” at local pet stores. These snails are absolutely not suitable for the majority of community tanks. An invasive species in North America, they will eat aquarium plants down to the roots leaving other scavenging species or tank mates without a food source. They may be sold small, but will grow large and breed as much as possible. You have been warned!

Much is said on their size, and some sources say 6 inches in diameter, that simply isn’t true. The large {Pomacea Maculata} or “Giant apple snail” is unlikely to be found in your local pet store, preferring the lush sub tropics of the North and South American continents.

However, their smaller cousins are just as destructed at around 1 to 2 inches in diameter. They are hard creatures, and able to tolerate poor water quality, a range of PH values and they are unaffected by hard tap water. It is unadvisable to keep them with other snail species, especially small snails; as they’ll most likely eat them. Nice!

Pest Snails – This is a broad category. Pest snails are most likely to find their way into your Betta tank as hitchhikers on plants. often small and unmanageable snails, these pest snails are often unidentifiable. It’s hard to know what kind of snail they are, but likely to be common pond snails. There’s no need to kill them (see why you shouldn’t kill pond snails), you can simply catch them and release into a local pond, river, lake or even just the pond in your backyard. We recommend creating a wildlife pond to encourage local frogs and wildlife.

The reason you want to avoid having these snails with betta fishes, is because we don’t know where they came from or what diseases they have on the fish. If the species looks particularly exotic, like if it’s bright red. Please don’t put it in the local pond. As marine biologists, we work hard to reduce invasive species throughout the world.

We have a comprehensive list on snails to avoid in an aquarium and snails to avoid in a betta fish tank.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you! However, if you happen to have any sort of soft algae or brown diatom issue, Nerites would be able to clean this up as well. If you’re looking for a snail with personality, go with the mystery snail, you’ll be shocked! Please keep in mind that any level of ammonia or nitrites will kill snails within a few hours and can cause permanent damage to bettas. Unlike bettas, who can tolerate nitrates up to 40 ppm, most snails, and other invertebrates, can only tolerate 20 ppm or less of nitrates. Happy hunting for the perfect snail tank mate!

How to care for Snails in a Betta fish tank

In general you won’t have to make any modifications to a Betta fish tank to accommodate a snail. Make sure water quality is good, and that you have some live plants to encourage natural algae growth. Algae might look bad but you don’t have to get rid of algae. In fact, teaching your children about the aquarium and algae in an important part in showing your children how to care for fish, and understand them. It is an educational opportunity.

Food Source for Betta fish and snails

Snails, like Zebra Nerite and Mystery Snails are prolific algae eaters, they will diligently eat it along with excess waste. so this is a great tank mate to add to help keep your tank clean. But it also means your tank needs to produce enough algae to support the snail Only add 1 snail per 5 gallons to make sure there is enough algae for them to eat. They can eat left over pellet and fish flakes at the bottom of the tank, they aren’t picky eaters – just make sure they are eating.

Freeze Dried Blood Worm
Betta fish prefer actual food, to flakes or Pellets. This freeze dried blood worm is the ideal protein source for your Betta

Temperature needed for snails in a Betta Fish tank

There’s varying information out there on the temperature needed to keep snails. Snails are hardier than Betta fish. Keep your tank at 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit and they’ll thrive.

Breeding snails with Siamese fish

Please don’t breed snails in a betta fish tank! You might be tempted, but since the tanks we use are small for keeping this species of fish, excess snails is likely to quickly result in poor water quality. If you want more information on breeding aquarium snails, please refer to our article on that.

Small Fish Breeder
If you do decide to breed your Betta Fish, please isolate them from the rest of the tank. Babies will be eaten - this breeder is ideal.

Summary:

We hope we’ve answered all the questions that most aquarists encounter in keeping Betta fish with Snails. Please leave a comment below on your experience; what snails do you keep with your snails? Let us know as we’d love to hear more about others’ experiences and add to the list.

About the author

Authority Aquarium Staff

Authority Aquarium Staff writers are experts and aquarium enthusiasts, our in-house marine biologist fact checks all our content and reviews to bring you the best advice for your aquarium health.

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