Apple Snail vs. Mystery Snail – What’s the Difference?

Apple snails are a family of freshwater snails that originates from South America. They are called apple snails because some species grow as big as an apple. Mystery snails are one species in the larger apple snails family and have many similar characteristics.

You can distinguish them through their shell’s shape, the snail’s size, behavior, and the pattern of stripes or bands.

Apple snails are aggressive, larger, and have rounded apple-shaped shells. On the other hand, mystery snails are more sedentary and have a more cone-shaped shell, usually patterned with brown and yellow stripes.

Apple SnailMystery snail
They are a family of snails with several species, among which mystery snails belong.They are one of the species of the apple snail family.
Most snails in this family have brighter colors except for a few, like mystery snails.Generally, they have patterned brown and yellow stripes. They are generally darker compared to other species in the apple family.
They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small to larger.They are relatively medium-sized snails.
Contain both herbivores and omnivores species.Purely herbivores, feeding on plant matters.
Some species are aggressive or invasive.Peaceful and less aggressive.
Includes big snails that require extra-large space.Requires relatively enough space to feed and move around.

Apple vs. mystery snail – Differences

Although there are many similarities between apple snails and mystery snails, there are also a few notable differences which include the following:


Mystery snails can grow to about 2 inches in diameter. Although this is a large size for a snail, some other apple snails can grow even bigger. For example, the golden apple snail can grow to a diameter of 5 inches.


Most apple snail species tend to have brighter colors, such as golden yellow, brown, green, or a combination of the three colors. On the other hand, mystery snails have darker colors like black, brown, or blue.


Mystery snails are herbivores and love to feed on dead plants, biofilm, and algae. However, some other apple snails are omnivores (can feed on both plants and meat), and others are carnivores (feed on flesh alone).


Some apple snails are considered invasive pests and illegal in some countries. They eat heavily, destroying crops and vegetation and threatening food security. They are also associated with intestinal flukes and rat ringworms.

Mystery snails feed a lot, but they do not destroy vegetation nor carry any diseases. They are more sedentary and tend to stay in one place.

Tank Size

Mystery snails require enough space to move around and feed. Experts recommend keeping a maximum of four mystery snails in a 10-gallon tank. However, other apple snails will require more space because they feed more and grow larger than mystery snails.

A golden apple snail can grow three times the size of a mystery snail. Therefore you may need a tank that is twice as big. The number of apple snails per 10-gallon tank should be 2 or 3, respectively.


Unlike most other snails that are hermaphrodites (they have both sex organs), apple snails, including mystery snails, are gonochoristic. The gonochoristic breed of snails usually requires a male and female for breeding. However, it may not be easy to tell the gender of the snails.

Apple vs mystery snail

Which is better to keep?

Apple snails are beautiful, but before you decide to keep them, you need to analyze your reasons for doing so. As stated above, some species are very invasive and will eat up and destroy your aquarium plants. They also grow very big and may not be convenient for a small tank.

On the other hand, mystery snails are very peaceful and do not destroy vegetation in the aquarium. They also come in various colors, and it will be hard to miss one that blows you away. In my experience, mystery snails are better suited for home aquariums.


Apple snails are a larger category comprising several species, including mystery snails. All apple snails are freshwater snails and have several similarities and notable differences. Some species are very invasive and illegal to sell in some countries.

So, before you decide to keep any type of snail, it would be wise to confirm if it is allowed in your state or country.


  1. Aquatic Invasive Species Monitoring Manual, State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  2. Emergency Regulation on Applesnails, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
  3. Mystery snails Fact Sheet, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

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