While they are accomplished snail assassins, clown loaches Chromobotia macracanthus need to
be kept in schools to be happy, and their ultimate size of 12 inches or more means that a huge
tank is required to keep them.
Given their small size, trumpets can squeeze
into almost anything, so it is crucial to pay
attention to your filter intakes in a tank
where the snails are present.
Trumpet snails are great scavengers, but they will also happily join in the feeding of fresh food
if given the chance.
chance at eating snails. With all those
whorls, these are actually not the easiest
snails to eat, even for snail specialists. Fish
as ravenous as African cichlids actually
leave the snails alone for the most part.
But some fish are very good at crushing,
shucking, and biting right through even
snails like this.
Certain species of loaches are famous
snail eaters. Clown, skunk, and yoyo
loaches all are employed for this cause,
and there is long list of other loach species
that will do the job as well. With a quick
twitch, these snail assassins rip the snail
right out of the shell. Also, clown loaches
(and probably others) are known to enjoy
eating snail eggs. Therefore, if you have
non-livebearing snails, these will be
eliminated even faster! The downside of
this is aggression to your other fishes. The
subocular spines of loaches are wicked
weapons, and many species squabble with
each other and with other fishes.
A more simple and brutal approach is
to crush the snail. With hard-bodied prey
being abundant all over the Earth, there
are also fish with snail-crushing jaws
everywhere. Many cichlids can develop
the skill for ripping snails out in loach-like fashion. Species as different as yellow
labs Labidochromis caeruleus and Haitian
cichlids Nandopsis haitiensis do this. There
are, however, snail-eating cichlid specialists
that have jaws custom-made for crushing
snails. The buffalo cichlid Steatocranus
casuarius and (the endangered) Herichthys
minckleyi have powerful pharyngeal jaws
specially made to crush snails. Other
cichlids have these jaws too, but there is an
arms race between sturdy snail shells and
powerful snail-crushing jaws. The easy
solution to this is to have a large fish for
the job. Large, generalist-feeding cichlids
like red devils and Texas cichlids don’t
specialize in snails, but they will demolish
small snails like M. tuberculatus.
Pharyngeal jaws are great tools for eating
snails, but what might be even better
is a beak! Puffers tear apart snail shells