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How to Tell if a Snail is Dead, For Sure

How to Tell if a Snail is Dead, For Sure

Have you ever reared a snail, and then been unsure how to tell if it’s alive or dead? This article will teach you how to know the difference, and what you should do if you find out the snail is dead.

How can you tell if a snail is dead? You can tell if a snail is dead by tapping it several times. If it doesn’t respond, then it is probably dead. Similarly, a dead snail will smell pretty bad even after it’s been dead for just a few minutes. When a snail reeks, you know it’s dead.

Land snails will normally leave a trail of mucus behind them as they slide along. They feed mostly on green leaves, including spinach, and lettuce.

You can also check this Snails Combo on Amazon.

Is my Snail Dead or Just Asleep?

Do you ever get confused, wondering if your snail is sleeping or dead? Snails do hibernate for several days at a time. They may sit in the same spot, and stop suctioning on the walls of the tank.

If after 2 days your snail has not moved, then you should consider the smell test. If the snail does not reek, then it is probably alive. You may want to nudge it a few times to see if it moves.

If your snail’s foot is attached to the filter or any other component in the tank, then it is alive. If your snail is curled up inside its shell and remains attached to something in the tank (and isn’t just wedged somewhere), then it is alive. But if the body drifts freely from the shell, then the snail is dead.

Perhaps the only way to really be certain whether your snail is alive or dead is to physically examine it. Pull it up gently, and if the body slowly withdraws into the shell, then it is alive. Do not remove the snail from the tank for too long though, as if it dries out too much, then it will die.

Occasionally, freshwater snails inside an aquarium will look like they are dead, remaining inactive for several days. Sometimes the snail may even float to the surface of the tank – this is due to excess air in their lungs. A gentle push should bring the snail back to an active state.

You can also determine if a snail is still alive by looking at its trapdoor. This will remain shut all the time that the snail is alive. But if its trapdoor is open, then it will be dead.

What happens when a Snail Dies?

If the snail body is no longer inside its shell, or if the body hangs out of the shell and doesn’t move, then the snail has died. Make sure you remove a dead snail from the aquarium as soon as possible to prevent the spread of disease.

Contrary to popular belief, snails are fused to their shells and do not crawl out of their shells when they die – although their body may fall out.

The first noticeable sign that your snail has died is the smell. The smell will get stronger for the first 24 hours after death. The snail will also fall to one side.

What to do with a Dead Snail

The first thing to do when you notice a dead snail is to remove it from the tank and replace the water immediately. The guts of the snail will decompose rapidly a few hours after death, but the shell will not decompose until it is crushed.

Removing a dead snail from the tank must be done very carefully, especially if there are other snails in the tank. Before removing the dead snail, it is important to first transfer any remaining living snails into a separate tank with clean water.

Then remove the dead snail and completely change the water in the tank. This will help reduce the risk of any disease potentially spreading to the living snails.

Mystery Snail Suddenly Dies

Sometimes, a Mystery Snail will withdraw into its shell for a few days. This is normal – it will do this to escape everyday challenges. But when a Mystery Snail is out of its shell and completely inactive, the snail is definitely dead.

A Mystery Snail will decompose very quickly. This can pollute the water and is detrimental to the health of other aquatic animals and plants.

Other Ways to Tell if a Snail is Dead

Sometimes a snail can be inactive, withdrawing into its shell, when conditions are not very favorable. In most cases, the warmer the water, the more active the snail becomes. When water temperature cools, the snail will slow down.

For this reason, just nudging the snail’s shell cannot confirm for definite whether it is alive or not. You just have to keep smelling it. If a snail is dead, it will also fall out of its shell after a gentle shake.

Holding the snail against a lamp bulb is another way to detect whether it is dead or alive. You can actually see through the shell when you hold it up to a light bulb. If the inside of the snail has shrunk within the shell, then it is dead.

If a snail doesn’t respond to your touch, you may want to transfer it into a small, clean container of freshwater. If the snail does not become active even after changing its environment, then it is probably dead.

What else you should know about Mystery Snails

Mystery snails are freshwater snails and are found in many parts of the world. They prefer moist, wet, shady forests and woods. When cared for correctly, captive Mystery Snails can live up to 3 years and reach their full body size.

Snails prefer to live in water temperatures of between 75°F-86°F. The speed at which the snails grow will slow down when they are 8 months old. For the first 8 months, a snail may grow at between 0.21mm and 0.25mm per day. After this, their growth rate slows to between 0.11mm and 0.13mm per day.

Snails are naturally herbivorous and will consume all kinds of edible vegetables.

Essential Tips and Ideas to Protect Your Snail in the Tank

Avoid fish! As a beginner, you should try not to raise snails in the same tank as fish. A wide range of fish species are known to eat smaller snails.

Make sure you raise snails of the same species and nature. Do not overcrowd the tank with too many snails as this may cause diseases to spread quickly.

When choosing a tank to rear snails, you need to consider the maximum number of snails you will rear. If you are rearing 1 or 2 snails, you should consider a tank that is a minimum of 1.8 gallons.

If you are rearing 6-9 snails, then your tank should be a minimum of 4.4 gallons. A 22-gallon tank is required for 20 to 50 snails. If you plan on breeding snails, then you should consider a minimum tank size of 40 gallons.

Make sure you de-chlorinate your clean, freshwater by allowing it to sit for about 24 hours.  Do not use additives in the water but use recommended Bio-starters, beneficial bacteria and heavy metal removers.

Make sure the pH level ranges between 7 and 7.5. Make sure you test the pH levels of the tank water every day, to maintain the proper ammonia and nitrates levels.

Get this Aquarium Water test Kit, its really helpful!

Snails will prefer a substrate of pebbles and gravel, rather than sand – but make sure the gravel and pebbles are smooth, with no sharp edges.

Avoid the use of red and orange natural stones in the tank because they contain higher levels of copper that can be highly toxic to snails.

Make sure the pebbles and gravel are thoroughly rinsed before adding them to the tank. 

Do not feed your snails right away – give them up to 8 hours in their new environment before feeding them. Snails can be fed with cooked veggies such as blanched carrots, cabbage, cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, and cauliflower.

Snails are slow eaters, hence it is really important not to over-feed them. Snails should be fed a maximum of once or twice in a day, and any food not consumed at the previous meal must be removed from the water early the following morning.

Snail fecal materials can significantly raise the pH levels of the water, and that can trigger severe diseases that can quickly kill an entire population of snails.

Sophia White

Wednesday 24th of June 2020

I have two snails, both mystery. One is doing great & is moving all the time & seems to be enjoying life. While the other has been in his shell for days. He does not smell bad & I have been checking him everyday. I have noticed that his shell is starting to turn white. He is tightly sealed in his shell but I am still worried about what I should do. I have both snails in a tank with a betta. What should I do? Should I take the one out & put him in a different container until he gets better? I even changed the water & checked the pH & still no movement from the little guy.


Sunday 10th of May 2020

I just got my mystery snails about 24 hours ago and I wish I had read this article before I did. I have a 3 gallon tank with an aquaponics system on top. I added dechlorinator and let the filter run for about a day and a half before I brought the snails home. The only other chemical I put into the tank was pouring denitrifying bacteria on top of the seeds in the grow beds of the tank which have filtered down into the water, I’m sure. I let the snails sit in the tank in the bag of water they came in for about thirty minutes. They were very active, scorching around in the bag at that time. I released them into the tank (that has two moss balls, anubias, and red wendth for foliage. No other fish or invertebrates are in the tank. I did make the mistake (I now realize) of feeding them two algae wafers after they were released into the tank. They went to them immediately and munched away for probably close to an hour. They continued to move around the tank and even up the walls of the tank. At one point, one even released himself from the wall and floated down (which I have read is a good thing). But then this morning, the same guy’s body (for lack of a better word that I don’t know yet) was all wrinkled up but he was still on the glass. Within five minutes, it was smooth on the glass. But another five minutes pass, and it is wrinkled again. He moved around for a little bit and even crawled into a moss ball. But now he has been laying on his side with his body slightly exposed for a few hours now. The second snail, who I will call she to make it easier. She has not moved since last night. She is inside of a rock structure with an opening. Do you know what might be happening with my snails? Are they just getting used to the environment? Could there be something wrong with my water? SOS- save our (my) snails.


Sunday 15th of March 2020

You never know. I saw a snail with what appeared to be his guts hanging out. He was white, when all the snails have dark bodies, so I thought he might be dead. I went to check him after a couple of hours, and he had not moved so I grabbed him to remove him from the tank. As soon as I got him out of water, he slammed shut his trap door. He also did not smell. I guess he was just sleeping.


Friday 6th of March 2020

Okay so I have two snails, both mystery. One is larger than the other. After my most recent water change the larger one started acting strange. Falling off things, not reacting quickly. I removed him to inspect and he smells atrocious, properly putrid. But he's not dead. LIke he's not unresponsive, if you poke him he'll close up just really slowly, and he's still moving but he's not fully emerged. I'm not quite sure what to do about him. It's been about a week and he's in the same condition.


Friday 31st of January 2020

Your info was awesome maybe a little late for my current adult snail hopefully not my babies thanks for your knowledge

Saurabh Kumar

Saturday 1st of February 2020

Glad you liked it Lisa! :)

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