Why is my Snail Always Upside Down? (4 Quick Solutions)

Aquatic snails are quite prevalent in fish tanks. Personally, I enjoy growing them since they add a natural appearance to my aquarium. However, sometimes they can be a burden. For example, more than once, I saw that one of my snails was always upside down. As time passed, I learned a few reasons and solutions for the annoying issue.

Snails typically flip upside down due to climbing accidents, in which the snail unintentionally falls on its shell. However, snails may also flip due to tankmates attacks and inappropriate water conditions. In some cases, the snail is merely sleeping or trying to float to the other side of the tank.

As we proceed, I will share a few useful techniques to help you deal with snails that flipped upside down. I will also list a few signs that may indicate that your snail is dying and show you, in which case, the flipped snail scenario is entirely natural. 

Why Does my Snail Keep Going Upside Down?

Is it normal for aquatic snails to be upside down? No, it isn’t. Or at the very least, it isn’t healthy. However, it is challenging to avoid it since snails flip over quite occasionally. Obviously, you cannot leave them in that position.

If they have failed to turn themselves right side up, you are encouraged to assist them. Otherwise, they will die. Occasionally flipping a snail right side up isn’t a problem for most aquarists. But it can become a source of frustration once it becomes a more frequent occurrence.

In such situations, you must stop and ask yourself why the snails are always upside down. This question is crucial for snails that are not necessarily new. If you’ve just introduced the snail to your tank, flipping is less of an issue.

Many aquarists pay very little attention to new snails’ position when they add them to a tank; that is to say, they do not make a deliberate effort to place them right side up. Generally, a snail that is carelessly thrown into a tank is just as likely to fall on its back.

But if that does not apply to your snail, you can blame the flipping habit on one or more of the following:

1. The Snail Was Attacked by Other Fish

Do you have predatory fish in the tank? It is a valid question since snails are relatively small and mostly peaceful. Naturally, they cannot fight back against aggressive fish. This is why your choice of tankmates matters. Species like clown loaches, goldfish, and angelfish are just as likely to eat your snails.[1]

However, in some cases, rather than nipping at them and bruising them, aggressive fish may settle for simply knocking them over. This isn’t necessarily their intention. But the outcome can occur all the same.

On the one hand, this result is preferable to the aggressive fish eating your snails. On the other hand, the snails will still die if they don’t turn right side up. That is because a flipped snail cannot move and eat properly.

2. Your Snail Climbed and Fell on its Back

Some snails are enthusiastic climbers. Rather than limiting their activity to the substrate, they will take every opportunity that comes their way to climb the objects in the tank. That includes the plants, rocks, pots, caves, and even the walls of the tank.

However, every so often, a snail will fall from one of these objects, landing on its back. This isn’t a cause for concern. If a snail was walking upside down on a rock, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that it landed upside down when it fell.

3. Lack of Food and Inadequate Water Conditions

Are you giving your snails enough food? Yes, they eat algae, but you have to supplement their diet with external food sources. It is usual for a snail that is climbing to fall on its back. However, in some cases, this happens because the snail is too weak from lack of food. They do not have the strength to remain attached to the concrete objects they have chosen to climb.

Another potential cause is poor tank conditions. The wrong pH, temperature, and hardness can induce stress, stealing the snail’s strength and making it more likely to fall. It would help if you also kept an eye on the chlorine, ammonia, chloramine, nitrite, and copper in the water.

These toxins are a danger to your snail’s health. In fact, snails have been known to flip over merely because their water quality was so low. And once they are upside down, if the tank’s poor conditions persist, they won’t have the strength to turn right side up.

4. The Snail is Sleeping

Like fish, snails sleep. But they do not follow a routine, and neither should you expect them to adhere to the day/night cycle that shapes the sleeping habits of aquarium fish. Aquatic snails can sleep at any time. 

More importantly, their sleep cycle can last for an impressive three days.[2] Because they carry their home (the shell) wherever they go, snails can sleep anywhere and in any position, even upside down. 

However, they do not lie on their shells. They can sleep while hanging upside down on an object they have climbed.[3] A snail that is lying on its shell isn’t merely sleeping. The creatures would never intentionally assume this position because it leaves them exposed to enemies.

5. Your Snail is Trying to Float

There is a big difference between a snail that is upside down on the substrate and one that is floating. Snails will float upside down for several reasons. Some snails eat the milky film on the water surface in tanks with insufficient surface agitation.[4] They float upside down and eat the film. 

Other snails can travel this way. Trapping some air within the shell allows them to float, at which point, the current will carry them to their destination. Some snails float to escape poor conditions in the water. Ultimately, a floating snail isn’t the biggest concern. That includes snails that are floating upside down.

How to Treat Snails that Flipped Upside Down?

There are several ways to respond to snails that have landed in an upside-down position:

1. Pick the Right Snail Type

The type of snail will determine the frequency with which it flips over. Some snails tend to flip over more frequently than others. This is true for turbo snails. They have top-heavy bodies, so it is quite natural for them to flip over, especially when climbing the tank’s walls. Margarita snails are in a similar boat. 

Nerite snails are less of an issue. Not only are they less likely to fall off solid surfaces, but they can turn themselves over in most situations. Trochus snails have this advantage as well. Their pyramid shape helps the creatures right themselves whenever they fall on their backs.

First of all, when it comes to buying snails, you need to prioritize types that are less likely to flip over. Secondly, you should invest in snails that can turn right side up with relative ease even when they flip over. This will make your work so much easier.

Otherwise, if you have a lot of snails and they are always upside down, the process of turning them over will eventually frustrate you. Bear in mind that snails tend to reproduce pretty quickly, so the situation can get even more complicated in the future.

2. Avoid Immediate Assistance

As was mentioned above, when snails flip over, you are encouraged to turn them right side up. If they remain upside down, they will eventually die because they cannot eat. They are also vulnerable to predators.

However, some aquarists will dissuade beginners from immediately offering their assistance to snails that are upside down. They are convinced that you have to give snails a chance to turn themselves right side up. The objective is to show them that it can be done and encourage them to master this skill.

Otherwise, you ran the risk of teaching the snails to wait for you whenever they flip over. And if you do not realize that they have flipped over, they will die. Keep your snail flipped for two days and see if it overcomes the issue on its own.

3. Adjust the Water Quality

I highly suggest that you maintain a clean tank. That means performing regular water changes and keeping the temperature between 72 and 82 degrees F.[5] I also recommend keeping stable pH levels of 7.0 and above. Low pH will degrade the shells of the snails.

That is where I usually recommend getting the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That affordable bundle can measure the pH, nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia within a few minutes. The kit also allows you to perform hundreds of tests without running out.

As was mentioned above, low water quality will stress your snail, weakening them considerably. As a rule of thumb, sluggish snails are less likely to turn over by themselves. Hence, if the pH is too low or the toxins are elevated, please perform more frequent water changes. 

Aquatic snails also require at least five gallons of water. The water should be hard, with plenty of calcium. A well-maintained tank will enhance the snails’ health, reducing their chances of falling and flipping over.

Calcium will also strengthen your snail’s shell and prevent cracks. That is why I highly recommend getting the DreamDealsSG Tourmaline Balls (link to Amazon). Scatter a few at the bottom of the tank and let them do the trick. 

4. Feed Your Snails Properly

The feeding schedule will vary depending on the type of snail. Some snails must be fed twice a day. Others require food twice each week. The key is to ensure that all their dietary needs are met. 

If you trust your snails to sustain themselves using the algae in the tank, you can ensure that the algae in their environment are available in sufficient quantities by increasing the amount of light in the aquarium. This will elevate the rate at which algae grows.

If you hate how your snails float to eat the milky film on the surface, you can disrupt it by adding a water stone. Though, as was noted above, this isn’t a cause for concern. You can also follow the Youtube video below; it offers a few useful feeding techniques:

How do You Know When a Snail is Dying?

You can tell that your snail is dying by checking its appearance and general state. Dying snails typically feature cracked shells, swollen feet, and receding operculum. Also, in some cases, a dying nail will expel its digestive tract, become significantly less active, and show no interest in food.

Snails are a little tricky because it isn’t always easy to tell that they are unwell. However, the symptoms above may indicate that the snail is not well. Let’s go a little deeper and see what these signs actually mean:

  • Shell – The health of a snail is dependent on its shell. As such, a deteriorating shell is a sign of trouble. That includes shells with cracks or significant breaks that expose the snail’s organs to the threat of dehydration.
  • Foot – Snails have a foot that can become swollen and wavy due to injury, disease, low water quality, and toxins. A swollen foot can make it very difficult for a snail to get around. This can make feeding a problem, especially for snails dependent on the algae in the tank.
  • Operculum – The operculum is a section of the shell that protects the snail by closing the opening when the creature enters the shell. A receding operculum is a sign of illness. Though, it can also indicate old age.
  • Inactivity – Snails can remain in hibernation for long periods. During this duration, they are entirely inactive. While this is normal behavior, snails that remain inactive without eating for a long time will eventually die. You can tell that a snail is not merely hibernating because it has lost weight in response to a loss of appetite.
  • Expelled Gut – Snails have been known to expel their digestive tracts. You will see them hanging from the creatures’ mouths.[6] Snails to whom this happens tend to die after a few hours or days because they cannot retract the gut.

If you found this article useful, here are a few related ones that may also interest you:

Conclusions

If your snail consistently flips upside down, you should first check the water conditions. In most cases, the snail accidentally flipped after climbing on objects in the aquarium. However, since the snail doesn’t get its ideal parameters, it is too weak to flip back on its own.

Start by testing the water temperature, pH, and ammonia levels. It would be best if you also considered aggressive tankmates that tend to attack your snail. If that is the case, you should definitely separate the problematic fish.

References

  1. https://www.cuteness.com/article/care-snails-aquarium
  2. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/how-long-do-snails-sleep/
  3. https://www.sleepadvisor.org/how-long-do-snails-sleep/
  4. https://animals.mom.com/aquatic-snails-dead-float-2148.html
  5. https://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/caresheets/freshwater-snails.html
  6. https://www.petsnails.co.uk/problems/sarkymite-snail-disease.html

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