Why is My Aquarium Snail Floating? Should I Be Worried?

If you have an aquarium pet as a snail, then you already know how mysteriously they can behave sometimes. I know having an aquarium snail is quite less of a job and more of a fun and clean-up crew member. However sometimes, the mystery these snails lead can be worrying and stressful. Have you ever come across your aquarium snail floating in the tank water irresponsive? Why on the earth would your snail behave like that? This can get crazier every step of fish keeping.

Well, hunger, improper water parameters, entrapped air bubbles, presence of aggressive tank mates, death, etc. are some of the reasons for your aquarium snail to go floating around the tank. And this floating can be intentional and unintentional from the side of your snail so don’t blame it for its defense mechanism.

I know you might be wondering to know more about this weird trait or something else related to your aquarium snail.

Learn more about Freshwater Aquarium Snail: Everything You Need To Know

In this article, I have tried to accumulate all the details related to the aquarium snail floating in the tank. I hope this one helps. But remember to read all the information thoroughly.

So, let’s get this started.

Why is My Aquarium Snail Floating?

Now, let’s get into the details about what might have happened or what you did wrong. I know I sound like I am blaming you but trust me I am not.

There are hundreds of times where I have done something wrong unintentionally which has result in something more hazardous than aquarium snail floating.

If you are a beginner in fishkeeping, then don’t sweat it. Some minor beginner’s mistakes don’t define your journey of keeping an aquarium at home.

I will point out every small mistake or reason that might have cause your aquarium snail to float in the tank.

Don’t worry, I will list out some solutions to overcome this problem and preventive measures to stop it from happening in the near future.

Trapped Air In Shell Or Lungs

One of the most common reasons for your aquarium snail to float in the tank is probably because they have air or air bubbles trapped in their shell or lungs.

The air bubbles always find the way to get inside the shell of the snail. I don’t how the snail has developed a cold war with the air bubbles in the first place.

Also, the troubled breathing will lead to the air bubbles trapped in the lungs of your aquarium snail. Now, these air bubbles in either shell or the lungs will make your snail buoyant.

These snails will float due to the air they carry within them as the balloon filled with air and reach the surface of the tank water.

If this is the case, then you will find your snail struggling real hard to hold on to something.

They will be stretching their body out of the shell more than usual just to find something to hold on to.

Change In Water Parameters

Now, talking about the abnormality of your snail behavior and leaving behind the water parameters, is that even possible?

Well, most of the chaos that takes place in the tank will directly or indirectly be connected with the change in water parameters.

So, keep your eyes open and test kits ready to be fast to test the water whenever you see your snail or any other aquatic beings start to behave irrationally.

Now, back to the teenage drama of your snail: your aquarium snails are way more dramatic than fish when it comes to change in water parameters.

Their natural instincts to get away from the problematic environment are way better or broader than that of any aquarium fish.

These aquarium snails will almost immediately try to escape the tank water when there is a simple hint of ammonia or nitrite in the tank.

Or even any other change in the water parameters like inadequate water pH, temperature change, your snail will start to fill their lungs with air.

This accumulation of air in the lungs will make them float to the surface of the tank. Remember this is their defense mechanism to act against the culprit water parameters.

Make sure when your snail started to behave like this; whether it was before or after the water change. Test the water immediately and if that is the real problem, try solving it.

Here is an article on Is Too Much Water Change Harmful: How To Do It Safely

Need Of Changing Locations

You may already know how slow a snail can be. But their need to change the locations is quite frequent. So, they pull up a simple trick from their sleeve.

Don’t worry, it is a normal thing which will pass once they reach their destination. This is what they do: aquarium snails, like mystery snails, will breathe in a huge amount of air into their lungs.

Also, they will close their shells sharply to hold onto the air bubbles in their shells. Now, these air bubbles will make them buoyant and they will float in the tank water.

This will make their journey to change locations easier. These aquarium snails will stop floating and release the air by opening their shell and sink back.

So, you see, I told you it is one of their tricks they show while changing the locations. You don’t have to stress or sweat about this.

But be careful to look closely if this is what they are doing. Or is it something else? Do not mistake any other reasons as location change as the consequences might differ due to your wrong contemplation.

Protection From Tank Mates

Let’s talk about the defense mechanism of your aquarium snail now, shall we? When your snail comes across an aggressive tank mate or bullying one in the tank, they do something to protect themselves.

They will pull up air and hide within their shell along with the air bubbles. This will make them balloon-filled with air and make them float away from these bullying tank mates.

They will release the air and will start to act normal once they feel safe in the tank. So, just wait patiently for a while if you really want your snail to act normally again.

Searching Food On The Water Surface

The leftover food and decaying matter will release protein film on the surface of the tank. And, your aquarium snail will do anything to get there and eat it up.

The aquarium snail will float upside down while eating up this protein film. Remember, this protein might not be harmful to aquatic beings.

But aquarium snail behaving like this and going to this extent to get food means you are underfeeding them and they are hungry.

You might like to read more about 30 Best Algae Eaters For Freshwater Aquarium

Excessive Speed Of Filtration Water Current

Here, most of the time, the current due to the high-powered filter can lead to trouble beyond imagination.

Your aquarium snail hates excess speed of filtration. Excessive speeds and power from the filter will make your aquarium snail stick up on the surface and giving it hard time to sink back.

They will just stay on the surface floating, trying their best to get back to the safe space. The power of the filter will make the water current stronger and hence the water will spin the snail around.

This constant and weird spinning will make these snails dizzy and unsettled. Your aquarium snail will keep on floating, stressing, struggling, and trying its best to hold on to something.

Copper Poisoning From Fertilizer

When you use a fertilizer with the presence of copper in the tank for various purposes, your snail might suffer from copper poisoning.

They will float and hanging out of their shell without trying to attach themselves to anything else. Now, this thing can be really serious as your snail is sick or dying due to copper poisoning.

So, when you see your snail floating around in the tank, hanging out from their shell, irresponsive to most things, then my friend it is time to change your fertilizer and water both.


Sometimes, diseases in the snail make them do the most absurd thing. So, whenever you see them behaving abnormally like swimming upside down or floating around the aquarium, it is time for a checkup.

Some diseases or even simple stress can make your snail hide in their shell and try to escape the environment that made them sick.

It is getting serious when they are floating but not moving at all in the tank. Call the expert immediately when you see this happening.


Dead beings always float in water. Did you know that? The air-filled in the dead cells and the water accumulation will make any dead beings float in the water.

After a certain age, even your aquarium snail will die. So, don’t panic when you see your aquarium snail floating in the tank with no response for any factors.

There are ways to know when your snail is dead and floating. However, don’t blame yourself or be sad over a natural thing.

What To Do To Help Your Aquarium Snail Return To Normal?

When you come across the root cause of the problem, you want to solve it as soon as possible. You have to take immediate actions to certain problems before it turns hazardous.

I know you feel like this might be the last stage but there are ways to solve every problem in fish keeping. Well, I can’t do anything about the death factor but other few factors have solutions to them.

You can always ask the expert for help or even research well your type of aquarium snail to solve this problem.

With no further ado, I am giving you solutions to the problems and causative agents that make your aquarium snail float weirdly.

Adjust Water Parameters

Water parameters might change on their own after a while but you have to be active enough to adjust it back to normal.

Do not overdo the water change or let the ammonia or nitrite or even nitrate level rise in the tank water.

Maintain the pH to optimum and use a good quality heater to adjust the ideal temperature that snail asks for.

The ideal aquarium pH and temperature for most aquatic snails are between 7.0 and 7.5 and 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit respectively.

There are ways to lower the ammonia, nitrite, and even nitrate in the tank naturally and also adjust the temperature without using the heater.

I know this might sound absurd but well it is always better to treat things naturally. Once everything goes back to normal in the tank water parameters, your snail will automatically go back to acting mysteriously normal.

Release The Air Bubble

If the trapping of air bubbles in the shell or the lungs is unintentional, then you have to step in to release the bubbles from your snail.

Here are the steps to release the air bubbles from your snail:

  1. You have to, firstly, pinch hold your snail when they are on the water surface.
  2. Now, turn your snail upside down.
  3. After turning them, rotate their shell a few times.
  4. Perform the rotation step for few times, four to five times to be precise.
  5. Look out for the bubbles that will come out from the snail.
  6. If you see the bubbles coming out, let your snail go and they will sink back to the bottom.
  7. If they don’t sink back, repeat the same steps again.

Decrement In The Speed Of Filter

Try to use a low-powered filter that doesn’t cause water current chaos in the tank. Your snail is sensitive so, it during every step you take while setting up the tank.

When you use the filter with low water flow current and a peaceful environment, the stress in the aquarium snail will subside.

They will be able to sink back to the bottom or middle area of the tank when the spinning will stop. The dizziness and disorientation in the balance of the aquarium snail will go back to normal.

Add Food In The Tank

Although your aquarium snail will feed on the dead and decaying matters present in the tank, this cannot always be sufficient.

Sometimes, hunger can get the best of them. And I know that’s not what you want. Remember to add some food to the tank for your aquarium snail as well.

They might not be demanding or fussy but they do get hungry. Remember that. Do not let them starve in the tank just because you feel like they will have sufficient nutrients from algae and pollutants.

When your aquarium snail is full of food and is not starving anymore, trust me, they will go back to acting normal.

Treatment Of The Diseases

Some diseases can be fatal or turn fatal when treated sooner. You need to be careful and check other symptoms in the snail.

Research well about the diseases that can occur in aquarium snail and also consult the expert or your vet to help you solve the problem.

Sometimes certain changes in the aquarium will do the trick while sometimes medications will work like a miracle.

Although some diseases can be untreatable and bring death to your snail, it is best to remove them from the tank before it affects anybody else.

Separate The Bullying Tank Mates

You need to transfer the bullying and aggressive tank mates into the new tank almost immediately. Or you can put your aquarium snail in a new tank until they go back to normal.

When the stress will subside and they start to stay normally in another tank, you can think about the measures to keep them together.

How To Tell Whether Your Aquarium Snail Is Dead Or Not?

I know you will be wondering about the death factor from the floating reasons of aquarium snail. There are ways to confirm whether your snail is alive and floating or dead.

Death is scary but the scariest thing is to not know when your snail died and what you need to do to know whether it is true or not.

The first and foremost thing you can look for is the smell of your snail. Since the dead matters have this pungent smell, it will be easier for you to detect the death of your snail.

Likewise, touch their small sticky legs, if they do not shrink themselves into the shell as the defense mechanism, then sorry to say, your snail is dead, my friend.

Also, the aquarium snail doesn’t hang out of the shell or move at all, then the death has reached and your snail aged well and died.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some FAQs you might be wondering about while researching about your aquarium snail floating in the tank.

Why Is My Snail Not Moving?

Stress is the main factor that will make your snail stay still without moving. The aggressive tank mates can be one of the reasons why your snail is stressed and staying still in one place.

Here is an article on Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Snails: What To Know?

The change in the water parameters or the inappropriate water conditions is another reason for the abnormal behavior of snails.

The increment in the ammonia level or the change in the pH of aquarium water makes the snail stay in one spot.

You might be interested to learn about Ammonia Poisoning in Fish Tank | How to Get Rid of It?

Another reason may be because they are sleeping. During the daytime, right after their mealtime, these snails tend to rest for a while and will sleep within a single spot without moving.

The latter reason is normal so you don’t have to panic. However, the first 3 reasons can get serious and fatal pretty soon. So, be careful there.

Why Does My Snail Stay In Its Shell?

Have you seen a turtle that hides within its shell when it is afraid? Well, your dear aquarium snail is no different.

When the water parameters of the tank water don’t meet the ideal condition for snails, they will hide in their shell to protect themselves from the outer danger.

The irritation due to the presence of ammonia or nitrates in the tank can make the snail stay within the shell till you clear all hints of these compounds from the aquarium water.

Also, sickness and the presence of diseases in snails can make them live within their safe space. Dead snail also remains within their shell, so better take it out of the water gently and smell it.

Dead snail has the pungent smell of, I guess, ‘death’. You will easily detect the reason for their hiding once you look thoroughly through water parameters and their health condition.

Can A Snail Survive Without A Shell?

Can you think about living without bones in your body? I don’t think so. It is impossible for you to survive, let alone survive, to exist without bones in your body. The same thing applies to the shell of the snail.

So, No, Snail cannot survive without a shell as it gives a definite structure to the snail. Likewise, the protection of the inner soft body of the snail is dependent on the hardcore outer structure i.e., shell.

Have you ever acted cruelly and tried to pull out the shell of the snail? First of all, don’t do it. It is morally and humanly wrong. And secondly, these shells are glued to the body of the snail.

So, when you try to pull it out of their body, you might end up with some parts of their inner body along with the shell.


In a nutshell, keeping aquarium snails can be one of the unique things you can acquire while fishkeeping. A cleaning crew within the tank is a blessing you will always be grateful for. So, it is necessary to give them the parameters they ask for. I know they can adjust but that doesn’t give you the window to do whatever you like. Look at the simple signs and symptoms your aquatic beings show in the tank. Follow the instructions properly and do not neglect your aquarium snail.

I know there is a misbelief of treating fish better than your snail. This will do to some extent but every living being deserves equal attention and care.

Be careful with small details.

Good Luck!!

Happy Fishkeeping!!!

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