Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Water Conditions: 7.0-8.0 and Moderately Hard to Very Hard
Temperature: 21–27 °C (71.5–80.5 °F)
Maximum Size: 6 inches (15cm)
The golden apple snail (Pomacea bridgesii), which is also known under the names apple snail, mystery snail and golden mystery snail, is a large, popular fresh-water snail. Originally found throughout the Amazon river basin, it has now spread to Hawaii, Southeast Asia and has been recently reported in Florida.
In the wild, golden apple snails spend most of their lives submerged in water, emerging only to occasionally forage and during mating to lay their eggs on land. Even though they spend the majority of their lives under water, they still require air to breath, and accomplish this through extending a specialized breathing tube (siphon) to the surface of the water.
While they are best known for the yellow color variant, the pomacea bridgessi does come in many different colors. It’s no surprise that the yellow variant is the most popular and widely available, but you will also find albino, brown and a nearly black color in the aquarium trade.
When looking to purchase a golden apple snail, it’s important to remember that they can grow to a monstrous size compared to other snails. Most are sold when they are under 1 inch (2.5cm) in diameter, but they can grow to massive 5 inches. Some extremely well fed and cared for can grow to an aquarium busting 6 inch diameter.
If apple snails are kept on their own in an aquarium, they can be kept in a relatively small 10 gallon tank. A good rule of thumb is to provide 3 gallons for each snail, due to the fact that they are extremely messy (They poop, then eat, then poop some more).
Since apple snails are rarely kept on their own, you should always ensure that enough space is provided for both the apple snails and any fish in the tank. A 20 gallon aquarium is usually adequate, as it will allow a school of small minnows and 3-4 apple snails.
Golden apple snails are completely peaceful, and will never bother any fish tank-mates. The same can’t be said for fish though – they should absolutely never be kept with any loaches, puffer fish or any of the larger cichlids. Any of these fish will happily munch on snails, and the apples snail’s large size and thick shell are no protection from a hungry fish. In the case of the loaches, they are content taking small bites out of any exposed portions of the apple snails any chance they get – which will eventually kill the snail over time.
When choosing a filter for apple snails, the best choice is usually a high quality hang-on-back filter. This keeps the tank sparkling clean, and is more economical than most of the alternatives. Sponge filters should be avoided with apple snails, since there are reports of hungry snails eating small pieces of the sponge over time.
The feeding of apple snails is incredibly easy, and they will accept nearly all types of fish food. With that being said, they should always be fed a high quality flake food, and have the added advantage of eating any food that is missed by the other tank inhabitants. This helps prevent missed food from decaying and fouling the aquarium.
Their diet should also be supplemented with sinking pellets (spiraluna, algae) and they will also appreciate the occasional vegetable. Their particular favorites are blanched cucumber and zucchini medallions, shelled peas and lettuce leafs. Any uneaten food should be removed from the tank after 24 hours, to prevent it from fouling the water.
Unlike most snails available in the aquarium trade, apple snails are not hermaphroditic and you need both a male and a female for breeding. The easiest way to accomplish this is to purchase six snails, which virtually guarantees that you will have at least one male and female.
If you want to confirm that you have males and females, it is possible to sex them, but if you have never done it before, it’s not easy. If you turn the snail over in your hand, the snail will emerge from its shell in an attempt to right itself. This gives you a brief opportunity to look inside. Males will have a penial complex on the inside of the shell, while females will not. It should be located close to the gills, but can be difficult to identify unless you know what you’re looking for.
Once apple snails reach sexual maturity, they will begin to mate on their own, and don’t require any special triggers. They will attach themselves to each other during mating, with the female always being on the bottom on the male.
After mating has finished, the female will emerge from the water, and deposits a large egg cluster above the water line. The eggs are bright pink, and must be kept above the water line or they will be destroyed. If you want to control the snail population, the eggs can be easily removed and disposed of.
The eggs will generally hatch after a few weeks, if they are kept in a warm (21-27 C) and humid environment. The newborn snails don’t require any special food, and will accept flake food and pellets immediately upon hatching.