Trapdoor Snail

Japanese Trapdoor Snail Care Guide


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If you have a tropical community tank, you might want to consider including a few Japanese Trapdoor aquatic snails in your setup. Whether you’re an experienced fish keeper or a newbie to the aquarium hobby, these tiny snails will make an excellent choice for you.

These freshwater snails are low-maintenance, easy to look after little creatures that can be beneficial for a balanced ecosystem, feeding on organic matter and algae, and helping to improve the water quality in your tank by removing decomposing detritus that would otherwise pollute the water.

Keep reading to learn how to care for the Japanese Trapdoor snail.

Origins and Background

Japanese Trapdoor snails, scientific name Viviparus malleattus, are a species of snail known as the Asian pond snail. As their name suggests, they are primarily found in Japan, although they appear in East Asia and other parts of the world. These aquatic algae eaters can live in cold temperatures or warm water, which is how they live in other regions where the climate is relatively cold.

In fact, these beautiful snails are viewed as an invasive species in some areas, so we advise you to check with your local Wildlife department to make sure that you can keep them as pets. Whatever you do, never introduce these snails to outdoor ponds in your garden. Once they find their way into the wider environment, they quickly overwhelm native species.

The pond snail lives in the muddy substrate of riverbeds, streams, and other bodies of water, feeding on decaying organic matter and grazing on algae. Japanese Trapdoor snails don’t munch on aquarium plants, unlike many aquarium snail species.

How Long Do Japanese Trapdoor Snails Live?

These small mollusks can live for between five and ten years, making them pretty long-lived for such a small creature.

Like most fish and other aquarium creatures, Japanese Trapdoor snails will live for longer if you give them the habitat they require, excellent water quality, and a suitable diet.

Japanese Trapdoor snails are attractive creatures whose appearance and color range vary between individuals.

What Do Japanese Trapdoor Snails Look Like?

Their shells can be brown, cream, dark green, and black, although the most common colors are green and brown, with the dominant color being brown. Generally, there’s a base color on the largest whorl of the snail’s shell with a few rings and textured lines of different colors. The brighter colors often fade the further up the shell the color extends.

Like all snails, the Japanese Trapdoor snail has an operculum that works like a trapdoor. When threatened, the snail retreats inside its shell behind the operculum. The shell gradually narrows toward the top.

What’s the average size of a Japanese Trapdoor snail?

Adult snails can grow to reach 2 inches in length. However, some specimens are known to have exceeded that, although that is quite rare.

Influential factors around the size of the snails are water quality, diet, and how well the snails were bred or raised before being sold.

Japanese Trapdoor Snail Care Guide

Caring for these beautiful little mollusks is very straightforward, and they can do well in a range of water conditions. Like most aquarium snail species, the Japanese Trapdoor snail is easy to care for and doesn’t need any special attention.

This species of aquatic freshwater snail is very hardy, making them tolerant of rookie errors and less-than-perfect tank conditions. However, these snails thrive if given perfect tank conditions and the ideal diet.

Tank size requirements

Japanese Trapdoor snails are suitable for life in a 10-gallon community aquarium, thanks to their small size. However, you can provide them with a larger tank, which gives you more space for extra snails of various species and more interesting habitats.

Snails can be a little too adventurous at times, so it makes sense to cover your tank with a lid or cover slide.

Water parameters

As mentioned above, there is scope for flexibility regarding water parameters in your snail tank. These hardy creatures can survive in various climates and a wide range of conditions, so you can be a little bit flexible and set the water parameters to suit the ideal water conditions of the snails’ tank mates.

Water temperature for Japanese Trapdoor snails can be anywhere between 68°F to 85°F. Somewhere in the middle of that range is ideal. The pH range should be between 6.5 and 8.0 with soft to medium water hardness.

When you first introduce the snails to the tank, we recommend carefully monitoring the water conditions. Sudden swings in water quality can stress the snails, potentially causing health problems. Once the snails have settled in and the water quality is stable, you can check the conditions in the tank much less frequently.


Every fish tank should have an efficient filtration system to keep nitrite and ammonia levels at zero and nitrates to a minimum. The filter circulates water around the aquarium and draws it through the filter media, where beneficial bacteria process ammonia and nitrites.

You can use any filtration system you want with snails, as the creatures aren’t bothered by flow rates. The only thing to be aware of is that these creatures tend to explore the filter intakes, sneaking up the pipes searching for food and potentially escaping. So, it’s a good idea to use netting to cover the filter for safety. 

Tank setup

Japanese Trapdoor snails are pretty easy to cater to when it comes to tank setup. That’s handy, as it gives you plenty of scope for a wide variety of tank mates. These snails look best when kept in an environment that replicates their natural habitat.


These snails live in water bodies where the substrate is mostly mud and silt in the wild environment.

Since the snails spend much of their time moving around on the bottom of the tank, you don’t want to use a rough substrate that could injure the snails’ soft, sensitive underbelly.

Although Japanese Trapdoor snails are pretty hardy creatures, scrapes and nicks from sharp pieces of gravel can quickly allow bacteria to enter the snail’s body, setting up an infection. So, choose a soft, sandy substrate for your snail tank.


Japanese Trapdoor snails don’t eat living plants, but they do snack on decaying organic plant matter, plant debris, and algae. For that reason, you need to provide living aquatic plants in your snail tank.

Since the snails don’t generally eat the plants unless there’s no other food available for them, you can choose pretty much any plant species you want without fear that the snails will eat them.

Tank decoration

As Japanese Trapdoor snails feed on algae as a significant part of their diet, you need to include items of decoration that encourage algae to grow. So, smooth rocks, driftwood, and stones are perfect.

Health And Diseases

Japanese Trapdoor snails are pretty hardy and disease-resistant. However, there are a few problems that you need to be on the lookout for.

The most common condition that affects these snails is edema, which primarily affects older specimens. Edema refers to the accumulation of fluid in the snail’s tissues. That causes swelling and severe health issues. Usually, the snail eventually dies, as it’s virtually impossible to treat this condition successfully.

Beware of copper!

Many commonly available over-the-counter fish medications that you would use to treat minor injuries to your fish contain copper.

Copper is highly toxic to Japanese Trapdoor snails! Even the tiniest amount of copper in the water can kill your snails, so if you have to treat your fish with drugs, always check very carefully that the ingredients do not include copper before treating your tank. 

Diet And Nutrition

Feeding Japanese Trapdoor snails is pretty straightforward.

These cool snails are omnivores, scavenging on pretty much any organic matter that they come across in the freshwater fish tank, including plant debris.

One of the benefits of snails is that the animals also eat the algae and biofilm that grows on pretty much every surface within a healthy aquarium system, helping to keep the tank clean. Fish flakes and excess fish food that sinks to the bottom of the tank are also on the snails’ menu.

It would be best to supplement the snails’ diet with some bottom-feeder tablets and plant-based pellets. Many snail keepers like to add lettuce, cucumbers, kale, and zucchini to their pets’ diets. However, be sure to remove any excess uneaten food within 24 hours to prevent the organic matter from decomposing and spoiling the water quality.

Japanese Trapdoor Snail Behavior

The Japanese Trapdoor snail is a fun animal to have in your tank. This peaceful creature loves to explore its environment, mostly foraging around the tank, searching for scraps to eat.

In a community setup, these snails simply go about their lives without interfering with any other creatures in their tank. Groups of snails also keep themselves to themselves.

Contrary to the standard view that all snails are slow, rather dull animals, Japanese Trapdoor snails are pretty lively. You will be astonished by how much ground the snails cover each night when they are most active.

Sometimes, you’ll see the snails just sitting around, hardly moving at all. That’s not necessarily a cause for concern. It’s just a snail thing! However, if the snail doesn’t move for a couple of days and the operculum is open, the snail is likely deceased.

Dead snails stink! So, once you’ve removed a snail from your aquarium, the pungent odor coming from the snail will confirm that the creature has died. If you discover a dead snail in your tank, we recommend that you carry out a partial water change right away.

What Are Good Tank Mates For Trapdoor Snails?

Thanks to their peaceful nature, there are many tank mates suitable for life with Japanese Trapdoor snails.

When choosing freshwater fish as company for the snails, your only genuine concern is that you don’t include large, predatory fish that eat invertebrates. When choosing aquarium fish, plenty of peaceful species make good tank mates for the gentle Japanese Trapdoor snail. Essentially, any fish that don’t regard snails as a food source should be fine.

Suitable tank mates for snails include:

Generally, other snails are suitable for the Japanese Trapdoor, except the Assassin snail that will kill and eat other snails.

Shrimp, such as Ghost shrimp, Amano shrimp, and Cherry shrimp make an excellent choice of companions for Japanese Trapdoor snails and are also helpful members of your tank cleaning crew.

How To Breed Japanese Trapdoor Snails

Japanese Trapdoor snails are not mature enough to breed until they reach one year. One great thing about this species of snails is that they are effortless to breed. You don’t need to do anything; the snails do everything!

Provided that the tank has the snails’ preferred water conditions and you have a mix of males and females, nature will do the rest, and within a few weeks, you’ll have a whole bunch of baby snails in your tank.

Unlike some species of freshwater snails, Japanese Trapdoor snails won’t overpopulate your tank. That means you can limit the number of snails you have in your tank based on what you want. 

In Summary

If you have a small community aquarium with a few peaceful fish, you might want to consider adding a few Japanese trapdoor snails to the mix.

These beautiful tiny snails are extremely easy to keep and breed and keep, and they can help keep the tank clean by grazing on algae and decomposing organic matter. These little animals are fun to watch, too, and are a low-risk addition to any well-maintained aquarium.

If you keep freshwater snails in your tank, we’d love to hear about them. Tell us about your pets in the comments below.

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