Can Snails Get Ich? Debunking the Myth of Immunity

Can Snails Get Ich

Can Snails Get Ich? Debunking the Myth of Immunity

Amid the mesmerizing aquarium landscapes lurks a notorious villain known as ich, or white spot disease. This parasitic menace wreaks havoc on the delicate inhabitants of fish tanks, causing distress and even death among its victims. Yet, as we delve deeper into this aquatic enigma, a peculiar question arises: Can snails get ich?

Snails cannot get ich as they are not susceptible to the disease. However, they act as carriers, harboring and spreading ich parasites throughout the fish tank. This makes them unwitting accomplices in the transmission of ich, posing a potential threat to the fish in their aquatic community.

This article delves into the intricate relationship between snails and ich parasites while also providing valuable insights into the most effective methods of safeguarding your fish against the perils of the ich disease.

The Mysteries of the Deadly Ich

Ich or ick, scientifically known as Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, is an external protozoan that causes white spot disease in fish. This parasitic affliction primarily affects fish living in warm and cool waters, including those in fish farms. Despite its small size, the ich parasite is easily visible due to its characteristic whiteness.

Fish farmers can quickly identify the presence of ich on their fish.

  • Affected fish display grayish-white spots resembling salt sprinkles on their skin and fins.
  • By touch, fish farmers can feel the rough texture of these white spots on the fish’s skin.

In the early stages of infection, fish may exhibit horizontal swimming patterns and increased speed. The noticeable change in swimming behavior is the fish’s attempt to rid itself of the irritating parasites.

In aquariums, affected fish often rub against various surfaces and objects in a scraping motion. Unfortunately, removing ich through rubbing or scraping alone is challenging. Without medical intervention, infected fish will gradually lose significant amounts of energy.

Common indicators of advanced stages of the ich disease in fish include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Prolonged periods of bottom-dwelling
  • Bloody stains
  • Thick mucus layer

Related Reading: Can Snails Get Fish TB?

The Unwanted Hitchhikers and Deadly Role of Snails in Spreading Ich

It is crucial to emphasize that snails do not contract ich disease. However, these sneaky parasites, known as ich, tend to hitch a ride on the snail’s outer body, patiently waiting to infect their desired host.

The ich parasite, too small to survive independently, relies on a host to bide its time until it identifies its intended target. It often finds a suitable spot on the snail, remaining for 2 to 18 hours.

Once the ich has reached complete development, typically after undergoing three stages of its lifecycle, it detaches from the snail and sets its sights on the fish, initiating the dreaded ich disease.

Ich’s Lifecycle

The ich parasite undergoes a lifecycle consisting of three stages, utilizing the snail as a crucial component.

In the initial stage, known as the feeding stage, the ich attaches itself to a snail’s body and feeds on nodules that form on the host’s skin, even if the snail carries them around. This stage is often called the “on-fish” stage due to this feeding behavior.

The second stage occurs in the aquatic environment when the ich detaches from the snail and attaches to rocks or sand within the fish tank. This stage is commonly known as the “environment” stage.

Finally, the ich enters its infective stage, the last stage of its lifecycle. During this phase, the ich attaches itself to the skin and gills of fish. It invades the fish’s thin outer layers and feeds on the soft tissues, seizing the opportunity to infect its host.

The ich demonstrates a deliberate strategy in its attachment to the fish’s skin, seeking areas where it remains hidden and protected. This makes it challenging to eliminate using chemicals.

The parasite remains concealed within the fish until it reaches maturity. At this point, it can depart to continue its life cycle independent of the fish and snail.

Related Reading: Can You Use ParaGuard With Snails?

Can Your Snails Get Affected by Ich?

Snails themselves do not contract the ich disease. However, their presence on the skin or shells of snails can have a significant impact.

While there are no obvious signs to indicate that a snail is carrying ich, there are other tell-tale signs to watch out for, including:

  • Reduced appetite leading to a decreased desire to eat.
  • Increased rubbing against the walls of the aquarium or other surfaces within the tank.
  • Extended periods of hiding beyond their usual behavior.
  • Frequent visits to the water surface.
  • Noticeable rapid breathing.

Effective Treatment and Care Guide If Snails Get Ich

Despite ongoing studies, a definitive treatment for fish infected with ich has yet to be discovered. The ich parasites prove resistant to chemical treatments when concealed within the fish’s skin.

However, effective chemical treatments can be used to target the free-swimming ich. As prevention is key to maintaining fish health, it is crucial to address the issue of ick attaching to snails, which serve as their primary hosts.

One effective preventive measure is to slightly increase the aquarium temperature. While the ich parasites can reproduce without a host, they must find one to complete their lifecycle.

It is crucial to ensure they do not find a suitable host within the 24-hour period of their initial lifecycle stage. During this time, maintaining aquarium temperatures between 75 to 79 °F (24-26 °C) is recommended.

The ich parasites are more likely to perish if they cannot find a suitable host, particularly in an aquarium with elevated temperatures. Snails are adaptable and can adjust their body temperatures to match environmental changes, ensuring their well-being.

While other methods exist to eliminate ich parasites in the aquarium, some may harm snails. For instance, adding salt to aquarium water can effectively kill ich parasites. Still, it can also harm both fish and snails.

I highly recommend using Hikari USA Inc. ICH-X to treat ich. Hikari takes pride in providing scientifically balanced nutrition for pets. This product is safe to use in an aquarium that contains snails. Remember to read and carefully follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for using the product in your aquarium.

Related Reading: Why Does Salt Kill Slugs and Snails?

To use aquarium salt to eradicate ich parasites, it is necessary to remove the snails and fish from the tank before introducing the salt to the water.

Additionally, snails can have adverse reactions to chemicals present in the aquarium, particularly those used to combat ich parasites. Therefore, caution must be exercised when using such chemicals to avoid harm to the snails.


Snails themselves cannot become infected with ich parasites. Instead, the relationship between snails and ich is that of a host and a parasite. The snail aids the ich in completing its initial lifecycle stage before the parasite detaches and seeks out its primary target: fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can shrimp get ich?

Shrimp cannot contract ich but can serve as carriers for ich. Ich can adhere to the surface of shrimp and hatch, subsequently infecting fish.

How long can snails carry ich?

Snails can act as carriers of ich for 2-18 hours, referred to as the feeding stage. It’s important to clarify that in this context, “carry” denotes the snail’s role as a carrier. Following the feeding stage, the Trophonts will undergo division and generate additional ich parasites.

Can pleco get ich?

Pleco fish (Suckermouth catfish) are not exempt from contracting ich. If there is an ich infestation in your tank, all your fish are susceptible to this protozoan infection.

Is Ich-x safe for snails?

Ich-X is safe to use in an aquarium that houses snails. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s directions when using the product. It is advisable to quarantine sick pets and treat them separately from the others. Additionally, pay attention to the temperature and nitrate levels while using the product.



  • 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. Odoteh Paul

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