Mystery Snail Floating? Reasons and What to do

Mystery snails have unique features that other snails don’t have. Besides the gills, they have lungs and a siphon that can be extended above the water surface to enjoy air from the atmosphere. Therefore it’s common to find them floating on the water’s surface

However, sometimes mystery snail floats on water due to trapped air in their lungs, poor water conditions, illness, high filtration speed, or when feeding on protein film on the water’s surface. Snails may also float when dead.

To address the issue, you should check the water parameters to ensure they’re within the appropriate range. Further, check any behavioral changes to determine if the snail is unwell and take it to a hospital tank for further examination and treatment.

Why is My Mystery Snail Floating?

The following are reasons why your mystery snail might be floating.

1. Trapped air

Mystery snails will float when air gets trapped in their lungs or shell. This happens when there are plenty of air bubbles in the aquarium due to agitation and bio-wastes. Just like an inflated balloon, air will make the snail buoyant.

If the snail is not moving, you’ll have to intervene and help it get rid of the trapped air.

2. Poor water quality

Mystery snails are sensitive to water parameters such as temperature, pH, and hardiness. They will try to move out of the tank or float on the water’s surface when the conditions are not conducive.

Sometimes the snail may escape the tank when stressed out. Unfortunately, mystery snail survival out of water is limited only to a few hours. The snail dies as soon as it dries out.

3. Film in the tank

Sometimes plant protein, and remnant food particles can join and form a film. It is not harmful, and mystery snails love to feed on it. Since it forms on the water’s surface, the snails will have to float to have a bite.

4. To lay eggs

Mystery snails will mostly stay at the bottom of the tank, but a female mystery snail will occasionally climb above the waterline to lay eggs. Mystery snail eggs falling into the water won’t hatch; they can rot and contaminate the tank.

5. High-pressure filter

Mystery snails do not thrive under intensive water movement or high pressure. Therefore, if the tank has a powerful filter, the high pressure can cause the mystery snail to lose coordination and float. The high pressure can even create bubbles in the tank.

Do mystery snails float when dead?

A floating mystery snail does not necessarily mean it is dead. It could be feeding on film or floating because the environment is hostile. However, a dead mystery snail will also float. If you suspect that the floating mystery snail is dead, do the following to confirm:

  • Remove the snail from the water and smell the shell through the trapdoor. A dead mystery snail will have a foul smell, but if it does not have a bad smell, it might not be dead but inactive.
  • Check if the snail is hanging out of the shell and gently touch it. A live snail will retreat to its shell.
  • If the mystery snail is inside its shell, gently tap its shell or turn it upside down and see if it will have any reaction.
  • You can also try to open its trapdoor, a live mystery snail will resist, but the trapdoor will easily open for a dead one.
  • You can look for their heartbeat in younger snails and snails with thin shells. You have to place it in a place with enough light or use a flashlight.
  • If the snail is dead, you need to remove it from the tank immediately and discard it.

What to do when a snail is floating

If you confirm that the floating mystery snail is not dead, you can take the following steps to help it:

1. Check the water conditions.

Use a test kit to check if the water conditions are okay. Check the temperature, pH, and water hardness. Also, check for ammonia, nitrate, and copper levels. You can do a regular water change and use a water conditioner to improve the water quality.

Also, ensure you have the recommended number of mystery snails per gallon to avoid overcrowding the tank.

2. Remove the trapped air

Remove the snail from the tank and hold it in one hand. Use the other hand to gently move it up and down to help release the air trapped in its body. You can also hold the snail upside down in the water and gently rub it in a circular motion until you see the bubble leaving the shell.

3. Remove the protein film

If there is a milky film in the water and you do not want the mystery snail to feed on it, you can remove it using a paper towel. Additionally, add an air stone to increase surface agitation to stop the formation of the protein film.

4. Use a low-power filter

If the cause of the mystery snail floating is much filtration pressure, then you can change to a lower-power one. A simple sponge filter will be enough in your mystery snail tank.


A mystery snail floating on the water may indicate a potential problem with its health or habitat. Various factors, such as poor water quality, trapped air, or insufficient oxygen levels, could cause this behavior.

If you notice your mystery snail floating, it is important to investigate the underlying cause and take appropriate action to ensure it’s healthy. Consult a veterinarian or aquatic expert for guidance on helping your mystery snail and preventing floating in the future.


  1. Petsnails, snail problems
  2. “Freshwater Snail Biodiversity and Conservation,” Virginia Cooperative Extension

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