Mystery Snails, also known by their scientific name Ampullaria, are freshwater snails that are extremely popular with aquarists, due to how easy they are to care for, their calm temperament, and the wonderful range of colors that they come in – they can really brighten up your tank, especially if you get a few of them that are all different colors from each other!
It’s a commonly accepted fact amongst aquarists that you shouldn’t really keep snails in your tank because of how much and how quickly they breed.
However, this is only true of Hermaphrodite snails; when it comes to Mystery Snails, you don’t need to worry about this – but more on that later when we delve into their breeding habits in further detail!
Although these pretty little snails are fairly easy to care for, it’s still extremely important to know the ins and outs of how exactly to look after them, especially if this is your first time owning one.
So, read on to find out everything you need to know about Mystery Snails!
Mystery Snail Background
The scientific name for Mystery Snails is Ampullaria, and they originate from South America, where they live in the lakes, rivers and swamps that are in Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.
These snails are actually very common to find in the wild and certainly aren’t anywhere close to being considered threatened or endangered.
This is probably largely due to the fact that they’re scavengers, like most other invertebrates, and are able to readily have access to and feed on algae or leftover food.
Mystery Snails are naturally very docile and peaceful creatures that prefer to be within a calm environment as they don’t like confrontation – and they don’t deal too well with it either.
A big reason for this is because they don’t actually have the capability to attack another living being, as all they have to defend themselves are their shell and operculum. Other than this, they’re pretty much defenseless.
When they do feel threatened by a fish or anything else, they retreat inside their shell and shut themselves inside their operculum, but this still provides extremely limited defense from bigger creatures.
These snails are actually quite active, even though you wouldn’t necessarily think so because they move so slowly and it’s also quite common for you to simply see them looking still and dormant for a long time.
But, when the lights are on, you might also witness them moving through the tank hunting for food or for places to explore or hide.
Even when the lights are off, they can eat at night or, quite commonly, they extend their siphon and head up to the surface of the tank to catch a bit of air.
A great little quirk that Mystery Snails tend to exhibit as well is when they climb up the walls of the tank, let go, and then glide right on back down to the bottom of the tank – it will look almost like they’re jumping off!
Their beauty and incredible range and variety of colors is the thing that probably makes Mystery Snails stand out from most other types of snail.
If you buy a few of these snails for your tank, they’ll be sure to make it look fun and bright, especially if they’re all different colors.
Their shells are the part of their bodies that generally come in a range of different colors, including black, brown, gold, ivory and – much less common – purple.
Their shells are normally solid or banded, but the general patterns or markings that appear on them can also vary depending on each individual snail.
The color of their actual bodies is usually either light beige or ivory with dark flecks. Their siphon, which is the tube they breathe out of, protrudes out and is quite long.
The average size for these snails tends to be one or two inches in diameter, with males being a little smaller than females, and their shell openings are also more rounded.
It’s actually very easy to tell the difference between the two genders when you buy them, as all you have to do is ask to have a look at them out of the tank and look under their shells – here you’ll see that males have a penis shaft whilst females simply have a hole (these are located next to their lung sac on both of them).
As touched upon earlier, Mystery Snails are usually found in rivers, lakes and swamps in South America, particularly in Peru, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.
However, due to humans distributing them all over the world, you can also find them elsewhere, and in some places outside of their natural habitat, they’ve actually become an invasive species.
In their natural habitat, though, there is usually a large amount of plant material at the bottom of the bodies of water that they live in, which is what they like to scavenge on.
And, in terms of the types of water conditions they live in, it tends to be hard, not too cold – between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit – and alkaline.
As mentioned above, Mystery Snails like their water conditions to be hard, alkaline and fairly warm – around room temperature.
Therefore, the ideal water parameters for the tank you keep them in should be a water temperature between 68 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, a pH level between 7.6 and 8.4, and a water hardness between 12 and 18 KH.
These snails are very sensitive to changes in their water conditions, so it’s essential to keep an eye on the tank’s water parameters on a regular basis to make sure there aren’t any sudden shifts.
You’ll also need to make sure that the water contains calcium, as this allows them to grow and thrive.
To make this happen, you can simply put calcium supplements directly into the water, or give the snails vegetables that contain a lot of calcium to then introduce the mineral into the water.
It’s a must that you also include plant matter into their tanks, as in the wild they naturally love to scavenge for plants. It doesn’t matter what plants you include, though, as they’re not too fussy about what they consume.
Because Mystery Snails are small animals, they only require a fairly small tank.
A five gallon tank should suffice for one snail, but if you want to keep more than one or you want to give it some other species of tankmates, then you’ll need a bigger tank depending on exactly how big of a community you want to create.
An additional five gallons per snail is a good rule of thumb to follow if you want more than one Mystery Snail because, even though they’re tiny, these creatures still appreciate their own space.
This probably isn’t difficult for you to guess considering it’s been mentioned multiple times already in this guide, but Mystery Snails adore eating plant matter.
This makes up the main part of their diet. They have a particular fondness for algae, so this is a great thing to include in their tank, as they’ll take their time to search for it just as they would do in their natural habitat.
The manner in which they eat is interesting because they really love to devour a lot of food and seem to be fairly greedy, as they’ll always methodically eat everything that’s in one particular spot without leaving anything, before then moving onto the next bit of food in another spot.
As well as providing them with algae in their tank, you’ll also need to give them flakes or pellets to eat, as this will make sure they’re getting more than enough food and it will make them healthier by supplementing their diet.
It’s also good to feed them the same kind of vegetables as you would eat, which can be a fairly cheap option for you.
For example if you buy a lot of vegetables, such as cucumber, kale and spinach, you can feed them anything that you don’t want to eat which is leftover and about to turn bad.
As briefly touched upon in the introduction, Mystery Snails aren’t an asexual species of snail, which means you’ll need both a male and a female in order to breed them.
It’s super easy to keep a male and a female in a tank together considering their peaceful nature, and it’ll be a natural occurrence for them to mate with each other.
Breeding them is an extremely easy process, largely due to the fact that you can simply allow them to go about their business without altering their water conditions, like you have to with many species of fish, so it requires minimal effort on your part.
Once they’ve successfully mated, the female lays her eggs, which are pink in color, on the water’s surface in a cocoon. They will then hatch in around two to four weeks and, et voila, you’ll have yourself some baby Mystery Snails!
Because Mystery Snails are so easygoing and peaceful, they themselves won’t create any trouble towards any tankmates you decide to add as a part of your tank community, so they’re very easy to pair other creatures up with.
You can pair them up with more of their own kind, as mentioned before, or with freshwater fish that aren’t aggressive and that, obviously, don’t eat snails as a part of their natural diet!
Some good choices of tankmates include small shrimp, tetras, bettas, gouramis and Nerite Snails.
As with any living organism, there’s always the potential for disease or health issues.
Mystery Snails, fortunately, don’t have any disease in particular that majorly affects their species, but they’re susceptible to parasites and poor health if you don’t keep their water conditions in check.
Small and sudden changes in their tank’s water parameters can lead to them going into shock and suffering from bad health.
And, if the water quality is bad for a consistent period of time, they can pick up parasites that are extremely difficult to treat and will almost definitely result in their death.
This is why it’s so important for you to regularly check your Mystery Snails’ water conditions and check up on them all of the time to see if they’re acting peculiarly.
If you do this, you’ll be able to easily notice if they’re dead, too, because they’ll either float in the water for a prolonged period of time, be completely still at the bottom of the tank, be hanging upside down, or swell out of their shell.
Plus, they produce a foul rotting smell once they’ve died, which is difficult to miss or ignore.
Mystery Snails won’t be your companion for a very long time, as they have a short lifespan and only live for around a year. This is similar to other snails that live in the water, too.
Unlike with a lot of other species, though, you can’t make them live longer by providing them with brilliant care and an optimal living environment in captivity.
Therefore, you’ll have to make the most of the short year that you have them for and make sure you appreciate your Mystery Snails as much as possible whilst they’re with you!
Mystery Snails are beautiful creatures that are extremely easy to care for due to their peaceful and docile nature. They’re also extremely easy to breed because of this, and they don’t require special water conditions to do so.
This means that they’re great for an inexperienced aquarist who is just getting into the hobby, so if this sounds like you and you like the idea of getting a Mystery Snail for your tank, we hope this guide has helped you understand everything you need to know about Mystery Snails and how to care for them properly!
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