Which Snails Eat Diatoms? {Our Editor’s Choice Of The Top 2 Diatom Eating Snails}

Are you looking to rely on snails to eat up the diatoms in your tank? Which snails will help you out the most? In this article, we’ll look into the best diatom eating snails to help clean up your substrate.

Which Snails Eat Diatoms? Turbo, Nerite, Cerith, Trochus and Astraea Tecta Snails are the best diatom eating snails. Diatoms will eventually go away on their own and reducing phosphate levels will also speed up their life cycle. 

What Are Diatoms Why Do Snails Eat Them?

A single-celled algae that looks like it’s living inside walls of glass is known as a diatom. The cell walls are actually made of opaline silica, making them unique in this regard. The silica patterns are intricate and detailed. They are harmless, but can make your substrate look unsightly.

The silica will break down and the breakout of diatoms usually lasts a few weeks. You can speed up to process by introducing snails, Otocinclus or Amano shrimp. Also reduce phosphate levels that ignite diatom growth and reduce oxygen levels.

Ideal phosphate levels:

  • Freshwater aquarium: 0.5 – 1 ppm
  • Planted freshwater tank: 1.5 – 3 ppm
  • Reef tanks – 0 – 0.03 ppm

Will Filtering Phosphates Remove Diatoms Better Than Snails?

Snails will work on reducing the population of diatoms by mowing them down with their rasping tongues. A phosphate reducing solution like Phosguard will help to eliminate large portions of diatoms faster than snails could.

It’s always best to follow the instructions on any bottle, but you can also get creative. Put some of it on an active filter media bag that you remove from the filter itself.

Cut the bottom of a plastic bottle and place the media bag inside it. Pour the solution through the bag and into the tank for better results to remove diatoms.

Which Snail Eats The Most Diatoms?

Our top 2 favorite diatoms eaters are:

  1. Turbo Snails
  2. Nerite Snails

Turbo Snails

The Turbo snail is native to saltwater reefs off the Gulf of California. They are the fastest diatom eaters, but are not recommended in freshwater tanks. They can grow from 3/4 of an inch to 2 inches. They will bulldoze through reef tanks and make quick meals out of diatoms.

Nerite Snails

The Nerite snail is the best choice for diatom eating snails in freshwater tanks. They can also reside in saltwater tanks, making them versatile and fully capable of munching on various types of micro-algae and diatoms. They thrive on mostly plant matter and algae while leaving other debris to focus on cleaning up for you.

YouTube video

Do Cerith Snails Eat Diatoms?

Cerith snails are nocturnal creatures that thrive in saltwater tanks. They will come out at night to eat up:

  • diatoms
  • film algae
  • cyanobacteria
  • leftover fish food
  • detritus

Sandy substrates and the bottom strip of your tank are going to be taken care by Cerith snails in saltwater tanks. Consider adding them if you have a diatom issue that needs some help from a live tank cleaning invertebrate.

Do Trochus Snails Eat Diatoms?

Trochus snails have one of the most beautiful shells from all of marine life creatures. They have the capability to flip themselves over if they are overturned in your tank. They will dedicate their time to graze on diatoms, slime algae and filamentous algae.

If you care about the unsightly appearance of diatoms taking over the substrate, consider the eye-pleasing Trochus snail as a welcome addition to your saltwater tank.

Do Aquarium Snails Eat Diatoms?

There are many types of snails that will use their grazing ability to mow down diatoms on the bed of your aquarium. Ramshorn snails or Pond snails are found feasting on diatoms, but they also leave behind plenty of waste. They will consume your plants if they have the chance.

What you would like more is dedicated diatom eater. The Nerite snail is your best bet because it focuses on algae and diatoms more than any other freshwater snail. They can also live in saltwater tanks.

The effort and work from a Nerite snail is unmatched unless you are also interested in adding Amano shrimp and Otocinclus for a three-pronged attack on diatoms.

Do Diatoms Go Away On Their Own?

Diatoms are harmless single celled algae enclosed inside a silica casing. They may seem ugly when your lighter gravel or sand turns brown as a result. They arrive to eat up excess nutrients. A life cycle of a breakout of diatoms could last from several weeks to a few months.

Diatoms convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. They are packed with nutrition for your bottom feeding snails, shrimp and catfish or carp. Not all species of invertebrates or bottom feeders eat diatoms.

It’s best to keep your phosphate levels low while allowing Nerite snails, Otocinclus and Corydoras along with Amano shrimp to help speed things along to eliminate the diatom population.


Skimmers, powerheads, snails, phosphate solutions or simply turning off the lights to remove their source of energy could eliminate diatoms.

Snails are the least invasive, but also a slower way to clean up and ingest these single celled algae from spreading all over the substrate.

Diatoms will eventually fade out and go away, but sometimes they return when phosphate levels are high. Nerite snails are our favorite diatom eating snails. Try them out and let us know your results by emailing us anytime!


Thanks for visiting HelpUsFish.com 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.