The Ramshorn snail, also spelled as Ram’s Horn snail, is named for its vertically oriented shell that rolls around much like a coil of a rope or — as the name suggests — a ram’s horn. Some people love them to bits, while others don’t.
There is a huge misunderstanding about Ramshorn snails. These animals are often underappreciated and even hated in the aquarium community. That is why this article aims to dispel the misconceptions that have enveloped these lovely critters.
Ramshorn Snail Stats
|Max. Size of Fish||2 inches|
|Colors and Patterns||
|Min. Tank Size||5 gallons|
|Temperature||70 – 78 °F|
|pH||7.0 – 7.5|
|Hardness||5 – 15 dKH|
Ram’s Horn Snail Background
Ramshorn snails can be found across the globe. They reside in still or slow-moving waters where there is an abundance of pondweeds and high levels of dissolved calcium.
Ramshorn snails are common in the fishkeeping hobby; they have been bred for their various colors. However, there is a great divide between those who love these snails and those who loathe them.
– Ramshorn Is an Umbrella Term
In the aquarium trade, the term “Ramshorn” refers to any aquatic pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the Planorbidae family that features a planispiral coiled shell. These critters go by a few other names to distinguish different color varieties, such as Blue, Pink, and Red Ramshorn snails. Blue Ramshorn snails are rarer and believed to be more attractive, thereby they carry a heavier price tag.
Ramshorn Snail Appearance
– How Big Do Ramshorn Snails Get?
A juvenile Ramshorn snail is around a quarter inch in length. When measuring a Ramshorn snail size, the focus is on the shell rather than the size of the animal’s soft body.
As the snail ages, both its body and shell increase in size. The shell of the snail also loses its transparency as it grows older.
The maximum Ramshorn snail size caps at one inch. While the water acidity and diet can influence shell appearance, there is no concrete evidence suggesting that these can impact their size.
– Do Ramshorn Snails Come in Many Colors?
Yes, they do! Ramshorn snails come in shades of brown, orange, and red. Some of them can even be translucent. The darker shades are thought to be the result of their diet and living conditions. Selective breeding has also produced some pink and blue snails.
Ramshorn Snails Can Have Red Skin
Most snails have dark-colored skin due to a dark pigment: melanin. However, Red Ramshorn snails lack melanin in their skin and consequently, show their hemoglobin-rich blood. Red blood is unusual in snails as most snails produce greenish blood.
Ramshorn Snail Care
Overfeeding is often the main culprit of Ramshorn snail outbreaks. So unless you are planning to breed this species in outrageous numbers, you don’t want to spoil them.
Let these gluttons scour your tank for something to eat. Ramshorn snails are happiest when they are eating algae, so it is a win-win situation.
Likewise, these critters will nosh on fish flakes and pellets that fall to the substrate. Ramshorn snails are also more than willing to snack on dead fish and shrimp if they can find them before you do.
But if there isn’t enough algae or leftovers to go around, you’ll want to give them small servings of blanched vegetables like lettuce and cucumbers.
– Water Parameters
Ramshorn snails are adaptable species that can thrive in pristine waters and murky, tannin-rich habitats alike. For best results, you’ll want to aim for the following parameters:
- Water temperature: 70 to 78 °F
- pH levels: 7.0 to 7.5
- Water hardness: 5 to 15 dKH
Ramshorn Snails Have One Major Requirement
Keeping Ramshorn snails is a cinch as they can tolerate a generous range of parameters. But if you want these wonderful creatures to be as healthy as possible and look their best, you’ll need to meet this crucial requirement regardless of whether or not you have hard water. That requirement is the mineral, calcium. Calcium builds and repairs the outer shell of the Ramshorn snail.
– Deliver Calcium to Snails
Lucky are those who have calcium-rich hard water. With frequent water changes, you might be able to get away with your snails needing little to no calcium supplementation.
But for those who have soft water with little to no calcium present, you might want to use crushed corals to raise the hardness, pH, and mineral content of your tank water. Consider offering Ramshorn snails a calcium-rich diet just to be on the safe side. Calcium-rich vegetables include:
- kale, spinach, mustard, turnip, and collards
- fruits like oranges and raisins
Be careful when feeding your snails with other raw fruits and vegetables. As some of them contain high levels of phosphorus that can get your water dirty rather quickly.
There are several store-bought foods you can use which are geared toward shrimps and crabs, but be wary of algae wafers. Some brands of algae wafers list calcium as an ingredient, but they contain measly amounts of calcium.
– Potential Diseases
The shell of the Ramshorn snail is composed of calcium carbonate and a few other organic compounds. Without access to the proper amount of calcium, a Ramshorn snail will eventually suffer from what is known as shell erosion.
White banding or a wrinkly shell is an indication that your pet is deficient in calcium. A part of an ornamental snail’s appeal is its colorful shell and let us be honest, that is often the leading reason why we get them for our tanks.
Acidic water likewise eats away their shell and so you may want to check the water pH regularly for the best interest of your snails as well as their tankmates. While a slight amount of erosion isn’t lethal, it can lead to stunted growth and even premature death.
Everything goes well, these tiny critters can reach the average Ramshorn snail lifespan of about two years.
Ramshorn Snail Tank Setup
– Tank Size
These tiny snails can fit into a five-gallon tank; they don’t need much space to be happy. But if you want to keep other docile community fish, then you will have to opt for a large tank that will cater to the specific needs of those species.
– Substrate, Plants, and Decorations
Soft substrates are an excellent choice because they provide a smooth surface along the bottom. Don’t hesitate to add live plants as these critters don’t destroy plants. Instead, they help maintain the overall ecosystem of a planted tank. As for decorations, you can add bogwood and rock formations to provide your snails some surfaces to climb over.
These snails are ideal for low-tech tanks. You only need a heater to maintain a temperature between 70 and 78 °F. A standard LED aquarium lighting should be fine. These snails don’t necessarily need aeration as they will climb up to the surface to obtain oxygen, but the needs of their tank mates might change this.
– Ramshorn Snails’ Tank Mates
The Ramshorn snail can be anyone’s tank mate, provided the conditions are right. These catfish are particularly good choices:
- Cory catfish
- Otocinclus catfish
Tank mates can also be freshwater shrimp:
- Bamboo shrimp
- Amano shrimp
- Ghost shrimp
- Red Cherry shrimp
- Vampire shrimp
And of course, you can include other peaceful snails:
- Nerite snails
- Gold Inca snails
- Ivory snails
- Mystery snails
- Trumpet snails
Overall, Ramshorn snails do incredibly well with docile community fishes. What you need to avoid are lobsters and aggressive fish like cichlids and bettas. Even goldfish and other larger, greedy species are a no-no as they may pick on the snails’ antennae.
Ramshorn Snail Behavior and Temperament
Ramshorn snails seem to have a never-ending quest for food. One interesting behavior about this greedy species is that they often share a meal. When one snail finds a meal, the others will come out and they will feed in groups.
Ramshorn snails are tranquil and they pay little to no attention to their tank mates. As these peaceful snails have no other way to defend themselves other than retreating to their shells, they avoid conflict as much as possible.
– Ramshorn Snails Are Lung Breathers
Ramshorn snails don’t have an operculum like many marine and freshwater snails. An operculum is a trapdoor on the bottom of the shell whose purpose is to block air out during drought.
The reason why Ramshorn snails lack an operculum is that they need oxygen to survive. For an air breather, having one is completely impractical. Ramshorn snails use large folds of skin to trap air in a pulmonary sac.
Because of this, Ramshorn snails would need to climb to the upper levels of the tank to access oxygen. These snails are not escape artists like some of their cousins, but it is still best to keep the tank covered to the extent possible.
– Ramshorn Snail Reproduction
Ramshorn snails can lay dozens of eggs and they are hermaphrodites to boot, which means these animals both have male and female genitalia. If you are not well-versed about these invertebrates and you happen to buy a pair, you will end up with hundreds more after a few months.
A single Ramshorn snail can lay globules of eggs, each containing five to 15 eggs; it only takes around 10 days for the eggs to hatch. That said, two specimens are more than enough to build an empire in no time!
An irritating characteristic of these mollusks is that they lay their eggs almost anywhere — on the substrate, plants, tank walls, decorations, and sometimes even on another snail’s shell. Although Ramshorn snail eggs are semi-transparent, they can still look like ugly blobs of jelly.
– Disadvantages of Having Ramshorn Snails
Why do some people hate Ramshorn snails? The most frequent complaint I hear about these critters are the following:
Can Ramshorn Snails Destroy Plants?
Some people are hating on the Ramshorn snail because of the misconception that these animals feed on live plants. The truth of the matter is: live plants are not their first choice of food. Ramshorn snails prefer to graze nice, soft algae. These critters scrape algae off hard surfaces using their little rasping tongue, called a radula.
Benefits of Ramshorn Snails
Are Ramshorn snails good? Of course, they are! Despite what many people may say about them, these invertebrates make wonderful additions to your community aquarium. Here’s why.
– Ramshorn Snails Are Decomposers
Ramshorn snails make an excellent cleanup crew. They eat uneaten food, fish carcasses, plant detritus, and other decaying matter.
– Ramshorn Snails Are Among the Best Algae Eaters
As mentioned earlier, these snails also eat algae that have accumulated on plants, gravel, and decorations. A hungry Ramshorn snail may spend hours digging an inch or so below the substrate to eat the algae that have buildup off the aquarium glass.
– Ramshorn Snails Promote Plant Growth
There is some contention among hobbyists about whether or not these ravenous eaters eat live plants. Little do people know that Ramshorn snails can recognize which parts of a plant are rotting and they will happily munch on that. Once the dead parts have been pruned, your plants will flourish and live a lot longer.
Don’t get me wrong: Ramshorn snails are perfectly capable of destroying live vegetation. Some people have spotted them nibbling soft, delicate leaves of less hardy aquatic plants. However, this behavior is often rooted in the lack of food, which I doubt will happen in your tank.
– Shrimps Can Get Nourishment from Them
If you have shrimps in the tank, then they would be more than happy to have Ramshorn snails as their tank mates. Your snails’ excrements are food for shrimp, providing them the nourishment they need.
– Provides Consistent Food Supply to Other Pets
Ramshorn snails breed like rabbits, but this can serve as good news. You just need to know what you want to do with the unwanted juveniles. If you have pea puffers and many different loaches, you can use them as food for these critters.
Ramshorn Snail Breeding
As discussed earlier, Ramshorn snails are hermaphroditic, which means they have both sexual organs. One Ramshorn snail will only look for another of similar size to reproduce. These snails spawn frequently and will do so without much help from you.
An abundance of food will trigger Ramshorn snails to breed. Therefore, you don’t want to give them an all-you-can-eat buffet. On the contrary, if the food source isn’t large enough to cater to every snail, you can expect the numbers to dwindle.
– What to Do If Your Ramshorn Snails Have Gone Out of Control
There are a plethora of products you can use to eliminate these snails, but it is best to avoid chemicals to stay on the safe side. You want to make sure that whatever you do does not kill your other livestock as most treatments that will kill snails will also kill shrimp and small, sensitive fish.
You also don’t want a lot of snails dying simultaneously as this leads to an ammonia spike. So, here are a few suggestions.
- Huddle Them Up Together with Cucumber
- To reduce their numbers, you want your snails to bunch up together, so you can pick up these cute little buggers in one quick scoop.
- Use a slice of cucumber or zucchini as bait. The snails will gather around it during the night and it will be a breeze for you to remove these slowpokes the next morning.
- Set up a snail-only tank after removing them. Repeat this method every second day until you are satisfied.
- Remove Their Main Food Source
Another tip is to manually remove the algae from your aquarium. Algae is the main source of food for juvenile snails. If you take that away, the young, feeble snails will have a lesser chance of survival.
Take note; algae overgrowth is often due to the lack of filter media. Also turning the lighting on for too long or setting the intensity too high can lead to diatom blooms.
– Employ Killer Fish and Snails
Assassin snails, as the name suggests, have a penchant for their own kind. Some people find this method cruel, but many aquarists are doing it to reduce the number of Ramshorn snails. Bettas, gouramis, and Apple snails also make up the “Ramshorn Snail Control Group.”
Chances are you’ve probably encountered a Ramshorn snail whether you wanted to or not. These critters are prolific and their eggs often thumb a ride on plants purchased from fish stores and aquarists.
But contrary to popular belief, these cuties aren’t pests. When keeping them as pests, you do need to keep the following points in mind:
- Ramshorn snails are hermaphrodites; there isn’t a requirement to have a male and female snail. A pair can lay numerous egg clusters containing even 12 or 15 eggs.
- These snails have a ravenous appetite. Since overfeeding triggers them to spawn, you don’t want to indulge them with food. Besides, Ramshorn snails will survive on rotting leaves, algae, and leftovers.
- You may, however, provide your snails with calcium supplements that will help strengthen their shells and retain the beauty of these ornamental snails. This might be considered vital if you have soft water.
- If the snail population does boom, you can add bettas, lobsters, or other predator species that like to feed on these critters.
Ramshorn snails are pretty easy to care for, you just really need to curb their love for food and proliferation!
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