If you’ve ever kept snails in an aquarium, you may have noticed them falling from the top of the tank or the glass.
This curious behavior begs the question: why does it happen? Is it normal or cause for concern? If you’re curious about these answers, you’re not alone.
In fact, I’ve had these same questions myself, which is why I’ve put together this article to explore the surprising reasons behind snail falls.
Why Does My Snail Keep Falling?
Snails can fall for various reasons, including trying to move around quickly, being too old to grip the glass properly, being sick, or reacting to oily detergents or soap residues on the aquarium glass.
A falling snail attracts concern because the practice is dangerous. What if the snail breaks its shell in a collision with a decorative object in the aquarium?
People forget that the shell is an organ. The snail can’t survive without it.
And what if the snail lands upside down in the sand? You can’t expect a top-heavy snail to flip itself over. It will die.
Snails can fall for the following reasons:
1. The Snails Is Trying To Move Around Quickly (Most Likely)
Some snails climb to a great height and fall because this is the fastest and easiest way to reach different locations.
Some snails can control their descent, steering in a particular direction, especially if you have a deep tank and they have a significant distance to fall.
Others will rise to the surface and float to their destination. Once they reach it, they will deliberately lose grip and fall.
The main purpose of that is to search for food quickly in different areas. Keep in mind that a snail searching for food may display additional indications:
- The snail exhibits fast movements around the tank, indicating that it is actively seeking food in various locations.
- The snail demonstrates persistent efforts to climb the glass, despite falling off repeatedly, suggesting a strong motivation to explore and search for food.
- The snail utilizes its antennae in multiple directions, implying that it relies on its senses to navigate the tank and locate potential sources of food.
2. Your Snail Is Too Old To Grip The Glass Properly
Snails are like human beings. They become weaker and slower as they age. They can’t maintain the same firm grip on hard surfaces.
As such, the creatures are more likely to fall whenever they climb plants and even glass walls.
And if they land upside down, older snails will take longer to right themselves.
Aquatic snails have an average lifespan of one to five years. Keep this in mind before you blame their clumsiness on ill health.
Additionally, besides falling, old snails may present the following signs:
- Reduced activity and movement.
- Loss of appetite or irregular feeding.
- Growth of algae on the snail’s shell.
- Dull or worn-out appearance of the shell.
- Reduced reproduction or mating behavior.
- Blackening of the snail’s shell.
3. The Snails Is Sick
You can’t rule out ill health. Snails are not the easiest creatures to diagnose because they are not as expressive as fish.
Sick snails will repeatedly fall because they have enough strength to climb but not enough to hold on.
Although, you don’t expect sick, weak, lethargic snails to climb in the first place.
If you suspect that your aquarium snail is sick, the best course of action is to isolate it in a separate tank and seek the advice of an aquatic veterinarian.
4. There Are Oily Detergents On The Aquarium Glass
Does the snail fall from the same location every time?
Some people use harsh detergents to wash their tanks. Those detergents leave residues unless you rinse the walls thoroughly.
Or maybe you transferred potent oils and chemicals from your hand to the glass walls the last time you touched the aquarium.
Either way, the snail keeps reacting to something. It recoils at the toxic component at the top and falls back down.
There are several indications that suggest the presence of oily detergents on the glass of your aquarium, such as:
- A greasy film or residue on the surface.
- The appearance of rainbow-like patterns.
- Persistent streaks or residues after cleaning.
- Locate the area where your snail keeps falling from.
- Prepare a solution by mixing equal parts water and vinegar.
- Soak a clean cloth in the solution.
- Gently wipe the problematic area and dry it with a clean cloth.
5. There Are Soap Residues On The Aquarium Glass
Again, if the snail keeps falling from the same location, that spot on the wall is probably slippery. You can also blame this on soap residue.
You should take a moment to observe the snail. Is it recoiling from something before falling? Or does it appear to slip?
Your observations will determine the troubleshooting steps you take.
Snails are sensitive to chemical components, which is why some fields use them as water-quality indicators.
There are several signs that could indicate the presence of soap residue on your aquarium glass, including:
- Cloudy or hazy appearance.
- The formation of bubbles or foam on the surface.
- Stubborn streaks or residues that remain after cleaning.
- Use a clean cloth or sponge to wipe away any visible residue.
- Mix a solution of one part white vinegar and three parts water.
- Soak a clean cloth in the solution and wipe the glass thoroughly.
- Rinse the glass with clean water and dry it with a clean cloth.
6. Predators Keep Knocking Your Snail Down
Newcomers expect aggressive species like cichlids to eat snails and other small creatures.
Those same fish may repeatedly knock the snails in question down.
Snails in such situations are more likely to die from stress. Eventually, they will stop eating, go into hiding, and starve to death.
Below is a list of fish that are known to bully snails and should not be kept in the same tank with them:
- Oscar fish (Astronotus ocellatus)
- Jack Dempsey fish (Rocio octofasciata)
- Green terror fish (Andinoacara rivulatus)
- Red devil fish (Amphilophus labiatus)
- Convict cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata)
- Jaguar cichlid (Parachromis managuensis)
- African cichlids (various genera and species)
- Piranhas (Serrasalmus spp.)
- Archerfish (Toxotes spp.)
- Peacock bass (Cichla spp.)
7. Your Snail Is Hunting Living Creatures
Many aquarists claim that their snails climb to the top and deliberately fall because they hope to catch fish unaware during their descent.
They will target both active and sleeping fish. But these claims are unsubstantiated so far.
Many of the aquarists proposing this theory have never seen a snail fall from a great height in a deliberate effort to attack and eat fish.
This tactic would only work if the fish in question were much smaller and weaker.
After all, snails don’t have the strength to fight and overcome conventional fish. The creatures are slow and practically helpless.
They respond to threats by retreating into their shells. Whether or not you believe this theory depends on what you’ve observed.
Ultimately, snails have no qualms about eating fish. The scavengers will eat whatever they find in the aquarium, including dead and decaying matter.
They have no reason to reject a fish as a potential food source, especially if that fish cannot fight back.
How Can I Prevent My Snail From Falling In The Future?
It depends on why the snail keeps falling. You can apply one or more of the following solutions:
- First of all, place a lid on the tank. A snail can fall safely from a great height inside a tank. Problems only arise when the snail in question falls outside the tank.
- Remove predators. Move every creature that harasses the snails to a separate tank.
- Clean the tank. Identify slimy, slippery sections and scrub them. Don’t use detergents.
- If you think the snails are searching for food at the top, add food to places they can easily reach without climbing.
- If the snails are old, you can’t stop them from falling. However, you can help them get right-side-up whenever they fall upside down, especially if they are seemingly too weak to right themselves.
- Perform regular water changes. This allows sick snails to heal. You should also maintain the correct parameters (pH, Temperature, and Hardness). Use cuttlebone, eggshells, and supplements to resolve calcium deficiencies.
- Give the snails foods rich in calcium. This allows them to heal breaks and cracks in the shell.
Should I Be Concerned About My Snail’s Falling Behavior?
Surprisingly, no. You shouldn’t be concerned about a snail’s falling behavior.
Yes, snails will fall because of sickness, disease, old age, toxins, slippery surfaces, and the like. However, those are the exceptions.
Many snails frequently fall because they want to. Aquarists call this behavior ‘Parasnailing’:
The snail will climb to a high point before deliberately falling back down. The creature may release large air bubbles during this process.
You may also notice snails that slide along the walls. They will release a portion of their foot on the glass.
This allows them to descend rapidly while maintaining some control over the fall.
Do Snail Species Differ In Their Falling Behavior?
Snail species don’t differ that drastically in the way they fall.
However, ‘parasnailing’ is primarily associated with mystery snails. You are more likely to find them deliberately climbing and then falling.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick rundown of the key points mentioned above:
- Falling can be dangerous for snails as it can break their shell which is an organ necessary for their survival, and they can also land upside down, which they cannot flip themselves over from and die.
- Snails can fall if they are trying to move quickly to search for food or climb to different locations, but older snails may fall due to weaker grip strength as they age.
- Falling could also be a sign of ill health in snails, and if you suspect this, it’s best to isolate them in a separate tank and seek advice from an aquatic veterinarian.
- The presence of oily detergents or soap residues on the aquarium glass can also cause snails to fall repeatedly, which can be harmful to them.
- Some fish species, such as Oscar fish, Jack Dempsey fish, and Green terror fish, are known to bully snails and cause them to fall, leading to stress and even death.