Ornamental aquarium snails are a beautiful addition to any freshwater fish tank. Snails are also helpful, eating algae and cleaning up general debris from the substrate that would otherwise pollute the water.
But sometimes a snail appears lifeless when in fact it’s just taking a nap. So how do you know if a snail is dead? Do snails sleep? How long do water snails live? And how long can snails sleep?
Read this guide to discover the answers to all those questions and more!
How can I tell if my aquarium snail is dead?
Snails are fascinating and peculiar aquatic creatures whose behavior can be puzzling until you learn more about their habits and behavior.
Aquatic snails can be quite inactive most of the time and sleep. Some species easily emerge from their tanks in search of a dark place to sleep, while others prefer to curl up in their shells for a nap. Many species of snails can remain inactive for up to a week, not moving at all. Who knows?
However, if you see one of your snails lying on the bottom of the tank, seemingly inactive, you may wonder if it’s dead. Detecting shellfish mortality isn’t easy, but here’s how to tell a sleeping snail from a dead one.
Is my floating snail dead?
Many species of aquarium snails, such as mystery snails, will float from time to time, which doesn’t necessarily mean your snail is dead.
Snails can store air inside their shells, which gives them enough buoyancy to float. In nature, some species of snails float on the surface of the water deliberately to be swept away by the current and thus travel faster, perhaps in search of better feeding grounds.
In captivity, starvation is a common cause of snails floating to the surface of the water, often upside down, as they reach for floating scraps of food. Many people assume that snails can survive on algae alone, but they can’t. Therefore, be sure to supplement your snails’ diet with vegetables and other foods that are high in calcium to help keep your snails’ shells in good condition.
If you are concerned that a floating snail is dead, carefully remove it from the water and smell the shell.
Smell the snail shell
When a snail dies, it decomposes very quickly inside its shell, and that creates a stench similar to that of a car hit by a car on a hot summer day! Like most dead organic matter, snails smell especially bad when they’ve been dead for a while. Smell the snail shell and you’ll quickly get a nostril filled with a stench like rotting food or blocked drains.
Also, if you test your tank water, you will most likely discover an ammonia spike. So as soon as you have removed the dead snail, you should do a partial water change before testing the water again.
If there is no obvious scent on the snail’s shell, sniff the creature’s foot. The foot is the small, flat area under the snail’s body that acts as a kind of trapdoor for the shell of the mollusk. If the foot smells pungent and rotten, the snail is most likely dead, although poor water quality can also make the snail smell bad.
So if your snail has a stinky foot but is still alive, test the quality of the water in its tank and perform a partial water change if necessary.
take a closer look
Look very closely at the opening in the shell of the snail. If you cannot see the snail’s body inside the shell, or if the body hangs from the shell without moving, the snail is most likely dead. Likewise, if the snail’s shell feels extremely light and you can’t see anything inside, the snail has probably died.
Look for the hatch in the body of the snail. The hatch will close if the snail is alive to protect the creature inside its shell. If the snail had died, the hatch would be open.
Very young snails and species with thin shells can be examined for beats. Place a bright flashlight behind the snail and you can detect the animal’s heartbeat.
I’m not sure yet?
If you’re still not sure if your snail is dead, pull it out of the water and try very gently to pull its foot toward you. If the snail is alive, it will immediately retract its foot. back inside his shell.
Finally, place the snail on a flat piece of plastic outside the tank and watch it closely for a few minutes. If the snail is alive, it will come out of its shell and start moving around in search of water, so put the snail back in its tank right away.
Is your snail sleeping or is it dead?
Aquatic snails are often completely inactive for a time after eating a large meal. During this time, the creatures sleep while the food is digested. If you have assassin snails, you should know that they can remain dormant for several days after a meal before they start moving again.
Generally, after enjoying a few hours of rest, the snail will start moving around the tank again.
If your snail is not moving and remains stuck to the glass or aquarium decorations, it is most likely sleeping, hibernating or resting. A dead snail would simply fall off the glass and lay face down on the substrate.
How long do snails sleep?
The duration of sleep of snails varies from one species to another. Some sleep for days at a time, although most snails sleep for around 13 hours, divided into seven short nap periods. Some species of land snails can sleep up to three years!
Interestingly, if the snail’s sleep is interrupted, it will continue to be active until the next sleep pattern begins.
Snails are diurnal, remaining active during the day and sometimes at night as well, probably depending on the availability of food, the quality of the water in the tank, and the habits of the other residents of the tank.
Why do snails die?
There are a few reasons why snails die:
- Old age is a common cause of death.
- Snails are quite sensitive to high levels of toxins in their water, so if you don’t keep up with the water changes in your tank and the water becomes high in ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, your snails could die, along with some of your fish.
- Snails need more than just algae and debris to survive. If not fed properly, your snails could starve to death.
- Copper is contained in many fish medications and can be lethal to both plants and snails. Instead of putting copper-containing medications in your display tank, put fish that require treatment in a quarantine tank.
- Tropical snails need warm water. If the temperature of the water in your tank drops below 50o Fahrenheit, your snails will die.
Nerita snails are often sold as freshwater algae feeders. However, these exotic and beautiful snails come from the Indian, Pacific and Caribbean oceans or from swamps and brackish lagoons. So these snails are sea creatures that cannot survive in fresh water.
Unfortunately, these poor snails won’t live very long in a freshwater tank. Only one species of nerite snail, Theodoxus danubialis, lives in a freshwater environment in the wild. However, that species is not found in the pet trade and is considered endangered in the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany, where the snail is found in the wild.
Change of environment
Species of intertidal creatures must periodically move from an underwater environment to an exposed surface. If the neritos can’t get out of the water to satisfy that need, they quickly succumb to stress and disease and usually end up dying.
What is the lifespan of an aquarium snail?
The lifespan of an aquarium snail depends on the species of snail and the temperature of the water in your tank. The hotter the water, the faster the snails’ metabolism runs, so their lifespan will be shorter. .
Typical Lifespan of Popular Aquarium Snail Species
|3 to 4 years
|3 to 5 years
|Up to 3 years
|up to 1 year
|Malaysian trumpet snails
|up to 1 year
|1 to 2 years
What happens when a snail dies?
When an aquarium snail dies, it unsurprisingly decomposes, although somewhat faster than other living organisms in its tank. The decomposition process releases ammonia into the tank water, contaminating the environment and potentially harming your tank inhabitants.
What to do with a dead snail
Although you could leave the dead snail in your aquarium for scavengers such as hermit crabs to eat, I advise you remove the snail immediately. The longer the dead snail remains in the tank, the faster the water quality will deteriorate.
How do I get rid of a dead snail?
There are two options for disposing of a dead snail.
Your first option is to put the snail in a Ziplock bag, seal the bag, and put the whole thing in the outside trash can.
The second option is not for you if you are squeamish! Take a knife and remove the carcass of the snail from the shell. Wash the shell well and replace the shell in your tank for hermit crabs to use as a home.
How can you improve the health of the snails in your aquarium?
Like fish, snails need clean, well-filtered, well-oxygenated water to stay healthy. So make sure you properly maintain your aquarium’s filtration system, do weekly partial water changes, and vacuum the substrate thoroughly to keep the environment clean. Snails prefer a pH level close to 7.0 and will tolerate a water temperature between 65° and 82° Fahrenheit.
Although they are small, your snails should have at least two and a half gallons of water each. That allows plenty of room for each snail to feed and helps ensure the mollusks don’t go hungry.
If you want your snails to breed, leave a six-inch gap under the tank lid or slide cover where the critters can lay eggs. Check the lid of the aquarium and cover any gaps through which snails can escape. Although aquatic snails can survive for a time out of water, they will eventually dehydrate and die.
Choose your tank mates carefully if you have snails. Avoid fish species that feed on snails, such as puffers, cichlids, goldfish, and certain catfish.
Now you know how to tell if your aquarium snail is sleeping, hibernating, or deceased. Snails, just like fish, need proper care and a proper, nutritious diet. If you take care of your snails, they will help keep your aquarium clean and free of algae, as well as add extra interest and another dimension to your tank’s ecosystem.
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