Assassin snails are quite different than other snails in the aquarium hobby, and most people don’t get them just to look at.
Similar to people purchasing nerite snails to rid their tank of algae, people will buy assassin snails to rid their tank of pest snails that can overwhelm tanks by the hundreds.
- 1 What Is An Assassin Snail?
- 2 Do Assassin Snails Eat Each Other?
- 3 What Do Assassin Snails Eat?
- 4 How Do Assassin Snails Kill Other Snails?
- 5 How Long Do Assassin Snails Live?
- 6 Conclusion
What Is An Assassin Snail?
New aquarium keepers sometimes misinterpret what an assassin snail really is. They fear that it might eat a lot of the animals they keep in their tank.
Size & Color
The reality is that assassin snails stay relatively small, so they can’t eat much, even if they wanted to. Their shells are similar to that of trumpet snails in terms of shape, and they will only grow to about 3/4 of an inch in length.
Assassin snails are light in color on their body with small dark spots. Their shells are usually dark brown to black with golden stripes.
Having assassin snails in your aquarium is great for ridding your tank of pest snail infestations, like trumpet snails or bladder snails.
They generally will NOT eat large mature snails like mystery, apple, or nerite snails, and they won’t eat your fish. However, they have been known to go after larger snails on occasion, and they will eat shrimp and other invertebrates.
Do Assassin Snails Eat Each Other?
Because the main part of an assassin snail’s diet consists of other snails and their eggs, many people wonder, do assassin snails eat each other? Fortunately, they have not been reported to eat members of their own species, so you can keep multiple in the tank.
What Do Assassin Snails Eat?
Unlike nerite, apple, and mystery snails, assassin snails are strictly carnivores and will not eat leftover plant-based fish food or detritus. This may leave many new aquarists wondering what to feed assassin snails.
To hunt, they will bury themselves into the substrate and wait for its prey to move by. It’s favorite things to eat are pest snails like Malaysian trumpet snails, Ramshorn snails, and pond snails.
Assassin snails can and will eat snails that are larger than them, as long as they are able. Ramshorn snails are often bigger than assassin snails, but they don’t have an operculum, a shell-like object that snails use to close off their shells. So, they are left particularly vulnerable.
Snails with operculums who are mature and large enough are generally safe. However, if your tank is too clean and there is not enough small prey available for your assassin snail, they will attempt to eat the larger snails. While they are usually safe, sometimes the assassin snails are successful, so you should always keep them well fed.
Most people purchase assassin snails because they have an infestation of pest snails. They easily take care of the problem, but once all of the pest snails are gone, you may find yourself with another problem when the snail goes after your other invertebrates. To prevent this, some aquarists find that they need to purchase prey snails for their assassins to feast on.
Eggs & Young
While the larger, mature snails are usually safe, any of their babies will not be. If you snails breed and you’d like to keep them, make sure they are moved to a tank separate from the assassin snails. Otherwise, the baby snails will make a good snack.
They also enjoy the occasional snail egg if nothing else is available. However, nerite snail eggs are too hard for assassin snails to eat through, so they will leave them be.
In addition to other snails, assassin snails are carnivores and enjoy anything rich in protein. This includes meat-based fish flakes and worms.
Assassin snails will not eat live fish, but if they die, assassin snails will eat their bodies if they get to them before you do.
Because they are carnivores, assassin snails will not eat plants or algae, so they are safe to keep in planted aquariums.
Do Assassin Snails Eat Shrimp?
Unfortunately, assassin snails and shrimp don’t make a good combination. Because they are soft bodied and easy to get ahold of, assassin snails do like to eat shrimp that are small enough.
Larger shrimp are generally safe from the snails, but you should take caution when adding any kind of shrimp to a tank inhabited by assassin snails.
Just like assassin snails will try to eat larger snails when they are hungry enough, they will do the same with shrimp, so your snails should always be kept well fed.
Do Assassin Snails Eat Algae?
Assassin snails are carnivores and are not interested in things like algae and plants. While this makes them a perfect addition for any planted tank, it can be frustrating for those looking for a good algae cleaner.
How Do Assassin Snails Kill Other Snails?
Primarily ambush predators, assassin snails will bury under the substrate until they sense their prey within their vicinity.
They will also attempt to crawl quickly after their prey to catch it. With this method, they will essentially smoother it with their foot and eat them through the aperture of their shell.
To eat, they use a forked, tongue-like structure that they stick through the aperture of the other snail’s shell. They use that structure to pull the snail out of its shell while it is still alive.
The assassin snail will then use its radula, a tongue-like structure with thorny fixtures, to eat its prey. They will hold their prey down with their foot and scrape off parts of its flesh with the radula, all while the animal is still alive.
If you house more than one assassin snail together, they will gang up to hunt down prey and eat it.
The amount of time it takes for an assassin snail to eat its prey is unknown, although experts best guess is at least half an hour.
If you’d like to watch a video of an assassin snail eating its prey, here is a good video.
How Long Do Assassin Snails Live?
Like most aquatic snails, assassin snails don’t live for very long. Under the right aquarium conditions, they can live upwards of two years.
Assassin snails are interesting creatures to keep in your tank, especially if you are having a pest snail infestation. Just be cautious about housing them with other vulnerable species.
Most larger snails and shrimp should be safe from assassin snails, but there is always danger present. Assassin snails can and will go after larger snails and shrimp if there is nothing else for them to feed on.
Still, if you are having trouble with annoying pest snails taking over your tank, an assassin snail is likely a good addition.