Life at a (Turbocharged) Snail’s Pace

Many people consider snails a pest, but in the reefkeeping world snails fill a vital role.

I have many different species of snails in my aquarium, each of which has a different “job” with regard to cleaning up the reef. In combination, this slow but efficient “clean up crew” will eat almost every kind of detritus and algae.

Unfortunately, they don’t always get along well with the other inhabitants of the tank. The seahorses mostly ignore the snails (except for the occasional harmless hitch on a passing shell) but I cannot say the same for the shrimp and crabs. Escargot is a delicacy in the sea as well as on land, so the snail population requires replenishment from time to time.

Last week I noticed an abundance of green hair algae, which meant it was time for a few new “maintenance engineers” – in this case, turbo snails:

13D20 Turbo snails acclimating

Turbo snails are molluscs (gastropods, to be exact) of the family Turbinidae, genus Turbo. The earliest species date to the Upper Cretaceous period – making them an ancient, highly experienced group of algae eaters. They grow large (I’ve seen them close to baseball-sized) but, fortunately, they also grow fairly slowly.

13D22 Turbo snail on glass

As snails go, they’re among the most voracious – the ones I picked up last weekend have already cleared the tank of algae, leaving me in the odd – but entertaining – position of needing to feed the snails.

13D20 aquatic turbo in air

There are far worse “problems” to have.

What do you think about snails – turbo or otherwise? How many species of snail can you name?