Assassin Snail: Species Profile, Care Guide & Lifespan

Assassin snail on aquarium rocks

The Assassin Snail is a small but mighty creature found in freshwater tanks. It’s known for eating other snails, which is where it got its “assassin” moniker. 

These snails are easy to care for and can live up to 3 years. They thrive in warm water and can coexist with peaceful tankmates. They are also a good way to manage unwanted snails in your tank.

In this article, we’ll talk about what Assassin Snails are, what they look like, how to look after them, and more. We’ll also touch on some answers to frequently asked questions about these fascinating snails. Let’s begin!

Assassin Snail Quick Facts

Scientific Name:Clea helena
Common Names:Assassin Snail, Snail-eating Snail
Unique Traits:Eats other snails, distinctive yellow and brown striped shell
Origin:Freshwater rivers and lakes in Southeast Asia
Lifespan:2–3 years
Adult Size:0.8–1.2 inches (2–3 cm)
Temperament:Peaceful with fish and shrimp but predatory towards other snails
Diet:Carnivorous (mainly other snails)
Tank Size:Minimum of 10 gallons
Temperature:75°F–80°F (24°C–27°C)
pH Level:6.5–7.5
Care Level:Easy to moderate (requires monitoring)
BreedingSexual reproduction, laying eggs on hard surfaces or plants; reproduction rate is slow
Price Range:$2–$5 per snail
Recommended Tankmates:Small to medium-sized fish, shrimp, and other non-snail invertebrates. Avoid large, aggressive fish
Special Notes:Assassin snails are commonly used as a natural pest control for unwanted snail species in tanks. They can be sensitive to copper medications

What Is an Assassin Snail?

Assassin snail clinging to an aquarium glass

Assassin snails are a type of freshwater snail that are known for their predatory behavior. They are called assassin snails because they hunt and eat other snails. This makes them a useful addition to aquariums that are infested with unwanted snail species. 

Scientifically known as Clea helena, the Assassin Snail also goes by different names, such as snail-eating snail, killer snail, and bumblebee snail.

These snails originate from Southeast Asia and inhabit freshwater environments like rivers and lakes. 

Aside from their unique diet primarily consisting of other snail species, they are also known for their yellow and brown striped shell. 

Assassin Snails actively seek out and consume other snails, using a specialized mouthpart called the proboscis.

Watch this video to see Assassin Snails in action:

Breeding Fish For Profit. Assassin Snails Species Profile. Clea helena

Some records state that the scientific name for Assassin Snail is ‘Anentome helena.’ This snail species was first described by von dem Busch in 1847.

On a related note, one study claims that Assassin Snails are not just one kind but a mix of at least four different species. 

Researchers are suggesting that what we thought was a single species, Clea helena, is actually a complex family tree. 

Additionally, they suggest that these snails are part of a group that made the rare leap from the ocean to freshwater living. 

Assassin Snail Price and Buying Tips

Assassin Snails are not only popular for their unique feeding behavior but also for their relatively low price. You can find Assassin Snails for sale for around $2 to $5 each. 

If you’re an aquarium owner looking to control pests or add some fun to your tank, these snails are a good choice. However, before rushing to get one, there are some things to take note of.

Here are some tips to help you when buying Assassin Snails:

  • Buy from reputable sellers: Whether it’s a local fish store or an online retailer, make sure you are purchasing from a well-reviewed seller. Preferably, only buy from sellers with years of experience.
  • Check the snail’s health: Look for active snails with intact shells. Avoid those with cracks or significant damage.
  • Ask about their origin: Knowing where the snails come from can give you an idea of their health and the conditions they’re used to.
  • Look for deals on multiple snails: Some sellers offer discounts if you buy more than one. This is a win-win as you will save a bit of cash while your Assassin Snail will get some friends in its new tank. These snails do well in groups of around 5 to 6 individuals.
  • Quarantine new arrivals: Before adding new snails to your main tank, keep them in a separate tank for a couple of weeks to observe for any signs of disease. This will help avoid cross-contamination in your main tank.

Pro Tip: When you purchase and bring home Assassin snails, you need to help them get used to the new water slowly. 

To do this, put them in a bag or a separate tank with their old water and slowly add small amounts of water from your tank over an hour. This helps them acclimate properly and not get sick from the sudden change.

Assassin Snail Origin and Habitat

Assassin snail resting on a leaf

Assassin Snails come from freshwater habitats in Southeast Asia. They thrive in warm rivers and lakes, like Lake Toba in Indonesia, and freshwater habitats in Malaysia and Thailand. 

The environment where Assassin Snails thrive is characterized by its sandy or muddy bottoms. These conditions are not just a matter of preference but are important for their survival strategies.

These snails dig into the sand or mud to hide and slowly emerge to catch their food, which is usually other snails. The water in their natural habitat also has plenty of oxygen and a slow-moving current. 

These conditions are perfect for them as they help them breathe easily and hunt for food.

Note: Here’s a map showing the different places where Assassin Snails are usually found.

Assassin Snail Physical Characteristics

Assassin snail on pebble terrain

Assassin snails are interesting little creatures that you can easily spot in any aquarium due to their unique appearance. They have long, pointed shells that spiral upwards. 

These shells sport a mix of yellow and dark brown stripes that wrap around them from bottom to top. This pattern kind of looks like a bumblebee, which is why they are also called bumblebee snails.

Size-wise, Assassin Snails are not very big, growing only about 2 to 3 inches long. This small size makes them perfect for living in a tank without taking up too much space. 

Their bodies, which slide out from the bottom of their shells when they’re moving or eating, are soft and usually a light to dark grey color.

One cool thing about assassin snails is that they have a little tube called a siphon. They use it to swing and find food around them.

The siphon also helps them breathe underwater. They use it to suck in water into a special part where their gills are. This is also how they get air from the water to breathe.

Even though they are called “assassin” snails, they move very slowly. They like to spend a lot of time buried in sand or gravel at the bottom of the tank.

So, if you have them in your tank, you might sometimes find them hiding instead of climbing around.

Watch this close-up video of an assassin snail and see what they look:

Assassin Snail - hunting, killing, and eating.

Fun Fact: Unlike other snails, Assassin Snails are not a hermaphroditic species, so telling males and females apart is not really possible. In other words, male and female Assassin Snails look exactly identical.

Assassin Snail Temperament and Behavior

Assassin Snails are generally calm and peaceful creatures. They spend most of their time quietly moving around the tank, looking for food in the gravel. 

Despite their scary name, they don’t bother or harm fish. So, you don’t have to worry about your fish when you have Assassin Snails in your aquarium.

However, when it comes to other snails, Assassin Snails show another side. They are called “assassins” because they hunt and eat other snails. This is how they get their food. 

They are especially good at finding and eating snails that are smaller than them or the same size. They use a special part of their mouth to catch and eat the other snails.

But Assassin Snails don’t just attack all snails wildly. They are slow and careful hunters. They usually hunt alone and take their time to catch their prey. 

This makes them good to have in tanks that have too many small, unwanted snails. By eating these snails, Assassin Snails help keep the tank clean and stop these small snails from overcrowding the tank.

In summary, Assassin Snails are peaceful with fish but are natural hunters of other snails. They don’t kill fish but do eat other snails, which can be helpful for controlling snail populations in your tank. 

Tankmates for Assassin Snails

Assassin snail on sandy aquarium floor

Assassin Snails are peaceful and won’t bother your fish or most other creatures in your tank. They only like to eat small snails, so you don’t want to put them with snails you want to keep. 

If you’re planning to add Assassin Snails to your tank, below are some good tankmates to choose from:

  • Cory Catfish: Cory Catfish are friendly bottom dwellers known for cleaning the tank by eating leftover food. They can coexist peacefully with Assassins.
  • Tetras: Tetras are small and colorful fish that frequent the middle of the tank. They are peaceful and can get along well with Assassin Snails.
  • Shrimp: Shrimp, such as cherry or bamboo shrimp, are good at cleaning the tank, too. They’re too big for Assassin Snails to eat and are also generally peaceful.
  • Guppies: Bright and lively, guppies stay near the top of the tank. They’re friendly and won’t pick on Assassin Snails.
  • Loaches: Some smaller loaches are okay with Assassin Snails, but be careful, as larger ones might try to eat them. Make sure you choose the right kind.

Keep in mind that Assassin Snails are good at hiding and minding their own business. So when choosing tank mates, pick ones that are peaceful and won’t bother each other. You should also avoid large, aggressive fish. 

Another thing to note is that Assassin Snails tend to eat any kind of food that looks or smells appealing. Based on my experience in keeping Assassins in fish tanks, they also eat fish eggs and sometimes small fry. 

In fact, they may even eat nerite snails and spike-topped apple snails, also known as mystery snails. With these in mind, 

I recommend keeping Assassin Snails away from breeding tanks or tanks where you want to keep other snail species.

Assassin Snail Care Guide

Caring for assassin snails is easier than you might think. These tiny creatures have a simple diet and don’t reproduce as quickly as other snails, making them quite easy to handle. 

Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

Tank Requirements

Assassin Snails thrive in a tank that’s at least 30 gallons if you have 10 to 15 of them. That’s about 2 gallons of water per snail. 

A larger tank is always better because it gives them more space to explore and hunt. Just make sure that every snail still has easy access to food.

When it comes to choosing a substrate, settle with a fine substrate like sand. This will allow them to burrow and hide in a way similar to what they do in their natural habitat. 

Pick tankmates that are non-aggressive, such as small fish, clams, or larger shrimp. Be careful with smaller shrimp, though, as they might end up as a snack for the Assassin Snails.

Regarding tank parameters, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Water Temperature: Maintain a stable temperature between 75°F and 80°F (24°C to 27°C). Assassin Snails are tropical creatures and thrive in this range.
  • pH Level: Aim for a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. They can tolerate slightly acidic to slightly alkaline water, but stability is key to avoiding stress.
  • Water Hardness: 2 to 15 dKH is suitable. Assassin snails require minerals found in harder water to keep their shells strong.
  • Ammonia, Nitrate, and Nitrite Levels: These should always be at 0 ppm. Toxic compounds can quickly harm or kill your snails.

To keep water parameters in check, you can install tank monitoring sensors, such as a pH meter, thermometer, and TDS meter. Water test kits, proper filters, and lighting are also recommended.

Diet and Feeding

Assassin Snails are carnivores, preferring a high-protein diet. Their favorite food is other snails. From my experience in keeping Assassins in my home aquarium, their favorite snail species is the Malaysian trumpet snail. 

However, they also eat other small snails, fish flakes, and meaty foods. You can also feed Assassin Snails with catfish pellets, bloodworms (either live or frozen), and brine shrimp. 

These provide a good source of protein and are especially useful in tanks where the population of pest snails is not enough to sustain them. 

When feeding Assassin Snails, make sure that their food is small enough for them to ingest or that it breaks down in water so they can eat it as it decomposes.

Remember, their activity is mostly nocturnal, so feeding them in the evening can match their natural feeding patterns. However, they are not picky and will search for food throughout the day if they ever get hungry.

Fun Fact: A study published in 2022 looked at Assassin Snails and discovered that although they’re considered generalists who eat a wide range of prey, individual snails actually have their own favorite snacks. 

These snails were observed choosing specific types of prey over others, regardless of how many different options were available.

Lifespan and Health

Assassin Snails live for about 2 to 3 years with proper care. They’re sensitive to water quality, so maintaining stable water parameters is a must.

Predators like larger cichlids and snail-eating fish, including some loaches, pose significant risks to Assassin Snails. 

While these snails possess an operculum—a protective “trap door” for their shell—repeated attacks from these predators can lead to injuries or even death.

On top of injuries, here are other common health-related issues in Assassin Snails: 

  • Malnutrition and Growth Issues: In aquariums where food sources are scarce, assassin snails may suffer from malnutrition. Another issue is stunted growth. This results from insufficient living space. Both factors can hinder the snail’s development and overall health.
  • Parasitic Infections: The most common disease affecting assassin snails is parasitic infections, particularly from trematode parasites. Symptoms include white spots on the shell and a noticeable decrease in activity levels.
  • Brittle Shell Syndrome: A deficiency in calcium or poor water conditions can lead to a brittle shell. This condition makes the snail more vulnerable to injuries and infections.

When identifying a sick Assassin Snail, you will need to look for signs like shell discoloration and lack of movement. These indicators suggest the snail may not be in optimal health. 

Regular monitoring of water quality, ensuring a balanced diet, and providing enough space are key to preventing these health issues.

Assassin Snail Reproduction and Eggs

Assassin snail on dark pebbles underwater

Assassin snails have a unique way of reproducing compared to other snails. They are not like other snails that can reproduce all by themselves because they need a male and a female to mate. 

Here’s a step-by-step look at how assassin snails reproduce:

  • Step 1: Finding a Pair – Since you can’t tell male and female assassin snails apart, if you want them to make eggs, you should have at least six snails. This way, you have a better chance of having both males and females.
  • Step 2: Mating – When two snails decide to mate, they stick together for about half a day (12 hours). This is their special way of ensuring that reproduction succeeds. 
  • Step 3: Laying Eggs – After they are done mating, the female snail finds a nice spot to lay her eggs. She picks places like plants, driftwood, or even the glass of the tank. The eggs look like tiny, clear squares with a little brown dot in the middle.
  • Step 4: Waiting for Hatch – The eggs take their time to hatch, usually between 3 and 8 weeks. The water in the tank, the minerals it contains, and other parameters can make this time shorter or longer.
  • Step 5: Growing Up – Once the eggs hatch, the baby snails hide in the tank’s bottom (substrate). They stay hidden for about six months until they grow. You won’t see them much during this time because they’re busy developing.
  • Step 6: Becoming Adults – After six months, these snails are grown up and start to come out more. They can then start the whole reproduction process over when they find a partner.

Assassin snails are slow at making babies compared to other snails. This means they usually don’t fill your tank too fast. That’s a good thing if you want to keep your tank from getting too crowded. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Assassin snail crawling on coarse sand

What Are Assassin Snails Good For?

Assassin Snails are great for controlling pest snail populations in aquariums. They eat other smaller snails, helping to keep your tank clean and free from unwanted inhabitants.

Are Assassin Snails Aggressive?

No, Assassin Snails are not aggressive towards fish or shrimp. They only target other snails for food.

Are Assassin Snails Venomous?

Assassin Snails are not venomous. They use their specialized mouthparts to capture and eat other snails, not venom.

Do Assassin Snails Eat Other Snails?

Yes, Assassin Snails primarily feed on other snails. This makes them a favorite addition for managing unwanted snail populations in tanks.

Do Assassin Snails Reproduce Asexually?

No, Assassin Snails do not reproduce asexually. They need a male and a female to reproduce, laying eggs that will hatch into new snails.

So, what do you think about these snails? Are you adding some to your aquarium soon? Share your thoughts and ideas about assassin snails by leaving a comment below!

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