Saltwater Aquarium Snails can be classified a few different ways but for the use of snails in aquariums, it is most helpful to think about what they eat.
First consider this, unlike crabs, saltwater aquarium snails consist of a large meaty body… so if they die they will produce a LOT of waste.
Waste becomes Ammonia which becomes Nitrites which becomes Nitrates which then feeds the Nasty Algae.
So if you buy the wrong snails or to many snails you will actually increase your algae instead of reducing the algae.
Lets look at the 2 main food substances consumed by saltwater aquarium snails.
1. Algae – algae eaters get a lot of attention because everyone thinks they are the god send for the aquarium. This is partially true. They are great for eating algae … However to much of a good thing is a bad thing when it comes to algae eating snails. To many snails .. not enough food … Snails die …. algae is fed from the death of snails so you end of with more algae. YIKES!!!
2. Detritus eaters / waste eating snails. Now these are your TRUE friends. They keep the house clean in ways you may never know or think about.
A safe recommendation for snail stocking is:
Algae Eating Snails: 1 per 5 gallons of tank water
Detritus Eating Snails: 1 per gallon of tank water
The other consideration is the type of snails. As with people, all snail palates are not created equal. So variation is KEY.
Some snails like green algae (ie: Turbo Snails) on the glass, while Cerith Snails prefer brown algae on the rocks.
My favorite detritus eating snail are Nassarius Vibex.
nuisance algae issues.