How Do Assassin Snails Kill: Unveiling Their Deadly Secrets!

How do assassin snails kill their prey? Assassin snails, also known as Clea helena, may have a harmless-sounding name but don’t be fooled by their small size and unassuming appearance.

These tiny predators have a deadly secret that helps them eliminate their prey precisely.

This article will delve into the fascinating world of assassin snails and uncover the mechanisms they use to kill their victims.

what does assassin snail eat

With a reputation for being efficient killers, assassin snails have developed various strategies to take down their prey, mainly other snails. From using their strong foot to overpower their victims to injecting a paralyzing toxin, these marine snails are ruthless in their hunting tactics.

By understanding how assassin snails kill, we can gain valuable insight into the intricate workings of nature’s predators and their strategies to survive in their environment.

So, join us as we explore the deadly secrets of assassin snails and uncover the mysteries of assassin snail how do they kill, and their hunting techniques. 

How Do Assassin Snails Kill Their Prey?

Assassin snails are carnivorous freshwater snails known for their ability to eat other snails. They are popular among aquarists as a natural way to get rid of pest snails in aquariums.

To kill their prey, assassin snails use a proboscis that can scrape the translucent mucus coating of their victim. The proboscis is then inserted into the snail’s body, allowing the assassin snail to eat the larger snail from the inside out. 

Assassin snails also eat fish eggs, dead fish, and other small creatures in the aquarium.

Assassin snail

When an assassin snail is hungry, it will locate its food by following the siphon of a freshwater snail or by sensing the mucus trail left behind by a live snail.

Once the prey is found, the assassin snail will use its proboscis to inject a paralyzing toxin into the snail, immobilizing it and making it easier to eat. Assassin snails typically target snail species such as ramshorn snails, nerite snails, and pond snails.

Assassin Snail Overview: Origin, Breeding & Lifespan

The Assassin Snail, also known as the Clea Helena or Bumble Bee Snail, is a helpful addition to many aquariums. Here’s a quick rundown on their origins, breeding habits, and lifespan:


  • Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra
  • Found in freshwater environments like lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers with soft sand or muddy substrates


  • Reproduce sexually and lay eggs in clutches on surfaces within the aquarium
  • They are not prolific breeders, and their populations tend to stay under control
  • However, if you don’t have other snails for them to eat, they might reproduce more to find a food source


  • Can live up to 3-5 years in an aquarium with good water conditions and a balanced diet

Additional Notes:

  • While Assassin Snails are known for hunting and eating other snails, they are also scavengers and will eat algae, detritus, and other leftover fish food.
  • They are peaceful towards fish and shrimp but can eat dwarf shrimp if there aren’t enough other snails available.

How Do Assassin Snails Kill Other Snails?

Assassin snails live up to their name with a surprisingly strategic approach! Here’s how they take down their prey:

  1. Sniffing Out Dinner: Assassin snails use a long tube called a siphon to smell their environment. This helps them locate potential meals, which are usually smaller snail species.
  2. Sticky Situation: Once a target is found, the assassin snail uses its muscular foot. This foot secretes an incredibly sticky mucus, like a glue trap for the unsuspecting snail.
  3. Breaking and Entering: With the prey firmly stuck, one assassin snail searches for the opening of the target’s shell, called the aperture.
  4. Feast Time: Finally, the assassin snail uses its beak, a specialized mouthpart like a small trunk, to enter the shell and devour the unfortunate victim.

It’s a brutal but effective way for a group of assassin snails to control populations of other snail species, especially in aquariums where they’re introduced to keep pest snail numbers in check.

Do Assassin Snails Eat snail shells as well?

The answer is No; assassin snails are after the tasty snail inside the shell, not the shell itself. They are carnivore snails and specifically target other snails, snail eggs, and even leftover fish food or dead fish. The empty shells you might see after introducing assassin snails to an aquarium are leftovers from their meals.

Assassin snails are opportunistic feeders, but their primary interest lies in the meaty part of their prey. They don’t get any nutritional value from the shells.

Assassin snails have a unique feeding method where they use their radula – a small raspy tongue – to break down the snail shells and consume the gastropod inside.

They are nocturnal creatures, so they are most active at night when they can search for their prey without being disturbed. If you keep assassin snails in your tank, they will help control the snail population and keep your tank clean.

Identifying Pest Snails: Treat and Remove Them From Your Aquarium

Unwanted snails can become a problem in aquariums. Here’s a guide to help you identify, treat, and remove pest snails from your tank:

Identifying Pest Snails

Not all snails are nuisances. Some, like Mystery Snails and Nerite Snails, benefit aquariums by eating algae and detritus.

However, some species reproduce quickly and can overrun a tank, competing for resources and harming plants.

Here are some common types of pest snails:

  • Malaysian Trumpet Snails: These have pointed shells and burrow in the substrate, eating detritus and sometimes healthy plants.
  • Ramshorn Snails: These have flat, spiral shells and come in various colors. They reproduce rapidly and eat algae and plants.
  • Bladder Snails: Tiny with pointy shells, they hitchhike on plants and reproduce asexually, leading to population explosions. They eat algae and detritus.

Treatment and Removal

The good news is there are several ways to tackle pest snails:

  • Reduce Food Sources: Overfeeding and decaying plant matter create a buffet for snails. Cut back on feeding, remove uneaten food, and clean up waste regularly.
  • Manual Removal: For small infestations, pick out the snails you see. You can use a net or your fingers.
  • Snail Traps: These baited traps lure snails inside where they’re easy to remove. You can buy these or make your own with vegetables like lettuce.
  • Predatory Fish and Snails: Some fish, like pea puffers or dwarf puffers, and Assassin Snails eat other snails. However, research these additions carefully to ensure compatibility with your tank size.
  • Chemical Treatments: These should be a last resort as they can harm fish and plants. If you choose this method, follow the instructions carefully. Permanently remove fish and invertebrates from the tank before using chemical treatments.


The best way to deal with pest snails is to prevent them in the first place. Here are some tips:

  • Quarantine New Plants: New plants can introduce hitchhiking snails. Dip or quarantine new plants before adding them to your tank.
  • Close the Tank: Snails can lay eggs above the waterline. Keep your tank lid closed to prevent this.

Following these steps, you can keep your aquarium free of unwanted snails and maintain a healthy environment for your fish and plants.

Will assassin snails hurt my fish?

No, assassin snails are snail hunters, not fish. They’re safe with most fish but may eat very slow or dwarf shrimp.

Can assassin snails hurt humans?

No, assassin snails are harmless to humans. Their diet consists of other, smaller snails, not people! They’re beneficial for aquariums with unwanted snail populations.

How many snails can an assassin snail kill a day?

Assassin snails aren’t speed eaters. They typically consume 1-2 smaller snails every few days, not per day.

Will assassin snails take over a tank?

No, assassin snails won’t overrun a tank. They only eat other snails, and their population shrinks when prey runs out.

Do assassin snails eat snail eggs?

Assassin snails are opportunistic feeders and may eat soft snail eggs. They likely won’t bother hard-shelled eggs like Nerite snail eggs.

Will assassin snails kill all snails?

No, assassin snails target smaller snails. They might team up on large ones but leave large, healthy snails alone.

Do bumblebee snails eat coral?

No, bumblebee snails are reef-safe. They eat detritus and may consume other small invertebrates, but not coral.

How can you tell if an assassin snail is male or female?

Unfortunately, you can’t! Assassin snails look identical regardless of sex.

How many snails can be in a 30-gallon tank?

Depending on snail size and bioload, a 30 gallon tank can hold around 10-12 snails. Choose smaller snails and consider fish tankmates for best results.


So, how do assassin snails kill their prey? Assassin snails are known for their unique method of hunting and killing their prey. These tropical freshwater snails will burrow into the substrate at the bottom of aquariums to control populations of other snails. When they detect a potential meal, such as a nerite or a clam, the assassin snail will use its operculum to pry open the prey’s cone.

Once the shell is opened, the assassin snail will insert its proboscis into the opening and digest the soft tissues of the snail or clam. Some larger cichlids or snail-eating fish may also eat assassin snails, so keeping them with fish that do not prey on snails would be best. Assassin snails reach sexual maturity at around six months of age, and they are hermaphrodites like some other aquatic species.

No one knows how long it takes for an assassin snail to kill its prey, as nobody has timed the process. How do assassin snails kill? However, it is believed that the assassin snail’s hunting method effectively controls snail populations in aquariums with poor water conditions. Loaches and certain types of fish can help the snail keep other populations in check. The larvae of assassin snails may also prey on smaller worms or larvae that live in the substrate, further contributing to their role as effective predators in the aquatic environment.

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About Me

I am the founder of, a devoted wife and mother, and an avid fish enthusiast. My aim is to assist fellow fish lovers worldwide in understanding how to properly care for and breed their pet fish.

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