Bad Snails

Bad Snails:

Each week we get custom clean up crew inquiries from many of our site's visitors. We have noticed that a good amount of them have non-reef safe members of their clean up crew, and we thought it would be helpful to start a list of those snails here, to help prevent people from making mistakes. Others simply have snails that shouldn't be in a reef tank because they are colder water or temperate species, or because they get too large.

  • Flamingo Tongue - A beautiful snail that feeds solely on gorgonians.
  • Bumble Bee Snail - Sold as a sand stirrer, it eats the micro fauna in your sand that makes it "live".
  • Murex Snails - All of the snails in this family are predatory, and will feed on herbivorous snails, leaving your tank with algae.
  • Ilynassa Obsoleta - a big seller on Ebay, as their colonies blanket the coasts of temperate shores. They are a colder water snail that scavenges and eats other snails and bivalves. They are also cannibalistic and are known carriers of parasites that can infect both fish and humans. If you have them, do not release them locally.
  • Margarita Snails - this very popular snail's range does not extend into the tropics, and they will be stressed in normal reef tanks, because they are not built to tolerate reef temperatures. A good snail though if your tank rarely goes to 70 degrees, otherwise you will be slowly torturing them to death. They are excellent algae cleaners in a temperate tank, and a favorite among many hobbyists with cold water biotopes.
  • Crown Conchs - A predatory snail that will eat other herbivorous snails, leaving your tank with algae. They are also cannibalistic. The largest online vendor has confused these with Fighting Conchs, and they have begun to give the correct species a bad name. 
  • Queen Conchs - these herbivorous snails are great at first, but when they become close to 12 inches long, 4 inches tall, and 5 inches wide, they are just too big for most tanks, as they need a large amount of area to survive. At that size they also bulldoze most rock formations.
  • Keyhole Limpets - Not all limpets are the same. Owning a limpet is like owning a snail, the species really matters. Many of the keyhole limpets are known predators, some of which feast on SPS coral. If you keep coral, only keep species limpets who are herbivorous. Not all keyhole limpets are predatory, but you should be wary when adding them to a tank without prior knowledge of their diet. 
  • Olive Snails - These snails have been popping up in the hobby, and it is a shame. They are predatory, and feed on small bivalves, microfauna and other snails.They also scavenge, but they are opportunistic.
  • Babylonian Snails - This cream and brown spotted snail makes an attractive addition to the tank, but are predatory and feed on bivalves and other snails. They are often mislabeled and sold as "Fancy Nassarius", or "Speckled Nassarius" snails, but they are not related to Nassarius spp. and are not safe for the reef aquarium.


The list will grow with time, these are the most common items we find in tanks. Remember, most snails are predatory, and are not good candidates for an aquarium. If you collect locally please use a field guide to determine the species you catch, and its compatibility to the reef aquarium. If you catch western Atlantic snails, and are trying to figure out their identity contact us, we are good at identifying snails in this range.

Please feel free to post this article on your website, or forums you visit, we just ask that you credit us by saying something to the effect of "Originally posted at www.ReefCleaners.org"

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