Are my Mystery Snails Fighting or Mating?

More than once, I caught my snails climbing on each other. My initial thoughts were that they are fighting, so I repeatedly separated them. After extensive research on whether snails are fighting or mating when they are on top of each other, I learned that it was a mistake.

If your snails are atop of each other, they are most likely mating and not fighting. Even if the snails are of the same gender, they probably try to mate since they cannot distinguish females from males. However, even if the snails are indeed fighting, they don’t have the tools to harm one another.

As we proceed, I show you why snails tend to spend time on top of each other. That includes two cases that are not related to mating and fighting. I will also teach you what steps to take to prevent your tank population from going amok.

Are my Mystery Snails Fighting or Mating?

This concern is sensible. Aquarium creatures are confusing because the same behavior you see when they fight tends to manifest whenever they mate. As such, you have to learn to differentiate between fighting and mating behavior.

If you mistake fighting behavior for mating behavior, the aquarium creatures in question may kill one another before you intervene. If you confuse mating behavior with fighting behavior, you could prevent successful breeding in your tank.

Though, for the most part, you don’t have that much to worry about where mystery snails are concerned. Snails are peaceful. They don’t have a reputation for attacking their fellow snails or other creatures in the tank.

And even if they wanted to, they are harmless. Mystery snails do not have the tools required to harm their neighbors. They depend heavily on their shells because their only significant response to a threat is to hide.

In that regard, whenever you encounter a situation where you cannot tell whether your mystery snails are fighting or mating, mating is almost always the answer. Of course, it isn’t the only answer. Mystery snails tend to climb on top of one another’s shells during the mating process. 

Why are my Mystery Snails on Top of Each Other?

Mystery snails typically go on top of each other for mating purposes. That usually takes between 2 to 12 hours, and once they are done, the climbing snail will go back down. However, snails also climb on each other when they are fighting, looking for food, or trying to find a place to rest.

As was mentioned earlier, the most common cause for the phenomenon is mating. However, I also found it necessary to elaborate on the other reasons:

1. The Snails are Looking for Food

Mystery snails eat algae and dead plant matter. They will eat it off any surface they can find. That includes decorations and plants. They will also eat algae and plant matter off the shells of other snails. 

Many aquarists have seen their snails climb on top of other snails in search of food. This isn’t dangerous. The snails in question are unlikely to hurt one another during this process.

2. Your Snails are Trying to Rest

Smaller snails can use larger snails as a foothold as they rest or as a means of pulling themselves from one spot to another. Some aquarists have seen smaller snails use larger snails as vehicles. 

They climb onto their shells before the larger snails begin their journey to a new location. This happens because snails are pretty oblivious to one another. They do not always notice the presence of other snails.

This is why some professionals warn beginners against placing large snails and small snails in the same tank. The larger snails may crawl over their smaller counterparts, harming them in the process without realizing it.

That being said, most snails that climb atop one another do so for mating purposes. You should take the factors above into account before you come to any particular conclusion. But for the most part, you have every reason to assume that such behavior is the result of mating. 

Can Snails Harm Each Other While Mating?

Mating can present certain dangers among snails, for instance:

1. The Case of too Many Males

Mystery snails rarely fight. They have peaceful temperaments. However, mating can create conflict if you don’t have enough mystery snails of opposing genders. For breeding to successfully occur, male and female snails must copulate.

A male snail will seek out and mount a female snail. Eventually, the female snail will lay eggs. But if you have more male snails than female snails, some of the male snails may fight one another for the chance to mate with the female.[1] 

If one male snail begins to mate with the female snail, the other males may attempt to fight this snail in an effort to claim the female snail for themselves.

  • Here is a Youtube video that will help you tell whether your snails are males or females:

2. Hostility During Mating

Mystery snails have to mount one another for mating to occur. Sometimes, a male snail will linger on top of another snail because it tries to determine the second snail’s gender. 

On a few occasions, a male snail will attempt to mate with the snail it has mounted even though the second snail is male. When that occurs, the second snail may retaliate against the first snail to resist the mating process.

3. Harassment Towards the Female Snail

When you have more males than females in a tank, the male snails may fight one another for the female. But again, it should be reiterated that mystery snails do not fight, and their conflict in such a case is unlikely to cause harm to the male snails.

The more significant concern is the female snail. Rather than fighting one another, the male snails may harass the female snail. Unfortunately, this can result in the death of the female snail. This can also happen in scenarios where the males mate excessively with the females.

Precluding such persistent harassment, the chances of your mystery snails killing one another are incredibly low. However, accidents may happen. 

For instance, a male snail that climbed onto the shell of a female snail situated in an elevated position may fall off during mating, dropping from a great height and breaking its shell. But for the most part, snails do not harm one another. They do not have the tools.

What do Mystery Snails Look Like When Mating?

When mating, the male mystery snail will go on top of the female and stay there for several hours. The female is usually indifferent to the male’s presence and continues to explore its surroundings. On the other hand, the male typically recedes into its shell and starts fertilizing the female’s eggs.

Mystery snails do not have any unique courting rituals. You need a male and a female snail for successful breeding. The female has eggs that the male has to fertilize. The male mystery snail does this by climbing the female snail’s shell and sticking its penis into the aperture of the female snail.[2] This is where confusion manifests. 

Mating between mystery snails is far from quick. In fact, a male snail can spend several hours on the back of a female snail. The female snail, for its part, may not respond directly to the presence of the male snail.

In fact, in many cases, it will simply continue its normal routine, which includes eating and exploring its surroundings.[3] On the other hand, the male snail is more likely to recede into its shell. It will eventually emerge once the fertilization is done.

Once it climbs off the shell of its mating partner, the female snail will look for a place to lay its eggs. It is common practice for mystery snails to lay their eggs above the water level of the tank. They do not spawn underwater. Snails can lay as many as six hundred eggs in one go.[4]

Some people think that the easiest way to determine whether your snails are fighting or mating is to look for eggs once they stop. But that isn’t always the most effective tactic. That is because snails do not always lay their eggs immediately after mating.

In fact, they can mate for weeks without producing any eggs. It might take a month before you see the results of their hard work. The eggs are a pinkish glob that is relatively easy to identify if you know where to look.

What to do With Mystery Snails that are Stuck Together?

The answer to this question depends on your objective. On the whole, you don’t have to do anything. Snails won’t harm one another. The fact that they are attached isn’t dangerous. It is merely a sign of mating.

That being said, some people hate the idea of mystery snails mating. They don’t want the population of mystery snails in their aquarium to grow. If that sounds like you, if you want to separate mystery snails that are attached because you don’t want them to mate, you don’t have any viable options at your disposal.

If the mystery snails in question are already attached, you cannot pull them apart. Doing so could harm them. You may break the shells in the process. You also run the risk of harming their organs and muscles.

If the mystery snails are attached, I suggest leaving them alone. They cannot stay attached forever. Wait until the first snail climbs down. At this point, if you don’t want them to mate, you can move all the male snails to a different tank.

Admittedly, this might not solve your problems, at least not immediately. This is because female mystery snails can store male sperm for later use. In other words, they can fertilize and lay eggs in the absence of a male. 

But once they utilize all the sperm they stored, you don’t have to worry about the female snails producing more snails, not if you took all the male snails out. 

Yet, most aquarists do not bother with this approach. They wait for the female snails to lay their eggs, and then they remove and destroy the eggs. Others go out of their way to create poor breeding conditions in the tank.

That includes lowering the temperature by a few degrees and filling the water all the way to the lid. That is helpful because mystery snails almost always spawn above the water level.[5] Of course, this approach cannot guarantee results. 

First of all, by trying to create a poor breeding environment, you ran the risk of actually harming your snails, or at the very least, making so them so uncomfortable and unhappy that their health suffers.

Secondly, such a solution may prevent the female snails from laying eggs, but it won’t necessarily stop the male snails from climbing their shells. Short of separating the genders, you have no foolproof method of preventing snails from climbing one another, and neither can you guarantee their safety whenever you pull them apart.

You have to accept that this behavior is expected in mystery snails. Please wait until the female snails lay eggs and remove them. This will prevent your mystery snail population from running amok.

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Conclusions

If your mystery snails are stuck together, they are probably mating. During that process, the female from below may keep moving around, exploring its surroundings. After about twelve hours, the male will go down, and the female will search for a spawning spot.

However, in some cases, mystery snails climb on each other by mistake. They are not entirely aware of their surrounding. It is possible that one snail saw the other one as a shelter or a place to rest.

References

  1. https://askinglot.com/are-my-snails-mating-or-fighting
  2. https://www.vivofish.com/mystery-snails/
  3. https://puregoldfish.com/mystery-snail-breeding/
  4. https://theaquarium.club/how-do-freshwater-snails-reproduce/
  5. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/mystery-snails

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