Is Your Aquarium Snail Dead: 6 Tell-tale Signs

Last Updated on 2023-09-16

Unfortunately, it’s not always clear to see whether your snail is only sleeping or if they’re dead. Though some snails appear to be awake 24 hours a day, it seems like others can sleep for several days straight.

Because of this, you may be wondering whether your aquarium snail is dead. In this article, not only will we go over all the different signs your snail has passed, but also the lifespan of some of the most common snails, and most importantly, what to do with your dead snail!

So keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

How to Tell if An Aquarium Snail Is Dead?

While snails are hardy, of course, your snail is going to die at some point. So if you’re wondering whether your snail is dead or sleeping, here are a few of the things you should look out for!

Smell It

Sniffing a snail can quickly reveal whether or not it is still alive. Yes, it’s gross, but it works. If a live snail has any odor at all, it will be “fishy” or very similar to the scent of the aquarium water.

On the other hand, once a snail dies, its odor will permeate the area. Dead snails start to smell quickly because of the rapid decomposition that occurs when something rots in water.

Closely Look at It

If your snail isn’t moving and isn’t nestled inside its shell, it’s probably dead. After death, a snail’s body loses the ability to retract within its shell, giving the appearance that it is flopping out of the shell.

If your snail’s body has completely separated from its shell, it is either already dead or has undergone a mantle collapse, in which case it should be euthanized immediately to save further pain and suffering.

However, it’s important to remember, that some snails will retract into their shells when they die, so just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t dead.

Check It

Take the snail in your hands and examine it well. The snail is alive if it moves when you touch it or if it squirms when you take it out of the water. However, some snails will be stubborn and seemingly unresponsive.

Touching the snail’s operculum will elicit a response from it. Whenever you touch a living snail’s operculum, (the trapdoor) it will quickly retreat or hide inside its shell.

It Hasn’t Moved Around For A While

While it’s not a definitive reason, another sign that your aquarium snail has died is if that they haven’t moved around in a while. In fact, it’s even more likely if you notice their shell is slightly moving with the current of the filter in your tank.

Check Tank Companions

Most of your snails tank mates will happily feed on him if he’s died. If you encounter bullying behavior from tank mates like goldfish or loaches, your snail may be in danger.

In contrast, if your snail’s tranquil tank mates, such as ramshorn snails or dwarf shrimp, show an interest in the snail’s meaty parts, it is likely that the snail is already dead.

These cleaners will keep the tank ecosystem in check and lessen the likelihood of problems caused by the snail’s decomposition.

However, you shouldn’t leave a dead snail in the tank on purpose for the other animals to eat, as it will also increase the amounts of ammonia in the tank.

Try To Feed It Some Food

As i was looking through answers for ways to tell whether a snail is dead or not, I came across this one which I absolutely love! Try to put some food out for your snail to see if it eats it.

Even if it’s not dead, if your snail doesn’t want to eat it’s favourite food, then it may still be sick!

Look For It’s Heartbeat Through It’s Shell

Now I haven’t tried this myself, but apparently if you shine a light on a snails shell you can see their heartbeat through it, according to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. So if you’re still unsure, why not give that a try!

What Is the Lifespan of Aquarium Snails?

Generally speaking, aquarium snails can live anywhere from 1-5 years depending on the species and the care provided.

Here’s a rough list of how long some of the most common aquarium snails live for!

SnailAverage Lifespan
Assassin Snail2 years
Mystery Snail1-2 years
Black Devil Snail2-3 years
Apple Snail3 years
Zebra Nerite Snail1-2 years
Japanese Trapdoor Snail3-10 years
Rabbit Snails3 years
Malaysian Trumpet Snail1 year
Ramshorn Snail1 year
Pond Snail1 Year
White Wizard Snail3-5 Years
Bladder Snail1-2 Years
Pagoda Snail3-5 Years

What to Do with A Dead Aquarium Snail?

It’s crucial that you avoid touching any snail carcasses or touching any pieces of the snail that may still be attached to them. The odor of a dead snail is quite strong and difficult to remove. Dead snails should not be thrown away in the trash after being taken from the aquarium.

A better option is to acquire a zip lock bag and store the snail inside of it. The unpleasant odor will be mitigated after the snail in the bag has been frozen. Take the snail out of the freezer and dispose of it when you’re done with the trash.

After discovering a dead snail, check in on the aquarium. Quickly check the characteristics of your water supply for the presence of dissolved ammonia. If so, a large water change (40-50% of the tank’s volume) can assist your aquarium stabilize itself and fight against the increase.

How to Tell if Your Snail Is Sleeping or Dead?

It’s natural to worry when you check on your snail and notice that it’s been sitting still for a while. Maybe it may come as a relief to realize that snails in aquariums have a sneaky way of frightening their caretakers. Just because your snail isn’t moving right now doesn’t always mean it’s dead.

Sign/SymptomDead SnailSleeping or Resting SnailWhat To Do
SmellPutrid, bad odorNo odor or a normal snail smellSniff test is the quickest way to confirm.
Empty ShellYesNoAn empty shell indicates decomposition.
Body Sticking OutBody shrunken, sticking outNormally retracted or partially visibleDehydration causes the body to fall out when dead.
Response to New EnvironmentNo movement for daysMay move after a short timeObserve in a separate bowl for a few days.
Activity During NightNo movementMoves when lights are offTurn off lights, check position in the morning.
Sticky ResidueNoneLeaves a sticky residueIf it’s sticking but not moving, it’s likely resting.
FloatingFloats without moving for longMay float purposefullySome species float when alive; don’t panic!
Hibernation DurationN/AUp to three days or moreLong stretches of inactivity could be hibernation.
Heartbeat CheckNo heartbeat visibleHeartbeat visible with light through shellShine light through shell to check.
Clinging to SurfacesDoesn’t clingClings to surfaces like glass, rocks, etc.If clinging, it’s probably in a resting state.

It’s true that many snails kept in aquariums sleep for long stretches at a time. It’s possible that a floating snail is nothing to worry about, as some species do it on purpose. If you’re not sure if your snail is dead or just sleeping, keep reading for some helpful hints.

  • Hibernating allows snails to rest for days at a time. If they remain stationary for more than a few days, keep an eye on them. Take them out of the shell and give them a sniff; anything that doesn’t have a putrid odor is probably still alive and just taking a nap.
  • Snails can sleep for up to three days at a time and then wake up. This is a common behavior for assassin snails since they have a high metabolic rate, a huge digestive tract, and the ability to hibernate for extended periods.
  • Another way to tell if a snail is sleeping or hibernating is to look at its shell using a light. The idea is to see if their heart is still beating by shining light through a hole in the shell.
  • In their resting state, snails will cling to nearly any surface, including glass, rocks, plant leaves, and even the gravel itself.

And remember, even if your snail is acting weird it might not be dead! This comment from BigManAquatics shows us that they can act strange for a couple of days and be fine (especially rabbit snails).

rabbit snail playing dead

Why Did Your Snail Die?

Tragic stories of a hobbyist’s snail’s untimely demise are not uncommon. Although snails are hardy pets, their deaths can sometimes be mysterious, and you may never learn the cause. This terrible event could have been caused by a number of different things.

Reasons for this may include:

  • Snails can die from improper water conditions. An increase in ammonia can be fatal to a snail, so it’s important to keep up with water changes. You can probably assume that the snails aren’t the only inhabitants of the tank to suffer from bad water parameters.
  • Snails require more than just algae and detritus worms to survive. For proper growth, they require an especially high calcium intake. Another possible cause is a lack of essential nutrients in their diet.
  • Another possible reason for the abrupt death is that the snails were exposed to copper, which has a toxic effect on them. Copper is a common ingredient in treatments used to cure ich and fungus in fish. As a result, you should isolate the sick fish in a separate tank until it is treated.
  • Tank mates that are also carnivores can likewise be a predatory threat. Learn which other tank inhabitants can tolerate snails with minimal fuss.
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FAQ

Do Aquarium Snails Float When They Are Dead?

Dead snails can float in water. When in doubt, pull out your floating snail for a closer look. Verify that the shell is empty and secure. But floating isn’t usually a sign that your snail has died. Some snails float because air is trapped in their lungs, while others float because they eat the film on top of the water.

Does a Dead Snail Smell?

Just like most other dead creatures, the odor of a snail that has been dead for a while is very unpleasant. The corpse will stink badly of decay.

Do Dead Snails Stick?

If a snail is dead, it won’t stick. If you drop a dead snail into your aquarium, it won’t cling to the walls, rocks, or glass.

Do Snails Not Move for Days?

Generally speaking, snails are very sedentary creatures. After finishing their food, snails may enter a state of dormancy. Some snails go into hibernation when they encounter a new environment, poor water quality, or starving.

Why Do Snails Go Inactive?

Hibernation is a natural behavior for snails in the wild during the winter. It’s a bad sign that something is off in the aquarium’s ecosystem. If the water temperature drops too low or if they aren’t getting enough to eat, mystery snails can go into an inactive state.

Do Snails Like Dark or Light?

It is very unusual to spot a snail out and about in direct light. They favor settings that are dark or dimly lit or, at the very least, have a substantial amount of shade.

Conclusion

It’s not a fun task, but sometimes dealing with snails requires you to figure out if your snail is dead or just sleeping. They are peculiar creatures that often engage in actions that are counter to what you may assume, such as sleeping or being motionless for extended periods. You should always double-check your snail if you have any doubts about its status, especially if you think it might be dead.

Make sure that it is not only breathing but also appears to be in good health. Your snail should have a solid operculum, no broken shell pieces, a healthy appetite, and a strong body.

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