How to Tell If Snail Is Dead or Sleeping

Has your snail been motionless in the tank? Do you have a hard time telling if your snail is dead or sleeping? Do you wish to learn about the difference between a dead and a sleeping snail? Read on to find out how to figure out if your snail is dead or sleeping.

A sleeping snail would most likely appear dead. You can confirm if your snail is dead by removing it from the water and observing its movement. If a snail remains stuck at a spot, it might most likely be sleeping or hibernating. 

A dead snail cannot get stuck on any part of the tank. Instead, it will fall off and lay upside down at the tank base or on a substrate. Also, it won’t give any noticeable movement when you get it out of the tank.

What Do Snails Look Like When They Are Dead?

A dead snail will be completely motionless even when you remove it from the water. You can find it lying face up on a substrate at the tank base or on a substrate. It will start decomposing, and the shell will eventually empty, depending on how long the snail has been dead.

After a few hours to days after the snail’s death, you will find its body shrinking. The body will hang out of the shell and eventually fall off after a while. The entire shell will hang lifeless even with the body still hanging on.

The shell will appear extremely light when you hold it. Some shells might lose their actual color. But note that dead snails might not float on top of the water.

After days or weeks of the snail’s death, the shell will become empty. The emptiness of the shell means the complete decomposition of the snail’s body. It will also help you to estimate how long the snail might have died.

The dead snail will not give any obvious response when you touch its sensitive parts. It will also remain unresponsive in the presence of food or raised temperature.

Do Snails Fall Out of Their Shells When They Die?

Of course, dead snails will fall out of their shell after a while.

A dead snail would not be able to pull itself inside. After a few days or weeks, the snail’s body will eventually fall off because it will lose its attachment to its shell due to rot.

The body of a dead snail will start to rot after hours or days after its death. This decomposition will loosen its attachment to the shell, eventually causing it to fall off.

Do Dead Snails Smell?

Smelling or the smell test is one of the most reliable ways to tell if your snail is dead. Once you remove the snail from the tank, bring it close to your nose. Dead and decomposing snails give an unappealing smell of ammonia.

Snails decompose rapidly once they pass away. Consequently, it will start smelling almost immediately. Just like most other dead animals, a dead snail will start smelling bad.

Be careful while handling any snail you suspect to be dead. Parts or the entire body of the dead snail might fall off. It might be horrible if it falls back into the tank.

Also, if any of these parts of the fluids come in contact with your hand, it will transfer the obnoxious smell. The challenging part is getting rid of these small things from your hand. You might find it tough.

Do Snails Sleep?

Like every other living thing, snails do sleep when they deem fit. But unlike humans and most other animals, snails do not follow the day and night sleeping routine. Instead, they sleep for about 13 to 15 hours which keeps them active for the next 24 to 40 hours.

However, you might find it challenging to figure out of your snail is sleeping or not. Unlike other animals that close their eyes or snore, snails might not show any apparent signs. Nevertheless, there are ways you can figure out if your fish is sleeping.

  1. The snail’s shell might hang away from its body lightly
  2. Its tentacles will not be at the full length
  3. It will have a relaxed food stuck in the side of the tank or on a substrate
  4. It might also remain stuck on tank decorations for a long time
  5. A sleeping snail will offer a reduced response to food and touch
  6. The shell can flop due to a relaxed mantle resulting from sleeping

A sleeping snail might appear very much like a dead one. Do not be too quick to mourn or dispose of the snail. Ensure that you are sure about its state before jumping to conclusions.

YouTube video

How Long Do Snails Sleep?

Snails do not have regular sleep patterns, and they can sleep for long hours. Some snails can even remain inactive for days. On average, snails can sleep for about 13 hours which keeps them charged for the next 24 to 40 hours.

In some cases, snails will sleep after eating, and they will remain inactive until they get hungry again. After this bout, they can remain active for over 30 hours before repeating the sleep cycle.

Some snails like the Helena snails can remain inactive for up to seven days after consuming their prey. They will remain in an inactive state until they are hungry again and start looking for food. This long sleeping period is why it is easy to confuse a sleeping snail for a dead one.

Also, time does not seem to play a role in the sleeping bouts of snails. Meaning they don’t observe the day and night routine like most other animals and humans. Their sleeping time and activity can cover both day and night.

Note that when snails go into hibernation, they can remain inactive for long periods. They can remain hibernating for two years or even more. They often go into hibernation when the condition becomes unfavorable.

How Do You Wake Up A Snail?

Snail sleeping can be ideal at first, but you might need them active if the sleep becomes excessive. You can wake your snail by gradually increasing the temperature of the tank. The warmth will trigger the snails to respond, therefore bringing them back from sleep.

Alternatively, you can transfer the sleeping snails to a warm plate. The heat from the plate will trigger them back to life. This method is best when you don’t want to raise the temperature of the entire tank.

Touching the snails in sensitive parts like the belly and tentacles also helps to wake them up. You can also put food in front of its face to wake it. But this method might not be as effective as touching its sensitive parts.

But waking snails require care. Abruptly changing their environmental condition can stress the snail to death. It can even stress other members of your tank. So, it is best only to increase their environmental temperature gradually.

Also, it is best always to grab your snail by the shell regardless if they are sleeping or dead. Handling them carelessly can damage their mantle or other sensitive parts. Severe damage will lead to the eventual death of the snail.

Do Snails Hibernate?

Of course, snails do hibernate. Hibernation is one of the typical behaviors of mollusks, particularly in the wild. You can speculate that your snail has gone into hibernation when the sleep begins to last more than 24 hours.

Most snail species will only go into hibernation when the environment becomes too dry and cold. This habit typically occurs in snails during winter with snails living in the wild. If you are not observant, you might think that a hibernating snail is dead.

A snail hibernating is a means of conserving energy and protecting itself from harsh conditions. Their heart rate will reduce, and all energy-demanding activities of their body will momentarily stop.

Most land snails will hibernate for up to 3 years. They will most likely remain in this state as long as the environment is unfavorable. Since hibernation indicates a cold and dry environment, you can rouse the snail by creating a warm and wet environment.

A similar condition is estivation. This condition occurs when the environment becomes excessively dry and hot. It is common during summer with snails that live in the wild.

A lengthy sleep will begin once the snail discovers that the environment lacks moisture. The condition worsens when it is too hot.

The snail can hide behind a coating. This coating is evidence of the snail hiding from the unfavorable conditions. If your snail displays this condition, you should consider lowering its environmental temperature.

You can expect a snail to hibernate or estivate when the temperature rises above 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why Is My Snail Not Moving?

Snails might stop moving for varieties of reasons, especially when the conditions are not favorable. They might also stop moving when they find themselves in a new tank. Sleeping or hibernation and death are other reasons why snails might stop moving.

When these animals are not moving, you will find them stuck on various surfaces within the tank. Most aquarium snails will stop moving when they are stressed. The major reason for stress in-tank snails includes poor water conditions and temperature, increased ammonia level, unsuitable pH level, and aggressive tank mates.

Also, tank snails typically take up to 2 to 3 days to acclimatize to a new environment. The snails might stop moving during this period. It is best to observe and give them enough time and room to acclimatize.

Sleeping or hibernating snails will not move as well. Their sleeping bout can be any time of the day or night. They only stay stuck to the tank walls, substrates, or flowers.

Similarly, a dead snail will not move no matter how much you try. Lack of movement is one of the best confirmations for finding out if your snail is dead. To confirm a snail’s death, you might have to bring it out of the tank and observe.

Do Snails Not Move for Days?

Of course, it is possible for tank snails not to move for days. This still condition can go on for days when the snail is hibernating. In the worst scenario, snails will remain not to move for days when they are dead.

Snails in a new environment might need 2 to 3 days to get used to the environment. They might remain still during this period without any noticeable movement. But they will resume their regular movement once they adapt to their new environment.

The same thing can apply when they are stressed due to poor environmental conditions. They might remain without movement as long as the conditions remain unfavorable.

So, there is no reason to panic if your snail does not move for days. First off, confirm that the snail is not dead by touching some sensitive parts. Next, figure out the possible cause of this lack of movement.

Also, note that snails rarely give sharp movement, especially when it comes to changing positions. They are relatively slow when it comes to moving between two points. But they give sharp movement of body parts when you touch-sensitive areas.

Can A Snail Survive Without A Shell?

Can humans survive without skin or bones? You have your answer right there! Snails cannot live without their shells, just as humans cannot cope without bones or skin. The snail’s shell plays a vital role in its survival and existence.

The snail’s shell serves as protection against various environmental vices. It is an exoskeleton that lowers its vulnerability to predators. It also protects the flexible internal organs from mechanical damage and drying out.

Asides from the above, other function of a snail’s shell include;

  1. It protects the snail from dehydration
  2. The shell serves as calcium storage for the snail
  3. It is the point of muscle attachment, which is vital for the snail’s movement
  4. This part helps to safely grab and hold the snail without any form of damage
  5. The shell houses the snail during unfavorable conditions or when it is time to hibernate

Shell is vital to the life processes of a snail. The snail will not survive when the shell breaks significantly. But they will repair and regrow the shell in case of little crack as long as the environment is favorable.

Snails do not die immediately their shell is broken, but they will die eventually.

How Long Can Snails Go Without Food?

Food is vital to the life processes of living things, and the snail is not an exception. However, snails can survive without food for weeks or months. Land snails can go for months without eating, especially during hibernation.

Snails are not greedy eaters, in case you are wondering how much they need to it. In general, they can go a few weeks without eating. Some will conveniently cope with the lack of food for months.

However, it is best to understand that the diversity of aquarium snails. The ability to survive without food varies greatly with each species. But it generally ranges from weeks to months. Hibernating land snails will even go for years.

Nevertheless, starving an aquarium snail is not a good idea. Aside from the fact that it will stunt the snail’s growth, the snails will become vulnerable to stress. If it becomes excessive, it can cause the snail to die.

How Do You Get A Dead Snail Out of Its Shell?

Interestingly, you don’t have to keep your snail around 24 or 48 hours after death to get them out of the shell. You can place them in boiling water right after death. Let it boil for a few minutes before taking them out and shaving vigorously.

Leaving the snail to start decomposing before attempting to take it out might cause real pollution. Unless you wait for it to fall out itself, pulling the snails out while decomposing is equally tasking. Boiling will also make it easy to get rid of the smell.

What Is the Life Expectancy of a Snail?

The life expectancy of a snail varies depending on the species. It is also dependent on where it lives, in the wild or captivity. On average, a snail can live up to 2 to 7 years in the wild, depending on the species.

The life expectancy can extend up to 10 to 15 years in captivity if the conditions are right. They often live the double digits in captivity without special aid. You might be enjoying the presence of your snail for up to a decade.

Aquarium snails do not need a very special care routine, unlike fish. All you have to do is provide them with basic life needs.

Snails can go into hibernation when the condition becomes unfavorable. This adaptive behavior makes them beat certain factors that might shorten their life span. The presence of a shell will also offer more protective features.

Factors that can influence the life expectancy of snails in captivity include;

  1. Temperature
  2. pH and humidity
  3. The behavior of other tank mates
  4. Feeding
  5. Water quality and other environmental conditions

How Long Can Snails Go Without Air?

Air (oxygen) is one of the basic requirements of life in most animals. Snails also need air for their survival and will barely survive 24 hours if there is an insufficient oxygen supply. Some species might survive a little longer, but none can exceed 72 hours.

There are different species of snails, and each species have a specialized technique for air exchange. Most land sails and some freshwater and marine snails have a single lung. They use this long for air exchange (taking in oxygen and letting out carbon dioxide).

Some freshwater snails use gills instead of lungs. These species can only utilize oxygen dissolved in water. The gills serve as a medium for effective air exchange.

Other freshwater species that use lungs have to come to the water surface to tap atmospheric oxygen. They can not breathe unless they come to the water’s surface. Breathing with lungs is typical inland and pond snails.

How Long Can Snails Go Without Water?

Water is another essential element of life for most living things. Snails, particularly water species (freshwater and marine), might find it hard to live out of water for long. They can barely survive 2 to 3 hours outside water.

Land snails that have lungs can survive for much longer. On average, most species can go 2 to 3 days without water. Some types can even stay up to 5 days conveniently in the absence of water.

Most times, snails will go into hibernation when the environment becomes too dry. They will seal themselves up behind a white coating and breathe air. They conserve energy and slow metabolism during this period, which will help them survive for much longer.

Snails outside the tank can get water from various sources. Land snails get water from puddles on leaves and the juicy plants they eat. Marine snails will take water alongside the food they ingest, and their excretory system will help them get rid of excess salt.


Like most other living things, snails have the time they sleep, and they eventually die. But the long inactivity and long hours during their sleeping time can make one think snails are dead while sleeping. So, don’t be too quick to dispose of your snails thinking they are dead.

It is best to understand how you can differentiate a sleeping snail from a dead one. If you notice the inactivity of your snail for a long time, check if the snails are dead or alive using the confirmation methods above.

But it is best to be aware that snails also need their sleep and rest time. Avoid posing unnecessary disturbance each time they are asleep to prevent stressing them out.