Best Isopods for Snails

Best Isopods for Snails

Best Isopods for Snails

Maintaining a balanced tank ecosystem is a complex task. Many things can potentially go wrong, with toxicity posing a significant concern. Isopods, however, are invaluable organisms that can help mitigate the risk of tank toxicity. But which isopods are most suitable for snails?

The best isopods for snails are smaller species like pond slaters and munnid isopods. Tropical dwarf whites, dairy cows, little sea isopods, and red-clawed Mexican isopods are ideal for terrariums. The versatile Caribbean Dwarf White is also a popular choice due to its adaptability and compact size.

In this article, I will delve into the best isopods for snail tanks. Before highlighting the ideal isopod species for both tanks and terrariums, I’ll explore the advantages of isopods in tanks.

What Are Isopods?

Armadillidium Vulgare Isopod
Armadillidium Vulgare Isopod: Image by kuritafsheen77 on Freepik

Isopods are small crustaceans found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats. The term ‘isopod,’ deriving from Greek, means ‘equal foot,’ a name given due to the symmetry of their legs. These creatures are also known as ‘sowbugs,’ ‘woodlice,’ or ‘pillbugs.’

Isopods exhibit an intriguing behavior called aggregation, where they cluster together. This social behavior is often a response to changes in temperature, light, or humidity, as isopods are particularly sensitive to these factors. They also tend to aggregate when threatened by other tank inhabitants.

It’s important to note the existence of both land and aquatic isopods. Land isopods, lacking gills, cannot survive in aquatic tanks as they would drown. Among over 10,000 isopod species, most are terrestrial.

What Are Isopods Used For?

Isopods serve as beneficial custodians within tanks, helping to maintain cleanliness by consuming algae and debris. These diminutive terrestrial crustaceans possess two pairs of antennae, eyes, and legs.

Primarily, as detritivores, they feed on a wide array of waste material in the tank, including:

Known for their voracious appetite, isopods contribute to the cleanliness of your tank, devouring decaying detritus and thereby preventing lethal ammonia spikes that could harm snails and other tank creatures.

However, it’s crucial to ensure adequate food for all tank inhabitants and avoid overpopulation. The scarcity of food can activate predatory behavior in various tank dwellers. For instance, undernourished isopods might attempt to prey on snails.

A telltale sign of an unbalanced tank environment is frequent deaths among its inhabitants. If the tank population exceeds a certain density, it becomes challenging to meet the basic needs of all creatures. 

Are Isopods Suitable for Snail Terrariums?

Snails thrive in terrariums, especially when high levels of humidity are maintained. These live-planted environments surpass artificially decorated tanks, as they provide ample sustenance for algae, bacteria, and fungi in the substrate, which in turn feeds the snails.

Isopods can be a beneficial addition to snail terrariums, given their similar care requirements and their role in maintaining cleanliness and ecological balance. When housing both snails and isopods, larger terrariums are preferable.

The YIMORENCE Large Glass Plant Terrarium is an excellent choice, accommodating up to 10 snails and more than a dozen isopods. Stylish and functional, this terrarium features a lid to prevent isopods from escaping and is constructed from reinforced glass for durability. This terrarium is suitable for indoor and outdoor settings, offering effective protection against predators.

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  • This large glass terrarium is a house shape plant terrarium with swing lid, have beautiful black accent and ventilation.
  • Glass greenhouse terrarium great for raising succulent, moss, fern, cacti,venus fly trap.
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To minimize the chance of isopods escaping, do the following:

  • Maintain a comfortable environment in the terrarium.
  • Provide ample food and interesting habitat with hiding spots and exploration opportunities. Cocopeat, humus, dead plant leaves, and a few stones are ideal.
  • Avoid using softwood flooring and forest substrate due to the potential presence of harmful resins. If you opt for forest soil, preheat it to eliminate harmful chemicals and kill potential nuisance-causing microorganisms.

For those housing a smaller number of snails and isopods, a clear, transparent container can be a viable alternative. A notable benefit of such terrariums is that isopods cannot climb plastic walls.

Plant options for snail terrariums and tanks include the following:

  • Asparagus
  • Boston ferns

Moss, which creates a high-humidity and low-light environment, is also an excellent choice for housing snails and isopods.

The Best Isopods for Snail Aquariums

Aquatic Sow Bug
Pond Slater (Asellus aquaticus)/ ©Shutterstock
  • Pond Slater (Asellus aquaticus): Also known as the cress bug or water louse, this isopod is an effective tank cleaner suitable for cold and tropical aquarium tanks. It feeds on fish food, algae, and sinking pellets. 
  • Caecidotea Racovitzai (Caecidotea spp): This relatively uncommon freshwater isopod is ideal for tropical freshwater tanks. It is known for rapid reproduction and is an efficient algae cleaner.
  • Munnid Isopods (Uromunna sp): These herbivorous isopods primarily consume organic plant waste and algae in tanks. Their small size makes them a preferred meal for fish and other tank inhabitants. 
  • Phreatoicidea (Phreatoicidea sp): This freshwater isopod predominantly dwells in buoyant substrate that floats upon detachment.

The Best Isopods for Snail Terrariums

Terrarium isopods, or terrestrial isopods, flourish in damp, high-moisture environments, unlike their freshwater counterparts. It’s important to note that terrestrial isopods will not survive in an aquatic tank due to their lack of gills and adaptation for terrestrial life.

Some of the best terrarium isopods include: 

  • Tropical Dwarf White Isopods (Trichorhina tomentosa): These tiny, white isopods are popular among terrarium enthusiasts. With adults barely measuring a quarter of an inch (6 mm), their small size allows for large populations in terrariums and vivariums. They’re a low-maintenance and highly effective cleanup crew.
  • Dairy Cow Isopods (Porcellio laevis): Also known as swift woodlouse, these isopods are larger, with adults measuring about half an inch (13 mm). They are white with black markings resembling a dairy cow. They are efficient tank cleaners that reproduce rapidly and pose no harm to other tank inhabitants. 
  • Powder Orange Isopods/ Cuban Woodlice (Porcellionides pruinosus): This hardy, terrestrial isopod species features a beautiful, velvety orange coat. Medium-sized, they grow to about 0.3 inches (8 mm) in length. They are voracious eaters known for their high activity levels.
  • Little Se Isopod / Little Pillbug (Cubaris murina): This distinctively black isopod is relatively easy to care for, moderate in reproduction, and highly adaptable to tropical environments. Adults measure about 0.4 inches (10 mm) in length. However, they have been reported to eat plants, explaining their limited presence in terrariums. 
  • Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber): This tropical species fits well into most terrarium and vivarium settings. It’s a larger isopod, with adults measuring 0.6 inches (15 mm). The grey isopods can be mottled and covered with tiny tubercles, giving them a rough appearance.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put the terrestrial isopods in my terrarium in my fish tank?

Terrestrial isopods would suffocate and die in an aquatic environment as they lack the necessary gills for breathing. There are distinct types of isopods adapted for terrestrial and aquatic life.

Will fish eat isopods? 

While some fish species may consume isopods, any fish that doesn’t harm snails will likely not harm isopods either. What is beneficial for snails is typically also beneficial for isopods.

Will snails eat isopods?

Most tropical snail species kept in tanks will not eat isopods. Assassin snails are an exception, as this species readily preys on isopods. However, most omnivorous snail species tend to avoid isopods.

Do isopods eat snails?

Larger isopods, such as the Giant Isopod (Bathynomus giganteus), may prey on snails when hungry. However, medium and smaller-sized isopods usually don’t bother snails.

What should I feed my isopods?

There’s no special isopod food sold in pet stores. These creatures aren’t picky eaters and thrive on food suitable for fish or snails. As isopods have a healthy appetite, it’s recommended to feed them at least once a day.

Do isopods eat plants?

While isopods typically don’t consume live plants, they eat dead plant matter such as leaves and decaying stems.

How do isopods breed?

Isopods are egg-laying creatures with distinct genders. During mating, the male passes a spermatophore to the female, fertilizing the eggs internally. The female then lays the eggs in a safe location, such as crevices, where they remain until hatching. These hatchlings, mainly feeding on algae, appear a few weeks later.

Are isopods invasive?

In some circumstances, these creatures can become pests. However, they can also serve as food for other tank pets, including some fish. You may introduce such pets if the isopod population begins to exceed manageable levels.

Closing Remarks

Isopods are tiny crustaceans that contribute to tank cleanliness and ecological balance. They coexist comfortably with snails and other non-aggressive tank species. Key considerations for keeping isopods include proper feeding and maintaining favorable tank conditions.

These creatures don’t require special care, and what suits snails will typically suit them too. However, caution is advised against introducing potentially invasive isopod species that could overpopulate your tank and cause problems.



  • Paul Odoteh

    Paul Odoteh is an established writer and editor with nearly 10 years of experience in writing and editing. He holds a bachelor's degree in IT and has written for numerous publications and individuals. Currently, Odoteh is dedicated to expanding his blog,, which was inspired by his passion for owning an aquarium.

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