Zebra Nerite Snail
Zebra Nerite Snail

Zebra Snail

Neritina natalensis sp. zebra
SynonymsNone
DistributionKenya, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania.
Sexual DimorphismThese snails are not hermaphroditic, but there are no obvious external differences. During copulation, it may be possible to see the reproductive organ of the male, which unfolds next to the right eye.
Maximum Size2.5cm (1")
Water ParametersModerately hard, alkaline water is best. pH: 7.2-8.2, dH 10-25 deg.
Temperature22-26 deg C (72-79 deg F)
CompatibilityCommunity
LightingNo special requirements

Care

The Zebra Snail is known from freshwater lagoons and mangrove swamps across the low-lying eastern coast of Africa. These charming gastropods, with their eye-catching black and gold striped pattern, are probably the most popular algae-eating Nerite snail in the hobby. The aquarium should be mature and spacious, with various algae growths for the snails to enjoy browsing upon. Healthy vegetation will be left alone, so these snails are a good choice for planted aquaria. As these snails feed almost exclusively on algae, their diet will need to be supplemented with algae wafers - as the natural algae in the tank may not be enough to sustain them, and will rapidly diminish. Zebra Snails consume various types of algae from all over the decor and will keep the glass viewing panes spotless, even tackling some of the really hard encrusting green algae (sometimes known as green spot algae). They will remove algae from robust plants, without damaging the plants themselves; however as these are one of the larger varieties of Nerite snail, they may simply be too heavy to clean very small leaves. Water quality is important for the continual wellbeing of these snails, so ensure the aquarium is well-filtered and undergoes a regular partial water change regime. Hard, alkaline water (or even lightly brackish water) is preferred in order for their protective shells to remain hard. If they are kept in more acidic conditions, the shell will start to dissolve and deteriorate, eventually resulting in the death of the snail. Tankmates should be peaceful and enjoy the same water conditions e.g small tetras, rainbowfish, honey gouramis, guppies/Endler's livebearers, Caridina/Neocaridina shrimps etc. Avoid keeping with loaches, puffers, large/aggressive cichlids, and any vigorous substrate diggers which may accidentally upturn them. It is best to keep these snails in well-covered aquaria, as they will climb above the water line and may fully escape the tank if there are any gaps. As they cope with tidal waters in some locations in the wild, they are able to survive out of water for a short time. The only downside with these beautiful snails is that they are unable to breed in freshwater conditions - although this may actually be a blessing to some as they will not over-populate the tank in the same way some 'pest' snail species can. Nevertheless, they often deposit their small white eggs over the decor, but these will not hatch in freshwater (see breeding section, below). May also be seen on sale as Zebra Nerite Snail or Tiger Snail.

Feeding

In the wild, Zebra Snails feed mainly on various types of algae and vegetable matter. A mature aquarium will help to provide some natural greenfoods, but the diet must be supplemented with algae wafers and Spirulina tablets, along with vegetable matter such as cucumber and blanched spinach. Avoid too many protein rich foods.

Breeding

Breeding Zebra Snails is rather involved due to the fact that the eggs, once hatched, require full marine conditions to develop through their complex larval stages. Although these gastropods often lay large numbers of small, white calciferous capsules (each containing an egg) in freshwater aquaria, these will not always hatch, and if they do, the larvae will not survive for very long. The best way to go about breeding these snails is to set up a small, dedicated hatching aquarium with full marine conditions (SG ~1.024), using the type of salt used in marine fishkeeping. The adult snails will not cope with full marine conditions, so do not attempt to adjust the salinity of their tank water too much (lightly brackish, SG 1.005-1.010 is ok, but no higher). Within the hatching tank that has been adjusted to marine conditions, some crushed coral or aragonite added to the substrate or placed in the filter (a simple gentle air powered filter is sufficient) will help to keep the water hard and alkaline. In the meantime, the water temperature in the main aquarium housing the adult snails should be set at the top of their preferred range (i.e. 26 deg C) as this will encourage breeding, as will offering the snails plenty of choice in greenfoods. Once eggs have been laid, usually on hard decor, they should be acclimatised very, very gradually to the tank with full marine conditions (ideally the item the eggs have been laid on will be moveable). Drip acclimatisation is best over several hours - place the decor with eggs into a small poly box filled with water from the original tank, and slowly drip in marine water from the hatching tank using narrow tubing. The eggs should be moved into these conditions within 3 days of being laid or else they will not be viable. In the wild, the snail eggs/larvae are swept downriver, into the estuaries, and then out to sea, where they feed on plankton whilst undergoing several major developmental changes, before coming back to freshwater as fully developed snails. By replicating these salty conditions in the aquarium, the young are able to successfully undergo these changes as they would in the wild; additionally it is thought that calcium and other minerals more readily available to them in seawater aid in developing a strong shell. In the home aquarium, the eggs will take approximately 2-3 weeks to hatch; any infertile eggs disintegrating after 2 or 3 days. Eggs that are fertile will become darker over the next few days as the veliger (planktonic larva) develops within the capsule. Once free-swimming, the veligers will move towards any light source, and most successful breeding reports suggest to keep illumination to a minimum. Feeding is extremely challenging, and it can be very difficult to get the young past this veliger stage, which typically lasts around 21 days, as they transform through different planktonic stages. Having aged pieces of decor in the tank with mature algae growth would be very advantageous, as would adding small quantities of aged green water each day. Once the young snails have developed obvious shiny shells, they can be acclimatised back to freshwater very, very, slowly over the course of a few weeks.

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