Can snails get Ich? Fortunately, no. But unfortunately, they can carry this disease into your aquarium.
Ich, also recognized as “white spot disease,” is a common disease among freshwater fish caused by a microscopic parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It causes white dots on the skin or fins of fish in an aquarium.
Ich parasites are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye. So, you may not find any difference at all when they attach themselves to your snail’s body.
This article will go over how Ich manifests in aquariums and the treatments available to cure it. It will also provide tips on prevention, so you can avoid an outbreak of this terrible ailment in your tank!
Can snails get Ich?
Almost all aquarists confirm that snails do not get Ich. So, you don’t have to worry about that.
Can snails carry Ich?
Yes! They can carry the parasite into your tank and infect other fish with it.
The white spots are not always visible on a snail’s body either, so you may never see them until they have already infected all of your fish. This is why prevention is key to avoiding an outbreak.
How Do Snails Carry Ich To The Tank?
Generally, Ich can not survive without the host or a carrier. In this case, snails become the carrier of this parasite until it finds a new host.
When the Ich has finished consuming the host, they will immediately depart the body and do not go to another.
Instead, these ich trophonts swim and attach themselves to the substrate they can find. As snails usually stay at the bottom of the substrate, they become the substrate for these creatures.
Once the ich trophont attaches itself to the snail, it starts to encyst itself. This will take about 2 to 18 hours. Then after 8 to 12 hours, the encystment begins to divide into thousands of clones.
All of these encystments remain in the snail’s skin until they find a suitable host. So, when you introduce this snail into your tank, you also introduce these parasites.
How to prevent Ich in snails from infecting your fish?
Ich is a dangerous parasite that can actually kill freshwater fish. So, you have to take every possible action to prevent Ich from infecting your fish.
Since snails do not get affected by Ich, they do not show any symptoms or signs of a sick snail. But, unfortunately, they can secretly carry this disease to your fish.
Therefore it is vital to prevent Ich present in snails, from taking over your aquarium. Luckily, you can prevent Ich in snails by following a simple and easy procedure.
Quarantine the new snail
As with other freshwater disease prevention methods, new snail quarantining is an essential step in preventing Ich.
Therefore you have to quarantine the new snail for at least two weeks before introducing it into your tank. During this time, monitor water parameters to make sure they are within normal limits.
To complete their life cycle, Ich needs a fish host within two weeks of becoming the encystment.
By keeping your new snails isolated from all fish and inverts for about two weeks or so, the life cycle of Ich will break, and it will die off.
A normal ich life cycle consists of 7 to 24 days. If you prefer to eradicate every bit of Ich live in the quarantine tank, keep your snail for about 60 days, as Ich can not live without a host any longer.
Increase the water temperature
Free-swimming Ich trophonts must locate a host within 24 hours to survive. Additionally, they require water temperature between 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit until they find a host.
If Ich does not receive this required temperature, they will die.
You can use this poor temperature tolerance to your advantage by slightly increasing the temperature of your quarantine tank.
Don’t worry about your snails because snails can tolerate temperatures up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. But, Ich can not handle this raised temperature for long.
After about two days, Ich present in snails will succumb to death if they do not find a host at 80F (which they won’t as you keep your snails in a quarantine tank).
The life cycle of Ich
Although we have mentioned about ich life cycle here and there, we didn’t adequately explain the ich life cycle yet.
Learning the ich life cycle will also help you determine the required quarantine time of your aquatic species and the time of treatment needed for your sick fish.
Ich is a parasite that has a complex life cycle.
After penetrating through the skin of fish, they will become free-swimming creatures called ich trophonts.
These parasites are very active and search for a new host to attach themselves. The primary hosts are usually other fishes, but the parasites fail to attach themselves to them because they don’t have fins or gills.
They become inactive after failing to find a host and settle down on rocks, plants, snails, or even aquarium glass.
At this life cycle stage, Ich is called encystments, which lasts for about two weeks on average before transforming into new trophonts again.
During this time, the encystments must find a host to attach. Otherwise, the parasite will die.
Once it finds a suitable host, an individual ich parasite will enter through the gills of fishes and then encyst itself on their skin.
In fish, this parasite becomes more active multiply through a process called binary fission.
At this level, it creates the theronts. It divides rapidly and begins to attack fish.
After the fish die, the remaining parasites separate from the dead fish and become free-swimming trophonts again. And then, the life cycle continues.
It will take about 7 to 24 days for an ich parasite to complete the life cycle. If the parasite doesn’t find a suitable host within this time frame, it will die.
The size of ich parasite differs depending on its life cycle length. If it’s in free-swimming trophonts, they will appear as tiny dots measuring about 0.08 inches (0.20 cm) in diameter.
If it’s encystment on fish gills, they look larger because of their size before multiplying into theronts.
What causes Ich in fish?
The most common cause for Ich in fish is not quarantining new fish, snails, and other aquatic species before introducing them into your tank.
It will take only one ich parasite to start an infestation in your fish tank.
Your fish will look “okay” for several days until Ich finishes several life cycles and severely attacks them. When you see ich symptoms in your fish, it might be too late.
Some other causes for Ich in your aquarium are,
- The use of infected equipment between tanks, without proper sanitation
- Transferring contaminated filter media or décor from one tank to another
- Moving contaminated water between aquariums
To prevent Ich from taking over your fish, you should quarantine all new fishes and aquatic species for at least two weeks before adding them into the main tank.
This will give time for their life cycle to break so that they cannot multiply or spread anymore. You can also add salt during this treatment.
Additionally, bleach and wash any aquarium equipment before putting them into the aquarium.
Symptoms of Ich
Since snails do not get Ich, they don’t show any symptoms of Ich.
However, when you introduce a snail who carries Ich into your aquarium (without quarantining, of course), your fish will start showing symptoms within several days.
Below are common signs and symptoms of Ich.
- Fish swimming erratically or lashing out
- The appearance of white spots on fish’s fins and gills – These white spots are actually parasites.
- Loss of appetite and lethargic behavior
- Fish stay hidden all the time
- The appearance of flashing due to parasites crawling over the body and gills – This happens when your fish tries to remove them by scratching or rubbing their bodies on gravels, décor, or even tank walls.
- A cloudy appearance to your aquarium water due to excessive mucus secretion from fish defending themselves against ich parasites
- Fish breathing rapidly or gasping at surface level for air if ich parasites attack their gill
- Fish laying on the bottom of your tank and not swimming when Ich heavily infects them. You can also notice their fins discolored or shredded.
When you see these symptoms in your fish, immediately treat them to prevent Ich from taking over the tank. Otherwise, your fish will suffer to death because of these deadly parasites.
How to Treat Ich in fish?
Treating heavily infected fish is often useless because they are already too weak due to parasites. However, you can try several things for fish with light or mild infection.
Use aquarium salt
If your fish have been infected by only one single parasite and are not yet severely affected, adding salt is recommended as a treatment option.
mix aquarium water with sea salt using a half-teaspoon per gallon of water.
Avoid using table salt because it contains iodine and other harmful chemicals that can damage your fish’s skin or gills.
You have to mix the water with salt first in your tank so that they dissolve completely before adding in any fishes, snails, or aquatic species.
Be careful with this treatment, as some freshwater aquarium inhabitants may not tolerate a high salt level in the water.
Use commercial ich medication
Start using a commercial ich medication after 24 hours if you don’t see any improvement yet.
However, do not add treatment into your aquarium immediately when you spot symptoms because it will stress out and hurt your fish more.
You should also avoid adding new fishes or aquatic species until the problem is completely gone.
Quarantine sick fish and raise the temperature of the quarantine tank
Quarantine sick fish for at least two weeks to prevent Ich from infecting other healthy fish.
This will give time for their life cycle to break so that they cannot multiply or spread anymore.
You can also add salt during this treatment, but some fish keepers do not recommend it.
Raise the temperature of your quarantine tank to 86 F (30 C) because ich parasites do not tolerate a high level of heat.
This will accelerate their life cycle and help you treat fish faster without hurting them badly.
Just be careful as some tropical species cannot stand such a hot water condition unless they are from Africa or South America, where the temperature is high all year round.
Can snails survive ich treatments?
Snails are delicate species that are sensitive to chemicals. Therefore, many medications are not safe for snails as they can severely harm or even kill them.
If you notice that your snail carries Ich, immediately remove it from the tank and treat it separately with an anti-parasite medication designed specifically for invertebrates. Some snail-safe medications are,
- API® SUPER ICK CURE, and
- Jungle Ich Guard 2
To be on the safe side, you can just quarantine the snail and increase the temperature for about two days.
Simultaneously, treat the aquarium with a more potent chemical that is safe for fish because it is fish that severely get affected by Ich.
If you insist on keeping your snail in the tank, avoid using copper-based medicine in your aquarium.
Snails do not get Ich, but they can carry Ich. So, if you introduce new snails to your aquarium, first, you should quarantine the snail for at least two weeks.
If somehow snails carried Ich into your aquatic life, immediately follow the necessary steps to save your fish as Ich is a deadly disease.
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