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Why There Are Empty Snail Shells In Your Aquarium!

Aquatic snails have a wide range of uses in modern fish keeping due to being excellent clean up crew options that will eat huge amounts of algae, detritus, and discarded fish food that makes its way to the bottom of the tank.

Due to this as well as the low price tags for the various species of aquatic snails, a huge number of people have started to add them to their aquariums.

This has resulted in more and more people asking questions related to their aquatic snails though with one common question being why they have empty snail shells in their aquarium.

When aquatic snails die, the various types of microorganisms in your aquarium tank will eat the actual flesh of the snail surprisingly quickly but they are not able to consume the actual snail shell itself.

This results in the empty snail shells from the aquatic snails who have died in your tank being left on the substrate for you to remove yourself.

Please keep in mind that if you do suddenly notice a large number of empty snail shells within your aquarium tank within a month of each other then this could be an indication that something is wrong with your tank.

We would recommend that you check your water parameters for potential toxins and signs of infection as some common problems in aquariums will take hold of your shrimps and snails prior to being able to take hold of your fish so this could be an early warning of a potential problem.

Why Are Their Empty Snail Shells In My Aquarium?

Empty snail shells are left in your aquarium when the aquatic snail who previously inhabited the snail has died and the microorganisms and other smaller creatures in your tank have consumed the fleshy body of your snail.

For the most part, these snails will have died from natural causes but there are some bottom dwelling fish and creatures such as assassin snails that will hunt the snails in your tank.

We have seen some people on social media presume that the empty snail shells in their aquarium is due to the snails shedding their shells or switching their shells similar to how a hermit crab would switch shells as it grows.

This is not correct and there are no known snail species that either shed their shells or switch shells with shell switching being impossible due to snails having their mantle organ that secures them to their shell.

If the mantle of a snail is damaged or broken in anyway then it allows potentially harmful bacteria to get into the back of its shell to the more sensitive areas of its body.

As we covered in our article going over aquatic snails with broken shells, this can drastically reduce the lifespan of your aquatic snails in some situations but they will usually be fine and heal over time but the mantle of a snail prevents it from leaving its shell or its shell detaching from it without serious, potentially fatal injuries.

Should I Remove Dead Snail Shells From My Aquarium?

Empty snail shells in your aquarium usually pose no risk to your water parameters but some people do find them unsightly and will choose to remove them.

If you have bottom dwelling fish such as cory catfish that are large enough to try and eat the snail shells then we would recommend that you remove them though as they do present a blocking hazard that may become lodged in the digestive system of your fish.

It is surprising how many people within the fish keeping community overlook how much of a thread a blockage is to a fish due to focusing on the fact that their bottom dwelling fish use fills to breath.

Although this is true, the actual hazard from the blockage of an empty snailshell is actually the lack of nutrients that the fish is able to absorb that will eventually result in a fatality.

With the popularity of hermit crabs and crawfish also increasing within the fish keeping community, many people use egg shells to supplement the calcium intake of their pet crustations.

If you do keep a pet that requires additional calcium to be supplemented into its diet then you can add the empty snail shell to your calcium supply with your egg shells and whatever else you use to grind up to make the calcium supplement without issue.

Why Are All Of My Aquatic Snails Dying?

There are a number of reasons that your aquatic snails may all start dying suddenly resulting in a surge of the empty snail shells in your aquarium.

The most common ones all involve some type of issue with your water parameters in your tank or some type of infection be it bacterial, parasitic or fungal with the snails in your tank often being the first to feel the effects of these.

We have seen some people accidentally add an assassin snail to their tank due to liking the look of its shell when seeing them in the pet store.

The name assassin snail is not just randomly assigned to this species of snail but it is essentially a title due to how many of the other snail species in your tank they will eat with assassin snails usually being used for the population control of the other snails in your tank.

If you have accidentally added an assassin snail to your main aquarium with other species of snail then it is highly likely that they are being eaten.

Although rare, nutritional issues can be another problem that may result in your aquatic snails dying and leaving their empty shells in your aquarium.

This is usually due to an overzealous tank maintenance routine that leaves minimal food for the snails to eat as they predominantly feed on algae, detritus, and left over food but if you do your tank maintenance routine a couple of times per week this can drastically reduce the available food supply for your aquatic snails.


That brings our article going over why you have empty snail shells in your aquarium to an end and we hope that you have found our article helpful. Empty snail shells in your aquarium is totally normal and is all part of the circle of life with it being very common for fish keepers to find a couple of empty shells in their tanks each year but if you do notice that there are a large number of empty snail shells within a short period of time of each other then this could be an indication of an issue in your tank.