Snail Invasion! (what to do about it)
So one day you're walking by your fish tank and you notice a small black spot on the glass. Upon closer inspection you discover it's a baby snail, you might think to yourself, "hey that's kinda cute" and don't think another thing of it until one day you walk by and your tank is covered in these once cute snails!
How did they get there?! How do I get rid of them?!
The most common way snail's end up in a tank is through the addition of live plants. More times than none the place where the plants were grown had snails and the eggs ended up on your plant and ended up in your tank. They can come from other places though, if you got a used filter, ornament or gravel there could have been snails or the eggs there too! The eggs are insanely small, chances are you will completely miss them. They are clear with a small white dot in the center. They can be on clusters or strings. If you aren't use to seeing it you may not think twice about what you're looking at.
Once snails get in the tank, if not caught soon enough it can easily become a complete take over! They can easily reproduce in large numbers and travel anywhere and everywhere they can get, including your filter and heater! Luckily though there are a number of ways to get rid of the problem!
If you do have live plant's, chances are that's where your snails came from. Next time you get a plant, place it in some ice water for about 5 minutes and that should kill off the egg's.
A really simple way to get rid of snails is to weigh down a large piece of Romaine Lettuce in the tank and turn off the light on your tank. Come back in a few hours and see what happened! Chances are they flocked to the lettuce, they love it! Simply take out the lettuce and throw it out. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times in order to keeps the numbers down or eliminate them completely.
Another good way is to add fish that will eat your snails. There are several that will. Goldfish, Clown Loachs, Pufferfish and even Cichlids will eat snails. You do have to be careful about what fish you add into your tank. Cichlids and Pufferfish are very aggressive so you shouldn't put them into a tank with peaceful breeds. Goldfish would be the best option for peaceful tanks, however you must pay very close attention to your ammonia levels. Goldfish produce very high levels of ammonia and could prove fatal to your other fish. Clown Loachs are usually fine when they are little but they do get very big and do tend to get aggressive as the grow bigger so that needs to be taken into consideration as well. If you already have a Cichlid tanks than you don't have much to worry about, chances are your snail crisis isn't nearly as bad as it could be.
Aquarium salt is also a great way to get rid of snails. It's also very beneficial to you fish. It helps reduce the stress level of your fish, disinfect open wounds, and even help treat ick. If you have live plant's I don't really recommend this, the salt is bad for your plants.
You can also use an anti-parasite medication that contains copper to solve the snail problem. Copper is deadly to snails but I wouldn't recommend this to be your first choice. High level's of copper are also deadly to your fish. Even fish sensitive to copper in the slightest can suffer from this. That said, only use as a last resort.
Despite the serve annoyance snails are, don't put them all on your bad list just yet. Apple snails are great for algae control and they only lay there eggs outside of the water. While you do have to have a male and female to reproduce, a female can store sperm from the male and lay eggs for sometime after mating. If you only have one snail and you notice babies, it is probably a female who was able to fertilize eggs and it shouldn't be a continuous action.