Nerite Snail, also known as Zebra Nerite are an excellent addition to your betta tank.
They are beautiful and keep the tank algae-free.
With a little care, Bettas and Nerite Snails can live together peacefully. A lot depends on how you set up your tank.
What are Nerite Snails?
Nerite Snail (Neritina Zebra) is a popular snail species in the aquarium hobby. They are small, about one inch, and often have stunning stripe patterns. In the wild, they live in mangroves and estuaries in South America but adapt well to freshwater aquariums.
This snail was first described in 1845 by Professor Lovell Augustus Reeve, a famous English conchologist, and author of many referenced publications.
These mollusks can live for around two years. They are easy to care for and are very active animals. They can live with most species of tropical freshwater fish and will keep your aquarium algae-free.
As with most aquarium snails, they are nocturnal.
Nerite snails spend long periods out of the water. They are notorious for leaving and returning to the aquarium. We found reports of Nerites who stayed up to more than one week out of the water.
These snails are scavenging herbivores and usually spend their entire time foraging.
Nerite Snails have a spectacular appetite for algae. They will eat diatoms, a unicellular microscopic algae known as brown algae.
Nerite snails will never damage live plants, but only dead plant matter.
These are very peaceful snails.
Nerite snails have an olive-yellow to the dark brown shell with black, straight, curved, or zigzag axial stripes. There is a thin black line bordering the suture.
They are around 1 inch small and have a round, semi-spherical shell with a low spiral. They have a porcelain appearance, with a smooth and polished surface.
Their operculum, the small “trapdoor” that protects the inside of their shell, is bluish-black to light brown. The body is dark brown striped, following the pattern of the shell.
The snail has thin and long tentacles, also with longitudinal black stripes. These tentacles can exceed the size of their body in length and only show when they feel safe. When kept with fish that bother them, these snails keep their tentacles protected under the shell. However, when kept without fish, they leave their long tentacles exposed.
A common mistake is to call these nerite snails Neritina Natalensis, an African species with very uneven coloring and patterns. They often have dark irregular spots and rarely bands like Zebra Nerite.
It is unclear where the confusion came from. Still, it is one of the main aquarium trade errors spread via the internet.
Snail species with similar patterns – Taxonomy
An Asian species with zebra pattern is Neritina (Vittina) Turrita. This species has a similar color to Neritina Zebra and also exhibits a zebra pattern. However, the shape of the shell is distinct, with a higher apex, and the blackish bands are wider.
One of the most imported species from the same region is Neritina (Vittina) Waigiensis, with various colors and patterns. Some of them are similar to Neritina zebra.
Other species are even more similar, almost indistinguishable from the Neritina Zebra. A common species on the market, called “Olive Nerite” or “Black Marble Snail”, is Neritina Usnea, a species closely related to Neritina Zebra, found from Florida to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
In the Pacific, another very similar species is Neritina (Vitta) Sobrina. Finally, a relatively common local species in the European market is Theodoxus Danubialis.
Nerite snails are dioecious, with distinct males and females. However, you cannot differentiate the sexes only by external characteristics.
The Nerite snail may lay dozens of eggs in your aquarium, but these eggs will not hatch in freshwater. Fish will not eat these eggs. Scrapping them is easy on glass but more tricky on driftwood and plants. The eggs get softer over time, making it easier to scrape them. Eventually, they disappear.
If you only get one snail and it is a female, you still may get eggs if she has mated before.
More scientific info about reproduction and eggs
The reproduction of Neritine snails in the wild has not yet been deeply studied; what is known is that this species reproduces in brackish waters.
The species has mixed development; part of the larval growth takes place inside an egg capsule and part in the form of a free-swimming planktonic larva.
It is probably an amphidromic species, which means that it migrates from freshwater to saltwater or vice versa at some stage of life other than to reproduce.
Larvae migrate to higher salinity sites, and later juveniles return to fewer saline environments.
During breeding, the male stands on the female’s right side, inserting his penis under the edge of the female’s mantle, transferring the spermatophore.
After fertilization, the female deposits the tiny eggs grouped inside a rigid capsule, next to the substrate or anything available, such as logs, shells, rocks, and leaves.
Once deposited, the eggs have a yellowish hue and darken as development occurs. Eggs are oval and measure about 1~1.5 mm in length. Females lay several capsules at a time, each containing about 70 eggs.
When in aquariums, they use driftwood, rocks, more resistant leafy plants, and even glass to deposit their egg capsules.
The initial development of the larvae occurs inside the rigid capsules, where the embryos and later the larvae are immersed in a fluid (albuminous liquid or albumen), isolated from the external environment.
After about six days, the eggs hatch, releasing the larvae into the capsular cavity. But only after 21 days do the capsules open, releasing the swimming veligers (a type of planktonic larva).
Little is known about the development of these planktonic larvae, but there is possibly migration to more saline and plankton-rich regions, and the juveniles return to estuaries.
Scientists studied this development at low salinities; the ideal value seems to be around 5%. The reduction in salinity (such as rainy seasons) seems to act as a reproductive trigger, both in spawning and opening of egg capsules.
Are Nerite Snail and Betta Fish good tank mates?
Bettas with Nerite snails can be good tank mates, especially in smaller tanks where you cannot really add anything else than a snail.
Give them enough space and hiding places, and they will be fine. Some Bettas fish will nibble on the snail’s tentacles, tearing off pieces of the animal and eventually killing it. This depends on your Betta’s personality and your fish’s stress level.
Having a well-established tank with stable water parameters, many hiding palaces, and quality food provides a relaxing and safe home for both the fish and the snail.
When adding a snail to your Betta tank, try removing your fish, adding the snail, and waiting a few days before reintroducing your fish into its home. This way, your fish will not perceive the snail as an intruder since it found the snail already there.
While they can be almost as territorial as males, female bettas are less aggressive and more social than males. These traits mean the chance of success is higher when keeping female Betta with Nerite snails.
You can add one Nerite Snails in a tank of 3.5 to 5 gallons. In bigger tanks, you can add more. Please use common sense. You do not want an overcrowded aquarium.
A lid with help with Betta jumping out of the water and snails going out of the tank. Let some air between the lid and the water surface.
A temperature of around 78F will suit both your Betta and your snail well.
Snails, in general, do better in slightly hard and alkaline water. Aim for pH of around 7.0, which suits both your Betta and your snails.
Nerite Snails will keep your tank algae free
Nerite snails love eating green algae. They feed on a multitude of algae and are known as one of the few species that feed on brown algae (diatoms).
Differences between Nerite Snail and Mystery Snails
- Both snails live approximately the same of 1,5 to 2 years.
- Mystery snails are a bit bigger and more round.
- Mystery snails have more colors, while Nerites have more impressive stripe patterns.
- Mystery snails usually move their antennae out of the shell, while Nerite snails keep them protected.
- Mystery snails have a different digestive system, generating a higher organic load than Nerites.
- Both are easy to control, causing no infestations, but removing mystery eggs is easier and less frequent than dealing with Nerite eggs.
- Nerites lay eggs like white spots, which some people find annoying.
- If you want to breed snails, Mystrey snails are easier. Nerite snails need special care and higher salinity water to breed.
- In the case of being a good algae eater, Nerites are a bit more effective. They will eat also diatoms (microscopic brown algae), that Mystery snails will not.
- In terms of behavior, Mystery are more active, even floating around in the tank. Male Mystery snails can become territorial, while Nerites will not.
Nerite Snail harvesting
This species has economic importance in the North and Northeast of Brazil. Families, locally called “Biroscas” collect this animal for humane consumption. In addition, its shells are used as raw material for cement in traditional construction.
Nerites are beautiful, easy to care for, and keep your tank clear. What’s not to like about them?
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.