Many aquarists are concerned once they realize that their snail has not touched its food for several days.
This immediately raises several questions: Why is my snail not eating? Did I do something wrong? Does this mean my snail is sick?
Because I used to ponder these questions myself, I have chosen to devote an entire article to this subject. Let’s dive right into it.
Why Is My Snail Not Eating?
Snails can abstain from eating due to limited food access, predator avoidance, or disinterest in available food. Nonetheless, snails can tolerate prolonged periods without food, implying that a snail not eating is not necessarily a concern.
Snails are no different from other aquarium creatures. They can’t survive without food.
You can blame the following factors for the loss of appetite you’ve observed in your snails:
1. Snails Don’t Eat As Frequently As You Think
What do you mean your snail is not eating? Has the creature gone several days without food, or has it only been a few hours?
Some snails will eat once or twice a day. Others can survive without food for days.
Don’t forget that snails are scavengers. They can snack on dead plants, fish, algae, and leftovers in the tank.
Therefore, don’t be alarmed when these creatures ignore their food. They have plenty of alternate food sources.
Here is a table displaying how long ten common aquarium snails can survive without food:
|Snail Name||Maximum Time Without Food|
|Mystery snail||3-4 weeks|
|Zebra snail||2-3 weeks|
|Ivory snail||2-3 weeks|
|Tylomelania snail||2-3 weeks|
|Nerite snail||1-2 weeks|
|Assassin snail||1-2 weeks|
|Malaysian trumpet snail||1-2 weeks|
|Pond snail||1-2 weeks|
|Horned nerite snail||1-2 weeks|
|Ramshorn snail||1 week|
2. You Added Too Much Food
How do you know your snail has stopped eating? Are you using the growing volume of leftovers in the aquarium as evidence of the snail’s loss of appetite?
Leftovers can increase because you’re overfeeding your aquatic creatures.
Don’t assume your snails have stopped eating until you identify concrete proof, such as deteriorating health and lethargy.
3. The Snail Can’t Reach The Food
This is rarely a factor because snails are versatile.
The Royal Society published a paper (Soyoun Joo, Robert H. Cowie, Sunghwan Jung, Daisuke Takagi) highlighting a snail’s ability to collect food particles on the water surface by turning its foot into a cone-shaped funnel.
Snails can reach every corner of the aquarium. Predators are the only obstacle.
Snails may stay in hiding for long periods to avoid aggressive species, such as cichlids.
They may also avoid certain sections of the tank because of the presence of predators.
And if you only scatter food in those sections, the snails will starve because they don’t have the strength to confront and overcome aggressive fish.
For your convenience, here are ten common aquarium fish that are known to be too aggressive for aquatic snails:
- Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)
- Angelfish Pterophyllum scalare)
- Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata)
- Green Terror (Andinoacara rivulatus)
- Red Devil (Amphilophus labiatus)
- Flowerhorn cichlid (Hybrid cichlid)
- African cichlids (Various genera)
- Peacock bass (Cichla species)
- Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum)
- Piranha (Serrasalmus spp.)
4. The Snail Doesn’t Want The Food
This is another unlikely consideration because it rarely influences a snail’s habits. Snails eat everything. That includes dead and decaying plants and animals.
A study in the Journal of Molluscan Studies (Jin Sun, Jian-Wen Qiu, King Lun Kwong, Man Ting Chan) examined the impact of food’s freshness on a snail’s growth.
The study found that plant nutrients and phenolics were more important to snails than freshness.
Additionally, the snails that ate fresh leaves showed the same survival rates as those that ate decaying leaves, proving that snails are not that picky where food is concerned.
However, you can’t always predict a snail’s behavior. Some of them may reject certain food types for no apparent reason.
You can confirm this theory by diversifying the snail’s meals. Experiment with new food types. If the snail starts eating, you can conclude that it hated the previous food types.
Although aquarium snails are not picky eaters, there are some types of food they may reject:
- Dry fish food: Most aquarium snails are not adapted to consume dry fish food, as they prefer to graze on algae and decaying organic matter.
- Fresh vegetables: While some snail species may occasionally nibble on fresh vegetables, most prefer decaying plant matter and algae.
- Large pellets: Snails have small mouths and typically cannot consume large pellets, which may cause blockages in their digestive systems.
- Spicy or flavored foods: Snails have delicate taste buds and may be deterred by spicy or strongly flavored foods.
- Meat or poultry: Most snails are herbivorous and do not consume meat or poultry products.
5. You Moved The Snail To A New Tank
Aquarists must acclimate snails to new aquariums to make the transition as seamless and stress-free as possible.
However, even with proper acclimation, a snail in a new environment may go into hiding. In some cases, the stress forces the snail to dig a bury itself.
If the new parameters differ drastically from the conditions in the snail’s old environment, the creature may remain in its shell for several days.
Don’t expect the snail to eat during this period.
It generally takes about a day or two for a snail to adjust to its new aquarium environment and start eating.
But again, the adjustment period can vary depending on the species of snail and the conditions in the tank.
6. The Snail Is Sick
Loss of appetite is a prominent symptom in sick snails. Here are a few additional signs you may notice:
- Inactivity: A sick snail will be less active than usual. It won’t move and explore its environment as it used to.
- Abnormal shell: A sick snail may have a discolored, damaged, or cracked shell. In some cases, the shell may turn black or lose its natural color.
- Excessive mucus production: Sick snails usually produce excess mucus. This could be a sign of stress or infection.
- Floating or sinking: Sick snails may float or sink, indicating respiratory or digestive issues, and exhibit abnormal posture such as upside-down or lying on their side.
If you suspect that your snail is sick, follow these steps:
- Isolate the snail: If possible, move the sick snail to a separate quarantine tank to prevent the spread of illness to other tank inhabitants.
- Check water quality: Test the water parameters and adjust them as needed to ensure optimal conditions for the snail’s recovery.
- Adjust feeding: Offer a varied diet of healthy, nutrient-rich foods to support the snail’s immune system and promote healing.
- Observe behavior: Monitor the snail’s behavior closely and look for signs of improvement or deterioration.
- Consult a veterinarian: If the snail’s condition does not improve, seek advice from a qualified veterinarian who specializes in aquatic species.
Pro Tip: I highly recommend API Algae Eater Wafers (link to Amazon) for your aquarium. They meet the nutritional needs of algae-eating fish and provide a healthy and balanced diet for aquatic snails.
7. The Snail Has Entered Hibernation
Species like Pomacea canaliculata (Apple Snail) will enter hibernation to escape unconducive environments. For instance, when temperatures plummet in the winter or rise during the summer.
It is worth noting that aquarists don’t expect aquarium snails to hibernate. They typically remain active throughout the year.
However, you can’t rule out hibernation as a possible explanation for a snail that won’t eat, especially if the snail in question has become inactive.
Even though it’s quite rare for an aquarium snail, here are a few signs indicating that it could be hibernating:
- Reduced activity: The snail may become less active than usual or stop moving altogether.
- Hiding: The snail may seek out a quiet and sheltered spot in the tank to hibernate.
- Withdrawn appearance: The snail’s body may retract into its shell, giving it a withdrawn appearance.
- Reduced respiration: The snail may breathe more slowly and shallowly than usual.
- Foot retraction: The snail may retract its foot into its shell to conserve energy during hibernation.
Should I Be Concerned If My Snail Is Not Eating?
It depends on the duration. Snails can survive without food for extended periods. After all, they can sleep for two to three days (on and off).
You can start worrying once the food goes untouched for more than two weeks. You should take action when the snail’s health deteriorates.
For instance, once the creature becomes inactive. Snails are slow. But that doesn’t mean they should lie still at the bottom of the tank.
How Long Can Snails Stay Without Food?
Even though most aquarists feed their snails once or twice a day, you can leave them alone for up to two weeks without adding food.
That is a conservative estimate. Mystery snails can survive for a whopping four weeks. Although, that applies to mystery snails in a tank with fish and plants.
The mystery snails can snack on the algae and detritus they encounter for several weeks. But what if you completely deprive the snails of food?
A study in Current Zoology (Volume 62) did just that. Nicolas E. Tamburi and Pablo R. Martin forced apple snails (Pomacea canaliculata) to fast.
Many of them died along the way. However, one snail made it to the end of the 33-week experiment.
The subjects that died lived longer than four weeks without supplementary food, algae, and decaying matter to eat.
When Should I Seek Veterinary Assistance If My Snail Is Not Eating?
A snail that won’t eat isn’t necessarily a cause for concern because these creatures can survive without food for days.
You should only worry when the snail manifests troubling symptoms, for instance:
- The snail is more inactive than usual.
- The snail is seemingly trying and failing to eat the food.
- The snail’s shell is cracked or broken.
- You keep trying different food types, but the snail is still disinterested in eating.
- The snail is always lying on its back or side.
- The snail’s movements are sluggish.
- The snail’s shell is discolored.
If you’ve noticed a terrible smell, it’s too late. The snail died. You can confirm by moving the creature.
If it doesn’t respond to external stimuli or is no longer in its shell, the snail is probably dead.
How Can I Monitor My Snail’s Food Intake?
Isolate the creature in a clean tank and add food. Community tanks are tricky because the snail has other food sources.
It may ignore the meals you add because it prefers the items it scavenges from the substrate.
A clean tank will tell you whether or not you should worry. You can track the volume of leftovers and fecal matter.
You don’t have to wonder whether other snails and fish ate the food you added.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick rundown of the key points mentioned above:
- Snails don’t need to eat as frequently as other creatures and can survive without food for several days and even weeks.
- Overfeeding can lead to an increase in leftover food. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the snail has stopped eating.
- Snails can reach every corner of the aquarium but may avoid certain areas due to predators or aggressive tankmates.
- Snails eat almost everything, including decaying plants and animals, but may reject certain food types for no apparent reason.
- Moving a snail to a new tank may cause stress and make it hide or not eat for a day or two.