Why Do Aquarium Snails Die? (11 Main Reasons)

Image of aquarium snail sitting on gravel

The primary reason for mortality in wild snails is predation. However, the home aquarium is a whole different story. In captivity, aquarium snails depend entirely on their owner’s intervention to stay alive. But then, why do aquarium snails die?

Following are the most common reasons for aquarium snails to die:

  1. Unfavorable living conditions,
  2. Adverse water parameters and temperature,
  3. Poor water quality and hygiene,
  4. Inadequate food,
  5. Parasites and diseases,
  6. Aggressive tankmates,
  7. Lack of oxygen,
  8. Accidents,
  9. Contaminated food,
  10. Excessive sunlight, and
  11. Salt and copper.

Let’s now discuss each of these reasons one-by-one.

11 Main Reasons Why Aquarium Snails Die

Given below are the 11 main reasons that usually lead to the death of aquarium snails.

1. Unfavorable living conditions.

There are multiple species of freshwater and marine water snails. If you put a marine water snail into a freshwater aquarium, the chances of its survival are less.

Nerite snails are a good example of this. The natural habitat of nerite snails is along the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic coastlines. In the wild, nerite snails migrate between salty and brackish waters as they grow and reproduce.

So, many aquarists prefer nerite snails as they do not reproduce in freshwater. However, sometimes these snails may succumb to stress and die in freshwater since they are deprived of the brackish water that they need for survival.

2. Adverse water parameters and temperature.

Unfavorable water parameters and temperature are one of the primary reasons for aquarium snails to die. Snails are susceptible to temperature and humidity. Sudden changes in water temperature and parameters can be stressful to snails, and they can die.

The ideal water parameters for snails to survive are:

  • Water Temperature: 65°F to 84°F,
  • pH Level: 7.6 to 8.4,
  • Water Hardness: 7 to 9 dGH.

If the water temperature falls drastically below 50°F, your snails will die within a few days. Similarly, if the water temperature becomes very high, your snails will not be able to cope with the heat and will eventually die.

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3. Poor water quality and hygiene.

Water quality is of utmost importance for aquatic life to thrive. If the water quality is poor, your aquarium snails will start to die. To live a healthy life, snails require a stable environment and clean water.

Snails are sensitive to high levels of toxins in the water. So, ammonia and nitrite levels in your tank water should be 0 ppm. Polluted water results in immunological weakness in snails. This leads to general poor health and infection in snails, resulting in their death.

Similarly, poor hygiene also contributes to the untimely death of aquarium snails. Snails are sensitive to their immediate environment. If there is too much slime in the aquarium water, your snails will start dying.

4. Inadequate food.

Starvation is yet another reason for aquarium snails to die. If snails do not get adequate food, they will starve to death.

When snails have not eaten for a while, they tend to lose appetite. In such scenarios, it sometimes becomes difficult to get them to eat again. Your aquarium snails may then fall sick and eventually die.

5. Parasites and diseases.

Aquarium snails can die because of untreated diseases and infections. Bacteria, fungus, or parasites cause snail diseases.

The majority of snail diseases are highly transmittable from one snail to another. So, if any of your snails get infected and are not treated with proper medication, it can lead to their death.

Unfortunately, many snail diseases and infections are understudied when compared to other livestock diseases. So, you need to be more careful if your aquarium snail gets infected to avoid any transmission of infection.

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6. Aggressive tankmates.

Snails are peaceful creatures. Hence, if you have a tank with multiple snails and fish species, you need to check their compatibility.

Fish such as Clown Loach, Betta, Cory Catfish, and Gourami are some of the fish that can make a meal of your aquarium snails.

7. Lack of oxygen.

Oxygen is essential for all animals, including snails. Some snail species such as nerite snails and mud snails have gills instead of lungs. So, such snails have to depend on the oxygen dissolved in the water.

If the tank water’s oxygen levels drop, it can cause snails to suffocate while breathing. They will then crawl towards the tank’s surface to gasp for air.

If your aquarium snails are deprived of oxygen for too long, it can prove detrimental to their health, and your snails can die.

Overstocking of inhabitants in the tank, excess waste, high water temperature, biofilm, and poor water quality are the main reasons for low oxygen levels in the tank water.

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8. Accidents.

Snails are well-known for climbing the tank’s surface. While climbing, if the aquarium snails fall in the tank and end up hitting their shell on the sand, they may die due to injury.

Most of the snails in the wild are not adapted to right themselves when flipped over. This is because, in their wild habitat, they are not climbing at all. So, they do not face such situations.

When such snails fall accidentally in the tank upside down, they cannot right themselves without help. Being upside down for a short period does not harm the snails. However, if they remain in that position for a longer duration, they can be easy prey for aggressive tankmates. Moreover, they will not be able to eat anything and may eventually die.

Astraea snails and large Cowrie snails are notorious for climbing, falling, and dying due to their clumsiness.

Another example of accidental death is strong filter intake. Mystery snails sometimes get drawn to the filter intake in search of food. This may prove disastrous as their head may get stuck in the slots. If the snail cannot remove itself, it will result in stress, leading to its death.

9. Contaminated food.

Contaminated food is yet another reason for aquarium snails to die. If your aquarium snails consume contaminated food, they will get infected and become sick. This will result in their death.

Fruits and vegetables can get contaminated with pesticides. If these foods are not appropriately washed before feeding them to the snails, it may result in death.

10. Excessive sunlight.

Direct sunlight poses a threat to snails. Snails don’t like sunlight. That is why you will find snails active in the wild during the night and on cloudy days.

If you have an aquarium facing direct sunlight, the aquarium snails will stop eating. They will hide inside their shells. Lack of food may result in the death of aquarium snails.

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11. Salt and copper.

Salt is hazardous to the existence of snails. If your aquarium snail comes in contact with salt, it is fatal.

Salt draws out the moisture from the snail’s body resulting in dehydration. When salt gets sprinkled on the snail’s body, water gets sucked out of the snail’s body via a process called osmosis. Your snail will ultimately die once the water dries out.

Similarly, copper is fatal to a snail’s existence. So, if you put any plant fertilizers or tank medication containing copper ingredients in the tank, it can prove fatal to aquarium snails.

Alright! That was mainly about the adult snails. So, the next question that arises is about baby snails. What can be the possible reasons for baby snails to die?

Why Do Baby Snails Die?

Baby snails need proper care and maintenance to grow healthy. Just like adult snails, baby snails may die if they do not get adequate food and nutrition. Baby snails need more calcium intake for their shell development.

If baby snails do not get adequate calcium sources, it can erode their shell. This may prove fatal. Poor water quality and hardness results in the erosion of baby snails’ shells. If their shells crack due to lack of calcium, it will result in their death.

Besides, baby snails are easy prey for aggressive carnivore fish. Therefore, they can be easily eaten by the larger aggressive fish in the tank.

Another reason for baby snails to die is accidental death. Since baby snails are small, they are difficult to locate in a large tank. So, if they fall between the gravel, you will not be able to locate them. After falling, if the baby snails get injured and are left untreated, it may lead to their untimely death.

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Should Dead Snails Be Removed From The Aquarium?

When you notice a dead snail in your aquarium, the first thing to do is to remove it immediately and replace the water. If you have many snails in the aquarium, you should remove the dead snail carefully. You need to first transfer the alive snails into a separate tank with clean water and then remove the dead snail.

If the dead snail is not removed, it will result in an ammonia spike in your tank water and will pose a serious threat to other living inhabitants of the tank. Besides, there is also a high risk of spreading diseases to the living snails.

The guts of a snail decompose rapidly for a few hours after death. However, the shell does not decompose until it is crushed. So, it’s crucial to remove the dead snail to prevent the water from getting polluted.