Bladder Snails and Betta Fish

The bladder snail is a common inhabitant of freshwater aquariums thanks to its fantastic temperament and great cleaning abilities. As a biologist, I’ve had the privilege of working closely with these animals, and I would love to teach you how best to care for them.

This Bladder snail care guide will help ensure you keep your snails happy and healthy by teaching you about the bladder snails’:

  • Origin and Appearance
  • Diet
  • Breeding
  • Compatibility with other fish

I’d especially like to point out that these animals make great companions for betta fish, thanks to their peaceful disposition.

Let’s get into it.

Bladder Snail Natural Habitat And Origin

Bladder snails, Physa acuta, currently have a worldwide distribution, but originally hail from North America. 

 Bladder snails are adaptable enough to survive various environmental conditions and inhabit both running and stagnant water habitats, including:

  • Creeks
  • Streams
  • Lakes
  • Ponds
  • Swamps 
by Alexander Mrkvicka (CC BY-SA 3.0)

What Is The Appearance Of Bladder Snail?

The bladder snail’s appearance can vary depending on age, environment, and diet. However, some features remain relatively standard. Let’s take a look.

  • Size: Small, measuring between 0.5 and 0.9-inch (1-2.5 centimeters). 
  • Shell Shape: Spiral-shaped shells that resemble a bladder. Has a rounded opening at the base, positioned on the left.
  • Shell Color: Brown to dark brown; may have lighter or darker spots. 
  • The surface of the shell is smooth and shiny, with fine lines extending from the tip to the base.

Other features include:

  • A soft body protected by the shell. 
  • Two antennae that can retract when the snail feels threatened
  • A siphon used to breathe and excrete
  • A muscular foot for moving around and clinging to surfaces. 
  • Two eyes, that offer limited vision.
  • A distinctive air bubble inside their shell used to regulate their buoyancy and help them move through the water. It can be seen as a small dark spot inside the shell when the snail is out.
by Dat doris (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bladder Snail Taxonomy

Bladder snails belong to the following Taxonomical structure:

  • Class Gastropoda
    • Family Physidae
      • Genera Physa and Physella 

The most common species are Physella acuta and Physa fontinalis.

How To Set Up Your Aquarium For Bladder Snails

Below, I’ll point out excellent ways to create an environment suitable for the survival and well-being of these animals. 


Plants are an excellent addition to your bladder snail aquarium since they:

  • Provide hiding places
  • Dim the lighting
  • Help maintain water quality by absorbing nitrites and nitrates
by Dat doris (CC BY-SA 4.0)


Bladder Snails prefer fine soft substrates, like fine sand, that allow them to burrow and hide.

Water Parameters

Bladder Snails need:

  • Well-oxygenated, pollutant-free water
  • A water temperature of 68-82℉ (20-28℃) 
  • A pH between 7 and 8.


Bladder Snails don’t need much light, but I’d recommend using a full-spectrum light and timer to ensure that they get daily light cycles. You can set the timer to twelve hours so the snails have 12 hours with light and 12 without, mimicking typical daylight times.

Diet Of Bladder Snails In The Wild And Aquariums

Bladder snails are omnivorous animals, meaning they eat many items, including:

  • Decaying organic matter
  • Algae
  • Other living organisms
  • Plants

In an aquarium, they can feed on other foods like: 

  • Fish food 
  • Snail pellets
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Fruit

With a balanced diet and proper nutrition, your Bladder snails will happily thrive in your aquarium. Avoid overfeeding them, which can lead to excessive water pollution and algal blooms.

by Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (CC BY 2.0)

I recommend feeding them a small amount of food once a day.

Some aquarists prefer to feed their snails algae-based foods, which can also improve snail health and coloration. Bladder snails will feed on live plants.

If you have a planted tank, ensure the plants are non-toxic or place them in a separate area to prevent snails from eating them.

Pro tip: Don’t feed snails foods that contain preservatives or artificial colors, as this can harm their health.

How Does A Bladder Snail Reproduce In A Fish Tank? Can They Cause Snail Overpopulation?

Bladder snails are hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproductive organs. They breed quickly and lay up to 20 eggs at a time on plants and other surfaces.

The eggs hatch in about two weeks, and the hatchlings immediately start looking for food.

Snail overpopulation is a common problem in tanks with Bladder snails, and leads to water quality issues.

Preventing overpopulation is crucial, and accomplishable by:

  • Removing eggs regularly
  • Adding snail-eating fish, like loaches, to overpopulated tanks
  • Adjusting the fish feed so that you don’t overfeed the snails.
by N yotarou  (GFDL)

Bladder Snail Compatibility With Betta Fish

Bladder snails are peaceful animals, and will generally get along with most peaceful fish species. One fantastic option is the Betta fish. Except in the case of an unusually aggressive individual, betta fish and bladder snails usually get along.

The betta is unlikely to view the snail as food, and the snail will clean up food that the betta doesn’t eat.

Whether you keep your bladder snails with bettas, or other peaceful fish like tetras, you should always monitor the situation carefully to ensure that the animals get along.

Much like people, different fish can have different personalities. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Where Or How Do You Get Them?

Bladder snails are readily available at many pet stores, local fish stores, and online dealers like AquaBid, eBay, or Amazon. You can often also buy them from private breeders.

You can also ask other hobbyists. Many hobbyists are willing to sell them for cheap, or even give them away. You can find fellow aquarists in online groups and forums for fishkeepers.

Always ensure your new snails are healthy before adding them to your tank. Always quarantine new animals to ensure they thrive and contribute to a healthy ecosystem in your aquarium.

Before buying Bladder snails, ensure they’re legal in your area. Some US states may prohibit the sale and transport of Bladder snails, because they can become invasive in natural environments. 

by Juliette Tariel (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bladder Snail Facts And Considerations

Here are a few interesting facts and things to remember when considering buying some bladder snails.

  • It’s illegal to release this snail into the wild in the United States, as it’s a highly invasive species that can damage to natural ecosystems.
  • These snails require adequate calcium and magnesium in their diet to form their shells. Insufficient quantities can lead to weak shell formation.
  • These snails may leave their aquarium and roam around the house if they’re unhappy, so keeping the aquarium tightly closed and providing a suitable environment is essential.
  • The scientific name of these snails has recently changed from Physa acuta to Physella acuta due to genetic differences between snail populations in different regions. 
  • Recent genetic studies have shown that these snails are native to North America and were introduced to Europe through human activities.
  • It’s considered a bioindicator species, as its presence can indicate good water quality and a healthy environment.
  • Bladder snails are essential parts of the aquatic food web, feeding on algae, bacteria, detritus, and other decaying organic material. In turn, they serve as food for fish, turtles, ducks, and other waterfowl. 
  • Bladder snails are generally peaceful, active both during the day and at night ( they’re more active at night) and generally found in substrates, on the aquarium glass, or on living plants. 


The bladder snail is a fantastic addition to most freshwater aquariums, though it’s worth noting that they can quickly overpopulate any tank. As long as you keep their numbers in healthy ranges, and provide all their needs, you’re sure to enjoy these critters.

They make great additions to betta aquariums thanks to their laidback natures, but (I’ll say it again) beware of overpopulation!

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.

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