Bladder Snails scientifically known as “Physella acuta” are one of the most widespread pest snails in the aquarium hobby. They are notorious for breeding rapidly and taking over the aquarium in a matter of days. While most people don’t like bladder snails in their aquarium, we believe, under the right conditions, they are one of the best aquarium cleaners. They will keep your aquarium clean and algae-free.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about this snail and to care for and control its population in your aquarium.
The bladder snail is one of the most invasive aquatic snails and can be found in almost all parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, and America. Most aquarists call them pest snails because it is not sold in the pet stores as a pet and usually comes “free” with the plants you are purchasing.
In 1805 a French naturalist, Jacques Draparnaud, described this species of snails for the first time. He found this snail in River Garonne near Bordeaux in France. For a long time, it was believed that bladder snails originated from France but nowadays almost all scientists agree that North America is the origin of this air-breathing aquatic snail.
Since Bladder snails are air-breathing snails, it’s easy for them to live in ponds, rivers and streams, and lakes. There are reports of bladder snails living in irrigation canals, municipality drains, and even ditches. If there is water they can live; no matter the parameters of the water. That being said, for them to thrive they need clean water and enough food.
Bladder snails are often mistaken for regular pond snails but with a close look, it’s easy to differentiate between the two. Unlike regular Pond Snails, Bladder Snail has a spiral thin brown-ish sinistral (left-opening aperture) shell which is translucent. The body is usually gray with small black spots that are most of the time visible through their thin shells.
As mentioned above, the bladder snail shell is opened to the left but the regular pond snail shell is opened to the right ( Dextral ). This is probably the biggest giveaway to differentiate bladder snails.
Bladder snails are also a type of freshwater snails that lack the operculum or the lid that blocks the entrance to protect them from predators.
Behavior and Temperament
Bladder snails are peaceful and non-venomous, meaning they will not harm other fish or aquarium inhabitants. On the other hand, they are an easy target for other fish that might feed on them.
As mentioned in the appearance section, these snails lack an operculum trapdoor which makes them vulnerable. However, Bladder snails evolved to protect themselves by flicking their shells back and forth quickly to avoid getting eaten by predators. They also seem to avoid open areas where they are more exposed and try to live their lives under hiding spots.
Since Bladder Snails can’t breathe underwater they will constantly come to the surface to breathe. If your tank develops algae films you might notice bladder snails are upside down on the surface, this is because they feed on the algae film while breathing directly from the air.
Bladder Snail Care
The good news is that bladder snails are straightforward and pretty easy. Bladder Snails are hardy snails and adaptable to a wide range of water parameters. Bladder Snails seem to thrive in tropical water temperatures of 72 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit. They can easily survive in a wider temperature range. They love water that is slightly alkaline around 7-7.5 pH, with a slow current.
Same as other aquarium invertebrates, these snails will suffer from Ammonia and Nerite spikes and might even die. It is also crucial to avoid introducing any materials that have copper or other medications to your aquarium. This is because these components are fatal to snails.
Bladder snails also need Calcium supplements to maintain a healthy shell.
Calcium for Bladder Snails
As mentioned above in the care section, Calcium plays an important role in keeping snails healthy. Younger snails will grow rapidly and calcium is required for them to grow healthy shells. For adults, calcium is needed to regenerate the cells in their shells to avoid soft shell disease. Fortunately, calcium can be found in most pet foods but the amounts are low so you will need to supplement calcium from time to time. There are multiple calcium supplement products for aquariums available online and in pet stores. But the easiest and cheapest way to add calcium to your aquarium is crushed egg shells. Egg shells are a great source of calcium.
Bladder snails are small snails and can live in any size aquarium or fish bowl as long as they have clean water and enough food.
These small scavengers will not burrow in the sand in search of food so they are not the best snails to clean sand substrate. The best substrate for bladder snails is pea gravel that lets the snails freely go in between the substrate and eat any uneaten leftover food.
Diet and Feeding Requirements
Bladder Snails are not picky eaters and will eat almost anything. They are omnivore freshwater snails and will eat algae, meat, insects, and plants that are dying and decaying. This makes it super easy to feed these little guys as you will not need to specifically throw food for them. They will go after uneaten food in the tank and will clean your aquarium off the organic waste.
Keeping Bladder snail population under control
As mentioned above they will eat almost any uneaten food. While this is a great service they provide, this also means they will reproduce rapidly when food is available. This rapid reproduction is the main reason most people consider bladder snails as pest snails. where they are amazing aquarium cleaners and only reproduce if enough food is available.
This means the best way to keep the population under control is to avoid overfeeding your fish. When you feed your fish more than what they can eat, the leftovers will sink to the bottom and snails will scavenge on them. If you see the bladder snail population is booming it means you are feeding your aquarium too much.
Some fish also like to eat snails which means having them will help you keep the snail population under control. When less food is available, most carnivore cichlids and some of the loaches will hunt and eat snails.
Bladder snails have both male and female reproductive organs at the same time (hermaphroditic). There are no obvious male and female characteristics to differentiate the sex of an individual snail and they can change gender from time to time. When they don’t have a mate available around, they will self-fertilize internally and reproduce. This is not their ideal way of reproducing and will only attempt it when their survival is at risk.
Bladder Snail Breeding
There is no need to create any special environment to make these guys breed. Introduce a few bladder snails to your tank and you will see they rapidly breed when food is available.
Once they fertilize the eggs then they will lay about 10-40 small eggs with a transparent shell that keeps all the eggs together.
They usually lay their eggs under rocks, plants, or other decorations and after about a week the eggs will hatch and tiny bladder snails will start scavenging in the tank. After about a month they will reach sexual maturity and will start to reproduce.
Tank Mates to prevent overpopulation
Bladder snails are peaceful freshwater snails and can live with any aquarium inhabitants. While these snails do not harm other aquarium inhabitants, they are an easy food source for some fish. As mentioned above in the “Keeping Bladder snail population under control” section of this article some fish will hunt bladder snails which will control the population. Assassin snails are also known for hunting and eating other snails; having a few Assassin snails will help you control the bladder snails. However, this might not be the best approach as the Assassin snails will reproduce and might overpopulate your tank.
The following creatures are known for eating snails:
- Yoyo Loaches
- Puffer Fish
- Assassin Snails
- Betta Fish
When the Bladder Snails population is kept under control, they can be a great cleaning crew that will keep your tank free of algae and uneaten food. While most people call them pest snails, we call them one of the best cleaning snails available in the aquarium trade.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us!