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Pond Snail Vs Bladder Snail – Similarities, Differences, And Basic Care

Pond Snails Vs Bladder Snails

Pond Snail Vs Bladder Snail

Want to know the similarities and/or differences between a pond snail vs bladder snail? Look no further!

How To Tell Apart A Pond Snail From A Bladder Snail

With all the exciting things that come with setting-up your freshwater tank (aquascaping, choosing plants, shopping for the perfect tank mates!), aquarium snails rarely come up.

Yes, they are usually considered an aquatic pest. But it’s time to cut snails some slack!

Snails can enrich your freshwater tank’s ecosystem. They are excellent cleaners, working overtime to help you get rid of the waste that would otherwise end up turning your water murky.

Fish tank snails are detritivores, which means they will scavenge for leftover fish food, decaying dead fish, algae, and rotting plant matter to munch on.

Two of the most common aqua snail species that can involuntarily end up in your freshwater tank are pond snails and bladder snails. In many situations, it is helpful to know the differences and similarities between a pond snail vs bladder snail.

Learn everything you need to know about these plant-hitchhikers!

Pond Snail Vs Bladder Snail – The Basics

Here’s a quick comparison chart between pond snails and bladder snails:

Pond Snail

Bladder Snail

Distinct appearance

Dextral shell (turned to the right)Sinistral shell (turned to the left)
SizeUp-to 2-3 inchesOften smaller than <1”
DietOmnivore / Algae eaterOmnivore / Algae eater
HabitatStagnant watersStagnant/Slow-moving waters
Care levelVery easyVery easy
pH range6.5 – 86 – 9
Temperature32°F – 90°F32°F – 90°F

 

Similarities Between Pond Snails And Bladder Snails

pond snail aquarium
Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)

Hermaphrodites and prolific breeders

Both pond snails and bladder snails are asexual invertebrates. Depending on the circumstances of their environment, they will choose their sex and can sometimes end-up self-fertilizing when unable to find a partner.

These two freshwater snails are hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproductive organs. A sperm storage organ allows them to take on the roles of both male and female snails in order to self-fertilize.

Of course, pond snails and bladder snails alike will pursue mating with a partner. Self-fertilization tends to occur when snails feel threatened or if they can’t find a partner within 6 to 8 weeks.

Either through cross-fertilization or self-fertilization, pond snails and bladder snails can cause infestations in a freshwater tank if you overfeed your fish.

Plenty of food = plenty of snails!

Extremely adaptable

Aquatic snails are by nature hardy creatures that can withstand some of the harshest conditions in their natural habitats. It’s no wonder pond snails and bladder snails thrive in an aquarium, where water parameters are pretty much constant.

Drops or spikes in the water’s pH level, hard water, soft water, even sudden temperature shifts will not have a significant negative impact on an aquarium snail’s livelihood.

Anywhere between 59 and 86°F, both pond snails and bladder snails can thrive and even breed successfully. If they can survive in a sewer-like habitat in the wild, they’ll live that good life in your tank.

Calcium needs

The shells of both pond snails and bladder snails need calcium in order to grow and harden to a level of firmness that can protect them from predators.

A substantial lack of calcium sources in an aquarium can prevent aquatic snails from growing and breeding. Chances of survival can sometimes be limited in these circumstances.

If you plan on forming a symbiotic relationship with your little mollusk tank cleaners, you can add antacids (Tums), cuttlefish bones, or even crushed-up eggshells to your aquarium.

These basic calcium supplements will keep your snails in tiptop condition, without any negative consequences for their fish companions.

There can be too many of them

Overfeeding your fish on a regular basis can (and will!) determine your tank’s snail population to flourish, as they will take advantage of the over-abundance of food.

Pond snails and bladder snails are greedy eaters and will feed non-stop if given the opportunity. So, if you notice a sudden burst of aqua snails in your tank, you’re probably feeding your fish either too often or too much.

If you’re faced with a snail infestation, you can take 2 routes to help you get back to a more manageable snail-situation:

  • Introduce a snail-munching fish into the tank to help keep the snail population under control;
  • Set up a lettuce trap by leaving a leaf on the bottom of your tank for a few hours and then taking it out, along with a considerable number of snails.
  • They’re notorious hitchhikers

Pond snails and bladder snails will find their way into your aquarium by hanging on to plants, rocks, driftwood, and décor pieces during transfers.

The good news is you’ll never have to actually buy snails!

If you’re set on having a snail-free tank, consider quarantining plants and aquascaping elements before transferring them to their final home.

Snails, especially small ones, and their eggs can travel unnoticed. They will sneak into a tank and live under the radar for quite some time.

Quarantining before transfers might sound like a hassle, but it’s much easier than trying to get rid of aquarium snails once familiarized with a tank.

Differences between Pond Snail Vs Bladder Snail

Bladder snail reproduction
Bladder Snail (Physella acuta). Photo Credit: Ipond22 (Instagram)

Plant safe or not plant safe?

Bladder snails in planted tank setups are usually considered welcome guests, as they are plant safe.

Eating only rotting or diseased plants, a bladder snail won’t even nibble on healthy plants.

They will actually act as an always-on-duty gardener for the plants in your aquarium.

Bladder snails can also be used in quarantine plant tanks. They get rid of any decaying plant matter, so you can transfer plants in pristine condition to their final destination. 

Pond snails, on the other hand, are not to be trusted in planted tanks.

They thrive by feeding on aquatic plants, as they do by gorging on vegetation in the wild.

Pests or cleaners?

Aquarium snails, in general, are considered to be pests. But does that perspective change if a particular species of aqua snails has a mutually beneficial perk to offer?

Bladder snails are tenacious cleaners, holding up to their end of the bargain if you choose to let them inhabit your tank.

Pond snails don’t have this trait and are considered to be pests in the usual sense. The only useful role they can take on in a fish tank is that of serving as live food for some freshwater predators.

Here’s a list of freshwater fish that eat snails:

Clown LoachBetta FishGoldfish
Yoyo LoachCory CatfishGreen Spotter Puffer
Gourami FishBala SharkAssassin Snail

 

Smaller or larger?

Bladder snails are miniature creatures, topping up at a maximum ½ to 1-inch length.

Pond snails can grow to a max size of 1 to 3 inches in captivity, but they can grow larger in the wild.

Longer or shorter lifespan?

Pond snails take the lead as a hardier species of snails, living up to 3 years in relatively good conditions.

Bladder snails on the other hand only live for up to 2 years.

Stagnant water only?

Pond snails like their habitat to be as motionless as possible, a preference hinted at even in their name “Lymnaea stagnalis”. Stagnant calm waters with heavy vegetation are the places where pond snails thrive.

At most, they will hang out in very slow-moving rivers and streams.

The bladder snail shows a lesser preference for the intensity of the water currents in its habitat. From rivers, lakes, rice fields to ditches, irrigation canals, or municipality drains, bladder snails will survive anywhere.

Physical Traits You Can Use To Identify Pond Snail Vs Bladder Snail

Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)

Bladder Snail (Physella acuta)
Shell colorBrownPale with spots
Shell shapeDextral (spiral to the right)Sinistral (spiral to the left)
TentaclesThicker triangular-shapedThin and short
SizeUp to 2-3 inchesSmaller than 1 inch

 

Pond Snails 101

Pond Snail

Pond snail care guides are almost never in any aquarist’s search history, and that’s because the question “how to get rid of pond snails” comes up much more often.

Commonly known as a “great pond snail,” Lymnaea stagnalis is a rather large gastropod mollusk from the Lymnaeidae family.

Appearance

Pond snails have a dextral shaped shell, which spirals to the right, and tapers in thickness towards a wide opening. The shell comes in yellow-brown variations with scattered tiny dark spots.

The most distinctive physical feature of a pond snail is its thick triangular-shaped tentacles.

Lymnaea stagnalis doesn’t have an operculum ( a ”lid”). The shape and color of its shell can vary greatly depending on external factors, such as its environment, the region where it originated from, or the pond snail’s age.

Size

Pond snails are on the larger side of the snail-size spectrum.

They can grow to lengths varying between 1 and 3 inches.

On average, a mature pond snail living in a freshwater tank will be 2 inches long.

Diet

An avid algae eater, the pond snail is considered to be an omnivore (with a huge appetite for plant-based food!). In their natural habitat, pond snails will consume enormous amounts of aquatic plants (healthy or decomposing).

The pond snail’s diet in a freshwater tank will consist of 75% leftover fish food, aquatic plants, and fish waste, along with 25% algae.

They will nibble on the soft parts of your aquatic plants, so they are not considered plant-safe.

Pond snails can turn cannibalistic when food is scarce, resorting to eating smaller snails.

Habitat

The pond snail is an invasive creature, so its native habitat is almost impossible to determine.

This snail species is present in: northern Asia, northern America, Tasmania, New Zealand, Europe, and even in the Yukon River/Alaska.

With a slight preference for colder waters, pond snails can survive in most bodies of water. Reservoirs, streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, muddy sand puddles, you name it!

If heavy vegetation is available, the pond snail will find a way to grow, breed, and thrive in most aquatic freshwater habitats.

Stagnant waters are, of course, a preferred choice, as the name Lymnaea stagnalis suggests.

Tank conditions

Knowing the type of habitats that it is native to, it’s obvious that the pond snail is far from being picky about water parameters or tank sizes.

Large tanks or small fish bowls, filter/no-filter, heater/no-heater, air-pumps on or off, it just doesn’t make a difference to them. Pond snails are robust creatures that will do surprisingly well in most aquatic setups.

As resilient as they are, these snails are still living creatures. Water changes will be necessary, even if you’re breeding them to serve as live food for freshwater predators.

The one mix of tank conditions that can negatively impact them is a lack of calcium sources and/or a lower than 6.5 pH level for an extended period of time. This combo of factors affects the pond snail’s ability to form a shell.

Reproduction / Breeding

Pond snails are hermaphrodites, which means they can either mate with a partner (cross-fertilize) or self-fertilize in some circumstances.

Living between 1 and 3 years, the pond snail reaches sexual maturity at the age of 2 ½ to 3 ½ months.

The younger a pond snail is, the more it is likely to take on a male role when mating.

The male will climb on the female’s shell, turn it counter-clockwise, and initiate fertilization once it reaches the female’s gonopore.

Mating can last for a few hours, but that doesn’t mean a population of pond snails can’t explode in a flash. They are prolific breeders.

Tank mates

When it comes to pond snails, we can’t really talk about “ideal tank mates,” as they are typically oblivious to any peaceful tank co-inhabitants.

They can, however, be at-risk when sharing an aquarium with aggressive fish and freshwater predators.

Loaches, pufferfish, betta fish, and many others will consider the pond snail a tasty treat.

Pond Snail care guide

Pond snails don’t require much to thrive, be it in the wild or in captivity.

The main reasons why fishkeepers even consider “caring” for pond snails is to use them as live food for their freshwater naturally predatory fish.

You can breed and grow pond snails in a planted tank, which you don’t even have to cycle, as they can live through the cycling process.

Learn how to how to breed pond snails here:

Behavior

Peaceful by nature, pond snails will keep to themselves in any tank.

They will get preyed upon by freshwater predators, so they tend to stay in the vegetation-heavy parts of an aquarium.

When feeling in danger, pond snails will flick their shells back and forth in a rapid motion.

They can have cannibalistic tendencies, eating smaller snails.

Can they survive without water?

Pond snails have the ability to breathe two ways:

  • Cutaneous respiration, absorbing oxygen through their skin;
  • Aerial respiration, getting oxygen from the atmosphere using a rudimentary lung.

Aerial respiration is a breathing method that pond snails resort to when living in polluted/toxic waters. They will find their way to the water’s surface and open a breathing pore while relaxing and contracting a lung-like organ.

This skill gives the pond snail the ability to survive out of the water for up to 2 days.

Bladder Snails 101

How to get rid of bladder snails
Photo Credit: imperfect_nature_aquarium (Instagram)

Bladder snails are also known as the European Physa, tadpole snails, or acute bladder snails. They belong to the Physidae family and are aquatic gastropod mollusk.

Physella acuta is among the smallest species of freshwater snails, easily and stealthily making its way into lots of planted aquariums.

Appearance

Bladder snails have an egg-shaped sinistral shell, which turns to the left in 4 to 5 whorls. The shell has an almost transparent thin appearance and can range in color, from light yellow to light brown.

Like the pond snail, the bladder snail doesn’t have an operculum. Their tentacles have a thread-like thickness.

Size

A fun-size snail, the bladder snail will grow to a maximum length of 1 inch and to a tiny 0.3-inch width.

They are hard to see in a planted tank if you’re not particularly looking for them.

Diet

Bladder snails eat an omnivore diet. They are efficient tank cleaners thanks to their greedy appetites for decaying organic matter (dead fish, fish waste, insects, rotting plants, etc.)

These tiny aquatic gardeners are 100% plant safe, as they will not eat healthy plants. Bladder snails will trim and remove the diseased parts of an aquatic plant.

Habitat

Populations of bladder snails have been spotted across the globe. The origin of this petite snail is hard to determine, but it can now be found in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America.

The only continent where bladder nails haven’t hitchhiked their way to is Antarctica.

From rivers, lakes, and ponds to drains, ditches, and canals, the bladder snail can survive in them all!

Tank conditions

Resilient by nature, the bladder snail is known among aquarists as a “sewage snail,” being used to cycle tanks in a pinch. The spikes and drops in water conditions will hardly ever negatively impact bladder snails.

Give them a tank to clean, and these aqua snails will find a way to thrive!

See bladder snails in an aquarium here:

Reproduction / Breeding

Like most hermaphroditic aquatic snails, the bladder snail has a sperm storage organ and can use either male or female reproductive organs for mating and even self-fertilize.

Bladder snails will lay encapsulated transparent eggs, which will hatch within a week of being laid.

Like the pond snail, the bladder snail is a prolific breeder.

Tank mates

A completely harmless pest, the bladder snail will carry on its cleaning duties in any freshwater tank without bothering others.

Loaches, Oscars, Crayfish, Pufferfish, and other larger snails may eat bladder snails if presented with the opportunity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as natural predators will keep the snail population under control.

Pond Snail care guide

Bladder snails are hardy aquatic creatures that will survive in some pretty unforgiving conditions in the wild. So, truth be told, you don’t actually have to be proactive with caring for bladder snails.

They have a high tolerance for fluctuating and less than optimal water conditions.

Behavior

Without the protection of an operculum, the bladder snail’s only defense against predators is the rapid flicking movement of its shell.

You’ll be surprised to see them crawling through the tank at an incredible speed (well, at least faster than you’d expect them to be moving!).

Can they survive without water?

Bladder snails are air-breathers, having the ability to use a pulmonary organ for breathing by swimming upside down and surfacing.

This means that they can survive out of water for short periods of time.

Bladder snails don’t exactly die because they run out of oxygen when taken out of their aquatic habitat. They die because they dry out.

Conclusion – Pond Snail Vs Bladder Snail

Bladder snails and pond snails will most likely join your freshwater tank without needing a direct invitation. Once there, the bladder snail can be a harmless cleaner, while the pond snail can be a tasty snack for snail-eating predators.

Either way, once you notice them in your aquarium, look for ways to keep the population under control, as things can get out of hand overnight!


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