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Reef Snails and Clams

Last Updated: 3/15/21

A nassarius snail on 6/7/08.

My Reef Snails and Clams
Reef Snail and Clam Photos

I wish I had time to write about the various species and types of reef snails. Instead, I will just tell you about mine.

I have a larger page on freshwater snails unrelated to these guys here.

My Reef Snails

I first got seven snails on 5/3/08 who all died instantly. See this page for their story. I tried again on 5/21/08 with seven more snails from another source. They all died too! See that same page for their story in detail.

Finally, on 6/5/08, I got five snails who did survive. I copied this section from my reef blog page three about them.

I went to a different store and got one huge cerith snail, two margaritas, and two nassarius snails. Unlike the last two batches of snails, these guys were very active in the bag. I went back to work with them and brought them inside (120 degrees F in the car!). That store guy said all he ever does is float and dump, and I should do that! I decided not to. I floated for about 30 min while doing other animal/fish chores, then drip acclimated for an hour, then re-floated in ziploc bags for 20 minutes. This time, I checked the salinity, pH, and temperature of the snails' water versus tank water. When I started, my tank pH was 8.02 but the water in the bags was pH 7.93 in one and pH 7.90 in the other! So much for store water being the perfect 8.2! It was too low! The salinity in my tank was 1.024. The two bags of snails were 1.026 and 1.0245. One was pretty high! After drip acclimation, the snails were at pH 7.96. I had to do a water change to allow for the drip so I made 2.5 gallons of new saltwater at a pH of 8.16 and 1.024 SG. I lifted the snails out in to the tank. They moved right away! For the first time, I had moving snails in my tank! The margaritas and huge cerith are very slow. The nassarius, or one of them anyway, thinks he is speed racer! His foot is four times the surface area of his shell. I had no idea they were that fast! He has been in the sand with snorkel up, sliding down the glass like an amusement ride, and driving around. So, I think my previous snails died from acclimation problems (changes) and not from the tank itself.

On 6/16/08, I got five more snails. I got another cerith snail and another margarita snail. I also got three Astraea snails. Those three have finally really been working on the sheets of algae in my tank! I hope it grows at a rate to keep both the snails and I happy! This time, there was no problem acclimating them.

A small snail showed up in my tank that I did not buy. I first saw him on 6/19/08. It must have come with the corals. Around 6/24/08, I saw my "free" snail again. Since he was reachable, and I was worried that he too might be "bad," I decided to pick him out and put him in the three gallon tank which could use a few tiny snails anyway. Well, I grabbed the snail, and it fell in to two parts! Huh? The front end fell to the sand and drove away while the rear stayed on the glass (I removed that). I later looked on-line. It seems that the species Stomatella varia will drop its rear when attacked by predators (like me). They are good to have (the "best algae eater you can't buy" the site said) so I will not bother him again. I later got a photo you can see below.

On 7/6/08, I got two margarita snails for the 3 gallon Eclipse tank. They spent a few weeks clinging to each other and were dead by late July. I do not know why.

The larger cerith snail died sometime in early July; it just stopped moving.

On 8/12/08, I got two nassarius snails for my new 6 gallon nano cube tank. There is a deep sand bed in which they can wander. They are a bit larger than I would like, larger than the two in my 12 gallon tank.

On 9/27/08, four new Astraea snails arrived for the 6 gallon tank. I only ordered two but they sent two extra! Luckily, they are not too big so hopefully it is not too many snails for the tank which also has those two nassarius snails. The Astraea snails stayed on the top of the live rock where I put them for a few days before driving out further. They are pretty slow!

For about three weeks, there was one margarita snail in the 12 gallon tank who kept landing on its back. I would right it twice a day until, around 11/6/08, it finally died. I have no idea why; none of the other animals were bothering it.

A margarita snail died on 6/5/10 in the 12 gallon. There is now just one of those left (actually, I was wrong, none are left). An Astraea snail died on 6/9/10 as well in the 12 gallon. It was upside down and alive. I righted it, and it never moved again. What is going on?

When I did a 100% cleaning of the 12 gallon tank on 7/31/10, one Astraea snail remained as did the cerith snail and two nassarius snails. By 8/2/10, the last Astraea acts like it is dying too (upside down, body hanging out even after I righted it).

On 8/5/10, I got five banded trochus snails from Live Aquaria. I had ordered four but they sent an extra. I added them to my 12 gallon tank after a 1.5 hour acclimation. They spazed at first but then went to work. When I put the snails in the 12 gallon, a few of them were writhing which as a pretty ghastly sight. They have these white appendages on their feet that writhe as does their black foot. Unlike some snails, they can right themselves. I thought they were dying but, by morning, the snails were busy sucking away at algae.

The five new banded trochus snails are not doing a very good job. Most of the time, they just sit there but, when they want to move, these guys can book much faster than any snail I have ever had.

I found one of the banded trochus snail shell's empty on 9/21/10. The other four are rarely seen and rarely move. The sides of the tank have hair algae a few inches long. I am not sure if the problem is that these snails do not want to eat it or if they are sick due to something that also killed the previous snails. Nemo and the crabs seem fine.

On 9/25/10, I looked for the banded trochus snails. I found three of the five. Two were totally empty while the other had a body inside that was hanging out and non-responsive. I am going to assume that the other two trochus snails are deceased as well as I have not seen any moving around in a long time. I do not have a clue why they all died. The surviving two nassarius snails (of two different species) and one cerith snail are still just fine. The algae is out of control in the 12 gallon without snails to eat it. I need more but am afraid they will just die as well.

On 10/8/10, I went to the local aquarium store and got some more snails. In fact, I got the only snails they had - two Astraea, four margaritas, and one oops-that's-not-a-snail! The guy grabbed an animal off the way that was not a snail! It is a bivalve, probably a clam, about half an inch long. It has two shells and sticks out an orange foot which it can use to climb the wall or sit in the substrate. The snails are alive as of the next day but not all that active. While I was drip acclimating them though, twice I had to pull two off the side of the container as they made a run for it! The clam was last seen attempting to move about a month after I got him and has not moved, opened, or otherwise shown any sign of life since then although, as of 1/22/11, he is still in the tank shut up tight.

By 10/23/10, it was clear that one of the new Astraea snails was dead. The other is missing. I do not know why they keep dying. The margarita snails are fine so far and have helped with the algae on the glass. I found the other Astraea dead on 10/24/10 in Nemo's stash of snail shells. For some reason, they all end up with him. He will knock snails off the wall.

By 1/15/11, I think only one of the margaritas is alive. One spent the week before upside down slowly dying. It responded at first to my touching it but eventually started to decompose so I took it out. The tank is infested with algae but snails just will not stay alive!

I stupidly bought two cerith snails and two Astraea snails and put them in the tank on 1/21/11. I hope they live more than a few days like most of the other snails I have added in the last year. The 12 gallon now has those four snails, one old cerith, one margarita, and the two old nassarius snails. The 6 gallon only has one or two Astraea snails left and the two nassarius.

On 4/14/11, I received 16 tiny cerith snails from another aquarist which went in to my 12 gallon tank. The snails are only 1/8 to 1/4 of in inch, very small, and they stay small. I hope they can eat some of the algae that has smothered the tank but do not themselves overtake the tank. They were breeding in the tank from which they came.

On 7/16/11, when cleaning the tank, I found the empty shell of the smaller, different species of nassarius snail in the 12 gallon tank. I could not believe it had died but the empty shell was still there the following week.

On 12/17/11, I picked up an Astraea snail in the 6 gallon tank, and its body fell out so it was dead. I think that was the last one in that tank. I really need to get some more snails for both tanks. Aside from the nassarius snails in both tanks, I see few other snails (none in the 6 gallon actually and just a few in the 12 gallon). I hope to improve things in there soon.

On 2/27/12, I bought two new Astraea snails for the 6 gallon tank. They went right to work.

I did 100% cleanings of the reef tanks on 5/10/12. The 12 gallon has 2 Astraea and two cerith snails left. There are no nassarius or those little cerith snails left (although I could have missed some in the gravel). I will need to order some nassarius. The 6 gallon has 2 Astraea and two nassarius in it.

On 5/12/12, I bought what they said was a Mexican turbo snail for my 12 gallon tank but I was 80% sure that it was a margarita snail.

Well, I am now 100% sure that it was a margarita snail. On 5/15/12, I got a Live Aquaria order. I had ordered one Mexican turbo snail to eat the cotton candy algae and green algae and two nassarius snails all for my 12 gallon tank. I got two Mexican turbo snails, one huge and one smaller. The two nassarius snails were the smallest marine snails that I have ever seen, only a few mm long! I really did not want two turbo snails as the tank is too small. If they run out of food, I will give them to a local aquarium store to find a new home. The margarita snail that was sold to me as a Mexican turbo snail looks nothing like the two new turbo snails. It looks just like margarita. And, like the ones I have had in the past, it ended up upside down where it writhed for a few days before the hermit crab started to eat it, and I removed the dead body on 5/20/12. I do not think the margarita snails can take the 80 degrees F temperature in the tank.

I removed a dead Astraea snail from my 6 gallon tank on 6/7/12. There is only one left in there. I bought and added a replacement Astraea snail on 6/13/12 so there are now two in there again.

On 6/16/12, I moved the smaller of the turbo snails from the 12 gallon tank to the 6 gallon tank. The 12 gallon is much better now, and the 6 gallon needs some algae reduction. The turbo snails are amazing. The astraea and cerith snails seem to do nothing by comparison. For one thing, they almost never go on the live rock and corals which is where the algae is a problem. The turbos though drive all over and much faster.

While looking for a missing fish in my 6 gallon tank on 7/18/12, I found eggs on the back wall! After looking at snail photos on-line, I found them to be nassarius snail eggs. The internet says I should not expect babies though which is probably good because there are hundreds and hundreds of eggs! I never saw any babies. There is a photo below.

The turbo snail in the 6 gallon was almost dead on 8/25/12, and on 9/1/12, the shell was empty.

On 10/24/12, I bought four new snails. For the 12 gallon, I got two nassarius snails (not the super Tongan ones which are white although they were labeled as such). For the 6 gallon, I got two cerith snails (all snails were dead in that tank).

I did a total clean of the 12 gallon tank on 10/27/12. I found the following snails: one astraea snail, one turbo snail, one cerith snail, and the two new nassarius snails. That means that the other astraea, nassarius, and cerith snails have died.

On 1/14/13, I bought two new snails. I got a new Mexican turbo snail for the 6 gallon as the other was gone by 9/1/12. The cotton candy algae is getting bad in there again. I also got another astraea snail for the 12 gallon. He joins another astraea and the turbo snail. The one cerith snail and two nassarius snails have not been seen in a while but they do hide.

Even though the 6 gallon is full of algae, the new turbo snail in there was dead by 1/21/13, upside down.

I found the remains of the big turbo snail in the 12 gallon on 2/2/13. He had been dead for at least a few days. Algae is growing pretty well in there now with just a few lazy astraea snails on patrol.

On 8/16/13, I found my crab, Scary, eating one of the two nassarius snails in the 6 gallon tank. I do not know if the snail died, and then he ate it or he actually killed the snail himself. I am hoping the former because they have lived together for five years with no problem.

On 1/19/14, I bought two Astraea snails for the 6 gallon tank as that tank has no snails left except maybe one nassarius that I have not seen in a while.

Update 3/21/19: The only saltwater snail that survives is the Tongan nassarius in the 6 gallon tank. I ordered new snails to arrive in a few days.

On 3/23/19, I added the following snails to the 12 gallon tank:
3 Cerith snails - two appear to have died right off the bat (I would later learn it was one that died)
2 Astraea snails
2 Nassarius snails

On 3/23/19, I added the following snails to the 6 gallon tank:
1 Cerith snail
2 Astraea snails

By early 2021, there were only two Cerith snails left in the 12 gallon tank (no other snails) and one or two Astrae snails in the 6 gallon tank. I have not seen the Nassarius snails in something like a year.

On 2/23/21, I added to the 12 gallon tank:
2 Astraea snails

I found a dead Cerith snail in the filter box (empty shell) of the 12 gallon tank on 3/6/21. I saw one surviving Cerith snail on 3/13/21.

There is at least one surviving Astrae snail in the 6 gallon tank on 3/15/21.

Reef Snail Photos

Photos are listed from oldest to newest. There are photos of my reef on my reef photos page. Some of those photos also show the snails. I did not include all of those here on this page.

This photo from 5/25/08 just shows one of the piles of dead snails. The one at the bottom left is the one that came back to life after three days and then died again.
Dead snails

These photos were taken on 6/7/08, two days after I got the first five living snails.
Nassarius snail - see the macroalgae on the right too.
Nassarius snail - close-up (actually from a separate photo of the same snail as above a minute later).
Margarita snail - one of them.
Margarita snail - the other one.

This photo of the huge cerith snail on the back wall of the tank is from 6/13/08:
Cerith snail

I took this photo on 6/16/08 of one of my new Astraea snails:
Astraea snail

This poor photo from 8/2/08 shows the Stomatella snail that hitchhiked in to the tank. Its head is on the right. It is really growing!
Stomatella snail

On 9/27/08, I got four new Astraea snails. Here they are in the container I used to acclimate them:
Astraea snails

There are two margarita snails in this photo from 3/2/09. Can you find them?

On 10/27/09, I got a Live Aquaria order. Instead of getting the yellow dwarf feather duster that I ordered, they sent seven banded trochus snails! My 6 and 12 gallon tanks are full in general and certainly over full with snails so I had my father take them to Petco and give them away to an employee there. I later researched them and found they would have been ideal snails for a reef tank, if I had had the room!
Banded trochus snails

On 8/5/10, I got my own five banded trochus snails! Here are four of them on that day during drip acclimation. They have some pink coralline algae and some short red algae on their shells.
Banded trochus snails

These are photos from 10/8/10 when I got 2 Astraea snails, 4 margarita snails, and a surprise clam.
Clam and snails - clam on the far left, 2 Astraea (the white and pointy ones) snails, and 4 margarita (red) snails.
Clam in the 12 gallon tank with its foot attached to the glass; it can climb the glass!
Clam on the glass with its foot out.

I took these additional photos of the clam on 10/9/10.
Clam in the 12 gallon tank on the ground with its tongue in to the substrate.
Clam close-up from the last photo.

These two Astraea snails and two cerith snails were acclimated to my 12 gallon tank on 1/21/11:
Snails - no flash
Snails - with flash

Cerith snails - on 4/14/11; these are the little species that another aquarist sent to me. I see about six of them in the photo right after I released them. You can also see one of the larger cerith snails that I had bought back on 1/21/11.

I was taking photos of a peanut worm in the 12 gallon tank on 9/2/11 but there is a cerith snail in the photos too:
Cerith snail
Cerith snail

On 2/27/12, I got two Astraea snails for my 6 gallon aquarium. Here they are acclimating with some zooanthids on that day:
Astraea snails

I took this photo on 2/28/12 of the 6 gallon tank with the new zooanthids but you can also see one of the new Astraea snails.
Astraea snail - in the upper right corner

Two nassarius snails climbing the front glass of my 6 gallon nano reef on 5/8/12.

Margarita snail in drip acclimation on 5/12/12. This is the snail that they sold me as a turbo snail!

Four new snails in drip acclimation on 5/15/12 including one large turbo snail, one smaller turbo snail, and two itty bitty nassarius snails

Big turbo snail on 5/18/12.

Little turbo snail on 5/24/12. An electric blue hermit crab is below him.

These photos from 5/28/12 were taken of corals but include the big turbo snail.
Big turbo snail
Big turbo snail

Nassarius snail eggs in the back left corner wall of the 6 gallon tank. You can also see the hanging green star polyps. Look for the white eggs where the two walls meet.

Nassarius snails - my two new nassarius snails on 10/24/12. Oh, how nice it is to have a photo that the camera put in full focus for once!

I was taking photos of the peppermint shrimp and crab on 3/29/14 but also got photos of an astraea snail.
Peppermint shrimp and astraea snail
Peppermint shrimp, Scary, and astraea snail
Peppermint shrimp, Scary, and astraea snail

Here are some photos of a nassarius snail in my 6 gallon nano reef on 1/16/16. The photos are all basically the same except for how the light is effecting the photos.:
Nassarius snail
Nassarius snail
Nassarius snail

Here are links to Live Aquaria which show photos and information about the snails that I got. From left to right are the nassarius snail, cerith snail, margarita snail, Astraea snail, and bumble bee snail (I got one but it was from the second batch of snails that died). Note that Live Aquaria ended their affiliate program so that the photos below no longer link to their site.

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