Will Snails Help Cycle A Tank? {Is This The Best Way?}

Are you thinking of using snails to help cycle your tank? Will snails speed things along or fail to produce enough ammonia to aid in the cycling process? In this article, we’ll discuss the topic of cycling a tank with snails.

Will Snails Help Cycle A Tank? Snails alone will not help cycle a tank. Live plants and fish flakes with your snails will help them multiply, produce more waste and ammonia to speed up the cycling process.

Can Snails Be Used To Cycle A Tank?

A snail has a small metabolism. It works slowly and doesn’t produce enough ammonia to promote bacteria buildup. Adding in live plants will help to spread out the snail population across the tank floor and this will help create the ammonia you need for cycling.

A cooked piece of shrimp or fish flakes can help to create the ammonia instead. This makes it unnecessary to use snails for cycling your tank. A fishless cycle is easier for you, your fish and invertebrates.

What Do I Need With My Snails In A Tank Cycle?

A snail alone will try to help things along during a tank cycle, but you will need to help it too. The following list will outline a few suggestions to include in the tank cycling process.

  • water conditioner
  • bottled bacteria 
  • water test kit
  • sponge filter
  • live plants (Java Moss, Cardinalis work well)
  • fish flakes

Pond snails are messier will multiply much faster. You can choose from many types, but mystery snails are common and have success in most tanks along with these suggestions above.

Why Is My Snail In Its Shell During A Cycling?

Your snail may not be doing well during the cycling process. Detox the ammonia and nitrites with aquarium conditioner and continue with water changes. The following suggestions will help your snail come out and stay healthy during this time.

  • floating plants to reduce nitrates
  • large water change
  • stabilize pH above 6.5
  • add eggshells to harden water and snail shells

Floating Plants

Not only do they liven up your tank, they help to prevent nitrates from peaking. The following floating plants work well:

  • Hornwort
  • Java Moss
  • Red Root Floater
  • Duckweed
  • Amazon Frogbit
  • Cabomba
  • Dwarf Water Lettuce
  • Water Wisteria
  • Anacharis
  • Brazilian Pennywort
  • Rotala Indica
  • Ludwigia Repens
  • Water Sprite

These plants will release lots of debris into the tank. Your snail will eat up decaying plant matter. Soon, you will have multiplied your snail population as a result.

Large Water Change

Your snails may get spooked by larger water changes, but they are needed for cycling to take hold. You may notice the snails hiding in their shell during this time.


The optimal pH levels for snails are usually around 7.0-8.0. If you can stabilize the pH at 6.5-7.5 during this time, your snails should come out of hiding.


The dissolved calcium and carbonate in eggshells will help the alkalinity, buffering capacity and hardness of the tank water. This will improve the shell color and quality of your snails in the tank as well.

YouTube video

Which Snails Can I Use To Cycle A Tank?

There are thousands of snails to choose from, but the following snails are the most common:

  • Mystery Snail
  • Nerite Snail
  • Apple Snail
  • Ivory Snail
  • Black Devil Snails
  • Gold Inca Snails
  • Ramshorn Snail
  • Trumpet Snail
  • Trapdoor Snail
  • Pond Snails

Pond snails will be cheaper and more reliable to work with. The problem is that they are messier and will multiply rapidly. We tend to go with a mystery snail, but have preferred to keep snails out of cycling tanks until the later stages. Fish flakes and ammonia seem to work easier than relying on snail’s bioload to assist with tank cycling.

Should I Use Bacteria Starters To Help With Snails?

Bottled bacteria works well at times to help cycle a tank, but other times it doesn’t give you the results you hoped for. The bacteria you are trying to place into your tank won’t stay alive if there isn’t enough ammonia to feed it.

A single snail will not be able to support the ammonia requirements for this new bacteria. You will need more of a bioload through fish flakes or cooked shrimp to produce more ammonia.

Live plants will also create decaying matter that snails will absorb to produce more ammonia for the bottled bacteria to grow and take hold in the filter’s media.


Snails are not your best choice to help cycle a tank. They are hardy enough to withstand the ammonia reading of 1-5 ppm while you are cycling your tank.

A few snails won’t expel the amount of ammonia needed to feed the bacteria colony that you are trying to grow to successfully cycle the tank. A fishless cycle without snails works better in our opinion when you can use fish food like flakes or cooked pieces of shrimp instead.


Thank you for stopping by at HelpUsFish.com. We have plenty of articles on a wide variety of aquatic life that may also pique your interest. See you again soon!

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.

Recent Posts