Do Mystery Snails Eat Algae? Everything You Need To Know

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Algae is a very frustrating part of aquarium keeping. It is a common problem, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. This article will explore some important questions about controlling algae with snails. Do snails eat algae? Do mystery snails eat algae? If not, what are some of the best snails to eat algae?

do mystery snails eat algae

What Are Mystery Snails?

Mystery snails closely resemble apple snails in color and shape. They come in colors like white, yellow, and black. They stay much smaller though, only reaching about two inches in diameter. They are also unlikely to eat your plants like their larger counterparts.

Most people purchase mystery snails because they are bright and active, making them fun to watch. A lot of people also buy mystery snails for algae control. Mystery snails love eating detritus and algae, but how good are they at eating algae, really?

To find out everything you need to know about mystery snails, read our full guide here.

Do Mystery Snails Eat Algae?

Mystery snails love to eat algae and they will do so regularly. Mystery snails are herbivores, so algae is a large part of their diet.

Mystery snails have thousands of sharp little teeth that help them to tear through algae. They have a structure called a radula that contains all of these teeth. Many people compare the radula to a tongue, but it is sharp and spiked with the teeth. The radula makes it simple for snails to scrape through tough algae stuck to aquarium glass and ornaments.

Hair algae is a mystery snail’s favorite kind of algae. Hair algae is very common in home aquariums and is incredibly frustrating. The algae looks like hair, long, thick, and filamentous. It grows on just about anything: glass, ornaments, filters, gravel, and plants. If it is left unchecked, it can quickly overrun a tank.

How To Encourage Mystery Snails To Eat Algae

Sometimes, if mystery snails are fed too well, they will be slack with their algae-eating job. Although mystery snails like algae, other foods are preferred. If you regularly feed them fresh vegetables, they will fill up on that and will likely ignore the algae building up on the aquarium’s surfaces. They may also choose leftover fish food and dead plant matter over the algae as well.

This can be frustrating for aquarists because many people purchase mystery snails specifically so that they’ll help clean the aquarium. If they don’t do their job, the aquarium will quickly become overrun with green fuzz and the human cleaner will have to get to work.

To solve this problem, many people won’t feed their mystery snails supplemental diets. If a mystery snail is not given extra food, they will be more likely to eat algae. However, if they are fed properly with regular supplemental diets, they are less likely to feast on algae.

Although eliminating their diet is the most effective way to make sure your mystery snail eats algae, it is NOT recommended. Your snails need to be given supplemental foods like algae wafers and vegetables to stay healthy.

If you deprive them of those important foods, they will not receive the nutrients they need to stay healthy, and they could potentially starve.

Other Kinds of Snails

With these things in mind, mystery snails aren’t sounding too promising. So, what snails eat algae besides mystery snails? Which are the best algae eating snails?

Freshwater Snails

freshwater snail

If you really want to rid your aquarium of algae by way of purchasing a snail, you are better off getting a nerite snail. Nerite snails are the best snails for algae but do not eat plants or plant matter. They graze through algae quickly and make quick work of a dirty tank.

Do apple snails eat algae? Apple snails are very similar to mystery snails and the two often get confused. These snails will also eat algae, and may be better at it because they become larger than mystery snails. However, apple snails can and will destroy plants.

To learn more about what apple snails eat, read our full article here.

What about other snails? Do pond snails eat algae? Do assassin snails eat algae? Pond snails do enjoy eating algae around their home, but assassin snails do not.

Unlike most snails, assassin snails are not snails that eat algae. Instead, they are carnivorous and mostly feed on other snails. Most aquarists purchase these snails to rid themselves of pesky bladder snails that sneak into the tank.

Saltwater Snails

Freshwater snails are not the only ones that eat algae, there are lots of saltwater snails that eat algae too.

Do turbo snails eat hair algae? Although they look very different than nerite snails, they love hair algae just as much. Turbo snails come in smaller sizes, but can also grow very large and are effective algae eaters.

Type of Snail (FW or SW)EffectivelyModeratelyNone
Mystery Snails (FW)+
Apple Snails (FW)+
Nerite Snails (FW or brackish)+
Assassin Snails (FW)+
Pond Snails (FW or brackish)+
Turbo Snails (SW)+

What Else Do Mystery Snails Eat?

Mystery snails are opportunistic scavengers that love to eat. Their favorite things to eat are plant matter, fish food, and vegetables.

To learn more about what they like to eat, read our ultimate guide here.

How Many Mystery Snails Do I Need To Stop Algae Building Up?

what do mystery snails eat

There is no correct answer for how many mystery snails may help keep algae away. Much of the answer is determined by your tank conditions.

If your tank is overrun with algae, it is likely that no amount of snails will entirely clean it up.

Alternatively, if your tank is too clean and there are lots of snails, you may never have an issue.

Ideally, you don’t want to have more than one or two mystery snails per five gallons of water. This ensures that they have enough space, are not creating too much of a bioload, and won’t have to compete for food.

Watch Which Snail is BEST at Removing Algae

What Tank Conditions Help Keep Algae Away?

The easiest way to limit algae accumulation in your tank is to limit the amount of light that is entering the tank. Light makes algae grow like wildfire, so you never want too much of it.

Never place your tank near a window. Also, limit artificial lights to no more than seven hours a day. You might want to decrease that amount of time depending on how strong the light you have is.

Also, be cautious about overfeeding your pets. Not only will it make your tank dirty, extra food will encourage the growth of algae. Using high-quality filters and cartridges will also help prevent this.

Phosphates are a little-known factor that contributes to algae growth in high concentrations. High levels of nitrates and iron can cause similar issues. Fortunately, this is easily tested for and corrected with kits from the store.

Avoid algaecides when you can because they usually don’t work very well. Instead, they add unnecessary chemicals to your animal’s home.


Mystery snails are good animals to have for out-of-control algae in a fish tank. But are they the best snails for algae control? There are plenty of algae eating snails, and the fact is that there are species that are better at it than mystery snails. Still, mystery snails can make great back-up cleaners.

Stay responsible and keep your aquarium clean. Take steps to naturally reduce the amount of algae that grows in your tank. If your aquarium does not grow an unnatural amount of algae, mystery snails will make fun, colorful companions that effortlessly remove extra algae from your tank.

Interested in taking care of apple snails? Read our full article to learn more on what apple snails eat.

Also check out our full article on how big mystery snails can get or exactly what mystery snails eat. You can also read more about snails here.

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Frank Kane

By Frank Kane

Frank is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever possible.