Loaches and Snails

Are there any snails I can keep with loaches?

Q. I want to keep both loaches and aquatic snails. I have heard that one or two loaches can totally eradicate a snail population. The loach I want to keep is the popular clown loach. I also want to keep Malaysian trumpet snails because I have heard that they are hard for clown loaches to eat.

Do you think this will work? I don’t have any live aquatic plants at the moment but I may in the future.
Erin DeMonte

A. Well Erin, if you are ever planning on keeping live aquatic plants stay as far away from aquatic snails as you can get. When keeping live aquatic plants, aquatic snails often arrive uninvited in the form of microscopic eggs on the plant leaves. Once these invertebrates hatch they begin eating away at any plant they can slide over. The truth is, once you have a strongly established aquatic snail population they can be tough to eradicate and if you begin keeping aquatic plants you will most certainly at some point introduce aquatic snails.

Though, if you never plan on keeping aquatic plants and just want an aquarium that houses both snails and loaches you may have to compromise one or the other. Loaches are revered by many aquarists as the ultimate “snail killer” and I have used these tropical fish to control aquatic snail populations in planted aquariums with very good success. While the Malaysian trumpet snail would be more difficult for a small loach to eat, in time it would succeed and the aquatic snails you introduced would quickly become loach lunch.

I have seen large Malaysian trumpet snails living with smaller clown loaches and other loach species. In time, however, I think the Malaysian trumpet snails would eventually make it to the menu, especially as the small loaches grow. The only way I can see the arrangement working even temporarily is to do just that; house very large Malaysian trumpet snails with small juvenile clown loaches or whatever loach species you prefer. If this was done I feel for a while it would be successful because many loaches, and especially the clown loach, grow at such a slow rate that they often only grow 1 inch per year.

In reality, any system featuring an aquatic snail and a loach makes for an incompatible setup. If you plan on adding aquatic plants to your aquarium, I would recommend a loach of some species for snail control but to try to house these two animals together would be tricky at best.

If you really enjoy aquatic snails in the aquarium you could always try setting up a small invertebrate aquarium. This would be a place that you could house crayfish, grass shrimp and many species of aquatic snails. Because these freshwater invertebrates place very little strain on water quality, filtration could be minimal and the aquarium size would not have to be very large.

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