Nerite snails tunneling holes in substrate and burrowing is quite normal and has a lot of benefits for their natural survival. On the other hand, a snail not moving and hiding in its shell for longer can indicate stress, fear, or a health problem. Let’s expound more on why nerite snails burrow and what to do.
Nerite snails are among the snails that burrow to lay eggs, look for food, and hide from bright sunlight and potential predators. They may also burrow due to poor water quality in the tank, hibernate, or sleep.
Reasons: Why do nerite snails burrow?
Driftwood, live plants, rocks, wooden logs, or any other type of tank decoration provide ideal resting spots for nerite snails in the tank. Sometimes, the snail may burrow in gravel or substrate as a result of the following:
1. To avoid bright light
Like other aquarium snails, the delicate nerite snails do not like direct exposure to bright light. The snails will look for areas within the tank or aquarium that offer sufficient cover against the intense light. In the wild, this helps them from potential moisture loss resulting from the sun.
Research shows that snails are generally nocturnal creatures; they are more active at night than during the daytime. Nerite snails will always be seen feeding and moving around at night especially when the aquarium lights are off.
2. Hiding from predators
The aquarium becomes more beautiful and natural with snails and other aquatic life such as shrimp and fish. Unfortunately, some marine animals are snail predators. Nerite snails will definitely burrow to avoid aggression from such tank mates.
When burrowing in a substrate, a threatened or stressed snail also locks its shell and stays in hiding for days, sometimes even for months, until there is no immediate threat or stress. If you haven’t seen your nerite snail for a while, try identifying potential sources of threat in the aquarium.
3. Poor water conditions
Nerite snails are hardy species of snails that can adapt and survive in various water conditions. They are brackish water lovers that prefer a pH range of 8.1 to 8.4 and a temperature range of 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. These snails are very sensitive to high nitrate levels and copper-based medications.
Poor tank conditions can easily cause snail illnesses or death. Therefore, you need to urgently check and restore the tank’s water quality, which includes the pH level, temperature, and hardness. Additionally, keep the recommended number of Nerite snails per gallon (One snail per 5-gallon tank).
4. To breed and reproduce
A nerite snail will tunnel into the substrate to create a safe space for laying eggs. But, it is tough for the eggs to hatch in freshwater as it does not promote the natural breeding requirements for nerite snails. Nerite snails need brackish water to breed (1.005-1.010 salinity).
5. Search for food
Nerite snails are excellent algae eaters. Their diet should include sinking algae wafers and vegetable flakes. These snails are also known to feed on dead organic matter. A nerite snail can burrow to search for food and waste products to feed on in the tank’s bottom.
Without enough food to eat, nerite snails may be forced to dig into the substrate and go into hibernation. This helps snails to preserve energy levels to keep the functions of body organs to a minimum for days or even weeks.
Can nerite snails stay without burrowing?
A nerite snail cannot stay without burrowing as it helps them find and eat algae at the bottom of the aquarium. They also do it to find the perfect locations for hibernation, protection against predators, and breeding or laying eggs. Burrowing has also been observed as a fun activity for the snail.
When hibernating, they will stay in the substrate for a while before coming out. The same behavior is observed in some shrimps which play dead when molting or hibernating.
Can both young and adult nerite snails burrow?
Both young and adult nerite snails burrow primarily for the same reasons. Young nerite snails do not burrow to lay eggs and breed as they have not reached the breeding age. It takes about six months for a baby nerite snail to reach adulthood.
Young nerite snails burrow inside their aquarium for a few days and then rest to recover as their shells become stronger. Additionally, fish like the yoyo loach can eat snails, and they will not spare the young nerites if they are left in the open.
Can you stop nerite snails from burrowing?
You cannot stop nerite snails from burrowing. For snails to thrive, the tank or aquarium environment has to mimic the natural environment as much as possible. Sand and gravel are common substrates for your aquarium, and very suitable for snail burrowing.
While you cannot stop snails from burrowing, you can reduce the rate at which the behavior occurs. Simply maintain favorable water parameters, minimize bright light, add only friendly tank mates, and provide hiding spots, including caves and rocks.
Remember that some fish species, like guppies, are less likely to be aggressive towards nerite snails. So, only keep fish that is friendly to snails in the aquarium so that you reduce the need for burrowing. If you cannot find the right aquarium or tank mates, have tanks only for the snails.
References: Aquadiction; Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis) and Aquatic community; Nerite snails