Types of Freshwater Snails: Nerite, Assassin & Apple

Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has a master's degree in science education and has taught at the high school and community college level for 13 years.

Snails are very diverse organisms. They can be found living successfully on land, in saltwater, and in freshwater. In this lesson, we focus on the three types of common freshwater snails.

Introduction to Freshwater Snails

Freshwater snails are mollusks that live in a variety of habitats. If you have visited the aquarium section of a pet store then you have probably encountered a freshwater snail. They can be found cruising the gravel at the bottom of many aquariums or sliding up and down the tank glass feeding on many types of algae. Freshwater snails come in a variety of sizes and have many different feeding habits. They are found in most parts of the world and have even been raised as human food. The nerite, apple, and assassin snails are three classic examples of freshwater snails.

Nerite Snails

The nerite is a freshwater snail that is native to freshwater sources of the eastern part of Africa. These snails typically grow to be one inch in size and are known to be voracious algae eaters. This makes them very popular in the aquarium trade as pets that help keep the tank clean. They are known to climb above the water line in tanks for short periods of time but cannot stay out of the water for long or they risk dying of desiccation. The term desiccation refers to drying out to a point where they cannot sustain life. Nerite snails typically do not reproduce in aquarium settings. In their natural life cycle, they find a source of brackish water in which to reproduce. Brackish water is water with a higher salinity level than freshwater but less salt than typical saltwater found in the ocean.

A Nerite Snail
An image of a Nerite Snail.

Assassin Snails

Assassin snails are a freshwater species that typically ranges in size from 0.7 to 1.25 inches. This type of snail is native to Malaysia, Thailand, and the island of Sumatra. You may have noticed its intimidating name; they've received it honestly. They are a carnivorous species that feeds on small worms and other snails. They are even known to feed on their own kind. Assassin snails have been captured on film burying themselves where they wait to attack an unsuspecting snail.

Assassin snails are popular in the aquarium trade where they are often sold as bumblebee snails due to their shells' typical yellow and black coloration. Due to their predatory nature, this species of snail is of particular concern to biologists. They pose a serious threat to native snail populations in freshwater bodies.

An Assassin Snail
An image of an Assassin Snail.

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