Mystery Snail Hanging Out of Shell- Causes and Solution

Sometimes my friends and neighbors come to me saying their mystery snails are hanging out of their shells. However, when I started to maintain my aquarium for the first time, I researched for a long time and experienced some common problems that create this snail floating problem. 

Most commonly, shell damage, stress, illness, predation or harassment, copper poisoning, protein film hunting, and improper water condition make the snails float hanging out of their shell. Though sometimes, they come out of their shell due to normal behavior, this is rare.

If you are also suffering from the same problem, check the whole article and try to find out the problem that resembles you the best and then apply the solution that I mentioned here if you find it perfect.

Why is the Mystery Snail Hanging Out of Shell- 8 Common Causes

1. Shell Damage

Mystery Snail Shell Damage

The first reason that I experienced in the case of a mystery snail hanging out of its shell is shell damage. If you find that the snail’s shell is damaged or broken, it may not be able to retract fully into its shell, causing it to hang out. 

Shell damage can occur due to rough handling, poor water quality, aggression from tankmates, calcium deficiency, rough substrates or decorations, and other causes. Whenever you find that the mystery snails are hanging, you should first notice their body structure and find out if it is damaged or not.

If you suspect that the shell is damaged, it’s important to monitor the snail closely and ensure appropriate water conditions to promote healing to keep your mystery snail stress-free.

2. Stress Condition

Stress Condition

Not only shell damage but also shell damage may make mystery snails float without shells. Poor water quality, inadequate nutrition, temperature fluctuations, or exposure to toxins can all contribute to snail health issues. 

Moreover, the pH range, calcium, potassium, and nitrate range along with imbalance meant in other water parameters may also create stress environment for the aquarium snails. As a result, they are bound to come out of the shell and float in the water.

3. Illness

Along with the stress period, illness may also be a reason behind the mystery snail hanging out of its shell. In most cases, if you don’t take care of your fish properly and neglect them, they may suffer from illness.

As a symptom of illness, the snail may appear lethargic and exhibit abnormal behavior. They also show other signs of distress. Among the diseases, shell rot, bacterial infection, parasitic infection, and overgrowth of algae are the most common diseases.

To identify this type of problem, you have to notice their behavior properly. Erratic behavior, excessive mucus production, loss of appetite, and breathing difficulties are the most common symptoms of their illness.

Consequently, by noticing them, you may get a clue about their problem and understand if they are hanging out due to illness or not.

4. Predation or Harassment

Next, I can point out the predation issue that I faced in my aquarium. I was not aware of this problem when I first started aquarium keeping. I was ignorant of the fact that other fish, snails, or invertebrates in the tank can cause stress or aggression toward the snail. As a result, I put snails along with some predatory fish.

But, if the mystery snail feels threatened or is being harassed by tankmates, it may extend its body outside the shell as a defensive mechanism. For example, fish (like cichlids, loaches, pufferfish), turtles (like red-eared slider) assassin snails, and some invertebrates can harm the mystery snails.

That’s why consider evaluating the tank’s inhabitants and adjusting the environment accordingly to ensure the snail’s well-being. Before introducing a new species, research them if they are harmful to the snails or not. Otherwise, you have to face the same problem as me.

5. Protein Film Hunting

Following that, protein film hunting may create problems for your mystery snails. You know that protein film hunting is a method of controlling mystery snails by applying a thin protein film on the water surface. The film acts as a barrier that restricts the movement of snails, ultimately causing them to drown.

But, using this method can be harmful to the snails and may create their hanging out of shell problem. This method initiates, oxygen deprivation, disruption of feeding and stress, and immune system compromise. As a result, a stressful environment is created for them which leads to the damage of their shells.

6. Copper Poisoning

Here, I will explain the fact of copper poisoning. Mystery snails may exhibit behavior where they hang out of their shells if they are experiencing copper poisoning. Copper is highly toxic to snails and other invertebrates and it can have severe effects on their health.

When snails are exposed to elevated levels of copper in their environment, either through contaminated water or copper-based medications or treatments, it can disrupt their physiological processes. Copper interferes with the snail’s ability to regulate osmotic balance, damages their nervous system, and affects their respiratory function.

As a result of copper poisoning, mystery snails may display abnormal behaviors, such as extending their bodies partially or fully out of their shells. This behavior is often observed as an attempt to escape from the toxic environment or alleviate the discomfort caused by copper poisoning.

It’s important to note that if you suspect your mystery snail is experiencing copper poisoning, it’s crucial to identify and address the source of copper contamination in their habitat.

Removing the snail from the copper-contaminated water and providing clean, dechlorinated water is essential for their recovery. Additionally, seeking veterinary assistance or consulting with experts in aquatic animal health can provide further guidance on treating copper poisoning in snails.

7. Normal Behavior

Finally, I want to mention a general reason for their hanging behavior that doesn’t indicate any harm. If you notice that your mystery snail is getting out of its shell, you can notice that it is happening due to its ordinary body mechanism.

Mystery snails have flexible bodies and feet that can extend beyond the shell. They may sometimes hang out of their shells for stretching or exploring their environment. This behavior is typically nothing to be concerned about if the snail appears healthy otherwise.

How to Treat Mystery Snails if They Hang Out of Shell

Check Water Parameters

Meanwhile, you have found your problem hopefully. If you closely notice your snail, you can match them with any of the mentioned problems. But, after that, you need a strong solution and I am here to provide it. In this case, firstly ensure that the water parameters in the aquarium are suitable for the snail. 

To make this procedure fruitful, check the temperature, pH level, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. As you know, poor water quality can stress the snail and lead to health issues, measure the soil parameters and apply needed methods to solve them if they are not accurate.

You can have a look at my previous articles where I have explained these factors clearly.

  1. 7 Best Ways To Lower The dKH Level In The Tank
  2. How to Lower TDS in Fish Tank -5 Effective Methods
  3.  How to Lower Calcium in Reef Tank & Freshwater Aquarium

Water Changes

Next, you should perform regular water changes to maintain good water quality. Water quality is one of the main conditions to keep the snails healthy. That’s why aim to change about 20-30% of the water every week. 

Additionally, you can use a de-chlorinator to remove any chlorine or chloramines from tap water before adding it to the aquarium. Thus, you can keep the water quality better for your snails.

Observe Tank Mates

Along with water changing, you should check if any aggressive tank mates are bothering the snail or not. Some fish or other aquatic creatures may nip at the snail, causing stress or physical damage. If necessary, consider separating the snail or removing aggressive tank mates.

To prevent this type of problem, you should research well about the fish that you want to introduce in your aquarium to understand if they are compatible with the snails or not.

Provide a Varied Diet

Providing a varied diet is much important for snails. You can consider it as a universal remedy for any type of problem. The snails need to take a well-balanced diet for staying healthy to cope with diseases and other problems.

At the same time, they can recover from any type of problem soon if they get a nutritious diet. That’s why ensure that the snail is getting a balanced diet. You can feed it a variety of foods such as blanched vegetables (e.g., zucchini, cucumber), algae wafers, and commercial snail food. Calcium-rich foods like cuttlebone or crushed eggshells are essential for maintaining a healthy shell.

Calcium Supplementation

Additionally, calcium supplementation can help them to protect their shell from damage. In this case, if the snail’s shell appears thin or damaged, you can provide additional sources of calcium. A crushed cuttlebone or powdered calcium supplements designed for aquarium use can be added to the tank. This helps the snail to repair and strengthen its shell.

Isolate and Observe

Observing the snails is one of the most important points to protect your snails from hanging out. If the snail’s condition worsens or you notice other signs of illness, such as excessive mucus, discoloration, or lethargy, consider isolating it in a separate quarantine tank. This allows for closer observation and prevents the potential spread of disease to other tank inhabitants.

Seek Expert Advice

Finally, in the case of serious issues, you should seek expert advice. If the snail’s condition does not improve or you are unsure about the cause of its behavior, consider consulting an experienced aquarist who has immense knowledge about snail maintenance. They can provide more specific guidance based on the symptoms and condition of the snail as you want.


Is It Normal For A Mystery Snail To Hang Out Of Its Shell All The Time?

No, while it’s common for them to extend their bodies partially or occasionally, this is a rare phenomenon. If you notice your snail always fully hanging out of its shell, it could be a sign of a problem that I have already mentioned before.

Can A Mystery Snail Hang Out Of Its Shell Due To Molting?

No. During molting, the snail will usually retreat into its shell and the shell’s opening may be sealed with a protective layer called an operculum. It is not typical for a mystery snail to hang out of its shell as a part of the molting process.

Final Words

At last, I have reached the ending point of my discussion. Mystery snails hanging out of shells can be a symptom of a serious problematic environment. If you don’t take the initiatives to solve their problem, it will harm them and may kill them also.

That’s why I suggest treating mystery snails as soon as possible when they are under stress. I always follow this instruction for my snails. Remember, mystery snails are sensitive creatures, so it’s important to maintain a clean and stable environment for their well-being.

Hopefully, my experience-based suggestions will help you to save your aquarium snails.

Howard Parker

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