How Do You Know Your Pet Snail Died?

Keeping a snail as a pet isn’t an uncommon concept. There are many people who keep snails in a tank and even in their backyard. 

If you’ve entered the snail parent gang recently, there are some things you need to know about the way they sleep, eat, and move. 

New snail parents often get confused when they see their snail sleeping for hours. Are they dead or they’re just sleeping? 

A snail hibernates for many days, and it’s possible they might sit in the same space for a while. If the snail has not moved in two days and is smelling funny, then there is a possibility your little friend has moved to heaven for good. 

How Do You Know Your Pet Snail Died

Wish to know more? Well, here’s an article that answers the following question – How do you know your pet snail died? 

Nobody would want their pet snail to die, but it’s not an immortal creature. Dive in to find out the signs that a pet snail has died. There is more information in here, so keep reading. 

How to tell if a snail is dead?

Snails can hibernate for many days at a stretch. There are some signs that can tell you that it’s alive. 

• Let’s say if their foot is still attached to any component inside the tank such as the filter, then it’s certainly alive and thriving. 

• If your snail is all curled up inside the shell and is attached to some or the other components, then it is definitely alive. 

We hate to say this, but when the body drifts away from the shell, then your snail has probably moved to heaven. 

Physical examination is extremely crucial here. You have to pull up the snail and see if the body goes into the shell. If yes, your snail is still alive. 

We don’t recommend you remove the little snail from its tank for a long time. That’s because a dried-up snail will die sooner or later, so don’t do that experimentation. 

It’s confusing because freshwater snails look like they are drop dead because of their inactivity. Sometimes, they will float to the surface due to several reasons (we’ll get to that later). If you push them gently, they might get back to their previous or active state. 

Observe the trap door as well. The trap door remains shut if the snail is alive and kicking. An open trap door means your snail has died. 

5 Ways to Tell Your Aquarium Snail is Dead or Just Sleeping 

Whenever an organism dies, the body starts decaying. This decaying procedure releases tons of ammonia. Now, a snail’s body will decompose/decay a lot sooner as compared to other creatures. This will lead to a lot of ammonia pollution inside the tank. 

Even if you have plants and filters inside the tank, it cannot get rid of ammonia at a fast pace. Ammonia is very toxic for aquatic species like fishes, snails, axolotls, and more.

Ways to Tell Your Aquarium Snail is Dead or Just Sleeping 

When this ammonia is released into the water, it causes a domino effect and all the other fishes, snails, and axolotls start dying. 

You must remove the dead snail as soon as possible. The question is – How do you say that your snail is dead? Maybe your snail is just sleeping, right? We have mentioned the five ways to tell if your aquarium snail is dead or sleeping. Let’s find out! 

#1 Look for the obvious signs 

Is your snail attached to a décor piece, a filter, or the glass? If that’s so, your snail is fit and fine. A dead snail won’t be able to stick to a particular surface. 

We hate to sound pessimistic, but a dead snail’s shell will fall and be upside down. 

Is the body hanging out of the shell? If yes, your pet snail is dead. If that’s so, pick up the shell and the body and discard it. You can also give them a final goodbye in a respectful way by burying them. 

Now, there’s another obvious sign here: Whenever a snail dies, the body will shrink inside the shell and will also decompose. The shell will start feeling light and dull. You must examine the shell closely. If it’s empty or the snail’s body comes out of it – consider it as dead. 

Usually, when a snail dies, its body shrinks into the shell and slowly decomposes.

#2 The Smell Test 

You might think it’s a morbid topic to talk about, but many snail parents actually go to the search engine and find answers to such queries. 

Whenever a creature dies, they start smelling funny. It’s a bad smell. Have you ever smelled a dead rat or a dog? Snails aren’t an exception. If the snail has been dead for more than 24 hours, the water and the room will start smelling really bad. 

Don’t put your hands inside the aquarium without a glove. The smell won’t go away easily if you put bare hands inside. 

#3 Checking the trapdoor 

There are some snails that don’t have any trap doors, but others do. When your snail is alive, the trap door will remain shut but if you see it is open, say goodbye to your snail. You can try and pull up the trapdoor and see what’s going on inside. 

#4 Check the reaction of the snail 

If your snail has not moved for a very long time, tap on the shell a few times. In case you don’t get a reaction, the little friend has passed away.

Try and tickle the belly no matter how weird it looks. If your snail retracts their bodies into the shell, you have nothing to worry about.  In case of no reaction, your snail is probably dead. 

#5 The Light Test Never Fails 

Use a flashlight or a light bulb and hold the snail against it. This will give you a sneak peek of what’s inside the snail’s shell. If you find that the shell is empty or the body has shrunk, your snail has died. 

Well, try all these five ways to be 100% sure that your snail is dead. Even if it’s alive, you have to ensure that your snail is getting the perfect environment. 

Do dead snails float? 

When a fish floats, your heart sinks because you know it’s dead. Seeing your little snail float can make your heart sink, but it doesn’t always mean that they are dead. 

Here are some reasons as to why your snail is floating on the surface of the water: 

• There is trapped air in their lungs: When the snail closes their shell, air gets trapped in their lungs and the shell. This could make them go to the surface of the water. It’s a balloon-like movement.

When these snails open up the shell, they will sink to the bottom yet again and get attached to a glass or any other surface. 

• Trying to get some air: Snails are not the greatest swimmers, so they might go to the surface to get some air into their shells. They might ride the waves too. A snail does this when they are in the wild. This is to avoid any sort of danger. 

• It’s possible that the water quality is really poor: It could be the pH level, temperature, nitrite, ammonia, or any other dissolved oxygen.

Some of the snails will even try to get out of the tank or stop moving at all. Others will float on the surface. You must check all the water parameters. 

• A hungry snail will float: Your snails might be hungry, that’s why they are floating on the surface. They might eat the flakes, pellets, and other foods that are on the surface of the water. Now, these creatures float upside down to have food, so don’t be worried if they are floating.  

However, be certain that your snail is alive. You can use the above-mentioned methods in the previous section to check whether they’re still alive or not. 

See also: Can a Pet Garden Snail Eat Popcorn? 

What should you do if you’re still not sure? 

There will be times that you’re still not sure whether your snail is dead or not. If you suspect they are dead, you have to try these methods that we’ve mentioned below. 

1.) Put the snail into another tank or a bowl and see if they come out or give a reaction. Tap the shell and try to seek a reaction. If there is no smell and some form of movement, your snail is still alive (in all likelihood). 

2.) Check their living conditions – is there a nitrite spike in their tank? Snails are quite sensitive to water temperature and pH changes. You must check all the possible water parameters.

Does your snail have enough food to eat? If there is another snail in the tank, they might be bullying the first one which is probably the reason why they’re hiding inside the shell. 

3.) Is your snail sick? – If your snail is sick, they could be hiding inside the shell for this reason. You could give them an air bath to fix this issue.

Use a wet towel to make a nest and put your snail right in the middle. When it comes out of the shell, let it stay outside for at least half an hour. Air baths are great for those snails who have fungal infections. 

What to do after a snail dies? 

Phew! This one’s a hard call. Most people get attached to their pets. Even if it’s a snail, you will feel attached to them sooner or later. 

When you are sure that your snail is dead, you must remove the body from the water. 

In case of an ammonia spike, you would need to change the water. If you are not very emotional, then there is an option of letting the carnivore crabs such as hermit crabs eat the snail. 

If there are crabs inside the tank, they will eat the snail within two days. 

Do you need more options? You’ll find them below! 

1.) Throw away the snail, but don’t use bare hands. You must take a scoop or a net to get it out of the aquarium or tank.

Also, you should never throw it in the trash can as the smell would get really bad. Put it in a zip-lock bag and discard it in the nearby garbage (far-away from residential spots). 

2.) When a snail dies, the body shrinks or the shell gets empty. You can clean out the shell using a pocket knife. Scrape off all the remnants and wash it.

This method can be harsh, but some people are okay with it. You can also keep the shell and the body in a zip-lock.

It will decay in some days and the body will be gone. There’s also the method of boiling the shell – the body will come out easily and there won’t be any foul smell too. 

3.) Some people are kind and they’re attached to their pets. You can use the kind method of burying your snail. Put the body in a piece of paper and just dig a little hole in the backyard. Bury your snail and let your lil one rest in peace among all the plants and fruits. 

Death of a snail brings grief and many other emotions in a human being. Now, it really depends on how attached you were to the snail. 

Still have queries regarding the death of snails? Read the FAQs section now! 


1.) How do you know if a snail is dead?

When a snail dies, the body drifts away from the shell. There will be no movement and the snail won’t be able to attach itself to the filter or any décor item inside. 

2.) What to do if a snail is dead in your aquarium?

Remove the snail from the aquarium as the ammonia level can rise and cause a domino effect. 

All the other fishes and snails will die if you don’t remove the dead snail from the aquarium. 

3.) Do aquarium snails float when they’re dead?

Aquarium snails float for various reasons. They could be hungry and eating the pellets in an upside-down position. 

There is a chance your snail might be floating because they need some air. However, do check their shell to ensure they’re not dead. Physical examination is a must in this case. 

Concluding Thoughts 

We hope this in-depth article has answered all your questions. 

Your pet snail could be sleeping, but you have to perform a physical examination to be sure that they’re dead. 

A little tap on the shell or a smell test could help you verify whether your pet snail has died or is simply hibernating in its space. 

Susan R Elliston
I have over 11 years of experience as a vet working with a wonderful variety of species of innocent and lovely animals. Whilst I still work two days a week for a local practice, I realized that I could help more people by sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers.

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