What Do Zebra Snails Eat? [Full Guide]

what do zebra snails eat

Nerite snails and mystery snails are two of the most popular freshwater snails kept by aquarium hobbyists. The two species have a lot in common, such as what they eat and how they act. They have their own differences, of course. If you are searching for a new snail to add to your tank but aren’t sure which is best, keep reading. Today, we’ll focus on nerite snails.

what do zebra snails eat

What Are Zebra Snails?

Zebra snails are also known as nerite snails, and they receive their name from the coloration of their shells. Their shells are primarily a mustard color with thick black stripes. Nerite snails also come in other colors, like the leopard nerite, but the zebra variety is the most popular.

Nerite snails are typically considered the best freshwater snails for algae control. They have a voracious appetite and love to feast on algae, but they won’t go after your plants.

Nerite Snails Vs Mystery Snails – What Is The Difference?

Nerite snails and mystery snails are two of the most popular freshwater aquarium snails to choose from. They are both wonderful snails to keep in your aquarium, but they have their own set of assets. Keep reading to learn about their differences.

What They Eat

The main difference between nerite snails and mystery snails is what they eat. Nerite snails are great algae eaters and can help tackle serious algae problems. Mystery snails eat algae too, but they don’t eat nearly as much and will eat other foods first if they are available.

Although nerite snails are great at decimating overgrown algae, they won’t eat detritus like mystery snails do. If you have a problem with leftover fish food, but don’t have as much of an algae problem, mystery snails will be a better choice.

How They Look

Mystery snails and nerite snails also differ in their appearances. Mystery snails are usually solid colors of whites, yellows, and blacks. Alternatively, nerite snails are usually a combination of black and yellow with patterns like stripes and spots.

Nerite snails also stay smaller than mystery snails, growing only to one inch in diameter versus the mystery snail’s two inches.

Watch this video:

How They Breed & Where They Live

what do zebra snails eat

One of the biggest differences between the two snails is how they breed. Some aquarists don’t want to worry about breeding at all, so nerite snails are ideal for them.

Although they don’t breed as quickly as pest snails do, mystery snails will still produce eggs. Mystery snails love to mate and can leave you with hundreds of baby snails throughout the year. Although the eggs are easy to spot and easily removable, some people don’t want the hassle. This is where nerite snails come in handy.

Nerite snails are able to live in both freshwater and brackish water. This makes them a favorite among aquarium keepers that own brackish tanks. There aren’t nearly as many organisms in the aquarium trade that can live in brackish water as there are freshwater and saltwater. For people looking for a brackish water clean-up crew, nerite snails are a great addition.

While they can live in both freshwater and brackish water, nerite snails can only breed in brackish water. Because of this, not only are nerite snails great for algae clean-up, but you also don’t have to worry about baby snails. Of course, if you are keeping them in a brackish-water tank, that is a different story.

Acclimating Nerite Snails

Nerite snails can even be transferred from a freshwater tank to a brackish one and vice versa as long as you are careful. Never try to transfer your snails directly from either water type. The drastic water change is too stressful and will kill the snail.

If you wish to switch up their living environment, do it slowly. The best method is through drip acclimation over a period of several hours.

If you are unfamiliar with acclimation procedures and why they are needed, check out this website. It gives you in-depth information on why acclimation is necessary for all your new aquarium pets, as well as how to complete the process.

SizeColorBreedingDetritus CleaningAlgae Cleaning
Nerite Snails1″ Yellow & Black: Usually with Stripes or Spots Brackish WaterDoes Not EatGreat Cleaners
Mystery Snails2″White, Yellow, & BlackFreshwaterGreat CleanersModerate Cleaners

For more in-depth information on mystery snails, check out our full guide.

What Tank Conditions Help Them Thrive?

Nerite snails are similar to other tropical fish and snails when it comes to what habitat keeps them healthiest. To create the perfect environment for them, consult this chart:


The hardness of the water is especially important because it helps keep snails’ shells healthy. They need a lot of calcium in the water to keep their shells from breaking down and harder water will aid in this.

Like mystery snails, nerite snails have a habit of exploring outside the aquarium, so it is best to keep a lid on your tank and to keep an eye on them. Fortunately, like mystery snails, nerite snails can survive outside the tank for several hours, so you can usually rescue them before it’s too late.

Find out how long zebra snails live here.

What Do Zebra Snails Eat?

what do zebra snails eat

Nerite snails love to eat algae and will do a wonderful job at clearing your tank of the annoying green fuzz. Unlike mystery snails, they will not eat fish food or detritus, but they do enjoy vegetables. While nerite snails won’t eat plants, they will eat dead plant matter.

What To Feed Zebra Snails?

Although nerite snails will happily munch on algae all day, they do need some supplemental food. If you don’t give them any food in addition to the algae, they will be nutritionally deficient. Here are the best foods:

  • Algae wafers
    • Designed for bottoms feeders with essential nutrients
  • Vegetables
    • Spinach, lettuce, carrots, etc.

Want to know if snails eat fish? Click here to find out!

How Much Food?

The amount of food your snails need depends on how much they can eat and how many snails are in your tank. Begin by feeding them a small amount of food and keep an eye on your snails. If, after a few hours, there is leftover food, remove it from the tank. You now know to feed them less for their next feeding. Alternatively, if they eat all of their food quickly, you’ll know to feed them more.


Nerite snails are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium snails available, and for good reason. They are small and don’t take up much room, but they quickly purge aquariums of pesky algae.

Although they are small, they are colorful and have fun patterns on their shells that make them enjoyable to watch. If you are looking for a new clean-up crew for your freshwater or brackish water tank, nerite snails might be your answer.

Read about how long zebra snails live here. Also interested in mystery snails? Read our guide on exactly how big mystery snails get, how mystery snails mate, and learn more of what mystery snails eat here. Find more guides to mystery snails and other kinds of snails here.

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