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Tips on Keeping Mystery Snail Shells Healthy

I am a snail breeder who is actively engaged in the community of research around snails.


Shell Issue?

A lot of owners who are new to mystery snail ownership find that after a few months, their once gorgeous, large, king of the tank is now badly chipped, just a shadow of its former gleaming self.

They may have tried multiple things to get the apparent erosion problem under control, or just assume that the snail is old.

I have found that there is not much advice online to be found about the proper way to take care of mystery snails or, more specifically, how to keep their shells from being damaged.

The health of the shell is an integral part of the health of the overall snail and actually becomes an indicator. Unfortunately, as I and many others in my position have found, adding a few shells to the tank or making the filter bulge out a little bit with coral isn’t always the answer.

While there are some natural ways to add calcium to the tank which will normally raise water hardness and PH levels—which I will talk about—this usually isn’t enough to get the required levels that would strengthen, and maintain good, healthy shells.

My favorite little guy. Hercules seems much bigger in real time.

My favorite little guy. Hercules seems much bigger in real time.

Causes of Shell Damage

When doing their research, most well-intended snail owners are lost in a myriad of information as soon as they type the first catchphrase related to the problem.

Shell damage is pretty straightforward in my opinion: It’s caused by acidic water. You will get bits of choppy detail such as ‘the tank water isn’t healthy' or ‘need to do more water changes,’ and authors telling you that the snail is old and therefore its shell is starting to crack. I think I’ve even seen articles pointing to possibly aggressive tank-mates, or snails hitting themselves on unsuspecting culprits in the aquarium setup (jutting rocks or sharp edges).

While the above causes are possible, chances are that if you have multiple mystery snails getting shell erosion, these aren’t the main issues.

Depending on where you live, your water may be more or less acidic, and the water is just too soft for your snails. These gentle darlings need a hard water level of 150-300 ppm and a PH of 7.6-8.4.

While most freshwater fish do not seem to react as badly to lower PH levels, mystery snails give clear signs of poor water quality by their ever-eroding shells.

Our snails like to eat the inside of the zucchini slices as if they are 'oreo cookies.'

Our snails like to eat the inside of the zucchini slices as if they are 'oreo cookies.'

If Your PH Is Just a Little Low

There are many reasons for the water being too acidic even if you do constant water changes.

If you see clear signs of shell erosion in more than one of your snails, I would suggest you take immediate measures to fix your PH.

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Be aware of the type of fish that you have in your aquarium while taking these steps, as fish can become easily stressed out by rapid changes in the water parameters. (The only fish I keep in my mystery snail tank at the moment are guppies).

Here are the steps I would take when going about this process. Before you start, make sure that you do a little research on the fish you keep in the aquarium to ensure they can handle whatever process you follow. Here are the exact steps as I would do it based on my research and experience.

Get a PH Kit and Test It

I recommend getting this API kit. Using the clear tube + solution method seems to give more accurate results than just doing test strips.

Once you have determined that you have a PH problem and know your tank levels, you can do one of the following. I say you have two options because your next course of action should be determined by the level itself.

If your PH is around let’s say, 7.0 or is just a little low, you may not need to do much more than add a few shells to the aquarium. If this is the case, here is a good protocol.

Add Some Coral

You can get some coral off Amazon and put a few handfuls in the aquarium. Here is a good brand. Don’t use more than a few handfuls (depending of course on the size of your tank) because raising the PH too high can actually be detrimental.

Add One or Two Seashells

You can add one or two seashells. This is also a way to get the PH up a little bit. I don’t have any products to recommend but you can most likely get them from a craft store or Amazon if you don’t live by a beach.

Add Calcium Blocks

You can get these in the form of cuttlebones at your local pet shop. I just use the ones they sell for birds. It’s recommended that you crush them up before putting them in the aquarium. Honestly, everyone should have calcium blocks of some kind in their tank anyway.

Add a Variety of Vegetables

Since snails love a variety of veggies such as, but not limited to, spinach leaves, zucchini, carrots, any kind of delicious lettuce, cucumber, and so forth.

Adding this to the tank may help to increase calcium while offering them a regular, delicious entree!

Funny Fact: My snails used to eat their dead tankmates, as natural garbage disposals of the earth do, but since they’ve gotten used to better things, alas! Now we have to clean the disposables out of the tank.


What If Your Water Is Truly Acidic?

Since I fell into the category of those who had severe erosion problems and my water was truly acidic, this is what I used.

Kent’s liquid calcium is advertised as a marine product but can be used for freshwater mystery snails. It was a bit of a risky option, but since there was no further information I could find on the web, I resorted to the Amazon reviews of this product and researched it.

Several people mentioned using this product successfully with fish in the aquarium. Not only did it help their mystery snails become bright and beautiful again, but it had no adverse effects on any of their fish.

I wouldn’t risk doing this with any type of fish except guppies myself, since they seem to tolerate wider parameters than most freshwater creatures and seem to be a bit more hardy. It's up to your discretion, though.

Dosing liquid calcium can be a bit tricky, but as I have yet to find a product that is solely for mystery snails, it’s probably the best thing out there.

For a twenty-gallon tank, I use three drops of this product every other day. Within a few days of doing so, my PH finally reached a healthy seven point something, and after two weeks, it’s almost an eight.

Even the snails are starting to look healthier and their shells are . . . what is the word, glowing? I turned to my boyfriend the other day and said, “Hey . . . do the snails look different to you? They seem- brighter, or something. I think the product is actually helping.” He said he noticed it, too.

I am still fiddling with the dosages and am unsure whether I will stop adding it to the tank at some point.

If the PH is raised above levels that are healthy, I will stop using it for a period of time and continue to check the parameters.

The best advice I can give to others is to make sure you are checking the tank parameters at least every other day—so use as needed.

To date, this is the only product that has helped raise the PH levels in our tank to an appropriate point. I had to share what I’ve learned because I know how tough it is to find solutions to shell damage. After all, mystery snails are a highly underrated piece of biology.

I truly hope that these options help your snails to live long, happy, healthy, eventful lives and that, together, we can help raise awareness of how to keep these little guys healthy.

If you have questions please feel free to contact me via the contact link above and I will do my best to respond.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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