Mystery Snail – Breed Profile, tank Setup, Tank Mates and Care Guide

The mystery snail, or golden apple snail, is known for its graceful and peaceful nature.

It tends to remain on the bottom of the tank but, like land snails, will happily explore along any surface. That being said, the snail will require a little above-water perch to relax on, and breathe safely.

The mystery snail has an affinity for the night and is definitely more active during darker periods.

A docile and friendly creature, it will be a happy pal for any other tank dwellers you may have. Just be sure to keep it away from any creatures who may fancy eating it, like puffer fish or loaches.

If you’re interested to find out more about this friendly and easy-going creature, look no further.

In this article, we take a deep dive look into the mystery snail breed profile, their tank set up and care requirements and a whole lot more besides.

2 mystery and a pair of white fish at the bottom of a tank with driftwood and gravel substrate
© badahos – stock.adobe.com

Mystery snail care is simple, they are very easy to look after. It thrives on a mainly vegetarian diet but, upon seeing a dead fish, it may enjoy this as a meaty treat. Generally, these slimy creatures are like cows and graze around the tank gradually.

Their bright colored shells are quite a spectacle, and will certainly brighten up any tank space. Nevertheless, the shell very much depends on the environment to remain healthy: once damaged, it will not heal. Therefore, it’s important to keep an eye on their living space to maintain your little friend.

These creatures are perfect for any tank owner who already has fish and simply wants another mate to join the crew. Due to its laid-back and chilled character, mystery snail care is minimal, so it would also make a great first-time fish.

Quick Overview and Statistics

It’s important to know your snail inside and out before taking it on as a member of the family. Therefore, below is a detailed table on the basics you should know about our shelled friends:

CharacteristicDetails
Common name(s):Gold mystery snail, gold Inca snail, golden apple snail
Scientific Name(s):Pomacea bridgesii
Family:Ampullariidae or Pilidae
Origin:South America
Care Level:Easy
Temperament:Peaceful
Adult Size:1.5-2 inches
Color Form:Usually bright yellow, but can be blue, black, brown, purple, or white.
Lifespan:1+ year
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Typical Tank Setup:2-4 inches of open-air space above the waterline to breathe
Tank Level:Bottom feeder, but explores all over the aquarium
Diet:Omnivore
Water Conditions:Freshwater, 68-84° F, KH 12-18, pH 7.6-8.4
Tank mates / Compatibility:These peaceful creatures will not harm anything, so will be a happy tankmate for any other creature, providing their companion doesn’t have an appetite for it.

From South America, and native to Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Brazil, you’ll find our shelled friend in slow-moving water environments. You can also find non-native populations in Southeast Asia, but this is a lot rarer.

They are an extremely popular addition to most household freshwater tanks, so you certainly won’t be alone here.

The primary reason they are so popular is for their tank-cleaning abilities, as they eat algae and other greens. Therefore, sit back, relax, and enjoy, as your new addition does all the work!

What Does a Mystery Snail Look Like?

They are commonly known for their bright yellow shell, but comes in darker colors as well, like blue or black. In fact, it comes in a vast range of colors, so it can provide a burst of vibrancy for your aquarium.

The shell patterns can depend on environmental factors, so its environmental history can be recognized via its color patterns. Its shell can also be damaged by the environment—for example, too little calcium, or too high acidity, can erode it. Therefore, you can really tell a lot by this creature’s looks.

The golden mystery snail grows to around two inches in diameter, so will not steal too much tank space. It has a little tube called a siphon on its body, which extends above the waterline for oxygen. Despite this, it is essential to provide the snail some above-water space to relax.

Of course, eyes are an important feature of mammals, and the mystery snail certainly has some of its own. These are used to sense motion and light. However, these creatures rely mostly on their tentacles to suss out their living quarters.

They have two sets of tentacles on their head, one for feeding, and one for sensing its surroundings. Have you ever noticed when you go near a land snail, and it tucks its little antennae in? This freshwater snail will do the same when it senses a potential predator, alongside retreating into its shell for safety.

One thing to note is they are not hermaphroditic like most snails. That being said, there are some notable differences between the two sexes. These include:

  • Size: females tend to grow faster than males.
  • Shell shape: male shells have a larger, rounder opening.
  • Genitalia: the male will have a visible penial complex in its opening.

What are Their Natural Behaviors?

These peaceful and calm animals really are no trouble. They spend most of their time grazing around the tank, eating any stray algae they may find. They’ll make a friendly neighbor for almost any other freshwater dwellers unless they present a danger to our shelled friends.

As noted before, if a predator approaches, the mystery snail will retreat into its shell for protection. However, it’s best to ensure it’s not joined by any invertebrate eaters, as it may become a tasty dinner. In general, it’s just important to ensure it is comfortable in its surroundings and isn’t frightened by its tank mates.

Additionally, they will happily explore the tank, but needs a space to sit above land for oxygen when needed. Without this, it may struggle to stretch its siphon above the waterline and may become deprived and die.

Ultimately, they are very docile, requiring minimal care to remain happy; certainly a fantastic start for a beginner.

What are their Ideal Tank Requirements and Habitat?

In their native habitat in South America, these peaceful gastropods typically live in swampy and slow-moving waters.

As long as the water remains relatively calm, these snails will thrive without being washed away. They will usually remain on the bottom, but can sometimes also be found hiding among decomposing plants.

What Size Tank do They Need and How Many Gallons of Water Per Snail is Preferable?

The tank level should remain relatively low for these oxygen-breathing snails, allowing them to reach water surface level without trouble.

In general, five gallons of water for every one or two snails is sufficient, but 10 gallons is generally preferred.

Regardless of this, they will roam around the tank, so keeping a tight-fitting lid is essential.

What Water Type and Temperature do They Prefer?

The freshwater should be above a pH of 7.0, but preferably remaining between pH of 7.6 to 8.4. The water type should be a KH of 12-18. This will make sure theie shell remains healthy and isn’t dissolved, leaving it open to predators.

The ideal temperature for these colorful creatures is between 68 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, moderate water movement is necessary. It’s best to replicate slow-moving environments for them, which isn’t difficult in a tank with a filter that generates a current from the water return outlet.

What is a Suitable Substrate?

As they remain mainly on the ground, adding pebbles or sand can really aid their ease of movement, but they are happy with alomost anything. So choosing your ground material will just depend on any other creatures residing in your tank.

What Filters Should You Use?

One big issue with mystery snails is they can get their head stuck in regular water filter slots. This can cause them major stress, their head may swell, and they might die.

Therefore, to avoid this, it’s best to purchase sponge pre-filters instead of stronger ones, or if you have a strong filter to add some sort of baffle or mesh to the water inlet.

Do They Have any Preferential Lighting Needs?

They are rather sensitive to light, so a darker environment is preferable. They tend to be a lot more active during the night, as they thrive in the dark. Just avoid bright lights and strong daylight to ensure their comfort.

What Plants Should You Decorate Your Tank With?

What makes them particularly happy is if their tank is kept relatively green to cater to their grazing appetites. This will mimic the green bottoms of any pond, river, or swamp it would naturally reside in. Furthermore, this vegetation will exert more oxygen into the environment; ideal for these oxygen-dependent creatures.

So rather than just pick out a plant or three to recommend, we’ll say – just get some in there! Any that will be able to share andthrive in the same water conditions.

Otherwise, as mentioned before, they appreciate areas to perch on during the day. Large and sturdy plants, for example, Java ferns or moss, are great for this pastime.

What do They Like to Eat?

Being omnivores, they will happily remain on a diet of vegetation, including algae and leafy greens, like lettuce. They are very opportunistic, however, and will snack on dead animals or decomposing plants when available.

Generally, they are really easy to feed, requiring minimal effort.

What do They Eat in Their Natural Habitat?

Generally, they will eat whatever they can find, but they favor algae which accumulate on plants and stones. They also have no issue with digging a little to find more algae under the rocks.

What Should I Feed Them at Home?

In general, they will gradually make its way around the aquarium glass, munching on algae as it goes. That being said, food supplements, such as bottom-feeder pellets and fish flakes make a great food source for them.

Are There Human Foods They Can Eat?

As discussed previously, these snails very much enjoy leafy vegetables. Lettuce and zucchini work well, but it’s important to blanche the food to soften it before eating.

How Often Should You Feed Your Mystery Snails?

In general, feed your snail as much as it will consume in one to three minutes, twice a day. Otherwise, they will simply graze throughout the day.

Golden mystery snails don’t need much sustenance, so it’s good to just experiment, as they are all different.

During colder months, they will need more food to sustain their energy, but trial and error will work well. Give them a few food items per day, and see how quickly it disappears.

Any Special Care Requirements?

As discussed, shell care is important, so the water environment needs to be monitored to ensure a long and healthy lifespan. Some elements to watch out for are:

  • Low salt levels: the snail thrives in freshwater, with an aversion to salt.
  • Low copper levels: too high, and you’ll kill this majestic shelled creature.
  • Temperature: too high, and it will die sooner.
  • High pH: must be above 7.0. (Check out our guide to lowering or raising pH if needed.)
  • High calcium levels: without this, its shell will dissolve.

In order to combat these environmental factors to ensure optimum mystery snail care, follow these suggestions:

  • Purchase calcium supplements to keep their shell strong.
  • Do not add any copper-based water treatments to their habitat.
  • Add a pH and temperature gauge to keep an eye on the water.

Just monitor their shell, as this is a good tell-tale sign of their surroundings. In general, if it begins to erode, this is not great, and adjustments should quickly be made.

Otherwise, these snails can be prone to rat lungworm, although this is more common in the wild. Therefore, it is just its shell you should really watch out for.

What Other Fish Can the Mystery Snail Share It’s Tank With?

Again, this creature is extremely friendly, so any fish can live alongside it. Just remember that the tank environment is very important to keep the snail’s shell healthy. Therefore, creatures that share a similar environment will make the best neighbors for our snails.

How Many Can Be Kept Together?

With their friendly and approachable nature, they are more than happy to live alongside one another. Therefore, as long as the tank is large enough for the amount you have, go wild!

Purchasing Advice

These snails can be found in your local aquarium or pet store, but they can also be found easily online with a quick google search. Some online dealers include LiveAquaria.com and eBay, so they are readily available.

However, we don’t know how companies from places like eBay will transport your snail. Indeed, their shells are so sensitive, the most reliable place to purchase them is from your nearest pet store.

Generally, they sell for between $2 and $3 each.

Can You Breed Mystery Snails?

Yes, you most certainly can, but this requires a male and female to do the trick. To check your snail’s gender, lift them up and wait for it to exit its shell. Look at the upper part of the left side, and if you see a long protrusion, it’s a male.

If you’re having trouble deciding if your mystery snail is male or female, this video might help you out.

When the female becomes pregnant, she will lay her pale pink eggs above the water line. Therefore, again, it’s important to provide a perch for them, as they should not be left underwater.

The eggs should hatch within about two to four weeks but, if infertile, they will turn a yellow color and dry out.

Nevertheless, if they do hatch, the babies will need a lot of algae to survive, so make sure the tank isn’t too clean. Generally, they need minimal aid to breed, so leave them to it and they should do their thing naturally.

Interesting Facts and Trivia

Before purchasing your friendly, neighborhood snail, there are a few extra facts about it that you might like to know:

  • They are called apple snails as they can sometimes grow to the size of an apple.
  • Like all snails, this creature has no arteries or veins—their heart pumps blood throughout the entire body.
  • They have gills and lungs, so they can live both on land and in water.

Final Thoughts

Overall, one of the top tips you need to remember for mystery snail care is that their shell is extremely important to look after. Therefore, keeping an eye on the water paramaters, as detailed above, is paramount. Calcium supplements can often be helpful to maintain their shell strength.

Whatever level of fishkeeper you are, a mystery snail will be a good choice. Indeed, minimal tank cleaning is needed for them, as they will eat the algae throughout the day and night.

Generally, as long as their neighbors won’t eat them, they are a friend for any other creature joining them. As long as you provide them a little perch to sit on above the water to breathe, they’ll thrive.

These friendly and colorful creatures are super easy to maintain and will make a great addition to your tank. If you have any questions or anything more to add, please do leave us a comment down below—we’d love to hear from you!

Happy fish keeping!

Wendy Kathryn

Hi, I'm Wendy, the owner and creator of this website, an experienced fish keeper and avid student of the art since 2010. My aim is to help beginners avoid the many possible mistakes when getting started in this wonderful hobby.You can learn more about me here.

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