Why Is My Nerite Snail Not Moving? Is It Actually Dead?

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When I saw my nerite snail stopped moving, I was somewhat worried. I had been trying to get it to move for a few days, and then suddenly, it stopped moving altogether. I put some food in the water, but the snail did not respond even after a day or two. Luckily, as time passed, I learned why this happened.

Nerite snails tend to stop moving when they are stressed. That usually happens when the water conditions are inappropriate, with ammonia, pH, and temperature in particular. However, nerite snails will also lay still when there isn’t enough food or when sharing a tank with aggressive tankmates.

As we move forward, I will show you how to identify a snail that isn’t moving for innocent reasons, such as sleep or migration. Then, I will show you what snails that are in trouble usually present and how to tell if your creature is actually dead or dying.

Why Is My Nerite Snail Not Moving?

Sometimes, a nerite snail stops moving because it wants to float on the surface of the water. It will retreat into its shell to do this. There is no faster way to travel from one point to the other for snails. But what if your snail isn’t floating on the water surface? What if it is just lying still in a single location? What could be the cause? 

These are just a few of the factors you should consider before you call a vet:

1. The Water Isn’t Suitable For Nerite Snails

What is the quality of the water in the tank? Like most aquatic creatures, nerite snails hate poorly maintained tanks. They don’t respond well to the wrong pH, temperature, or hardness. They also hate tanks that are so dirty that the ammonia and nitrate levels have spiked. 

Poor water conditions cause stress in snails. These creatures are more sensitive to poor-quality water than fish. It will make them sick. They will become less active over time until they stop moving altogether.[1] If you permit the poor conditions to persist, the snails might eventually die.

2. Your Nerite Snail Is Shocked

Are the snails new to the tank? If the answer to that question is yes, the nerite snails are probably in shock. Nerite snails hate drastic changes. But that is what you will force them to endure if you transfer them from a tank at the pet store to the aquarium in your home. 

The fact that the conditions in the home aquarium are appropriate cannot protect the snails from the shock of the transfer. You can expect to observe all the common signs of shock, including lethargy, inactivity, loss of appetite, and a lot of hiding.

If the snails are not new, consider their tankmates. Nerite snails are defenseless. They can’t fight back against larger, more aggressive fish. A violent fish can traumatize your snails, forcing them to remain hidden within their shells for long periods.

3. Lack Of Food

If your snails are starving, they will begin to slow down until they become completely inactive. Like most living organisms, they extract fuel from the food they eat. If you have failed to feed the nerite snails, and their tank doesn’t have any plants, algae, or leftovers for the creatures to eat, at some point, they will stop moving.

4. Your Nerite Snail Is Sleeping

Nerite snails sleep. It is easy to mistake a sleeping nerite snail for a dead one, especially if you haven’t yet learned how to differentiate between the two. Snails can sleep in any location. That includes vertical surfaces and even upside down. 

Sleep in snails can be concerning because they can sleep for two to three days at a time.[2] But unless you observe definitive signs proving that the snail is dead, such as a foul odor and an empty shell, you shouldn’t be so quick to pronounce the death of your nerite snail.

5. Elevated Toxins

Toxins like copper, lead, and chloramine can be bad for snails.[3] You can introduce them to a tank via new water (when you perform a water change), new plants and decorations, fertilizers, and the drugs you use to treat sick fish, to mention but a few. Toxins can kill your nerite snails. But before that happens, the creatures will become listless, lethargic, and inactive.

How To Treat Nerite Snails That Stop Moving?

If your snail is neither hibernating nor sleeping, and it hasn’t yet died, there are steps you can take to guide it back to health, including:

1. Adjusting The Aquarium To Nerite Snails

If your nerite snail is inactive because of the poor quality of the water, you can assist it by improving the quality of the conditions in the tank. That means paying close attention to the following:

  • Parameters – 72 degrees F to 78 degrees F (Temperature), 8.1 to 8.4 (pH), and relatively hard water.[4] The ammonia and nitrites should be around 0 ppm. I personally use the API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon) to measure the relevant toxins and pH. It is highly reliable and lasts for hundreds of measures.
  • Substrate – Nerite snails require rounded gravel. Avoid substrates with sharp edges that can damage the snail’s body. Sandy substrates are also problematic. I personally recommend the JOR Tourmaline Balls (link to Amazon). They are incredibly smooth and enrich your tank with calcium, strengthening the snail’s shell.
  • Tank Size – At least 1 gallon.
  • Tankmates – Look for peaceful creatures like ghost shrimp, barbs, tetras, guppies, other nerite snails, etc.

2. Proper Acclimation

I highly recommend acclimating the snail before adding it to the tank. This isn’t difficult. Just float it in the new aquarium in a bag filled with the snail’s original water. You can also let it grow accustomed to the temperature and pH by slowly dripping the water from the new tank into the bag with the old water.

Make sure the conditions in the new tank are appropriate. A poorly maintained tank will undo the results of the acclimation process. If you are interested, here is a helpful Youtube video that illustrates the dripping technique:

3. Performing Routine Maintenance

As I mentioned earlier, you should remove toxins like copper, ammonia, and nitrates. You can do this by performing weekly water changes. Because the snails hate drastic change, keep the water changes small. Many aquarists do not want to exceed 30 percent.

If you don’t have the time to do a water change, especially when your snail is very sick, you can use water conditioners. They will neutralize the toxic components in the water. I personally use the Seachem Prime Conditioner (link to Amazon)

Don’t forget to remove any items in the water that may cause the concentration of these toxins to spike. That includes dead organisms. Once the tank is free of toxins, you can protect your nerite snails by scrubbing every plant and object before you add it to the aquarium. 

You should also move sick fish to separate tanks before you treat them with commercial drugs. Lastly, pay attention to your water source. Tap water is normally treated with chlorine and chloramine. That is why I use the API Stress Coat Water Conditioner (link to Amazon) when using tap water for fish and snails.

4. Adding A Few Plants

Give your nerite snails plants. They need tall and sturdy species as well as carpeting plants. That is because plants provide great hiding places and are considered a decent source of food. The nerite snails will only eat them if they are starving. Otherwise, they will eat the algae that form on the plants.

For nerite snails, you can choose plants like Java Fern, Anubias, Amazon Sword, etc. If you start with a small, young aquarium, I might recommend avoiding the Anubias. They grow quickly and hog all the nutrients in the water for themselves, preventing your other plants from thriving.

5. Feeding Your Nerite Snails Properly

Nerite snails will eat the algae in the tank.[5] But you are expected to complement their diet with algae wafers, especially if the tank doesn’t have enough algae. They can also eat green vegetables. In truth, the creatures are not that picky where food is concerned. Just make sure you add food to the aquarium.

Don’t assume that the creatures will survive on the algae. If their environment is clean and doesn’t have any algae, you should feed them every day. You can skip a few days if you are convinced that they have plenty of algae in their vicinity.

When it comes to feeding nerite snails, the food must sink to the bottom. Snails will hardly reach the floating pellets fish usually eat. You can also use commercial, pre-made algae, such as the Aqueon Algae Rounds (link to Amazon).

How To Tell If Your Nerite Snail Is Dead?

The following signs indicate that your nerite snail is dead:

  1. Your nerite snail shell will be empty, or the snail will be partially out of its shell.
  2. The nerite snail will produce a terrible odor.
  3. The trapdoor of a dead nerite snail will be open.
  4. The foot of your snail won’t retreat into the shell when touched.

If you notice these signs in your nerite snails, remove them from the tank immediately. Otherwise, the creature will contaminate your tank and possibly deteriorate its tankmates. It will also cause ammonia spikes and terrible odors.

But if your snail merely stopped moving, wait a few days. As was mentioned earlier, it might be sleeping. That is even more likely if the water parameters are correct and the creature doesn’t smell. But if the snail isn’t moving for more than a week, it is more likely to be dead.

How Do You Know When A Snail Is Dying?

Dying snails have been known to manifest the following signs:

1. The Snail Will Remain Inactive

A snail will stay still when it sleeps or hibernates. It will also become inactive when it is sick or stressed. A snail that remains inactive for several days at a time, refusing to respond to food or light, is probably at death’s door.

2. The Snail’s Foot Will Swell

A swollen, wavy foot can indicate either mild or severe illness. Even if the illness is mild initially, it can grow in severity until the snail can no longer move. You may find this symptom in old snails that are close to death.

3. Mantle And Shell Changes

A cracked shell is a sign of trouble because the snail risks drying out. A collapsed mantle is even more problematic because it guarantees the death of the snail. You can either kill it or make it comfortable until it passes away.

Do Nerite Snails Go Dormant?

Snails can go into hibernation. In the wild, they do this as a response to low temperatures and a scarcity of food. By becoming dormant, the snails will conserve energy. But this rarely happens in tanks because most aquariums have stable temperatures and plenty of food.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t see an aquarium-induced dormancy. A nerite snail will enter this state if the tank has no algae or other food sources. Also, if the water parameters are wrong, it can make the snail go dormant to save energy.

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Nerite snails tend to stop moving for many reasons. However, a snail that stopped moving doesn’t mean that it is dying. In some cases, the snail is merely sleeping or trying to change its location by floating to the top.

Signs that a snail is in trouble include a collapsed mantle or a swollen foot. Those are enough to get rid of the snail. Also, if your snail shell is empty or partly out of its shell, it is probably dead.

There are many causes of death for nerite snails. And in most cases, you won’t notice them in time to treat the creature. But in any case, the signs are enough to send you on your way to removing the dead snail from the tank before it contaminates the water.


  1. https://aquariumsphere.com/snail-dead-or-sleeping-aquarium/
  2. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/how-long-do-snails-sleep/
  3. https://beta-static.fishersci.com/content/dam/fishersci/en_US/documents/programs/education/technical-documents/data-sheets/carolina-biological-aquatic-snail-data-sheet.pdf
  4. https://www.vivofish.com/nerite-snails/
  5. https://modestfish.com/nerite-snails/