Can Aquarium Snails Drown? (Nerite, Mystery, Etc.)

Image of multiple aquarium snails in an aquarium

Terrestrial snails need air to survive. Meanwhile, aquatic snails spend most of their time underwater. However, most aquatic snails have both lungs and gills. You may also have noticed that these animals often come to the water surface to catch air. So, can aquarium snails drown?

Aquarium snails usually can’t drown. Most aquatic snails have gills that allow them to breathe underwater. Some aquatic snails with gills also have a snorkel tube to gulp air from above the water surface. They will move towards the surface to siphon water from above the waterline when they need air.

Although land snails and aquarium snails belong to the same category in the animal kingdom, they have stark differences. It includes how they breathe and the organs they have for this purpose. Let us explore this in closer detail.

Can Snails Breathe Underwater?

Did you know that there are thousands of species of snails? They can be generally classified into terrestrial and aquatic. Aquatic snails are further divided into freshwater snails and saltwater snails.

There are various physiological differences between these different types of snails. Their ability to breathe underwater also depends on the type of snail.

Terrestrial Snails – Do They Drown In Water?

Terrestrial snails have adaptations to survive on land. They breathe oxygen using their lungs. Hence, they are called pulmonates. These snails do not have well-developed gills to breathe underwater. Neither can they swim.

Terrestrial snails do not do well in water since it is not their natural habitat. If you put a terrestrial snail in water, it will struggle and even end up drowning when there is too much water.

How long does it take for a snail to drown?

It depends on the type of snail. Most land snails do not have well-developed gills to breathe underwater. So, they will usually drown in less than 24 hours. However, some snails have an operculum. It is a door that seals the shell of the snail and protects it from the external environment. Operculate land snails can survive for long if the operculum forms a good seal. Nevertheless, these snails also cannot survive for too long if they are put in water.

Related Further Reading:

Aquatic Snails – Do They Drown In Water?

Aquatic snails have gills. However, some of them also have lungs to breathe in air.

Air-breathing snails have reduced gills. They rely on their lungs for oxygen. Such snails regularly go to the water surface to fill their lungs with oxygen.

Although they stay submerged for several hours, these snails will drown and die when denied access to the water surface.

Saltwater snails use gills for breathing. These animals have comb-like gills that deliver the required oxygen needed for their survival. Hence, saltwater snails can live underwater.

Most aquarium snails are freshwater snails. These creatures will either have lungs, gills, or both. Some snails keep a small air bubble inside their shell. They use the oxygen in this bubble to breathe while they are underwater. Such snails will occasionally return to the surface of the water to refresh their bubble.

Let us look at some of the most common aquarium snails to understand how they breathe.

Pond Snails

Pond snails have lungs to obtain oxygen. These animals stay underwater for extended durations of time. It is because they have triangular tentacle lobes that are rich in blood vessels. This feature allows pond snails to breathe underwater by tissue respiration.

When they breathe in air, pond snails will flood this pallial cavity with oxygen. They can then use it as a basic gill when they cannot rise to the surface to breathe. It even allows them to survive in winter when the pond surface freezes.

The respiratory hole in a pond snail is further extended to form a respiratory tube. This tube acts as a snorkel, delivering oxygen from above the surface to the snail when necessary.

Nerite Snails

Nerite snails are supposedly marine creatures that transitioned into freshwater habitats. They live in brackish water in the wild.

Most marine snails breathe with gills. Nerite snails also breathe with their gills. So, they need water with dissolved oxygen to survive. Nonetheless, nerite snails will climb above the water surface and hang there for a while.

These creatures will not drown in water since they have respiratory adaptations to survive in water.

Related Further Reading:

Mystery Snails

Mystery snails are very common aquarium pets. Their large, colorful shells and unique shape make them very attractive to aquatic hobbyists.

Mystery snails have a unique way of breathing. These animals have developed both aerial and aquatic respiration. They have gills, lungs, and an additional breathing tube called a siphon.

Mystery snails use gills and the siphon for breathing underwater. This tube extends out from their bodies. The snail can move this tube up and down.

When they need to take air in, they extend the tube to the top of the waterline. It moves back and forth, pushing the air in.

Can Mystery Snails Drown?

In the wild, mystery snails remain submerged in water to escape predators. However, they come to the water surface when they need air. Mystery snails also use their siphon to refresh the air inside their lungs.

Since mystery snails can use their siphon for breathing, there is a very small chance for them to drown. Mystery snails are usually more affected by lack of water than too much of it.

Female mystery snails will come out of the water to breathe or lay eggs. They will shortly return to the water since they cannot stay out for too long.

Aquatic snails need moisture for survival. Extended exposure to air can cause the moisture in their skin to evaporate. Getting dehydrated in this manner can kill them. However, the length of time for which they can stay out of water varies.

Some snails can stay out of water for a few days. Others are affected faster. They die in a matter of hours. The duration of survival depends on the size and type of snail. So, snails will not generally risk drying out. They will return to the water quickly.

How Long Can Mystery Snails Hold Their Breath?

Mystery snails can survive even if they do not come to the water surface for a long time. Since these creatures perform both aquatic and aerial respiration, they are better adapted to survive in water.

If mystery snails feel a dire need to breathe air, they will quickly reach the surface. These animals can hold their breath for a long time.

Interesting Further Reading:

Can Snail Eggs Drown?

It depends on the type of snail eggs. Some aquarium snails lay their eggs in the water, while others choose dry surfaces like the walls of the tank, leaves of aquatic plants, and other surfaces.

By instinct, a snail can recognize ideal conditions for its eggs to survive. So, it is best to keep the snail eggs in the same location to help them hatch. If the snail lays eggs inside water, leave it there to improve its chances of hatching. If the eggs are laid outside water, exposure to moisture might cause rotting and reduce their chances of hatching.

Some snails, like the mystery snail, lay eggs above the water surface. It is because these eggs will drown when submerged in water. However, mystery snail eggs need to be moist to hatch into offspring. So, submerging it in water reduces the chances of the egg hatching into live snail babies.