Are Aquarium Snails Nocturnal? The Surprising Answer

If you are looking to make an addition to your aquarium that will both include a visual and utility benefit, aquarium snails are always a great option. These fascinating creatures are one of a kind and will keep you and guests looking at your tank for long periods of time in amusement. But what time of the day is the best for you to fully appreciate them?

Aquarium snails are nocturnal creatures. Their sleep cycle is not 24-hour based, so they may be seen during daytime too. However, their tendency is to minimize their activity during light-hours. They prefer staying under cover until night approaches, especially if tank lights are off.

Amazing creatures as they are, there is a lot of vital information to learn about aquarium snails if you are to incorporate them to your tank. While some people consider them as pests, others make a difference between those that may harm or benefit your tank ecosystem. Should you want to learn more about aquarium snails and take the most out of them, dive into the rest of this article and find out facts you had no idea about these creatures.

Are Aquarium Snails Nocturnal?

Aquarium snails are a great addition to make to your tank. Interesting creatures as they are, they also contribute to maintenance and regulating water parameters. One of the most curious aspects of these animals is their sleeping cycles. It is quite a debate to decide whether they are nocturnal creatures or not, given the fact of their active hours.

Aquarium snails sleeping cycles differs a lot from that of humans. It consists of about 12-13 hours of intermittent sleep, to then stay for approximately 30 hours in activity. As this time exceeds a 24-hour day as we know it, it would be wrong to state that snails are completely nocturnal creatures. Given the fact that they may emerge from the bottom of the tank during daytime and be seen performing its activities, it is also true that they are usually more active during the dark. This is even more accentuated if during nighttime, tank lights are off.

A sleeping aquarium snail may be confused with an ill snail, or even a dying one. This is because their muscles are relaxed during this time, so their shells may get a bit sideways while sleeping time is happening. Still and quiet as they look while resting, and despite their tentacles and feet are relaxed, the mucus they produce still holds them tight to the surface they decide to sleep on.

However, snails may also float or bury themselves into whatever substrate there is in the tank. Despite their relaxation and comfort time in their sleep, they do not get annoyed if interrupted while doing so. They just resume whatever activity they were up to and continue with their cycle.

Different Species of Aquarium Snails

There are numerous species of aquarium snails, and even though they may look alike, each one of them has its own characteristics. In fact, sleeping cycles differ enormously from one to another. Depending on what you are looking for in your tank, the conditions of water parameters, and the existence of other living creatures in the same environment. Take a look at this table to help you decide which may be the best choice for your aquarium.

Aquarium SnailSleeping CycleFeeding habitsOther Characteristics
Mystery Snail2-3 days, consisting in bouts of 12-13 hours of sleep, and 30 active hours.   They tend to roam the tank at night looking for food.Dried, dead leaves from the bottom of the tank or any other surface.Given their feeding habits, they control and improve water quality.   Very slow and defenseless creatures. They are very prone to getting stressed if they share space with an aggressive animal.
Nerite Snail45-hour sleeping cycle, of which 15 of them are dedicated to sleeping, and the remaining 30 are active.They feed from algae. It can be complemented by adding some algae wafers to the water.They can live in saltwater, or freshwater as well.
Pond Snail2-3 days, consisting in bouts of 12-13 hours of sleep, and 30 active hours.   Quite slow during their resting time, even when awake. Their energy level is also affected by appetite.Their diet is based on algae and dead plant matter.   Good feeding ensures a population growth at a big scale.Good choice for large community tanks.   Overpopulation may result in a menace to the balance of the tank.
Trumpet SnailThey mostly sleep during daytime, when they hide by submerging into the bottom of the tank. Once lights are out, they crawl out and become active. When sun rises, they tend to hide back again.Algae and dead plant matter diet. Complementation with algae wafers is not necessary, as they eat almost any vegetation waste present in the water.Their periodical digging is beneficial for the proliferation of plants in the tank.   At high food levels, proliferation is sure to occur.   Very good at hiding during daytime. A good way to check on population levels is to do so at night, by turning the lights on during dark hours.


Are Saltwater Snails Nocturnal?

Saltwater aquarium snails are nocturnal but can be active during the daytime too. Their sleeping cycles are not conditioned by light, but by the resting time they need in order to be active once again. As this cycle exceeds 24 hours, they alternate between daylight and nighttime activity.

Saltwater aquarium snails share some similarities with freshwater ones as regards their sleeping cycles. However, this does not mean that they are entirely nocturnal. Once they begin their resting time, which may vary between 12 to almost 18 hours, their clock is set and will become active in cleaning your tank once their life batteries are fully recharged. This is why it is possible to see them roam your aquarium at almost any time, regardless of the light levels. However, this is also conditioned by each saltwater snail main characteristic.

Apart from being interesting and visually attractive creatures, saltwater snails contribute in great scale to the cleanness of your tank, while also keeping the water parameters under control. They will take care of almost any roaming vegetation in decay and help with water oxygenation. Besides, due to the fact that they are peaceful animals, they won’t be a menace to any other living creature in the same tank. In fact, before thinking about acquiring a certain type of snail for your aquarium, pay attention to what may be harmful to them, so as to avoid any kind of distress.

With a diet based mainly in algae, it is very important to know what type of vegetation the snail of your choice prefers. Such is the case of, for example, Trochus Snail. This one loves green algae, diatoms, and cyanobacteria. On the other hand, Mexican Turbo Snail, will surely devour hair algae. This does not mean that saltwater snails will not eat certain type of vegetation in your tank, but if you are looking for them to be happy and proliferate, dedicating some research time to their feeding habits would be a good call.

Aquarium Snails Feeding and Population Control

As you may imagine, if you keep your aquarium snails well fed, proliferation is ensured. Although in different scales depending on each type of snail and their reproduction habits, it is of great relevance to keep population under control. Bear in mind that an overwhelmed tank may result harmful for the rest of the species coexisting in it. Here are some tips to help you check and manipulate snail population at your favor.

  • Moderate feeding options. Many snails do not respond to their appetite, but to the fact of having food in front of them. This means that as long as food is available, they will eat it and, thus, proliferate. Check, remove, and add vegetation or wafers at your own criteria so as to prevent them from overpopulating your tank.
  • Get a predator. This may be a difficult option to manage, but quite an effective one if balance is achieved. Some fish, or even snails, as the Assassin Snail, will help you keep overpopulation under control. Be careful not to add them in excess, as they may cause an extinction. However, it is very important not to cause stress in your snails by adding a predator. Giving your snails possibilities to hide from them is a good way of creating a balanced environment.
  • Learn their habits. Snail habits, such as active or resting times, will help you have a better control on how many of them there actually is. It would not be the same to look

at your tank at a time when your snails are at rest, or hiding under the substrate, from doing so when you know they are roaming the tank and looking for food. Measures should be taken when you notice overpopulation at high-activity times.

Aquarium snails are a great advantage to add and keep in your tank. Whether you enjoy the looks, the cleanness they achieve, or aim to breed them, these interesting animals will for sure captivate your attention, and those who come and see your tank!

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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