Home | Aquarium Livestock | Dipping Plants to Eliminate Snails

Dipping Plants to Eliminate Snails

Aquarium SnailOutbreaks of nuisance snails are one of the most common problems encountered in planted aquariums. Though much maligned, snails are perfectly normal in tanks with live plants and can even help with algae control. The problems occur when the snails reproduce and become out of control. Throughout our blog posts, we’ve gone over a number of methods of controlling snails through predators and removal methods, but as with any problems, the problem can be avoided with preventative measures.

A common way of cutting down snail populations is to dip new plants, killing snails and snail eggs before they enter your aquarium. We have here a few different “recipes” for these dips. Keep in mind that while these have been used successfully by many aquarists, sensitive plants may still be damaged. You can try your chosen method on one plant before using it on all of your new plants. These are also all solutions that are to be utilized in a separate bucket, tub or sink – NOT in the aquarium!

Aquarium Salt

Just as salt will harm snails or slugs on land, it will dehydrate snails in the tank (and yes, even things underwater can be dehydrated!) Use aquarium salt or kosher salt to make a solution of one cup per gallon of water. Do not use table salt or iodized salt as they have other chemicals and preservatives not suitable for your aquarium or plants. Once all the salt is dissolved, rinse the plants in the saltwater for about 15-20 seconds, holding the roots above the water. After the saltwater rinse, rinse the plants again in fresh water before planting in the aquarium.


Snail Eggs on Aquarium plantAlum (Aluminum sulfate) can be found in most grocery stores in the spice aisle. Dissolve 1-3 tablespoons per gallon of warm water and soak the plants for at least 2-3 hours, or up to 24 hours in milder solutions. It can be effective in removing snails, but is slightly less effective at getting rid of the eggs. As with the salt, rinse the plants in dechlorinated water before putting in the aquarium.


Not the powders or gels or Ultra Concentrated Colorsafe Stainbusters – just regular old chlorine bleach. This is one of the more severe solutions, but it can be very effective if used carefully. Since bleach can be harmful to some surfaces, it is a good idea to protect your work area and to wear gloves to protect your skin when using this method. Mix a solution of no stronger than 5% bleach (this translates to 1 part bleach to 19 parts water, or just over ¾ cups per gallon of water). Soak the plants in the solution for no more than 2 minutes for sensitive plants or 3 minutes for hardier ones, then submerge and rinse them very thoroughly in dechlorinated water. If the plants still have a bleach smell after rinsing, soak in water with dechlorinator before rinsing again.

Potassium Permanganate

Potassium Permanganate SolutionPotassium Permanganate is a common ingredient in medications for parasites and bacterial infections. It can be found pet stores as well as in some hardware stores. A strong oxidizer, it is sold to remove iron from appliances like water softeners. It will react to any organic compounds – including your skin. Wear gloves and protect your work area against stains. Avoid using Potassium Permanganate around hydrogen peroxide, Formalin or any other substances containing formaldehyde or alcohols They can react and form a noxious gas.

Mix enough Potassium Permanganate with warm water to form a dark pink/purple solution. Since the concentration of the Potassium Permanganate varies depending on the source – aquarium medications, crystals from the hardware store, etc. – it is difficult to give a precise measurement for the solution. For most aquarium medications, it shoukd be about twice the recommended dosage of the medication. Soak the plants in the solution for 10-20 minutes before rinsing in fresh dechlorinated water. The dechlorinator will neutralize the Potassium Permanganate in much the same way it does the bleach. The well-rinsed plants will then be safe to plant in the aquarium.



Potassium Permanganate Solution image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Benjah-bmm27


  1. avatar

    Alum is way to go. Use 2.5 tbs per 1 gallon of water and soak plants for 12 hours if you’re intending to kill their eggs as well. Bleach kills everything, and PP is pretty nasty as well. If you decide to use either of these, consider lighting a match and burning everything in a 55 gallon drum instead. I’ve heard that alum has little negative effect on most, if not all, aquatic plants when rinsed clean and applied with care.

    Trumpet snails are beneficial to plants. They aerate the substrate. If they’re cone shaped and resemble a Malaysian Trumpet Snail, strongly consider leaving them alone… In fact, don’t bother with any of them unless you’re trying to sell aquatic plants to ignorant customers that believe all snails are bad.

  2. avatar

    Hello Luke, Thanks for your comment. Every aquarist has different experiences and opinions on what works for them but all of these approaches certainly have their good and bad sides. The approaches here are rinses and dips rather than extended soaks like your Alum method and any method of getting rid of snails using a chemical can be risky with very sensitive plants.

  3. avatar

    I had a big problem with the Trumpet snail. My discus eat them and ended up heads down. I then had to put her in a sick tank with salt. Found lots of snails in her stomach, not good for them they are like cow gravers. Learned my lesson. I now and working on my other discus in the sick tank.

  4. avatar

    Lise: you found lots of snails in her stomach? How? Did you cut her open? Did she die from eating snails?? I’m surprised… I have small cichlids in with lots of Malaysian trumpet snails and never had issues with them eating the snails… But my fish tend to rip the snails out of their shells and eat the soft part only (When they catch them out of their shells just after lights on).

  5. avatar

    she was heads down and i had to put her in a sick tank with salt water. snails came out of her poo.. She then got better. No heads down which will kill your fish. tx.

  6. avatar

    It is not unheard of for fish like Discus to eat snails, especially if they are very tiny. They will usually crunch the shells but if they are small enough, fish can eat them which may cause an obstruction in their digestive tract and can cause problems. Not common but it can happen.

  1. Pingback: Dipping Plants to Eliminate Snails | That Fish Blog | Saltwater Tropical Fish

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

About Eileen Daub

Read other posts by

I was one of those kids who said "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up!"....except then I actually became one. After a brief time at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I graduated from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2004. Since then, I've been a marine biologist at That Fish Place - That Pet Place, along with a Fish Room supervisor, copywriter, livestock inventory controller, livestock mail-order supervisor and other duties here and there. I also spent eight seasons as a professional actress with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and in other local roles. If that isn't bad enough, I'm a proud Crazy Hockey Fan (go Flyers and go Hershey Bears!).