Bumblebee Snail (Engina mendicaria): Ultimate Care Guide


Bumblebee Snails can be a great and eye-catching addition to your tank’s cleanup crew. Originating in the Indo-Pacific region, they can also be found as far away as Florida and Kenya. Along with eating meaty leftovers, these snails will hunt and kill Vermetid Snails. Vermetid Snails are an aquarium nuisance species which can harm corals. While Bumblebee Snails are predators they can be slow: Don’t expect them to control a serious infestation of Vermetid Snails.

With black shells featuring yellow to white stripes, it’s easy to see how Bumblebee Snails got their name. This is an excellent and peaceful species that help eat leftover food before it rots, spoiling tank water. They also burrow through sand which can help keep it churned and aerated. While this species can provide a range of benefits to marine aquariums, they don’t work fast. Bumblebee Snails are slow and mostly nocturnal. They won’t go out of their way to burrow in sand if they’re getting enough food on rocks and other hard surfaces. These snails are useful, but can’t be the only members of your cleanup crew. They won’t churn as much sand as a Goby or eat as much detritus as many shrimp species. Bumblebee Snail’s stunning looks and non-aggressive behavior makes them prime additions to marine aquariums. If you are looking to add one or more of these unique snails to you tank, there’s some information you’ll need first. We’ve put together this guide to help you get the most out of this common and useful marine aquarium inhabitant!

Are Bumblebee Snails Reef Safe?

Bumblebee Snails won’t eat corals or other larger organisms which makes them reef safe. However, if they can’t find enough leftover meaty foods or tiny prey they can predate on larger organisms such as polychaetes. Many, but not all, aquarium hobbyists consider polychaetes to be nuisance species. Depending on your opinion of these creatures, it may be best to avoid this predatory snail species. That being said, don’t expect Bumblebee Snails to control a polychaete infestation: while they’re willing to hunt polychaetes, they’re too slow to make much impact on a larger population.

Bumblebee Snail
Bumblebee Snail (Engina mendicaria)

Bumblebee Snails and Vermetid Snails

Bumblebee Snails are popular for their ability to consume Vermetid Snails. Vermetid snails are a common marine nuisance species which can harm corals. While Bumblebee Snails might not completely eradicate a Vermetid infestation, they can cut their population which makes manual eradication easier.

Bumblebee Snail Care

Bumblebee Snails are hardy and can be a great part of your tank’s cleanup crew. They will eat meaty leftovers which can help keep water quality high. While this species is mostly trouble free they can be harmed by fast water quality variations, making them a poor fit for very small aquariums. Special feeding isn’t usually needed but can be required if your other tank inhabitants aren’t leaving enough meaty scraps to meet this snail’s nutritional needs. Bumblebee Snails will need water with high calcium content as this is used for shell formation. If your aquarium already has enough calcium to support corals it should be suitable for this snail. Some tank environments will need additional calcium supplementation to support this species’ health.

Are Bumblebee Snails easy to care for?

Bumblebee Snails are easy to care for, but need stable water parameters. While they can be kept in smaller tanks be aware that smaller volumes of water can be susceptible to fast water quality swings which can harm or kill these snails.

Temperature

Bumblebee Snails can live in water temperatures between 72° – 78° F.

Water pH

The ideal water alkalinity for Bumblebee Snails is between 8.1 and 8.4 pH, making them a good fit for most marine aquariums.

Bumblebee Snail Size

Bumblebee Snails range in size from ¼ to ¾ inch.

Food & Diet

Bumblebee Snails are carnivores, and will find and consume meaty leftovers in their environments. They are harmless to larger fish but will burrow in sand, finding and consuming tiny worms and small organisms. The ideal tank environment will provide a range of food sources, both leftovers and smaller live organisms. Their harmlessness to larger species comes with a caveat: if they can’t find enough meaty food they can prey on potentially beneficial organisms and polychaetes. Some common polychaetes are bristleworms, palolo worms and featherduster worms. While they will eat these when hungry, don’t expect them to eat enough to control their population. If your tank doesn’t provide enough uneaten meaty foods, these can be provided in the form of mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, or even chopped frozen shrimp. Be careful when adding meaty foods to a marine tank as these can introduce bacteria and diseases. If Bumblebee Snails need feeding, it’s best to use commercially prepared and frozen meaty foods.

Bumblebee Snail (Engina mendicaria)
Bumblebee Snail (Engina mendicaria)

Bumblebee Snail Lifespan

Bumblebee Snails can live up to 2 years in most marine aquariums.

Tank Size

Because Bumblebee Snails are less than an inch long, they can live in tanks as small as 5 gallons. Be aware that smaller tanks are susceptible to sudden water quality swings. Keeping Bumblebee Snails in smaller aquariums is risky, as they are most comfortable with the stable water parameters found in larger tanks.

Tank Setup

Bumblebee Snails are most comfortable in environments with live rocks and deep sand beds. This is a predatory animal and can hunt by burrowing through sand. A deep sand bed between 1 to 2 inches is the best choice. Not only will they hunt undesirable organisms, their burrowing activity will help keep sand beds churned and aerated. Don’t expect them to be a replacement for more aggressive diggers such as Gobys. Bumblebee Snails move very slowly and can’t be relied on to keep large amounts of sand aerated. While they will hunt for live foods, Bumblebee Snails are a great addition to your cleanup crew. They will consume leftover meaty foods which would otherwise spoil and contaminate your tank’s water. If you have larger carnivorous fish, you likely have enough food in the environment to keep these snails fed.

While Bumblebee Snails are easy to care for, the are sensitive to water quality changes. It’s best to keep them in larger aquariums that are less susceptible to fast water quality swings. Due to this sensitivity, it’s important to introduce them to fully cycled or established aquariums. Immature tanks may have unsteady nitrogen cycles that can result in ammonia or nitrite spikes which can harm these snails. They also need calcium content for shell formation. This is similar to corals which have unique water chemistry needs. If you tank already supports corals it’s probably a good environment for these snails. Some aquariums may need extra calcium supplementation, and this must be determined with water chemistry testing.

Bumblebee Snail Breeding

Bumblebee Snails are seldom, possibly never, bred in captivity. It’s not known how to trigger spawning, and sexing Bumblebee Snails is difficult. While it’s nearly impossible to breed this snail, rumor has it that providing ample food, increased tank temperatures, and areas without current can increase the chances of mating. Some hobbyists recommend providing the snails with natural sunlight. If the unlikely happens, and your Bumblebee Snails spawn, protecting the eggs will be a concern: snail eggs are a tasty treat for a range of aquarium species. You would likely need to keep these snails in their own aquarium to protect both eggs and young snails from predators. This is all hypothetical, and there are no clear steps to getting this species to breed successfully.

Bumblebee Snail Disease

Bumblebee Snails aren’t known to suffer from specific diseases. This is likely due to their small size which makes identifying diseases difficult. While they might not catch diseases, they can definitely carry them to other fish in your tank. It’s important to maintain a quarantine tank (QT) which is separate from your main display aquarium. Keeping Bumblebee Snails, and any new tank additions, in a QT for 6 to 8 weeks can let you check for signs of disease. Because of the difficulty of spotting diseases on this snail, it’s a good idea to also include a few less expensive fish in the QT. If new diseases are introduced by the snails they may show up on these other fish before affecting the snails. Losing a couple of fish is preferable to spreading disease in a fully-stocked display tank.

Bumblebee Snail Tank Mates

Bumblebee Snails can coexist with members of your cleanup crew. They won’t harm, or be harmed, by other snails or shrimp. While Bumblebee Snails are predators, they go after tiny prey and won’t attack even small shrimp. But they can be the victim of some larger, predatory fish and shrimp. It isn’t a good idea to keep these with Wrasses, Hermit crabs or Coral banded shrimp. Make sure any tank mates you choose don’t have a taste for snails.

Where can I find Bumblebee Snail for sale?

Bumblebee Snail are easily available from local fish stores and online sources. They are affordable, often selling for around $2 USD per snail.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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