Here’s Why Aquarium Snails Float + How To Stop Their Floating

Image of floating aquarium snails

Aquarium snails are notorious. You will often see them climbing up the aquarium glass, trying to escape, or just messing up the live plants in the tank. However, sometimes you may notice the snails floating. So, why do aquarium snails float?

Aquarium snails may float due to poor water quality, trapped air in their lungs, water film, stress, a sudden change in water parameters, or an illness. However, it is usual for snails to float even when they are healthy. In the wild, healthy snails float to change location or in search of food.

Having said that, the floating of aquarium snails is considered to be a bit abnormal. Snails in the wild indeed tend to float for their benefit. However, the same is not true for snails in captivity. So, let’s dive deeper and learn about the various reasons for aquarium snails to float.

7 Main Reasons Why Aquarium Snails Float

Here are 7 main reasons why aquarium snails float:

1. Trapped Air

One of the primary reasons for aquarium snails to float is the air trapped in their lungs. When the air gets trapped in a snails’ lungs, they blow up like a balloon and start floating on the surface of the water. This is most common in snails with lungs.

The air gets trapped while the snails move around in the tank or due to the air bubbles in the aquarium. Such snails keep floating as long as the air is trapped inside their lungs. Once the snails open up and release the air, they fall back to the bottom of the tank and get normal.

However, if you observe your snail floating for a longer period, you can gently hold the snail and move it up and down to free the trapped air. You can even swirl the snail a bit. You need to be gentle, else the snail may get hurt in the process.

If you succeed, the air will get released from the snail’s body by doing the above procedure. The snail will then sink in the water and again become active. However, if it remains floating, then there is some issue that may need medical attention.

2. Poor Water Quality

Clean water is essential for all water pets to thrive. If the water quality of your aquarium is terrible, the aquarium snails will start floating.

Your snails may also try to climb on the tank and jump out of the lousy habitat. If you find your snails not only floating but also trying to climb out of the water, it is a clear indication that they are suffocating due to the contaminated water.

You need to then check the water quality with either test strips or liquid tests. The primary reason for polluted water is an increase in the levels of nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia.

In such a case, you can do a partial water change. You can change 20% of the water every day and continue doing until the snails stop floating and settle down in the aquarium.

Even keeping the tank water warm helps to calm down the snails. You can additionally clean all the debris inside the tank and set the right water temperature for the snails to feel comfortable.

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3. Strong Filter

To purify the water, we often install high power filters in our aquarium. This may sometimes prove disastrous for the pet inside the aquarium.

Another reason for the aquarium snails to float is the high pressure created by the filter. In such a case, your snails often lose their balance and coordination and start floating. The high pressure in the tank should not be overlooked as it can make the snails really sick.

To fix this issue, you can always switch your filter to low power. This will help release the pressure, and the snails will become active again. However, if the snails still do not respond, they are sick, and you need to consult a veterinarian.

4. Water Film

Film in the aquarium water is yet another common reason for snails to float upside down. The film is formed by poor surface agitation or harmless bacteria that allow the food particles and plant protein to accumulate. This results in the formation of a thin and foamy film.

This film is not harmful, and you can often see your aquarium snails happily munching on it. In the process, your snails will float upside down at the top to eat the film.

If you don’t want a film to form, you can increase your filter power, use a paper towel, or simply add an air stone. These will dissipate the foam, and your tank water will be clear of any film.

5. Stress

Stress can also make the aquarium snails float. Stress may occur due to unfavorable water parameters. The water temperature or the pH of the water is the primary concern here.

Usually, you may find your snails floating when you have just introduced them in your tank or have done a large water change. In such instances, your snails get stressed as they cannot cope with the sudden change in water parameters.

Since the snails cannot control the water parameters, they will either hang out of the shell or try to escape from the tank to survive.

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6. Copper Poisoning

You may be surprised to know that snails can also float due to copper poisoning. In such a case, you will find the snails sick and floating in the tank water. They will hang out of their shell and not attempt to attach to anything. It is a clear indication that the snails are ill.

Aquarist often set up a cultivated tank with water pets and live plants to enhance its beauty. For the healthy growth of live plants, fertilizers with copper are put into the tank. A small amount of copper is indeed beneficial for aquarium plants. However, it can sometimes prove deadly for the aquarium snails. Snails are vulnerable to high dosages of copper.

If you find the snails floating, you can immediately transfer them to another tank with clear water and watch their reaction. If they stop floating and become active, you don’t have to worry much.

However, if you find the snails floating for a prolonged period, say for a week, they are probably poisoned by something in the tank and need immediate attention.

7. Incomplete Nitrogen Cycle

When you set up a new aquarium, it is essential to perform the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle is a procedure that naturally eliminates ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites from the tank. After a few days, good bacteria start to grow in the tank. This good bacterium helps recycle the waste material and convert them into harmless products so that the tank inhabitants can thrive.

It takes around 2 to 6 weeks to complete the nitrogen cycle. If you introduce the snails before this cycle ends, they will not survive and may die due to high levels of ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. The aquarium snails will start floating on the surface of the tank due to unbearable high toxins.

To eradicate this issue, you need to keep your tank water clean of ammonia and nitrates. You can use the water test kits to check the water quality.

Alright! So, these are all the possible reasons for your aquarium snails to float in captivity. However, you will be amused to know that snails also float on their own in the wild. So…

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Why Do Snails Float In The Wild?

Given below are the reasons why snails float in the wild:

1. To Change Location

Snails are one of the slow-moving species and are not the best swimmers. If they want to change the location, swimming will take a lot of effort and time for them.

In the wild, snails float to travel faster in flowing streams. They become buoyant by storing some amount of air in their shells. Then the floating snails get swiped away by the current, and they reach a new place without much effort.

Snails mainly do this to get away from polluted water. Once the snails reach the desired place, they open their shells and release the trapped air. They then sink in the water and start their life in the new environment.

2. To Search For Food

Scientists from the University of Michigan and Leiden University discovered something interesting.

Many years ago, the female wentletrap snails used to attach themselves to their eggs by creating a mucus-like slimy material around their eggs. During that time, air may have penetrated these egg bubbles, making them float to the surface of the water. So when the eggs hatched, the baby wentletrap snails got plenty of food in their new surroundings.

As years went by and snails evolved, this creation of air bubbles in the egg mucus must have become a common phenomenon so that the baby snails could get plenty of food once they were born.

Related Further Reading:

How To Test If A Floating Aquarium Snail Is Healthy?

Now that you are aware of the reasons that make the aquarium snails float, you must be wondering how to figure out if a floating snail is healthy. Given below are the various ways to determine this.

  1. When you observe a floating snail, check its body. If you find the snail’s body loose and it isn’t retracting in the shell, then it’s not a good sign. The snail is sick, and it needs a medical check-up.
  2. Another way is to tap your snail’s shell gently when it is floating. If the snail retracts and puts its head inside the shell, you don’t have to worry. Your snail is healthy.
  3. You can even take out the floating snail on a paper towel and observe its reaction. If your snail shows some movement and hides inside the shell, then your snail is fine.
  4. You can put some food in the tank and check whether your snail eats it. If the snail is healthy, it will munch on the food. On the other hand, if it is not healthy, it will not show any signs and remain floating.

In short, if your snail is floating and shows some movement or retract its head in the shell, it is absolutely fine. However, if its body is loose and it remains floating, then the snail is sick and needs the help of a veterinarian to recover.

Do Aquarium Snails Float When They Die?

Yes, aquarium snails do float when they die. This usually happens when snails die of old age. Once you find out that a snail is dead, it should be immediately removed from the tank, and the water should be changed.

You need to remove the dead snail immediately to avoid the risk of spreading any diseases to the other living snails in the aquarium.

Okay! So now that you know about the possible reasons for your aquarium snails to float, you must be wondering if it’s possible to stop them from floating.

Interesting Further Reading:

How To Stop Aquarium Snails From Floating When They Are Unhealthy?

Floating for some time is not at all dangerous for snails. It is natural for them. You don’t have to panic and take immediate action. However, if the snails remain floating for a prolonged duration, it is a matter of concern.

Here are some ways to stop aquarium snails from floating:

  • Check the quality of water and water parameters. If you have contaminated water in your tank, the snails will float due to stress.
  • You need to keep the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels in check by regular water change. You can make use of a liquid test kit or any other strips to check the water quality.
  • Snails prefer water temperature in the range of 75°F to 85°F (from 23.8°C to 29.4°C), and the ideal pH level is between 7 to 7.5.
  • Another way is to feed a nutritious diet to the snails. If the snails are hungry and don’t find any food, they will probably float upside down on the tank’s surface in an attempt to eat the formed film. The film is not dangerous to the snails. However, it is not nutritious either. To get rid of the film, you can increase the filter power or add an air stone in your tank.
  • If the snails are still floating, you can gently relocate them to the tank’s glass walls or any other surface on which they can attach their muscular foot. This will help them to release any trapped air.
  • If you have a mystery snail and identified an air bubble inside it, you need to gently pick up the snail and hold it upside down in the water. You can then slowly rotate your snail in a circular motion to help the air bubble escape. You need to make sure that the air bubble leaves the snail’s shell.