Can Snails Swim? [Complete Answer]

can freshwater snails live out of water

Can snails swim? There is a pretty simple answer: land and freshwater snails cannot, but ocean snails can. Still, there is a lot more that goes into the answer than that. Why can some swim while others can’t? How do they breathe underwater? The answers are quite fascinating, so keep reading to learn more.


Can Snails Swim?

After learning that many snails live in water, you may be wondering, “do snails swim? Some snails can swim, while most cannot. Snails found on land and in freshwater habitats cannot swim, but sea snails can.

Can Snails Swim?

Types Of Snails

Snails are a versatile species of animals that live all over the world from Antarctica to Alaska. Some snails live exclusively on land, while others live exclusively in water. Some have adapted over the centuries in order to survive in both water and land.

In this guide, we’re going to cover the differences between land and water snails, discovering what makes them unique.

Land Snail Habitats

Land snails can be found across the world in five different continents, across all kinds of climates. Some live in very hot conditions in the desert, while others live high up in the cold mountains. Most commonly, they are found in tropical regions where it’s warmer.

When thinking of snails, many people only think of land snails, but there are others. Can snails survive in water? If the answer is yes, then, do snails live in water?

Freshwater Snail Habitats

There are over 5,000 species of freshwater snails found in rivers, ponds, marshes, and lakes.

Freshwater snails are adaptable and easily transferred between multiple bodies of water. Sometimes they will stick to or crawl onto animals that transport them, or a flood may wash them away from their original home.

Because they are always being relocated, many of these snails have learned to live in saltier waters as well. Marshes, for example, usually have a low concentration of salt.

Saltwater Snail Habitat

Like their land and freshwater cousins, saltwater snails are adaptable. They are found in warm, tropical reefs, all the way down to the cold ocean depths.

Some saltwater snails are even found at hydrothermal vents: extremely hot volcano-like structures at the bottom of the ocean. The snails that live here can survive at temperatures up to 175oF.

Over 18,000 species of snails can be found in the ocean and they are known as some of the largest and most colorful species of snails alive.

Can Garden Snails Swim?

Land snails cannot swim and cannot live in water. In fact, they can easily drown if they find themselves in a body of water that is too deep.

If they find themselves in deep water, they will reach out with their foot to try and grab onto plants and rocks. If they are successful, they will use the items as leverage to crawl out of the water.

So the answer to can all snails live in water is no.

do mystery snails eat algae

Can Aquarium Snails Swim?

Aquarium snails are adapted to living underwater full-time, but they still can not swim. Like their land-living cousins, freshwater snails use their sticky foot organ to crawl along the surfaces of your aquarium.

Some species have adapted a unique way of traveling across water, however. Rather than using their foot, they allow their shells to fill with a bit of air.

The air gives them the buoyancy they need to float to the surface of the water. From there, they will stay underwater, but will face the surface of it to graze on floating algae.

Watch this video: can snails swim?

Can Sea Snails Swim?

Unlike their land and freshwater counterparts, saltwater snails have very small shells, or no shells at all. Without this extra equipment to hold them back, they can swim through the water column in a wavelike motion.

Their foot organ is more buoyant without the shell, so this allows saltwater snails to float and swim.

Can Snails Live In Water?

The quick answer to this is that it depends on the type of snail. Freshwater and saltwater snails can live underwater, and in fact, need to. Land snails cannot.

Can Snails Breathe Underwater?

Land snails cannot breathe underwater, but freshwater and saltwater snails do.

Aquatic snails have gills that allow them to breathe and live in water for their whole lives. A lot of aquatic snails cannot come up onto land because it will kill them. Snails that only have gills stay closer to the bottom of the water body because they can’t breathe air.

However, there are some species, like mystery snails and apple snails, that can breathe air for a short period of time. They have evolved to have both gills and lungs so that they can breathe on land for a few hours before they need to go back to the water.

Snails with both gills and lungs like to stay closer to the surface of the water so they have easy access to both air and water.

Can Garden Snails Live In Water?

Garden snails cannot live underwater and should not ever be placed near a deep body of water. They will drown if they find themselves in deep water with no way to get out.

However, most land snails can hold their breath for a period of time to allow themselves to crawl out of the water. Some species can hold their breath for up to 24 hours, but most can only last a couple of hours.

what do apple snails eat

Can Apple Snails Live In Cold Water?

While there are snail species that have adapted to living in cold water, apple snails aren’t one of them. Technically, they can survive in cold water, but they will go into a state of aestivation which is similar to hibernation, until the water warms back up.

Being in cold temperatures for too long a time can actually harm apple snails, so it’s best to avoid it.

Apple snails are tropical species and are happier and healthier when kept at temperatures between 70-78oF. In warmer water, apple snails will be more active, grow faster and eat more.

Read our full guide to whether snails need water here.

Can Water Snails Live On Land?

Just like land snails cannot live in water, aquatic snails cannot live on land.

Many aquatic snail species have both gills and lungs so that they can survive outside of water for a few hours, but they can’t live there indefinitely. If they stay on land for too long, they will dry up and die.

So the answer to can freshwater snails live out of water is no.


Snails are one of the most versatile and adaptable animals on the planet. There are thousands of species that can be found on land and in water across the world.

They can be found in places as simple as our backyard to the extremes of mountains and hydrothermal vents. No matter how you look at it, snails are incredible, diverse creatures.

However, when it comes to swimming, sea snails can and land and freshwater snails cannot.

Click here to learn what apple snails eat and here for mystery snails. Want to know if snails eat grass? Click here. You can find all our guides to snails here.

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