Can Snails Live In A Tank Without A Filter? {What You Need In Unfiltered Tanks}

Unfiltered tanks are a rising trend, but require some more maintenance. Would you like snails to help you out with an unfiltered tank? Let’s explore the option of keeping snails in an unfiltered tank with an article dedicated to this.

Can Snails Live In A Tank Without A Filter? Yes. Snails will help clean algae, but they will take their fair share of oxygen and create waste as well. Snails are hardy in tanks with soft water and a pH at or near 7.0. Floating plants, low-light plants and water changes will help you keep snails in an unfiltered tank. 

How Should I Keep Snails In an Unfiltered Tank?

A bigger tank would be better, but it isn’t essential. the following tips may come in handy to keep hardy snails in tanks without a filter.

  • Keep the water clean.
  • Use a gravel substrate.
  • Do not overfeed.
  • Perform weekly water changes around 10-25%.
  • Add an air pump or air stones (optional).
  • Add calcium in the water.
  • Plant some low-light plants and floating plants.

You will need the beneficial bacteria from a well established nitrogen cycle. You do not need to vacuum the substrate fully in order to maintain some helpful bacteria. It’s ok if the water turns slightly green.

Snails need adequate oxygen that can be substituted without a filter. Add more oxygenation and aeration with plants that don’t require too much light to prevent algae growth and consider an air pump or air stone.

Overfeeding your tank residents will create more waste and ammonia. Water changes will help balance that out. Calcium from eggshells, cuttlebone or liquid solutions will help to supplement the need for your snails to maintain their shell density and promote healthy growth.

Which Snails Can You Keep Without a Filter?

The following snails are only a few out of many that are kept successfully in unfiltered tanks:

  • Mystery snail
  • Pond snail 
  • Ramshorn snail
  • Apple snail
  • Assassin snail
  • Nerite snail

Change the water each up to 25%. Filters are known to suck snails into them. This could be another reason why you wish to go with an unfiltered option. Heat is optional, but colder tanks reduce a snail’s activity to clean algae and roam around the tank.

Do Aquarium Snails Need Oxygen?

Snails definitely need oxygen in your tank to survive. The atmospheric oxygen through oxygenated tanks will help snails breathe while others will come up to the surface sometimes for a replenishment of air.

Without a filter, an air pump could help agitate the water’s surface and spread out the oxygen that your floating plant or low-light plants could help create.

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Which Plants Should I Keep With Snails In A Tank Without a Filter?

Choose from many types of plants that do not require much light or grow too fast. You will need to reduce light in order to prevent algae growth. Your snails will not be able to ingest enough algae and they will continuously consume oxygen while releasing their waste into the tank as well.

The following plants work well in an unfiltered tank:

  • Java fern
  • Anubias
  • Undulata
  • Red Crytocoryne

Less wattage is needed, but lighting is still essential to their growth. Heavily planted tanks will not necessarily increase the oxygen as plants will also consume it through the night.

Do Snails Like Floating Plants?

Snails will benefit from tanks that contain floating plants. They will block some of the light to reduce a heavy buildup of algae, especially if the tank is unfiltered. Many snails like to use the roots of floating plants to lay their eggs, especially if they are near the walls of your tank.

The following floating plants will be useful atop your unfiltered tank:

  • Hornwort
  • Java Moss
  • Red Root Floater
  • Duckweed
  • Amazon Frogbit
  • Cabomba
  • Dwarf Water Lettuce
  • Water Wisteria

A nutrient rich substrate will keep your plants happy and the beneficial bacteria will contribute to a healthier overall tank without a filter. Snails will help with leftover food, detritus and algae growth.

Which Fish Could I Keep With Snails In An Unfiltered Tank?

You will be looking to stock hardy fish in your unfiltered tank. Water chemistry may fluctuate at times and you will need fish that can handle it. Bottom feeders that get along with snails will also help. Here are few tankmates for snails in a tank without a filter:

  • Plecostomus
  • Corydoras
  • Paradise fish
  • Guppies
  • White Cloud Minnows
  • Neon Tetras

The bigger the tank, the more oxygen and peaceful nature of tankmates will become evident. Under stock the tank and try not to overfeed as well. Water changes at 10-25% weekly will help maintain healthy water chemistry.

Your snails will help to eliminate extra food from their tankmates above and peaceful bottom dwellers will share the duty of cleaning algae that could otherwise get out of control in an unfiltered tank.


Snails are hardy and helpful in tanks without a filter. The need to go unfiltered could arise when you are in between filters, budget constraints or simply because you wish to take on this hobby without one. Filters are increasingly cheaper and easier to order online.

If you are adamant about not using a filter, snails will be your friend and will do their best to contribute to the overall health of your water chemistry. They will need oxygen from plants and possibly an air pump or air stones.

Calcium through eggshells, cuttlebone or other means can keep their shells strong while they continue their work to clean algae and other detritus. Keep in mind that snails can get messy too and water changes up to 25% will help to maintain cleaner water levels.

Continue to test your water for spike of nitrates, nitrites and ammonia and make sure the beneficial bacteria thrives in properly cycled tank, especially if you take the option to go without a filter.


Thanks for visiting and we hope to see you again for another article on Snails or any other aquatic life that interests you. 

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.