What Do Nerite Snails Eat?

Written by Volia Nikaci
Published: September 26, 2022
© iStock.com/Juan Carlos Juarez Jaramillo
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The nerite snail is a member of the Neritidae family that can live both in freshwater and in saltwater. They are quite tiny snails, measuring less than one inch long. There is a large population of these snails that lives along the coastlines of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. However, the majority of nerite snails live in the wild along coastlines near rivers that empty into the sea. They are also one of the most popular snails for aquariums, especially for beginners. This is because they are generally easy to take care of and have minimal tank care requirements. 

So what do nerite snails eat both in the wild and as pets? Let’s take a look at these fascinating snails and learn all about them.

What Do Nerite Snails Like To Eat?

red nerite snails lined up on branch
There are a great many reasons why Nerite snails are so popular. They have unique patterns and colors, and they are extremely useful in cleaning aquariums of algae.

©Mark Brandon/Shutterstock.com

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Nerite snails are herbivores. That means that they feed on plants. Nerite snails primarily eat algae. That’s what makes them so popular in aquariums. They happen to be great at eating algae. Nerite snails will also eat fish food that has been left over, and decomposing leaves. They happen to be excellent scavengers. Nerite snails are also incredibly peaceful when kept in a tank with other fish and aquatic animals. They typically mind their own business and go about feeding, which in turn helps to clean the tank out from excessive amounts of algae.  It is possible for nerite snails to starve to death at times if not enough algae are present in the tank or other fish are more dominant.

In spite of the fact that Nerite snails are generally herbivores that feed on phytoplankton, green algae, and cyanobacteria to a limited extent, they also prey on other snail eggs. A study published in the Journal of Molluscan Studies indicates that Indo-West Pacific neritids of the genera Clithon and Vittina eat snail eggs alongside algal foods. Due to this, researchers found that Neritina species evolved an intriguing defense technique for defending their egg capsules against snails from their own families. Scientists have been able to gain a deeper understanding of this fascinating snail species by observing all of this.

Now that we have a better understanding of what nerite snails eat, let’s take a look at how they come across their food.

How Do Nerite Snails Find Their Food & Break It Down?

spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis)
In order to consume the food, Nerite snails use their radula to slice up the algae.

©Joan Carles Juarez/Shutterstock.com

Nerite snails are generally quite calm. Their adaptability makes them a great aquarium companion. So what are their methods for obtaining food and breaking it down? A radula is a system of thousands of tiny teeth that snails and slugs use to consume food. In order to scavenge for food, nerite snails use their radulae. The grazing process of this species involves slowly roaming around an area with a lot of algae and continuing to eat the food in a way that allows them to remain healthy. They will use their radula to scoop the food into their mouth. The small teeth on the radula scrape up plant material, cutting it into small pieces that fit into their mouths.

Having gained a better understanding of how these tiny snails get their food, let’s explore the specific diet of wild nerite snails.

What Do Nerite Snails Eat In The Wild?

It is important to note that there is no single species of nerite snails, there are several. Both freshwater and marine nerite snails can be purchased to keep in a tank, and there are many different species to choose from. However, wild nerite snails are the ones that can be found along the coastlines of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. So what do nerite snails eat in the wild?

In the wild, most nerites occupy coastlines near rivers that empty into the ocean. As they feed, grow, and reproduce, they migrate between saltwater and freshwater. In their natural habitats, nerites cling to rocks or roots of mangrove trees to feed on algae and microorganisms. There is a wide range of algae they enjoy, including soft algae, green spot algae, green dust algae, brown algae, and black beard algae. There is absolutely no sign of picky eating on their part!

Having uncovered what wild nerite snails eat, let’s find out what you can feed your pet nerite snail.

What Do Pet Nerite Snails Eat?

spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis)
The nerite snail is a highly adaptable animal that makes an excellent pet due to its ability to adapt to a variety of water conditions.

©iStock.com/Juan Carlos Juarez Jaramillo

The eating habits of nerite snails kept as pets are usually the same as those of their wild counterparts. Nerites have a really peaceful nature and don’t bother anyone really, as we mentioned earlier. In addition to helping to keep your aquarium tank clean from excessive algae growth, they are also well-behaved and get along well with all of the other fishes in the tank (except for those that are excessively aggressive).  The majority of the algae in your tank will be consumed by nerite snails. It is not unusual, however, for them to also consume unhealthy or dead vegetation as well as leftover fish food from time to time. 

They are quite good at eating algae, sometimes they will eat so much that there isn’t even enough left for them to eat. It would be a good idea to offer them algae wafers in order to make sure they are well fed. The wafer can also be broken up into quarters and put a smaller portion in the tank with the snails if you are feeding them only one or two snails at a time.

As long as you make sure that the wafer is eaten, the rest is easy. When algae wafers are not eaten, they will eventually break down in the aquarium and can cause Saprolegnia to sprout in the tank. There may be problems in your aquarium as a result of this. Besides algae wafers, they will also eat blanched zucchini slices, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, and even canned green beans as they like to graze on these foods.

What Do Baby Nerite Snails Eat?

Just like their older versions, baby Nerite snails make wonderful pets. A baby nerite snail will eat the same food as an adult. Your tank’s algae will be their main source of nutrition. The diet can also be supplemented with sinking algae wafers and blanched vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, and carrots if you do not have much algae growth.

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spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis)
spotted nerite snail (Neritina natalensis)
© iStock.com/Juan Carlos Juarez Jaramillo

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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