Do Mollies Eat Snails? Can They Live Together?

I like growing fish like mollies, mostly due to the docile characteristics. No matter what fish I introduced to their tank, aggression didn’t come from their side. However, there were times when I saw my snail population getting thinner. That got me researching whether or not mollies eat snails, and if the two can at all live together in the same tank.

Mollies typically do not eat snails since the two creatures are close in size and are considered docile species. However, molly fish may show interest and possibly eat snails when they are under stress or inappropriately fed.

As we move forward in this article, I will share a few steps to take to prevent your mollies from eating your snails. Then, I will list a few common species that are likely to consume snails if you wish to dilute and stun their growth.

Will Mollies Eat Snails?

Snails are quiet creatures that do not require much effort to raise.[1] They also keep the tank clean. As such, no one would blame you for choosing to add snails such as the Mystery and Nerite to your molly fish tank. Neither would they blame you for questioning whether or not mollies and snails can co-exist peacefully.

As with most aquarium creatures, there is a level of unpredictability where the relationship between mollies and snails is concerned. Though, for the most part, most aquarists you ask will confidently inform you that snails and mollies make excellent tankmates. Not only are mollies less likely to eat snails, but the two entities can live peacefully in the same tank. 

This is what you need to know:

1. Small Size Differences

Most relationships in an aquarium are governed by size. Fish cannot help themselves; they tend to eat whatever they can fit in their mouths. Some species have more self-control than others. But in many cases, a massive difference in size will compel the more massive creature to eat its smaller counterpart.

Snails come in a variety of types, and their sizes tend to vary accordingly. But for the most part, adult snails range from 1 to 4 inches.[2] If you’re wondering how mollies compare, adult molly fish range between 4 and 6 inches in size.

As you can see, the difference in size between the two isn’t that great. The fact that mollies are more substantial means that they are still capable of eating your snails. However, the difference in size is still encouraging.

2. Temperament

Where relationships in the aquarium are concerned, the temperament is only second to size in importance. In fact, in some cases, the temperament is more consequential. Bigger fish can live peacefully with smaller fish if they have the right temperaments.

The two attributes go hand in hand. You should always pair aquarium fish of similar sizes and docile temperaments. That is what you get with mollies and snails. Admittedly, mollies are bigger. But they are docile fish, renowned among aquarists for their peaceful demeanor.[3]

They prefer aquariums with equally peaceful tankmates. They cannot tolerate aquariums with aggressive species. Mollies are so passive that they would become victims of severe bullying. Snails are no different. Not only are they peaceful inhabitants, but they have no interest in bothering other fish.

This works for mollies, which are more than happy to steer clear of your snails. Like most fish, mollies only manifest signs of aggression when the conditions in the tank distress them. That could be the case in overcrowded tanks, for example.

3. Similar Tank Requirements

Snails live in aquariums with temperatures ranging from 75 to 86 degrees. You should also keep the pH between 7 and 7.5. They are easy enough to maintain, so much so that beginners are encouraged to get them.

Mollies live in tanks with temperatures ranging from 72 to 82 degrees F. They need a pH ranging from 6.7 to 8.5. As you can see, both species can live comfortably in the same tank without inconveniencing one another (primarily if you can provide your mollies with a tank of at least 20 gallons).

That being said, snails can create an imbalance in your tank. Some species will hide in your filters, creating blockages. Others will eat your plants. You also have snails that multiply too rapidly, become an eyesore, and adding to the biological load in your aquarium.

Dead snails are even worse because they release ammonia, corrupting the water and causing considerable harm to your mollies. The issue becomes more pronounced if you forget replacing the water regularly.

Of the two species, mollies are more likely to harm snails. But snails are not entirely harmless; some varieties will attack sick and weakened mollies. These two creatures can still live together, but you should take some of these potential dangers into account before adding snails to the tank.

4. Shell Protection

Snails have shells. They can just duck inside when danger approaches. That probably sounds like a flimsy defense. However, it is quite useful because most fish have no interest in eating the shells of snails. Mollies are no different.[4]

A molly fish might nibble at the exposed sections of a snail, but it is unlikely to force its way through the shell to get to the snail hiding within; unless the snail (with its shell) is so small that it can fit in the molly’s mouth.

To be fair, mollies are omnivores. They like meat, and they probably wouldn’t complain if you added snails to their diets. However, for the most part, they don’t care for the shell. Typically, they prefer ignoring the creatures than harassing them.

How to Keep Your Mollies From Eating Snails?

Yes, mollies and snails can live together. Yes, mollies are unlikely to eat snails. However, those blanket conclusions do not apply to every single molly fish. Some mollies are naturally aggressive, and they will attack your snails without provocation.

Others might develop violent tendencies in response to external factors in their aquarium. Regardless of the reasons, you should know that aggressive mollies with a penchant for eating snails exist. Fortunately, even in such cases, there are ways to protect your snails from the mollies in their vicinity. For instance:

1. Provide Hiding Spots

People typically conclude that their mollies have become a danger to their snails once they realize that the number of snails in the tank has declined. That is an effective method of identifying your molly’s violent tendencies.

However, you should also know that some snails have such shy temperaments that they always go into hiding whenever a molly fish comes their way. In other words, you should consider the possibility that your snails haven’t declined in number. 

They might be hiding. Do not take drastic measures to control your mollies’ behavior until you are confident that they have eaten the snails in the tank. Either way, you should put in your tank a few hiding spots for the snails, such as rocks and decorations.

If your mollies are misbehaving and nothing you do can quell their violence, you may add plants to your tank. The foliage will give your snails the cover they need to escape the aggression of your mollies. 

2. Reduce Ammonia Levels

Fish do not like ammonia. The toxin creates the sort of discomfort that will generate stress in your mollies, compelling them to display unexpectedly violent tendencies.[5] You should take steps to reduce the ammonia levels to zero before the mollies turn their aggression towards your snails.

You can tell if your ammonia is too high buy using the API Reef Master Test Kit (link to Marine Depot)Opens in a new tab.. That bundle is pretty straightforward and will show you the water conditions within minutes.

The easiest way to achieve this objective is to carry out regular water changes, not to mention identifying and removing the elements responsible for the spike in ammonia such as dead plants, fish, and snails.

3. Feed Your Mollies Right

Even though mollies don’t have a particular affinity for snails, they will happily eat them if you fail to feed them. Starving mollies are not picky. Unlike snails, they cannot survive on the plant matter in the tank. 

If you want them to behave, give them regular meals. Well-fed mollies will ignore your snails. That is why it is great to feed your mollies cucumbers (as in the video above). These will keep your molly fish satiated for a pretty long time.

4. Get a Relatively Large Tank

Small and crowded tanks are another potential source of stress. And as you were told above, stress encourages fish to act unnaturally aggressive. It generates conflict. A snail cannot survive a violent encounter with a molly fish.

To keep the peace in the aquarium, give your mollies a tank of at least 20 gallons. Fight the urge to overstocking it. Give your molly fish ample space to stretch its fins. If you don’t own one, I highly suggest checking out my aquarium kit buyer’s guide. I made sure to review there the precise tank that I use.

5. Encourage Mating

One of the most effective ways of bringing an aggressive molly under control is to give it companions. If the molly is male, add at least three females to the tank. Mollies are quite relentless, where breeding is concerned. 

If they have started to shower your snails with a worrying amount of attention, a few female additions to the tank will keep them occupied. For your convenience, I embed a Youtube video above that will help determine whether your molly is a male or a female.

Here is a related article that may also interest you:

Will Mollies Eat Baby Snails?

Mollies have a higher chance of eating baby snails than adult snails because baby snails are so much smaller. They can fit in a molly’s mouth with little effort. However, this doesn’t guarantee that a molly fish will eat your baby snails. It merely means that baby snails have a much higher risk of being eaten.

In case your snails are rapidly reducing, and you wish to maintain their population, I highly recommend taking the steps mentioned above. Keeping your mollies calm while introducing sufficient hiding spots will keep your baby snails safe and secure.

What Type of Fish Eat Snails?

Some snails are pets. They are elegant creatures that people buy because of their beauty. On the other hand, some species of snails are considered pests. They reproduce too quickly and tend to ruin aquariums. 

There are plenty of fish species that eat snails and which you can use to bring you snail infestation under control, for instance:

  • Zebra Loach – The zebra loach is a stripped, 4-inch fish that spends most of its time at the bottom of the aquarium. The zebra loach loves small pest snails. However, it isn’t as enthusiastic about more giant snails, such as the mystery snail.[6] This fish is relatively easy to care for. It can drastically reduce your snail population within a week.
  • Green Spotted Puffer – This fish spends its youth in freshwater. It eventually migrates to salty water. The green spotted pufferfish has a bony plate in its mouth that tends to overgrow. The puffer eats a lot of hard-shelled food to prevent this plate from protruding its face.[7] That includes snails. Because it eats them regularly, you have to buy new snails once the fish depletes your population.
  • Cichlids – Large cichlids can eat snails. They have the size and aggressive temperament required to eliminate your infestation. People like cichlids because they kill both small and giant snails. They will eat anything that can fit in their mouths. 
  • Gouramis – Gouramis are not the best snail eaters. As such, you cannot rely on them to stop a snail infestation. That being said, they will eat small snails, especially if they can fit in their mouths. They will ignore the larger varieties.[8]
  • Betta Fish – Bettas will eat small pest snails. They cannot stop a significant infestation, but they can keep your snail population under control by eating the snail eggs. Even though they are mostly known for eating the small pest snails, they can also eat the more substantial ornamental snails. Bettas can’t tell the difference between the two.

Conclusions

Molly fish are not likely to eat snails. They are considered a docile species and less likely to present aggressive behavior. If the water conditions are proper and the aquarium isn’t overcrowded, mollies and snails can live along.

However, if you keep too many fish in one tank, your molly fish may show interest in your snails. If that is your case, you should get a larger tank, or perhaps introduce more plants and decoration to provide your snails with hiding spots.

References

  1. https://mothernatured.com/pet-ideas-for-kids/keeping-garden-snails-as-pets/
  2. http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/freshsnails/
  3. https://aquariumtidings.com/molly-fish/
  4. https://www.buildyouraquarium.com/molly-fish-tank-mates
  5. https://www.cuteness.com/article/stop-fish-bullying
  6. https://aquariawise.com/what-aquarium-fish-eat-snails/
  7. https://thepetsupplyguy.com/fish-eat-snails/
  8. https://pethelpful.com/fish-aquariums/Freshwater-Fish-that-Eat-Snails

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