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Snail caresheet: Assassin snail (Clea helena)

Snails in the aquarium are fun and all, but some just multiply a little too quickly. If you've found yourself with a snail plague on your hands you might be wondering how to get rid of the annoying things. After all, they're not harmful, but they sure aren't pretty to look at!

Most snail eating fish get much too large for the average aquarium or are overly aggressive, but don't despair. The solution is here, and you might be surprised to hear that... it's a snail.

Scientific name: Clea helena

Common names: Assassin snail, snail eating snail

Difficulty level: Easy

Origin: South-East Asia

Assassin snail appearance

Clea helena is definitely not the most inconspicuous assassin out there. Its bright yellow and dark brown banded trumpet shell is sure to draw attention! This means that even if you're not looking to have it massacre some pest snails, it'll still be a colorful addition to your aquarium. With a maximum size of around 0.5" it doesn't need a large set-up.

Setting up an assassin snail aquarium

Assassin snail requirements

If you're interested in acquiring a few assassin snails, you can do so as long as your aquarium is larger than around 5 gallons. Anything smaller might not hold a steady cycle and the snails' bioloads could be too much.

Your assassin snail aquarium should be filtered, fully cycled and heated. The snails don't have any specific demands when it comes to décor. They appear to naturally inhabit waters with a sandy substrate where they can hide and wait for unsuspecting prey, but aquarists have found they do just fine on gravel as well.

Assassin snail water quality

The most important factor to keep in mind for any snail (besides your cycle) is water hardness. Snail shells are comprised of calcium and very soft water can actually cause shell deterioration in the long run. This can eventually become fatal, so be sure to keep your pH relatively high and your water on the harder side.

pH: 7.5-8.5
Temperature: 75-80 °F

Assassin snail tankmates

If you want to keep assassin snails, you'll have to choose their tankmates wisely. As you've probably guessed by now, these are active predators that will snatch anything they can catch. Now, they're not that fast so they won't be able to harm fish and larger inverts (even bottom feeders), but care should obviously be taken when combining them with snails. Small snails are bound to get eaten sooner or later. There is a bit of ongoing discussion on whether ornamental snails like Nerites are safe, but we'd personally rather not find out.

Additionally, there is some debate on whether assassin snails are shrimp safe or not. Some hobbyists do report their assassins catching baby shrimp, although they probably don't damage your shrimp population all too much. Still, if your tank contains expensive shrimp or if you're working hard on multiplying your stock, you might want to pass up on these snails.

Clea helena.png By RSX - cropped from the File:Anentome Helena 2010.jpg. (Cropped by User:Snek01)., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Assassin snail diet

You probably won't be surprised to find out these snails are mainly carnivores. Their natural diet consists of snails and anything else that floats by their sandy hiding place - alive or dead. That being said, they'll also eat algae and pretty much anything they can find.

In the aquarium, your assassin snails will snack on pest snails and any leftover fish foods they can find. You can supplement their diet using commercial fish foods and frozen foods. If you're serious about assassin snail care (if you're trying to breed them, for example) you can even set up a separate snail breeding container to make sure this natural food source is always available.

Breeding assassin snails

Breeding assassin snails is just easy enough to be an enjoyable project for beginners, but just difficult enough to avoid ending up with another snail infestation. Even if you do end up with a few too many you'll usually be able to sell them pretty easily.

All you have to do in order to get your assassin snails to reproduce is get a group that's large enough to guarantee the presence of both males and females. Feed high quality, nutrient rich foods and make sure your water quality is always high. The snails will take care of the rest and start producing egg sacs when they're sexually mature.

Buying assassin snails

These useful snails have found their way into the mainstream aquarium hobby. You should be able to find them at some aquarium stores and there are also plenty of hobbyists out there selling a snail or two.

If you don't want to leave the comfort of your home just to go out and buy a few snails, you can easily order these assassins online at The Shrimp Farm. Buy your snails here!

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