When it comes to choosing tank mates for bettas, many people are apprehensive due to the hostile nature of bettas. Some worry they will never be able to find a tank mate that will work with their aggressive betta. Not to fear! There will always be at least one tank mate that will work with bettas, no matter how aggressive your betta may be.
The answer to your tank mate dilemma is a snail. Not all snail species can coexist with bettas, but there are many options to choose from depending on your betta’s temperament. Some of these are algae eaters that can exist living off algae and biofilm alone, while others are carnivorous and need to have high protein pellets and other foods available. In this article, we will highlight the two best snails to keep with your betta, alternatives to these two snails, and snails that should not be tank mates for bettas.
You should only keep nerite snails in well-established tanks, as most will only eat biofilm and algae. These snails come from brackish areas with tides and can live in freshwater, brackish water, and full salt water. Their natural habitat is an area includes frequent tides, so these snails tend to climb out of the water for several hours each day before returning to their home in order to imitate the ebb and flow of tides. The tank needs to have a secure lid so that your snail doesn’t wander off too far.
This also means that they will be unable to overpopulate your tank, as they cannot reproduce in freshwater. One thing to be aware of with these snails is that they have distinct male and female genders. It is practically impossible to sex these snails unless you see a female laying eggs. The female will lay eggs in freshwater, even though they will never hatch. The eggs are extremely difficult to remove unless you have a razor blade.
The nerite snail only has their antennae exposed. So they will be able to coexist with any betta. Most of the time, they keep these hidden, and the betta is unable to damage the snail. If the betta does manage to bite the antennae, they will regrow in a matter of weeks. Bettas often lose interest in their new tank mate after a few days or around a month. I had one betta that never paid the nerite any mind and another that was less than an inch away from the snail for nearly two weeks.
Mystery snails are a subspecies of apple snail that grows to around the size of a golf ball. They need protein and calcium supplements, often given in the form of shrimp pellets and cuttlebone, respectively. The cuttlebone must be in the tank as the snails need to ingest the calcium source. They need to eat blanched vegetables high in calcium such as spinach and kale.
These snails come in a variety of colors, including jade, purple, magenta, ivory, gold, and black. The gold variant may appear named as the Gold Inca snail, but they are the same species. The gold and black (wild color) forms are the most commonly available colors. They need a male and female to reproduce and lay eggs above the water line, making removal easy.
These snails often have their antennae and eyestalks out, but they can regrow them quickly if the betta bites them. Mystery snails have an air siphon that they use to take in atmospheric air, just like a betta. They have a very peaceful temperament and get along well with almost every inhabitant.
These miniature apple snails will eat some forms of soft algae but are primarily carnivorous and need a protein-based diet. These snails are among the few creatures that stop eating once full, so there is no risk of overfeeding.
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– these snails tend to be more expensive and get rather large; up to two inches in length. Japanese trapdoor snails eat some forms of algae and will burrow in substrate, but they require supplemental vegetables and pellets. These snails, like nerite snails, sometimes like to go exploring, so a tight-fitting lid is essential. They are peaceful and can retreat into their shells if they feel threatened.
- Malaysian Trumpet Snail– These snails reproduce quickly, but due to their ability to churn substrate, you can easily sell the extras. They give live birth to one snail every few days and it only takes around two months for the babies to become full grown. Their heads are normally exposed, so they may be a target for your betta, but they can escape by burrowing into the substrate, where they spend most of their time. They reach a little over an inch in length.
- Rabbit Snail– Rabbit snails reproduce slowly, laying only one egg every few months. These snails reach impressive sizes, around 2-4 inches depending on the type. There is also a type of “mini” rabbit snail that stays around 1-1.5 inches in length. These tend to be more expensive, so most don’t risk them with highly aggressive bettas.
- Assassin Snails– These snails are amazing at getting rid of pest snails, but they can also be great tankmates for bettas. They are less exposed than Malaysian trumpet snails and have the bonus of eating little pest snails. They need to consume a good amount of protein, like mystery snails.
Snails to Avoid
- Apple Snails– Apple snails, a related species of the mystery snail, are not suited for the general aquarium. They are an invasive species in much of the warmer parts of the United States and South and Central America and reach sizes of 6” in diameter. A six-inch snail is massive, and since most bettas live in tanks 20-gallons and under, the snail will be too large for these tanks. Additionally, they are carnivorous, and their size may let them take advantage of a weak betta.
- Pest Snails– pest snails, like ramshorn snails and pond snails, are nuisances to the average aquarist because they reproduce quickly. However, I recommend against these because they have no operculum, which leaves their heads exposed. Additionally, they cannot hide in the substrate like Malaysian trumpet snails. I have had bettas that lived with Mystery snails and nerite snails their whole lives kill every ramshorn and pond snail that I introduced.
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!