Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis): Ultimate Care Guide


Nerite Snails (Neritina natalensis) are herbivorous snails that are capable of living in freshwater and saltwater. Nerite Snails are also known as Zebra Nerite Snail, Tiger Nerite Snail, Spotted Nerite Snail, among many other names.

The black and gold stripe patterns on their shell makes them very stunning. However, there are many types of Nerite Snails with different patterns as well. Instead of stripes, some types have splodges or a single coloration.

Regardless of the pattern, they are a great addition to freshwater aquariums for both beginners and experts alike. Once established, they require little intervention since they are hardy. They live a peaceful life without bothering any of their tank mates. They simply move around and munch on algae throughout the tank.

While they aren’t difficult to keep, there are some care requirements. This guide will help you understand how to properly care for Nerite Snails.

Nerite Snail Facts

  • The Neritidae family of snails, including neritina natalensis, contains over 200 other species.
  • Nerite Snails can live in freshwater or saltwater but can only reproduce in saltwater.
  • Nerite Snails originally came from Africa. They are most common in Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania. 
  • The name Natalensis refers to the African province of Natal, which is now called KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Many aquatic snails are hermaphrodites and can change gender or produce sperm and egg, but Nerites Snails are not hermaphrodites. They are either male or female.
  • If you drop a Nerite Snail on its back, it won’t be able to turn over and may die.
  • Despite loving to munch on algae, Nerite Snail are unlikely to eat other aquatic plants.

How to Care for Nerite Snail

Nerite Snail snails are relatively easy to take care of. In fact, most aquatic snails are usually hardy, and Nerite Snails are no exception. With that said, there are basic requirements that must be met, if you wish to keep these snails healthy.

Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis)
Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis)

Temperature

Wild Nerite Snails are commonly found along the warmer coastlines of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Consequently, they thrive in a moderate range of temperatures. In your aquarium, Nerite Snails will do best in temperatures between 71-79°F (22-26℃).

Depending on the climate where you live, you will likely need to invest in an aquarium heater and an aquarium thermometer to ensure that there are no sudden drops or increases in temperature.

Water pH

Nerite Snails prefer a relatively high water pH of 8.1-8.4. In some cases, they can cope in slightly acidic waters, but if it gets much lower than 7.0, the acid will strip the calcium from their shells, affecting their overall health. 

If you choose to keep your nerites in a saltwater tank, the salinity should stay between 1.020sg and 1.028sg.

Nerite Snail Size

Adult Nerite Snails are tiny and range between 0.5 inches and 1 inch. Although there are some slight differences in sizes in some varieties and even within colonies, it’s unlikely that they’ll grow much larger than that.

Nerite Snail Tank Size

The general rule of thumb for nerite snails is 5 gallons of water for each snail, but if your tank contains fish or other tank mates, you may want even more.  

How many Nerites Snails should I keep per tank?

Nerites live peacefully with other nerites but are also happy to live independently. You can have as many snails to a tank as you like as long as there is enough space and enough food.

Food & Diet

Nerite snails will be happy to live off the algae or any leftover fish food that accumulates inside their tank. If you notice it building up occasionally, they will likely have more than enough. 

However, you can supplement the algae by placing algae wafers or blanched vegetables like broccoli, green beans, cucumber or spinach. You’ll need to peel and wash them first, then blanch them in boiling water for 1 to 3 minutes before plunging them into ice-cold water. This process destroys any toxins or contaminants without damaging the nutrients.

Nerite Snail Lifespan

Most nerite snails kept in aquariums will live for at least 2 years, but some experienced keepers say they can live up to 5 years or more if you treat them carefully.

To help your snails make it to 5 years or more, there are several things you can do:

  • Ensure they have a big enough tank with at least 5 gallons per snail.
  • Keep them in hard water; the extra calcium helps keep their shell healthy.
  • Add rocks or bogwood for them to climb on; this replicates their natural habitat.
  • Make sure they’ve got enough food; if you can’t see any algae in your tank, collect up the snails, place an algae wafer in the tank and put them on it. 
  • Take steps to prevent your snails from climbing out of your tank and falling on the floor.
  • Only buy snails from reputable dealers.
Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis)
Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis)

Nerite Snail Tank Mates

You can keep nerite snails on their own or with other aquatic species. They’re generally peaceful and won’t attack others, but some larger creatures may see them as a snack.

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for your nerite snails, you’ll need to look for those that will thrive in warmer waters and aren’t likely to eat them. Examples of excellent choices include tetras, barbs, guppies, shrimp and other snails.

Examples of Incompatible Tank Mates

Many fish enjoy tormenting or eating nerite snails; some like to knock them off the sides of the tank, and others suck them out of their shells. Some incompatible tank mates to avoid with nerite snails are cichlids, yoyo loach, clown loach, striped raphael catfish, mbunas and tangs.

Nerite Snail and Betta fish

Nerite snails and betta fish are well-suited as tank mates. The snails won’t bother the betta, and even if you have a particularly aggressive betta and it tries to bite them, they’ll usually be fine in their shell.

Nerite Snail Tank Setup

If you’ve never kept aquatic snails before, you may be worried about getting the tank setup correct. But nerite snails are exceptionally easy to care for, and with a few simple steps, you’ll be able to provide for them successfully, whether this is your first aquarium or your fiftieth.

How to Setup a Tank for Nerite Snails

To set up your tank for nerite snails, start with a calcium sand substrate, add rocks, a few plants and an aquarium filter. To ensure that the temperature stays at the optimum 71-79°F (22-26℃), you’ll also need a heater and a thermometer. 

Nerite Snails live in coastal waters and rocky estuaries, so creating a similar environment in your aquarium helps them thrive. The sand provides a source of calcium to keep your snails’ shells healthy, and the stones create lots of surfaces for algae to grow so the snails can eat it. When you add the plants, make sure they have time to get established and let the water cycle a few times before introducing your snails. 

Nerite Snails sometimes like to come out of the water, so make sure the water is about 3 inches lower than the top of your tank. This gives them a little space to explore. Because of this, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got a secure lid with no large holes. 

Nerite Snails can live in saltwater or freshwater, and you can similarly prepare both setups. What you choose will likely depend on what other creatures you want to put in the tank. Also, if you need to prevent the snails from breeding, put them in freshwater, but if you’d like some baby snails, you’ll need a saltwater tank.

Can Nerite Snails live out of water?

Nerite snails are intertidal and are used to being left out of the water for extended periods. However, if they get out of their tank, they’re unlikely to be able to find the water again and will start to dry out.

Most aquatic snails can only be out of the water for a few hours and must remain moist. However, several nerite owners report finding snails that have been out of their tank for more than a month and appear to be completely fine when returned to the water.

Nerite Snail Breeding

Nerite snails can only breed in saltwater or brackish (slightly salty) water. The females will lay eggs in freshwater, but they won’t hatch. If you want your snails to breed, move them to a new tank that contains brackish water. If they’ve been in freshwater previously, slowly acclimatize them by replacing freshwater with salty water a bit at a time over several days.

Aim to have equal numbers of male and female snails in the breeding tank. It’s tough to tell the difference between male and female nerites. The males have a small fold around their right eye, and the females don’t. However, this is something best left to the professionals. Some snails are sold as males and females to make sure you get the right amount of each when you buy them.

Once they’re ready to mate, the female will release her eggs, and the male will fertilize them. Depending on the environment in the tank, they should become larvae in two or three days. Then a couple of weeks later, they’ll start to look like baby snails. They will then grow to their adult size in 6 months to a year.

What do Nerite Snail Eggs look like?

Nerite snail eggs look like tiny white ovals arranged in clumps or spread on rocks or over the stalks of plants. When a female lays her eggs, she’ll likely produce between 20 to 50 at one time.

Some people consider nerite eggs unsightly and don’t like them in their tanks. To get rid of the eggs, you could get some fish that are known to eat snail eggs, or you could scrape them off the tank walls with a credit card or flat knife blade. But, unfortunately, it’s hard to remove them from your aquatic plants.

How to Take Care of Nerite Snail Babies

Nerite snail babies can get enough food for themselves if enough algae is in their tank. If there isn’t, it’s essential to feed them 2 or 3 times a day. You can use algae wafers, spirulina powder or phytoplankton. 

You mustn’t use an uncovered filter pump during this time because the baby snails are so light, it may suck them inside. However, placing a piece of sponge in the inlet is a simple way to prevent this. After 1 or 2 months, you can return the snail babies to the main tank. 

Nerite Snail Disease

Nerite snails are generally reasonably healthy, and if you get them from a reputable aquatic supplier and keep them in the necessary conditions, you’ll be unlikely to have any problems. However, you must monitor their movement and shell conditions. 

Patches on their shell may indicate that your snail has a parasite. They should be quarantined and moved to a new tank immediately. It’s also important to check that your snail is getting enough calcium, adding calcium sand to the tank is one way of addressing this.

Why is my Nerite Snail not moving?

If your nerite snail stops moving or becomes slower than usual, it’s likely to do with poor water quality or the tank conditions are less than optimal. First, check the temperature, salinity and pH. If they’re all within normal levels, it may be an excess of nitrite or ammonia.

You can test the water for this with testing strips that can be bought from most pet shops or aquatic supply stores. If this is the case, you will need to change the water in your tank gradually. Start by replacing 25% and recheck the levels. 

Where can I find Nerite Snails for sale?

Most pet suppliers and aquatic retailers will stock nerite snails. You’ll likely find some in your local pet store, but we recommend the following online suppliers:

Zebra Nerites at Aquatic Arts

Aquatic Arts have an incredible selection of exotic fish and invertebrates, including nerite snails. They’re based in Indiana and will ship throughout the US and to some international countries. Since they started 7 years ago, they’ve grown to become one of the country’s largest online aquarium fish sellers. To ensure you get your snails in good condition, they provide 1 to 2 day air shipping and an arrival guarantee.

Zebra Nerites at Imperial Tropicals

Imperial Tropicals have even more experience in the aquarium fish industry. They started in 1970, and over 50 years later, they’re still thriving. Based in Lakeland, Florida, they ship throughout the US and offer a live arrival guarantee. So, if your snails aren’t alive on delivery, take photographs and let them know within two hours. 

They sell a range of different aquatic snails, including Zebra Nerite Snails.

Nerite Snail Price

You can buy Neritina natalensis (zebra nerite) for between $4 to $7 for one snail. Most stores will give you a more significant discount the more you buy.

Types of Nerite Snails 

One of the most popular species of Nerite Snails is Neritina natalensis. This is the species that we’ve focus on in this article. However, there are over 200 different types of Nerite Snails, and they have various patterns and colors on their shells. Here are some of the other popular species of Nerite Snails:

Horned Nerite Snail

The scientific name for Horned Nerite Snail is Clithon diadema. 

Here are some facts about Horned Nerite Snails:

  • Horned snails are named for the sturdy horns that stick out from its shell.
  • This nerite’s horns give it protection against hungry fish that might try to eat it.
  • Horned nerites come in different colors, including gold, yellow, black and even black and yellow stripes.
  • These spiky snails come from Southeast Asia, where they live in rivers and estuaries.
  • Horned nerites are smaller than zebra nerites and usually grow to about 3/4 of an inch.
  • They prefer a water temperature of 70 to 80F° (21-27℃) and a pH between 6.5 and 8.

Tiger Nerite Snail

The scientific name for Tiger Nerite Snails is Neritina semiconica.

Here are some facts about Tiger Nerite Snails:

  • Tiger nerites have amber-colored shells with dark markings.
  • These nerites have possibly the most stunning appearance of any aquatic snail.
  • These nerites are very similar to zebra nerites and come from the same places in Africa.
  • They grow to about 1 inch and live for between 3 to 5 years.

Midnight Black Nerite Snail

The scientific name of Midnight Black Nerite Snail is Vittina jovis.

Here are some facts about Midnight Black Nerite Snails.

  • These snails have an ebony black color.
  • They also have slight ridges in their shell and flecks of gold which gives it the appearance of aged wood.
  • Midnight black snails can grow to be 1.2 inches on average, slightly bigger than an adult zebra nerite.
  • The midnight black nerite is very rare in the wild.
  • Vittina jovis is native to the coastal waters of the Philippines.
  • They prefer a water temperature of 72 to 88F° (22-31℃) and a pH between 6.5 and 8.

Red Racer Nerite Snail 

The scientific name of Red Racer Nerite Snails is Vittina waigiensis.

Here are some facts about Red Racer Nerite Snails:

  • The red racer nerite has a stunning pattern of red bands interspersed with gold and black v shapes.
  • Red racers grow to about 1.2 inches.
  • They also come from the coastal waters of the Philippines. 
  • They prefer a water temperature of 72 to 88F° (22-31℃) and a pH of between 6.2 and 8.
  • Red racer nerites may have the most extended lives of all the nerites and regularly make it to 4 years, with many getting even older.

Nerite Snail vs Mystery Snail

Nerite Snails (Neritina natalensis) and Mystery Snail (Pomacea bridgesii) are both popular aquatic snails for aquariums. They’re relatively easy to keep, with little maintenance needed once you’ve settled them into their tanks. Both snails are voracious algae eaters and are often added to community tanks to clean up unwanted algae growth. 

However, they come from very different places, with the zebra nerite coming from Africa and the mystery snail originating in South America. Also, nerite snails can live in either fresh or saltwater, but mystery snails are only suited to life in a freshwater environment. Despite having different preferences regarding salt and freshwater, they both prefer hard, slightly alkaline water. 

Many aquatic snails are asexual or able to change gender, but both the zebra nerite and the mystery snail are either male or female. Both species are incredibly peaceful and will make compatible tankmates with any species that can inhabit the same water conditions and won’t try to turn them into a snack.

The most notable differences between the two are the colors and the size. Mystery snails come in a range of solid colors, which can be any one of black, brown, gold or ivory. Zebra nerites come in striking gold and black stripes. In addition, while the nerites are likely to grow to about 1 inch, mystery snails can reach up to 2 inches in diameter.

Conclusion

Zebra nerite snails are an excellent choice for anyone wanting to reduce the algae in their tank at the same time as adding a little extra vibrance. If you provide the right tank conditions, they’re simple to look after, and most aquarium keepers, even complete beginners, can manage them.

If you’ve never kept aquatic snails before, you may be put off by the thought of their dull appearance, but nerites add a splash of color to any tank they’re in. 

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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