How to Check if a Snail Dead or Sleeping: Complete Guide

Snails are some of the most unbothered animals to have in a tank. They exhibit signs of laziness, lethargy, and are slow in general. Their favorite thing to do is to eat and sleep. This cycle repeats itself millions of times during a snail’s lifetime.

Most people keep snails as pets or add them to their aquarium. Snails are good cleaning agents because they help keep your tank algae-free. But, of course, they will gobble up any leftover fish food, too!

It is no surprise that snails love sleeping. Research in snail sleeping habits reveals that snails take as many as seven naps in the short span of 12 to 14 hours. As a snail owner, you might go days without seeing your snail at all if it sleeps inside a cave or is hidden from view. Sometimes, you might wonder if your snail is okay. If you read this article, then the thought ‘is my snail still alive?’ has crossed your mind.

Snails are slow and tricky to figure out. But, do not worry – we have got you covered. This article is going to detail snail sleeping habits. We will help you figure out what is wrong with your snail, whether it is alive or dead, and what to do if it is.

Reasons Why Snail Becomes Static or Floats in the Water

Reasons Why Snail Becomes Static or Floats in the Water

Snails are mysterious because we often cannot figure out the end goal behind an action. If your snail randomly starts to float on the water or stops moving, then it might be due to several reasons.

One reason might be that it wants to go somewhere quickly. Snails are self-aware of their speed. They know that floating will bring them closer to their destination faster than crawling. Intelligent snail species such as aquatic snails use this tactic all the time. They will come up for air from time to time. This air will enable their shells to become lighter and flow faster. Even though there is no scope for long-distance travel inside a tank, snails will exhibit that behavior from time to time.

Another reason for snails becoming static could be that the snails recognize that the water has gone wrong. Snails are intuitive and will either climb out of the tank or hide inside their shells to avoid being in the water. They will do the same if snails sense a change in water conditions. For example, shortage of oxygen in the water pH changes can cause a snail to act that way.

Being hungry or being too full are some other reasons why snails become static. For example, if there is any leftover food hovering on the surface, snails will turn upside down to eat it. Or if they overeat, they will go into a ‘food coma’ where they stay static. But after a couple of hours, they should be fine.

How Do Snails Sleep?

How Do Snails Sleep

Snails are reclusive creatures. They prefer spending most of their time taking a nap. Snails sleep for long periods of time without moving. Studies show that snails may sleep up to 24 hours at times!

Snails usually have a sleeping spot inside the tank. Like humans, snails head to their place to take a nap in the middle of the day. If your snail has not moved in a few hours, it is likely that it is resting. It helps to notice your snail’s sleeping habits too. That way, you will know the spot it chooses to sleep in. If the snail is in a spot, then there is no need for concern.

Snails have certain specific behaviors when they sleep. Snails can even sleep upside down. They do this with the help of their strong foot grip. This grip allows them to crawl or glide over flat, vertical surfaces. In addition, the feet secrete mucus which strengthens their hold. 

This mucus allows them to go to sleep while they might be in a weird position, or even upside down. This is normal, and you have no cause for worry if you spot your snail sleeping weirdly.

How Long Do Snails Sleep?

How Long Do Snails Sleep

Snails can sleep anytime, anywhere. Apart from their exceptional algae-eating skills, they are famous for their long naps. Depending on the breed, the weather, seasons, and tank conditions, snails can sleep for two to three days consecutively. However, statistics show that snails take short naps throughout the day. As mentioned earlier, they take as many as seven naps in a 12 to 14 hour period.

There is no scientific reason for this obsession with naps. Studies show that even if snails lose their sleep, it does not affect their regular life functions. They take so many naps that have nothing to do with rest or fatigue but are a choice.

During their hibernating period, sleep acts as a healing period for them. In their wild habitat, snails sleep for years straight. In wintertime, snails keep warm and retain moisture by sleeping. In summer, they do the opposite. They cool themselves by sleeping.

Reasons Why Your Snail May Not Be Moving

There are several reasons for your snail not moving, such as follows.

Bad water

One of the reasons for your snail not moving might be unclean water. Snails will retract into their shells if they experience discomfort. Even when you introduce a snail to a new tank, it will hide inside its shell for many days to acclimate itself to its new environment. Unhygienic water is a common problem if you do not get the chance to cycle your tank regularly. Changing the water every alternate day is essential. Your snail may stop moving or ‘shut down’ due to stress if you fail to keep your tank clean.

Weakness or illness

If snails are ill or feeling weak, they will stop moving until their discomfort is gone. If they feel helpless, they might even turn themselves upside down or lose control of their bodily movement. If your snail acts weirdly or is not eating enough, it will fall sick quickly. Ensure that the tank is clean sterile, and change its diet if you observe the snail not eating.

Different snail species exhibit various symptoms.

There are multiple snail species such as nerite, mystery, garden, rabbit, apple, assassin, zebra, turbo snails. Even though they are all snails, they might be going through different problems that make them stay still. For instance, turbo snails stop moving if the temperature of their tank changes. This is because they live in warm conditions, and a sudden drop in temperature makes them stop moving. With assassin snails, they pass out for three days after eating a full meal during this time, and they will stop moving. Finally, nerite snails might stop moving because of chemicals in the water.

Death of the snail

One of the many reasons why snails might not be moving is simply because they have died. However, there are ways to check this thoroughly – the steps and methods are outlined below in detail.

How Do I Check If My Snail is Dead or Sleeping?

How Do I Check If My Snail is Dead or Sleeping

There are many methods to ensure whether your snail is alive and napping or has passed away. Let us take a look.

Sleeping snails behave differently.

If your snail is sleeping, it will exhibit different characteristics, such as its shell might hang a little away from its body. Their feet will appear more relaxed. Even their tentacles will be relaxed. Snails sleep randomly, but you see any of these things, they are probably just taking a nap.

Smelling the snail

If a snail is dead, it will start to smell strongly of ammonia. Decomposition takes place quickly, and very soon, your tank will smell audacious. Just to be sure, you can gently take your snail out and smell it. If the decomposition has started and smells bad, this is a clear indicator that your snail is dead.

The difference in the size of the snail

As it happens with all living beings, their form becomes smaller when snails die. This is because their body shrinks in on itself. If your snail has not been moving and you pick it up to check on it, you will feel the weight of the shell. If the shells appear weightless or less heavy, then it means that the snail has died.

Check the shell of the snail.

If you observe the snail closely, you will see the snail’s shell in some corner of the tank. If it appears that the snail’s body is no longer inside the shell, or if there is no reaction when you touch its shell, it could be an indicator of its death.

Usually, snail shells are sensitive, and snails always react to touches on the shell. So if your snail does not respond, that tells you that something is wrong.

Observe the snail’s position

Sometimes, snails will hang out in the tank in weird positions. Sometimes, you will see them floating upside down – but that’s because they are trying to eat some floating food. But, if you see a snail stuck to the glass of the tank, it could mean that the snail is resting. This is because snails have a mucus that improves their grip on the glass. If your snail stays in that position for days, then you should go take a closer look.

Tap the glass wall, tap the shell, tug the shell

If you tug at the shell of a snail, you should see an immediate reaction. An absence of that reaction shows that the snail is dead. Even tapping on the aquarium wall or the shell should elicit a response.

Observe the reaction of the snail’s tankmates

If you keep fishes in the tank with your snail, then you will see the fishes behaving strangely if your snail is dead. If you see fishes going too close to the shell or touching it, and your snail does not react, then this is a sign that something is very wrong with the snail.

Dead snails cannot stick.

Snails’ mucus-like grip is pretty strong. When snails hibernate, they use this grip to protect themselves from being swept away in the current or floating away with the water. If your snail is dead, it will lose its ability to stick to the tank surface. If you see your snail floating around in the tank, then it cannot hold itself down. Most of the time, this entails that the snail has died and has no mucus production to grip itself to the glass.

Lifespan Of An Aquarium Snail

Most creatures live longer in captivity than they would in the wild. The lifetime of a snail can range between two to ten years depending on where they live, their conditions, and health. In the wild, snails are often weak and easily die at the hands of predators. 

One reason why snails can live so long is because their metabolism is slower. Due to this, they age slowly. If your tank conditions are not suitable for it, and the temperature is warm, its metabolism will increase, and it will age. 

The key to keep your snails alive for as long as possible is to keep changing the tank water from time to time. Try to use fresh water as it will aid the snail’s health and live longer.

What Happens When a Snail Dies?

When a snail dies, the decomposition process begins. Just like all dead living beings, snails release ammonia in large amounts. This ammonia spreads throughout the tank water. As a result, the tank water turns hazy and whitish. Not only will you see the milky water, but you will also be able to smell it. Ammonia scent is strong and intense. It is a sure indicator that your snail has passed away. Unless you deal with the snail, it will keep polluting the water. The odor of ammonia will get stronger with time. After a point of time has passed, the snail’s body will crumble, and its body will detach itself from the shell. 

What To Do With A Dead Snail?

The first step after ensuring that your snail is dead is to remove it from the tank and cycle it thoroughly. If left in the tank, Dead snails release a lot of ammonia, which is fatal to other living creatures in the tank. Even other snails will get affected by the high ammonia in the water. Not only ammonia, but the snail will also release nitrogen in the air.

If you have crabs in the tank, such as hermit crabs, you can leave the snail in the tank if you wish to give it to the hermit crabs as food. However, crabs are scavengers, and they will start eating the snail very soon. 

To get rid of the dead snail, if you take it out, put the snail inside a zip lock bag and freeze it until your trash day. It is not a good idea to throw it away instantly because of its smell. If the decomposition process has already started, then wear some gloves, take out the body of the snail with a small knife, and throw the shell back inside the tank, so it dissolves over time, or another creature makes a home inside it.

Tips On Dealing With An Aquarium Snail’s Health

Tips On Dealing With An Aquarium Snail’s Health

One of the most significant health issues that snails go through is calcium deficiency. Calcium is necessary for them to build their shells. Without enough calcium in the water, their shells will be brittle and not protect them. To make up for a calcium shortage in the tank, add cuttlebone. You may first cleanse the cuttlebone of any lingering bacteria by boiling it in water, and then letting it cool.

You can also make for a calcium deficiency by adding blocks of food. These blocks will last a while and replenish their calcium needs. Calcium supplements are also a good option. 

Some ways to ensure that you snail stays fit are keeping the tank clean, cycling it regularly, changing their diet for overall nutrition, and ensuring that the tank filter is doing its job well.


Here are some frequently asked questions, when it comes to caring and checking on your snail’s health.

Can Snails Sleep Upside Down?

Snails can sleep in any place at any time. They are capable of sleeping upside down because of the mucus-enhanced grip that they have. Snails usually have their own sleeping corner where they prefer to sleep. But, sometimes they do sleep upside down, or attached to the surface of the tank. Upside down does not refer to them lying on their shells while their body is exposed because nails never do that. Rather, they climb on some surface and hang down from it, with your body attached to that object. For example, snails might stick to a decor piece in the tank or a plant large and sleep there.

Do Snails Sleep At Night?

Snails can sleep at night. But, snails do not have a set sleep clock like humans do. Instead, they sleep whenever they want. Snails sleep for more than half a day every day – sometimes, they may be asleep throughout the day and active at night, or vice versa. Even though they are nocturnal creatures, they do not uphold their reputation. They sleep in bursts or at a stretch. Sometimes, they can also sleep for 30 to 35 hours at a time, or just sleep for a couple of hours, wake up and sleep again.

Why My Snail Has Been Stuck to the Glass Without Moving?

If your snail is stuck to the glass, it is not always a cause for concern. If a snail is stuck, it is alive because otherwise, it would not have had any grip to attach to. Snails may just be resting on the glass, but sometimes they do that when trying to avoid the water. Water conditions often warn a snail to keep away. That is fine if your snail has been on the glass for a day or two. Snails are not that active, and they might be sleeping or just tired. But if this behavior continues, you must try to get it down by poking the shell gently. Offering more food might prompt it to come down if only to eat more food. If they fall off the glass, then you need to check out the situation.


Observing snails and determining whether they are alive or not is a stressful activity. Most of the time, it is confusing to figure out the correct answer. Most amateurs will mistake a sleeping snail as a dead one and panic without reason. It takes a period of time to get adjusted to the erratic behaviors. Only when you have spent enough time with them, you can make out whether or not they are dead. 

Snails are slow-moving creatures which makes this detection all the more complicated. They have many weird habits, and their antics keep us from figuring out their traits or quirks. This leads to a lot of confusion about their health. However, snails hibernate in winters, so that rules out the possibility of being dead. Apart from that, you can use all the tactics highlighted here to be very sure of your snail’s death. 

Do not be hasty to jump to conclusions. Do your research, double-check all symptoms and then come to a decision. If your snail is, indeed, dead, we have highlighted what steps need to be taken. Act calmly while you deal with the snail.

It will be a great help to you if you keep a record of the snail’s activities and behaviors regularly, so you may know what is normal or abnormal for your snail.

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