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Hi, I'm new to fishkeeping and I got a used 17.5 litre (around 4.6 gallon) aquarium and it is cycling now and I wanted to know wether shrimp or snails would be better to keep with my (unpurchased) betta to clean the tank. I'm asking in advance so I can buy the betta and the shrimp/snails at the same time. My concern with the snails is that they won't be able to eat the algea on the plants because the plants are small and not very strong, but I'm also worried that if I get shrimp they will breed and overstock the tank.

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Just a heads up, both shrimp nor snails will clean your tank, every living thing producing some form of waste. While some species of shrimp and snails do clean algae, they need to eat more than that and will produce waste.

You can definitely keep shrimp or snails in your tank, but I don't recommend adding shrimp right off the bat, they are susceptible to fluctuations in water parameters, which can easily kill them. It's best to allow your tank to mature for a month or more to achieve a stable environment.
I personally would suggest a nerite snail for your tank size, mystery snails can get larger and produce a lot more waste, the nerite is also a better algae eater.

I have kept snails with my bettas, they did just fine, but eventually, my water became a problem since softeners used beyond my limit of control, and they died due to the unstable GH/KH.

They won't have any issues eating off of the plants, snails weigh very little, and they can find their way to eat algae as they favor.
Shrimp may be eaten by your betta, but that also depends on whether your betta has enough interest to hunt them, or if your shrimp are brightly colored.

They do breed, and if your betta wants to eat them, you may have the best success with providing places for the shrimp to hide, and the shrimplets could be eaten by your betta.
My shrimp bred a couple generations, and the offspring were kept in control by the betta, who slowly ate them over a long stretch of time.

I bet @RussellTheShihTzu would have some good suggestions on this topic as well.
 

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Can you post a photo of your tank? And as mentioned above, the tank needs to be two months mature beyond the finished cycle. Otherwise shrimp will die.
 

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Not enough hides for shrimp. After the tank has matured you also need a good amount of live plants and places for the shrimp to hide away from your betta. Not all betta show aggression to these tank mates, but some will. so it is always good to have enough plants and pebbles for them to hide in.
 

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As @Lunatic says snails weight very little, in fact I have two fairly large Yellow Rabbit Snails about 2" in length, they do not even bend my Java Fern when both climbing on the tip of it. I also think that they might been breeding now as I have what looks like an egg sack hidden in back. I can't see it clearly without ripping out loads of stuff so going to leave it and see. I hope they have bred, they only produce a single offspring at a time so I know I will not be overrun.
 

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I have never had an issue with my snails crawling on leaves, and if my large bristlenose pleco in the community tank can do this without an issue, then snails can without a doubt.
 

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Nerite snails would die in that tank. They need a mature tank with lots of algae as they normally will not eat such as wafers and vegetables. The Number 1 cause of death in Nerite snails is starvation and that takes months so many do not associate starvation with their death. You can put a bowl of rocks in a sunny window and grow algae for them.

Better to get a single Mystery snail or an Assassin snail or two.

Some call snails and shrimp a "clean up crew" but that is a misnomer because, in actuality, YOU are the only clean-up crew. These critters are just there to lend a tiny bit of help.
 

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Nerite snails would die in that tank. They need a mature tank with lots of algae as they normally will not eat such as wafers and vegetables. The Number 1 cause of death in Nerite snails is starvation and that takes months so many do not associate starvation with their death. You can put a bowl of rocks in a sunny window and grow algae for them.

Better to get a single Mystery snail or an Assassin snail or two.

Some call snails and shrimp a "clean up crew" but that is a misnomer because, in actuality, YOU are the only clean-up crew. These critters are just there to lend a tiny bit of help.
With out a lot more plants, and algae even mystery snails would not survive long. Mystery snails will eat not only green algae but also blanched vegetables, algae wafers and the leaves of plants that drop to the bottom of the tank and start to decay. They will also dig into the substrate to find food. But their tanks must be well planted. unlike nerite snails, mystery snails will breed, and lay eggs above the water line in a freshwater tank where the moisture will keep the eggs wet. They usually have 100 eggs. However it takes a male and female snail to breed. They are not asexual creatures. Mystery snails go by many names (apple snails is another name) Their colors range from black, Golden, White, Blue, and purple. They defiantly add color to the tank. They are a peaceful creature and should only be housed with other peaceful fish. Betta being a good choice for a tank mate.
 

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With out a lot more plants, and algae even mystery snails would not survive long. Mystery snails will eat not only green algae but also blanched vegetables, algae wafers and the leaves of plants that drop to the bottom of the tank and start to decay. They will also dig into the substrate to find food. But their tanks must be well planted. unlike nerite snails, mystery snails will breed, and lay eggs above the water line in a freshwater tank where the moisture will keep the eggs wet. They usually have 100 eggs. However it takes a male and female snail to breed. They are not asexual creatures. Mystery snails go by many names (apple snails is another name) Their colors range from black, Golden, White, Blue, and purple. They defiantly add color to the tank. They are a peaceful creature and should only be housed with other peaceful fish. Betta being a good choice for a tank mate.
Mystery Snails do not need plants and algae as one can supplement feeds them with vegetables, wafers, fish food, prepared snail food or Snello.

In a tank without live plants, one must be prepared to supplement so the Mystery Snail does not starve.
 

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So to summarize the info: you need to grow algae on the tank walls before adding a snail.
You should add more plants, preferable one per square inch, but you can start with adding 3-5 more bunch plants and a few more rooted ones like anubias or amazon sword. Check you lighting conditions to make sure all the plants are happy, and fertilize with both root tabs and liquid.

Wait a month for algae to grow, and add 1-2 snails. Mystery or nerite is common and easy.

Or, after tank is stable, wait two months and add shrimp. They do need twice as many plants as snails(double the minimum).



Shrimp have a shorter lifespan and lighter bio-load, but don't eat as much algae off the walls. Snails have a larger bio-load and longer lifespan and eat algae off the walls, but don't do as good as job on the plants.
 
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