Last Updated on July 4, 2021 by cmoarz
It can be hard to figure out what the best substrate for your aquarium snails should be. There are so many options, and search engines are clogged with nonsense and, in many cases, Suspect information.
This article will dive into what’s important to consider when choosing the right substrate for your snails, which type of gravel is best for them, and a few recommendations.
First of all, Let’s answer the question right off the bat:
The best type of aquarium gravel for snails is a mix. A bottom layer of sand, A mid-layer of plant-friendly substrates (such as Fluval), and a thin top later of smoothed pebbles. These 3 layers should be a total of 3 inches deep once added. Consider adding an additional sand layer on top of the layer if you have nerite snails.
Now you might be wondering, Why so complex? Well, let’s get into that now!
Why not just sand?
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Most snails don’t like sand. There are a few exceptions like anything, however, they do not like crawling over it. It makes it difficult for them to get any traction because of the way their foot is basically a giant suction cup slathered in sticky slime.
Given sand is just a bunch of tiny rocks with no cohesion, it makes it very difficult for snails to get around on top of it.
The problem with that is sand is an important aspect of having a well-rounded substrate base to work with. Many fish, plants, and other creatures rely on the sand.
So the obvious answer is to give them both. Fish and plants will be content with a sand bottom layer, and Apple Snails or Mystery Snails can have the other layers.
Sand isn’t good for plants on its own
So that’s why we add a Fluval layer on top of the sand. Fluval alone is very hard for plants to root in because it’s so light. So the sand layer underneath the Fluval will help considerably with plant stability, especially when planting them for the first time.
Snails also don’t have an issue crawling around on top of Fluval. It’s round, soft, and won’t hurt them.
But it’s still not ideal because of the whole suction thing – So that’s why we add a layer of small rounded pebbles on top of the Fluval.
This gives snails the extra traction they love, and it also adds additional weight on top of the light Fluval to help hold it down. Especially in tanks with a lot of turbulent water movement.
Fluval will drop your pH which isn’t always good for snails
Snails need hard water, and Fluval will lower your pH which is not ideal for them.
Low pH water will cause a snail’s shell to slowly be eaten away which is undesirable.
So to keep the water at a more desirable pH level, we recommend adding crushed coral into the filter to help compensate. This will help maintain hard water while also adding much-needed calcium to the water.
You can also (and should also if you have snails) add a cuddle bone for them to eat directly as well as slowly dissolve into the surrounding water.
When you first add your cuddle bone, You will find it floats. Just hold it down with a rock, or let it float around for about a week before it takes on enough water to sink on its own.
Nerite snails are an exception
I talked about a few exceptions above, And nerite snails are one of those. Nerites like to dig around in the sand.
Sand is also a better substrate for Nerites because it’s softer than other substrates which can help protect their delicate shell from scratches and damage.
So when dealing with nerites, you have a few options. You can stick with only sand, which I do not recommend.
You can switch up the layers a bit, add Fluval to the bottom, and sand to the top with some pebbles mixed in. This is an ok option, but it doesn’t look as nice and it’s tough to keep clean.
The best option is to keep the layers as suggested, Pebbles, Fluval, then sand at the bottom, while also adding sand to the top in half the tank. If you have multiple types of snails or other fish in the tank, then this is probably the ideal solution, best of both worlds as it were.
You can definitely make this setup look really nice too by selectively placing certain types of plants in the sand section of the tank, and other types of plants on the other side of the tank.