A beautiful Mystery Snail is one of the best additions to your Betta’s tank.
In this article, we will break down all you have to know to keep these two wonderful creatures together.
What are mystery snails?
The mystery snail (Pomacea sp.) is the most popular snail species in the aquarium hobby. The name “Mystery Snail,” refers to more than one species of snails of the genus Pomacea, native to South America.
These snails reach a maximum diameter of around 2 inches and live usually for around two years. They can live for up to four years when kept within ideal parameters. They are easy to care for and are very active animals.
They can live with most species of tropical freshwater fish and help keep the aquarium algae-free.
These snails are scavenging omnivores. They usually spend their entire time foraging in search of algae, food scraps, decaying leaves, organic matter, and even dead animals. They do also eat fresh foods like cucumbers, carrots, and other vegetables.
These are very peaceful snails. They occasionally need to breathe surface air. In some cases, you can see a kind of tube extending from the animal out of the aquarium.
Mystery snails are not hermaphrodites; they have distinct males and females. The male usually has a slightly larger and rounder shell opening. When the two snails are mating, the female will be underneath the male. Soon after, she will lay the eggs, which are bright pink, above the water column.
The female snail can store fertile sperm for more than 120 days. That’s how you can see a single snail spawning fertile eggs that will give rise to baby snails.
The eggs will hatch in up to 3 weeks. These clusters of eggs are pale pink or reddish. They need to be kept in a moist place above the waterline, with a temperature ranging between 71-82 F. High temperatures cause early incubation.
Among the different species of Mystery Snail, the most commonly found in the aquarium trade are Pomacea diffusa and Pomacea canaliculata.
It is essential to differentiate the two species for an important reason: Pomacea diffusa will not eat live plants as long as it has other food sources. Pomacea canaliculata, on the other hand, feeds on live plants, which is a problem in a planted aquarium.
For this reason, if you have an aquarium with plants, it is highly recommended that you choose Pomacea diffusa.
Its shell is an essential feature to help us know which species the snail in question is. And, to the delight of aquarists, its shell can be of different colors, from white, yellow, and dark brown to almost black, with or without “bands” (dark bands). Different coloring have different market prices.
Are Mystery Snail And Betta Fish Compatible?
Betta fish and mystery snail can live together. But for this to happen correctly, we need to know a little about the way of life of the two species.
Betta fish are known for being territorial. With Bettas and these mollusks, the snail is always at a disadvantage. Some Betas can “have fun” nibbling the snail’s tentacles, tearing off pieces of the animal.
If you want to reproduce your snails, this may not work so well with Betta. Bettas, like other Anabantidae, will eat baby snails.
Betta breeding tanks and Mystery Snail
Avoid keeping Mystery Snails in fish breeding aquariums. Although Betta is a good parent, it will not be able to prevent the mystery snail from eating the fry. This occurs while alevins are not fully formed.
Mystery Snails, just like Bettas, are hardy animals, and keeping them healthy in most community aquariums is not a difficult task. Even though they are such different animals, they are compatible.
To keep one of each species together, use a tank with at least 5 gallons, with a low water flow and not very strong lighting.
It is advisable that the aquarium has a tight lid to avoid nocturnal “walks” from the snail and jumps from the Betta. Remember that the greater the space available, the better the quality of life for its inhabitants.
A column of air of approximately 2 inches between the water surface and the lid is necessary. Otherwise, the Mystery Snail will not be able to capture oxygen from the perspective, and it will drown.
Areas of shade are recommended. Although these snails are absurdly myopic, like Bettas, they will feel more comfortable in regions where they can shelter from the light.
Plants and decorations are welcome and will be used as hiding, feeding, and resting spot for both species. The substrate should preferably be sandy, without sharp points/edges that could injure the snail or the Betta. The same goes for stones, driftwoods, or any other decoration present in the aquarium.
The good news is that, in an aquarium, these creatures can thrive in the same conditions.
These animals, when kept together, should preferably be at temperatures between 77 – 82 F. Remember to use a heater and keep the temperature steady.
As with every aquatic animal, you need your tank to be properly cycled. Keep Nitrite and Ammonia levels close to zero.
Regarding the pH, keep it from 7 to 7.2. Mystery snails do best in water tending to alkaline, up to pH 7.2, while Bettas are comfortable in pH of around 7 pH.
Although wild snail populations are found in places with low pH and hardness, it is best to avoid keeping the mystery snail in acidic and soft water.
Unlike Bettas, these snails need a certain amount of calcium and other minerals to maintain their shells. In water with a more alkaline pH, we find a greater amount of these salts than in acidic water.
Commercial Betta fish varieties are routinely bred and maintained in water with higher pH and hardness of those found in their natural environment, which makes compatibility between these animals possible.
Betta fish is a carnivorous animal, while mystery snail prefers to feed on algae. On the plus side, the snail is an opportunistic eater, meaning it will eat whatever you are feeding the Betta.
Bettas prefer foods of animal origin, such as daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp, and they like to feed on the surface. Snails prefer foods like Nori seaweed and raw or blanched vegetables, and food that sinks.
In addition, the mollusk will feed on any algae that grow on the logs and decorations in the aquarium.
Remember that you should not leave any uneaten vegetables in the aquarium for more than 24 hours as they will degrade the water quality.
Keeping your tank clean
The great advantage of having this snail in your tank is that it keeps it clean. Mystery snails love eating algae. They have a preference for green, filamentous algae.
Mystery Snails will also clean the substrate from food leftovers.
You will have both a nicer-looking tank and stable water parameters.
Reducing Betta aggression
Some individual betta fish are more aggressive than others.
Whatever the case might be, ensure the aquarium has the appropriate water parameters. Otherwise, it could be causing stress. Stress increases aggression and lowers the immune system’s strength.
The size of the tank is crucial, as is its decoration. Offer an aquarium with at least 5 gallons with different hiding places, food, lighting, and everything the fish and the snail need.
If your Betta is still attacking your snail, separate them. This can happen. Don’t feel bad about it.
How do you add a mystery snail to your betta tank?
Bettas are known for their territoriality, meaning they will attack another animal that is perceived as an intruder.
The order in which you introduce the animals to the other is important. The best option is to add the Betta to the tank with the snail already in. If you already have the fish, put it in another tank, add the snail to the original tank, wait a few days and then re-introduce the fish into the original tank. This way, your Betta will likely not feel threatened.
How many Mystery Snails per tank?
The number of mystery snails to be kept depends on the aquarium’s size and filtration. For 5 gallons, keep one male Betta with one snail.
In 10 gallons, you can keep two snails and one male Betta. Add one snail for each additional 5 gallons.
If you want to maintain a community with female Bettas, start with 15 gallons for two bettas and one snail. Increase 5 gallons for each additional snail and another 5 gallons for each additional fish.
Snails, like other animals, will generate organic load for the aquarium, which will degrade the water quality.
When populating an aquarium, always use common sense, moderation, and balance. Balance is the keyword for a beautiful aquarium with good biological health.
In a well-balanced and regularly maintained aquarium, one or a few snails will be perfect. And they will also contribute to the maintenance of the aquarium.
It’s good to keep only one male snail per tank, especially in small tanks. Mystery snail males dispute the hierarchy and can fight for dominance, getting hurt. The submissive snail male can end up not feeding and withering.
Always observe your tank
Although the species mentioned here are compatible, you must watch them constantly. Even if you do everything right, there is no guarantee that your Betta will not become aggressive towards the snail.
After putting them together, check the aquarium for signs of aggression. This can include lack of appetite, visible wounds, stalking, and long periods of attack.
Prolonged stress and fighting can lead to both animals becoming sick. Having many hiding places is important. If the aquarium appears to be an unsafe place, remove the Betta.
If your Betta fish doesn’t get along with other animals in the aquarium, don’t worry; they are not schooling animals and will be fine on their own.
Some more mystery snail considerations
Mystery Snail Infestation
Thanks to its reproduction method, the Mystery Snail rarely causes infestations in aquariums, being one of the easiest to control.
They reproduce by creating a structure similar to a cocoon full of eggs and depositing them out of the water, where it is very easy for you to remove them.
Colors of mystery snails
Pomacea diffusa is extensively bred in captivity, with a wide range of colors developed through selective breeding. There are a few dozen colors available in the international market.
Many of the names of these varieties were coined by Stijn Ghesquiere and Donya Quick, two of the prominent breeders of these snails and owners of the applesnail.net portal, where we can find lots of quality information about these snails.
There had been selective breeding projects in other species, mainly conducted by Chinese and North American breeders, but these animals are generally unavailable. Some of these species are considered invasive species, and their trade and transport have been banned. (more info can be found at applesnail.net)
Within the commercial varieties of mystery snails, we can mention 20 primary colors. However, specifying the correct color of these snails is not always easy. In a very simplified way, three factors will determine the color variety:
- The primary color of the shell
- The presence of bands
- The pigmentation of the body
The base color of the shell can be divided into yellow, green, red, and purple, in addition to white, which comes from the absence of pigments. But in reality, there are not four types of pigments present, but only two: yellow and dark violet; a combination of blue and red.
The proportion and intensity of these two pigments will result in all varieties of color and the exact shade of the Violet pigment (redder or bluer). Thus naming the morph in question.
There will always be intermediate colors or forms that are difficult to catalog.
In the wild, all pigments are present, dark body, yellow and purple shell pigments, and dark bands. There is an “equilibrium” in the wild populations, resulting in a yellowish-brown shell with brown to black bars.
With selective breeding, you can get a tremendous variation in coloration with stunning results.
Because we are dealing with genetic traits, some traits with lower expression may become more or less evident in subsequent generations. Others may be made more obvious by the absence of another feature that could be masking it.
Purple mystery snails
Among the countless variations of mystery snail, the most stunning, for me, are those with a purple hue.
Their shells have pink/purple base coloration in those purple strains without bands, light or dark bodies. The purple color can be pretty intense in those with a light body.
Green mystery snails
From the common varieties Black and Dark Striped Olive, you can get rarer types such as Olive (Green) Striped, Plain Green (Olive), and Dark Plain Olive or Green. Striped shapes can have bands in dark greenish or brownish tones.
Why are they called mystery snails anyway?
Aquarists debate the mystery snail’s name origin.
One explanation is that these snails were named mystery because people got perplexed when they saw baby snails in a tank with only one adult.
The other explanation is that it is a mystery where these snails were originally from.
Bettas can live with these snails without significant problems, as long as you are careful and watch out for any signs of aggression.
Take care of your pet, and you will have a beautiful and thriving aquarium!
If you want to learn more about Betta Tank Mates, please visit our collection of articles here.
You can learn about Nerite snails here.
About the author
Hi, I am Marcelo.
I am fascinated with researching and writing about fish.
I have a degree in biology (herpetologist) and animal science (zootechnics) specializing in ornamental fish and South American biotopes.
You can find the articles I wrote here.