What Do Aquarium Snails Eat?

Aquarium snails are a part of life in this hobby. 

Sometimes, we buy nice, fancy nerite or mystery snails from the live fish store to place in our tanks.

And other times, pest snails hitch a ride in on live plants, set up shop in our tanks and drive us insane.

But, love them or hate them, you might be wondering, what do aquarium snails eat?

Today, I’ll go over all the different things that aquarium snails like to munch on. Some might surprise you. 

1. Algae

Aquarium snail feeding on aquarium glass

Most species of aquarium snails will munch on algae as they cruise around the tank. Even pest snails, like pond and bladder snails, do a great job of eating algae on the glass, rocks, driftwood, decor and even equipment in the tank.

Some species are better algae eaters than others, with nerites probably being the best at keeping unwanted growth at bay.

Unfortunately, snails tend to leave the really tough algae, like black beard or green spot algae, alone. They would much rather eat softer algae, like green dust.

2. Uneaten Fish Food

The best part of keeping snails in your tank is that they’re great for cleaning up after sloppy tank mates. Many species of fish are picky, messy eaters, I know my angelfish are!

Letting uneaten food build up in the tank is very bad. It will rot, put off ammonia and encourage saprolegnia to grow.

Snails have a really great sense of smell and will find every last little bit of fish food and gobble it up.

I still recommend that you do everything you can to not overfeed and keep uneaten food to a minimum, but with snails in the tank, you don’t have to worry about tracking down every stray piece that your fish miss.

If you’re worried that your snails aren’t getting enough to eat, you can drop in half an algae wafer once a week. Snails love these sinking foods and will scarf them up.

3. Decaying Plant Matter

As live plants grow, older growth begins to break down and slough off. Snails love this decaying plant material because it’s soft and easy for them to scrape off into their mouths.

It can actually be really handy that snails eat this dead and dying plant material. If the snails eat dying leaves and stems, that’s less mess for you to clean up!  

4. Aquarium Plants

Aquarium snail on plant

OK most aquatic snails will not eat healthy, growing plants, but some will.

Really large pond snails and large apple snails have been known to decimate planted tanks. So, if you notice your plants are looking threadbare, and you have rapidly growing snails in the tank, the snails are likely the culprit.

But, They Don’t Eat Fish Poop

It is a misconception that snails eat fish poop. Aquatic snails have the best sense of smell I’ve ever seen. If you pop some nice tasty food into the water, within minutes, snails in the tank will start to migrate towards it.

But, fish poop is not nice tasty food. Snails feel the same way we do about it: they think it’s gross and they’d rather avoid it. 

Snails won’t remove wastes, in fact, they add to the bioload with their own wastes.

Sorry, but you’ll still need to clean your tank, even if you have snails.


Snails eat a wide variety of things. They enjoy veggie dishes, like algae and decaying plant material, as well as nice meaty entrees, like leftover fish food.

They do help keep the tank clear of uneaten food and dead leaves, but they don’t eat poop and won’t be a replacement for water changes.

So, keep the bucket handy! It’s your friend for life.

I hope you find this article helpful.

I wish you and your fish (and snails) the very best!

Katherine Morgan
Katherine Morgan

Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. An aquarium specialist, I've kept tanks for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.

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