Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Snails? Will They Eat Their Eggs?

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As I introduced cherry shrimp to my tank, I noticed that some snails disappeared, including my mystery snails. At first, I thought that maybe the shrimp ate them. But as time passed, I learned that this was probably not the case.

Cherry shrimp are not likely to eat living snails. Even though they are considered scavengers, these shrimp do not have the tools or interest in harming snails. On the other hand, cherry shrimp will eat dead snails, crushed shells, and snail eggs, as these serve additional nutritional value.

As we move forward, I will share a few reasons that might have caused your snails to disappear and show you why cherry shrimp are probably not to blame. Then, I will elaborate on how you can remove or dilute your snails’ population without harming other creatures.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Snails?

Snails and cherry shrimp are algae eaters. So you can see why some people would choose to introduce them both to the same tank. But are the snails safe in the presence of cherry shrimp? The answers that aquarists usually provide in response to that question are typically influenced by two factors, namely: temperament and feeding habits.

1. Temperament

People do not expect snails and cherry shrimp to threaten one another because they are equally peaceful.[1] Cherry shrimp do not have a reputation for attacking their neighbors, regardless of whether they are fish or snails.

Snails are the same. At the end of the day, the creatures do not have the tools required to attack and kill healthy shrimp. In that regard, the chances of a cherry shrimp bullying, let alone eating a healthy snail, are very low.

2. Feeding Habits

The feeding habits of both creatures are somewhat interesting because, as was mentioned above, they eat the same food. That includes algae and edible plant matter. Rationally speaking, this should make cherry shrimp a problem for snails because these two creatures are more likely to compete for food.

And unfortunately, snails are slow. They cannot swim or eat as quickly as shrimp. Therefore, in a neglected tank, the snails may starve. Among fish, a situation of this sort would typically induce aggression in the starving fish, compelling it to attack the creature that is eating all the food.

But in this case, a starving snail is not a threat to a cherry shrimp. If the cherry shrimp are eating all the food, the starving snails cannot retaliate. In other words, even if the shrimp and the snails competed for food, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to aggression between the two. That is because the snail is slow, and based on the available evidence, there is no reason to believe that the cherry shrimp would eat the healthy snails in response.

3. Notable Exceptions

The introduction said that cherry shrimp eat snails. And yet, the information above states the opposite, that cherry shrimp are unlikely to eat snails. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t.

Cherry shrimp will not eat living, healthy snails. However, they are scavengers. They will eat anything that won’t fight back. That includes dead snails. Other types of shrimp, such as ghost shrimp, may attack a sick snail.

However, a cherry shrimp is more likely to eat a dead one. They will eat all the decaying matter they can find in a shell until the remains of the snail are gone. This is why the introduction insisted that cherry shrimp are not a danger to snails.

At worst, a cherry shrimp will eat the slime coat a healthy snail generates.[2] If you have ever seen a cherry shrimp seemingly attack a healthy snail, it was merely eating the slime. Snails that find themselves in such situations will panic and produce even more slime. 

But that works in favor of the cherry shrimp. The more slime coat the snail produces, the more slime coat the shrimp will eat. Otherwise, you don’t have to worry about the cherry shrimp attacking their innocent, helpless snail neighbors.

What Do Cherry Shrimp Normally Eat?

Cherry shrimp are omnivores. They eat both meat and plant matter, so feeding them isn’t particularly difficult. They will eat everything from fish flakes and pellets to algae wafers.[3] They will also eat the algae that form on the various surfaces in the tank, not to mention the matter that plants shed. 

Snails are in the same boat. They will eat whatever they can fit in their mouths. In fact, both creatures will eat the same foods. That is to say; they can coexist if you feed them the right food. Both creatures can eat algae wafers. That’s one of the reasons why some people choose to introduce cherry shrimp and snails to a tank at the same time.

Why Add Snails To A Cherry Shrimp Tank?

Because shrimp are algae eaters, some people do not understand why anyone would add snails (also algae eaters) to a shrimp tank. It seems redundant. But snails can benefit a tank that already has shrimp. First of all, snails are perfect for cycling and recycling tanks.[4]

Shrimp are sensitive creatures that may die in the unstable environment of a newly cycled tank. Snails are the best alternative if you want to give your tank time to become well established, but you don’t want to add fish. The creatures are dirty. They will produce the waste that your tank needs to nurture beneficial bacteria. 

And even if the ammonia spikes to dangerous concentrations, most aquarists do not mind losing a few snails. They are easy to acquire, and they multiply at a reasonably rapid rate. Additionally, snails will keep the tank relatively clean by eating leftovers and other forms of decaying organic matter.

Where Did The Snails Go?

Most people who blame cherry shrimp for eating their snails have never actually seen the shrimp attack the snails. Instead, their snails disappeared, so they concluded that the cherry shrimp must have eaten them.

However, if you have fish in the tank, you have to consider the possibility that they ate the missing snails. If your tank is only inhabited by cherry shrimp and snails, the missing snails could have fallen prey to other aggressive snails.

Assassin snails are famous among aquarists because they are a type of snail that aquarists use to control the snail population in aquariums. Assassin snails will attack and kill their snail neighbors. If you have some assassin snails in your tank, don’t be so surprised if you start losing snails. Either the dead snails decomposed until nothing was left, or the cherry shrimp ate their remains.

What if you don’t have any fish or assassin snails in the tank? You cannot rule out the possibility that the snails died of other causes. Like other creatures in the aquarium, they are vulnerable to diseases, ammonia spikes, and drastic changes in the tank’s parameters.

If the snails die of natural causes, and if the cherry shrimp can get to them before they decompose completely, the shrimp will eat their remains. Either way, you shouldn’t be so quick to blame the cherry shrimp for killing your snails, especially if those snails were healthy.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Snail Eggs?

Cherry shrimp eat snail eggs. Snails lay their eggs on hard surfaces such as plants, aquarium decorations, rocks, and gravel. The snails do not secrete a protective layer around the eggs the way other creatures do. This allows the shrimp to feed on them quite easily.

Cherry shrimp are not picky where food is concerned. Some aquarists keep them precisely because they will eat anything they encounter in the tank that looks like food. So if you have a tank with both snails and shrimp, it would be good to remove the snail eggs or the cherry shrimp themselves.

Do Cherry Shrimp Eat Snail Shells?

Cherry shrimp cannot eat a shell off the back of a living snail. When the snails die, the shrimp may snoop around inside the shell, searching for the snail’s dead remains, but they are unlikely to attack the shell itself. However, shrimp will eat a snail’s shell if it is fed to them by an aquarist.

One of the reasons people keep snails around is that they are an excellent food source for shrimp. Aquarists will take a snail out of the tank, crush it and then place it back in the tank for shrimp and even fish to eat.

This sounds like a harsh fate for the snails. However, they don’t suffer quite as much as people think. One of the most humane ways of euthanizing a snail with an incurable ailment is to crush it with a heavy object.

Some aquarists prefer to place the sick snail in clove oil because the substance numbs the snail. Others will freeze the creatures. But for most people, it is easier to crush the snails with a powerful blow. The method is painless.

Aquarists do this even when the snail is already dead because a crushed snail is easier to eat than a whole snail. First of all, the shell doesn’t get in the way. Secondly, the shell breaks into smaller pieces that are easier to eat.

You have to pay close attention to the quantity. Do not crush more snails than the shrimp can eat within a given period. If you think you gave your cherry shrimp more crushed snails than they can eat, remove the excess. Regardless of whether or not you crushed them, dead snails will ruin the water by raising the concentration of ammonia.

Will Cherry Shrimp Eat Snail Poop?

For the most part, cherry shrimp do not eat snail poop since it doesn’t serve any nutritional value. That being said, the shrimp may pick through the snail poop in search of bits of food that are still edible.

Because cherry shrimp are scavengers, aquarists naturally assume that the creatures will eat snail poop. Well, they are not entirely wrong. If you don’t understand why you cannot see any snail poop in your tank, the cherry shrimp have picked it apart. That doesn’t mean they ate the poop. They simply reduced it to a state where it dissolved in the water.

How Do I Get Rid Of Snails In My Fish Tank?

You can get rid of snails the old-fashioned way. That means removing the snails manually. This will not be hard if there are only a few individual snails in the tank. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the snails because they carry potentially harmful diseases on their bodies and shells. An aquarium net will also help you remove the snails from the tank.

Some people choose to leave the snails in the tank because they help keep algae down. However, if you really want to get rid of them, you should first try to reduce the amount of food available for them. You can do this by feeding your fish right away in small amounts. This way, there is less food for the snails.

Some aquarists will recommend using snail-killing chemicals, although these can damage sensitive fish.[5] For a complete eradication, I would recommend removing your fish to a separate tank. Then, clean the original one thoroughly. Even if you can’t see them, your decorations might contain tiny snails or snail eggs.

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Conclusions

Yes, cherry shrimp eat snails. However, for the most part, you don’t have any reason to worry. Cherry shrimp are not oblivious to the presence of snails. In fact, the interactions between the two are not always friendly. But that doesn’t make cherry shrimp a danger to snails. 

On the other hand, cherry shrimp will happily eat crushed snail shells or their eggs. The same is true for dead snails that will soon contaminate your tank. That is why keeping cherry shrimp with snails is even recommended.

References

  1. https://fishkeepingguide.net/can-snails-live-with-shrimps/
  2. https://petshrimpplanet.com/can-cherry-shrimp-eat-snails-friends-or-foes/
  3. https://www.aquariumcarebasics.com/freshwater-shrimp/red-cherry-shrimp/
  4. https://aquariumbreeder.com/benefits-of-snails-for-a-shrimp-aquarium/
  5. https://www.fishkeeper.co.uk/faq/how-do-i-get-rid-of-the-nuisance-snails-in-my-tropical-aquarium/

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