Can Snails Live with Goldfish?

For something different, many aquarium owners consider snails as a mate for their goldfish. However, there are many kinds of snails. With goldfish being omnivores who eat both plants and meat-based objects, there is the question of the fish feeding on the snail.

The thing is, snails are not the most appealing thing to look at, and they do have a shell to contend with. Therefore, many aquarium owners ask the question:

Can snails live with goldfish? The answer is yes, and snails can live in harmony with goldfish. There are, a few things tank owners need to consider, because one snail isn’t the same as another. Small snails can be food, and all it takes is the fish to work out how to extract the snail from the shell. Larger snails are a different matter.

Read on to learn more about how you can have snails and goldfish in the same tank without the fish-eating them as part of their menu.

Will a Goldfish Eat My Snails?

Goldfish will eat anything they can fit in their mouths. It doesn’t matter if it is plant or animal, as long as they can fit it in, then it is food for them.

Some tank enthusiasts think goldfish are not interested in snails and don’t want the effort of sucking the snail from the shell. It is this reason snails are often seen as a good pairing for goldfish. As you will see, snails can be good for your tank in other areas.

Goldfish will eat snails if they are small enough, and most of all, if they are hungry, or are lacking something in their diet. However, goldfish do prefer fish flakes, frozen foods, or pellets rather than mess about sucking on a snail shell.

One thing many tank owners overlook is that of dead snails. Goldfish will eat as much as they can of a snail that has died, regardless of size.

Are Small Snails Under Threat?

Yes, small snails are under threat from the omnivore goldfish. Because goldfish can grow to be quite large, many types of snails may at one stage not fit, yet they can fit in your fishes’ mouth as they grow.

Some fish even try eating small pebbles, so the small shell of a little snail is no different.

Are Big Snails Safe With Goldfish?

There are two veins of thought why goldfish don’t bother with large snails. One thinks they are too large to fit in the mouth, so it must not be food.

Other enthusiasts think that because the goldfish are fed adequately, they ignore the snails because they have all the food they require.

Both can be true and proving one over the other isn’t that easy.

Foods that can keep your goldfish content and away from your snails can include:

  • Cucumber slices – boiled or microwaved
  • Cooked rice
  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Shelled peas – remove the skins and may need squashing with a fork
  • Watermelon
  • Corn
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens

These shouldn’t be a part of their everyday diet and only offered as a treat every two or three days. When feeding, do so two or three times during the day. Any food you give them ought to be fully consumed within one minute, as this helps avoid overeating. Goldfish will pluck at your plants as well as.

Types of Snails

While there are plenty of snails you can choose from, the best two are the mystery snail and the Nerite snails. Although the latter being smaller than the Mystery one.

Snail Size Diet Life Span Interesting Characteristics
    Mystery Snail     Up to 3 inches Dead or decaying plant matter Bottom feeder tablets Algae wafers Pellets Fish Flakes     1 year They are known as escape artists.  If there is a way to get out of the tank, they will find it.
    Nerite Snail     Up to 1 inch     Algae     1-2 years They may flip over because of their flexible muscle foot, but they can usually flip themselves back over again.
    Rabbit Snail     1-5 inches Uneaten food and debris     1-3 years Sometimes known as elephant snails, they are larger than many snails. Very clunky in their movements and fun to watch.
Japanese Trapdoor Snail   Up to 2 inches Uneaten food and debris Soft algae   1-5 years Their operculum acts as a trap door that seals their shell opening in the case of danger.
      Ivory Snail       1-2 inches Soft algae Dead or decaying plant matter Uneaten food Fish flakes Pellets Leafy vegetables       1 year Good escape, artist. May lie dormant and motionless for long periods

Why Nerite Snails Pair With Goldfish

The primary reason aquarium enthusiasts choose the Nerite snail is their love of algae. As long as you don’t go over 1 snail per gallon of water in your tank, they can control brown algae until it is almost nonexistent.

Couple this with green algae and film algae, and you will find it surprising, they can achieve this in two days. Although many other snails can help with this, there is no other that can eliminate it.

It is even more surprising; they can remove algae that are suffocating plant leaves. This allows your aquarium plants to photosynthesize as they are supposed to. If you get the number right, there is a good chance you can say goodbye to scrubbing the algae from the inside of your aquarium.

Another feature of the nerite snail is you won’t run the risk of them overpopulating. The reason for this being they don’t reproduce in freshwater. They can often lay eggs, yet these won’t hatch and can be scrubbed off if your goldfish doesn’t eat them first.

Ideal conditions for these are temperatures in the range of 65-85 degrees fahrenheit with a pH of 6.5 to 8.

Although you can use 1 snail per gallon, this is just as an example of how they cope with algae. One snail per every 2 gallons is the ideal ratio.

You can find Nerites in a plethora of patterns. This ranges from plain to Marble, lightning Bolt, Red, Black and Gold Racer and Tiger Stripe or Tiger Eye, and others.

Mystery Snails Are Magical with Goldfish

The second-best option for a snail to any aquarium is the Mystery Snail. If you opt for this kind, you are better choosing one from a reputable snail dealer rather than a pet store. You tend to find they are healthier and won’t pass any disease onto your fish when you add them to your tank.

Another good thing with these snails is they are not asexual. Because of this, you do need male and female. If you restrict sexes of snails, you won’t find your tank overrun. Additionally, these snails lay their eggs above the waterline.

If your fish don’t eat them before you see them, you can easily scrape these off and dispose of them.

Like the Nerite snail, the Mystery snail loves algae, although it may not eat as much, or as fast. However, you can see their progress via the tracks they leave in the algae that form on the tank glass.

In the beginning, these snails may face the goldfish trying to eat them, yet all they do is tuck themselves into their shell and sit it out. Fish quickly give up because of the shell size, and there is no way to fit it into their mouths.

Mystery snails also come in a wide range of patterns and colors. You can find stripes in brown, red, and white stripes (peppermint, jade, golden dark purple, and lots more.

Ideal temperatures are 68-84 degrees fahrenheit with a pH of 7.6-8.4. This makes them an ideal partner for your goldfish.

For your initial stocking, you should aim for one snail for every 2.5 gallons of water.

Caring For Snails

With these two snails, you will find they can eat very much the same as your fish. Along with algae, they will eat waste food from the bottom of the tank, and the veggies you often feed to your fish. While goldfish don’t eat cucumber skins, snails adore them.

Over time, you can find you don’t have to feed your snail and concentrate on feeding your fish.

There are a couple of things to understand. Snails don’t like copper because it can kill them. You may need to test for copper in your water from time to time, to be on the safe side. It is possible to purchase copper removing products in the form of copper absorbing packets or you can opt for a chlorine and heavy metal neutralizer. These are designed to remove chlorine from was as well.


Snails and goldfish can easily live together. Both of the above snails are large enough not to be swallowed, and they do deliver many benefits in the process of their life in your tank. The Nerite Snails do live a longer natural life, yet the Mystery Snail edges in front with their popularity among aquarium enthusiasts.

To answer the question, goldfish will eat snails if they are small enough, yet you are onto a safe bet and a clean aquarium if you select either of the above.