Hibernation is a fascinating process that many animals utilize every winter. It helps them conserve energy throughout the colder months so that they don’t have to worry about dying from the cold. Although most people think of bears when thinking of hibernation, snails are one of many species that hibernate.
It is known that both aquatic and land snails hibernate, but that doesn’t mean every kind of snail utilizes the process. So, do mystery snails hibernate or not? That is to be debated.
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What Are Mystery Snails?
Mystery snails are freshwater snails popular in the aquarium hobby. Although they are one of the biggest snails available for purchase, they only reach a size of two inches in diameter.
To find out just how big these snails get, read our guide here.
These little snails only live about a year, but they are fun to watch, coming in colors of white, yellow, and black. They are very active critters that like to climb all over the aquarium and ornaments, giving you hours of entertainment.
Besides being so fun to look at, most people love these snails because they like to eat so much that they help keep your aquarium clean.
To learn more about what mystery snails eat, read our guide here.
What Is Hibernation?
Hibernation is a natural process in which some animals slow down during the winter. Although hibernation is not really sleep, they do have some similar characteristics like slowed heart and respiratory rate. During hibernation, an animal’s metabolism slows down significantly so that the animal retains nutrients for longer. Their body temperature drops, with some animal’s temperatures dropping below freezing. This is especially common in aquatic species.
Why Do Animals Hibernate?
The main reason that animals hibernate is to conserve energy. Animals that have to produce their own body heat use a lot of energy to do so: energy that they get from food.
During the winter months, it can be increasingly difficult to find enough food for animals to sustain themselves. Sometimes, the hunt for food is not worth the amount of energy they expend. Rather than attempting to migrate to warmer climates, an animal will enter a period of “torpor” or “hibernation”.
The Difference Between Torpor And Hibernation
Torpor is the period in which an animal’s metabolism, heart rate, and respiratory rate slows down. This sounds a lot like hibernation, right? The difference is that torpor doesn’t last as long. Animals may enter torpor for a short period of time every day, often in the morning or at night when the temperature is at its coldest.
Watch this video: Do Mystery Snails Hibernate? How Long + Dead Or Asleep?
Likewise, hibernation is basically torpor, but it last for days and occurs in clusters. An animal’s metabolic rate is slower and the body temperature drops much lower than it does during torpor. Hibernation also tends to be a regular, seasonal phenomenon, unlike torpor which only happens for a few hours or days at a time.
Now that we know what hibernation is, the question we want to answer is: do mystery snails hibernate?
Do Mystery Snails Hibernate?
Many snails hibernate, but it is a bit of debate as to whether mystery snails hibernate. However, the general consensus is that they don’t hibernate, although they may enter a state of torpor.
Sometimes, if a mystery snail is not getting enough food, they may enter torpor to try and survive. It may also be encouraged with colder winter temperatures when they naturally begin to slow down. However, because aquariums are generally kept at a consistent temperature, it is unlikely that the snail would feel the need to enter this state.
If an aquarist does not use a heater in their tank, it is possible for the water to get cold enough for the snails to go into torpor. When the water temperature goes just below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the snails will begin to slow down. If the temperature goes even lower, they will enter torpor.
Although the general consensus is that mystery snails go into a temporary torpor rather than hibernation, some aquarists claim that mystery snails can hibernate for up to three years at a time.
Clearly, more research needs to be done in this area to find the ultimate truth.
Why Do Snails Hibernate?
Just like other animals that hibernate, snails choose to hibernate because of cold temperatures or lack of food.
Aquatic snails and land snails may both do this. Larger snails that live on land commonly secrete a thick layer of mucous around the opening of their shell. This mucous will harden and protect the snail from ice and snow.
If the temperature drops too low, a snail’s tissues may freeze and lead to death. Placing mucous around the opening of their shell will help prevent this tragedy.
Besides the protection of the mucous, snails can also force themselves to “supercool”. This is a process that the snail’s body goes through to prevent the body from freezing, even at extreme temperatures.
To supercool, the snail’s body will produce excess sugar molecules that bind with water molecules, causing their bodies to dehydrate. They also produce anti-freeze proteins that prevent ice crystals from forming.
To prevent tissue freezing, snails will choose safe places to hibernate. Covered locations such as under leaves, rocks, or buildings will prevent ice and snow from entering the snail’s shell.
Unlike aquatic snails, land snails will sometimes enter a state called “aestivation”. Aestivation is similar to hibernation, but it occurs when temperatures become too warm. Land snails need to worry about excessively high temperatures because they can dry out.
How Long Can A Mystery Snail Sleep? When?
Are Mystery Snails Nocturnal?
Many new mystery snail owners complain that their pet is inactive during the day. They simply hide in their shell in the same spot, seemingly lifeless. This leads to a lot of people wondering, “are mystery snails nocturnal”?
Mystery snails are, in fact, nocturnal and they prefer to sleep during the day. They don’t like the brightness of light, so they use their shells as a shield against the light as they sleep.
If you are patient and watch them at night after the lights have gone out, you will see them when they are most active.
A Snail’s Sleep Schedule
A snail’s sleep schedule is quite interesting because they don’t sleep how we would normally think of sleep. They are not as dependent on sleep as most animals are and don’t seem very effected when they their sleep cycle is interrupted. They may sleep for up to two to three days at a time, slipping into torpor.
Even more fascinating, snails can go through a cycle of seven periods of sleep within the span of 18 hours. After waking from this long sleep, snails can then be active for up to 30 hours at a time.
How Snails Sleep
Because snails have shells on them at all times, they are always protected and can easily retreat whenever they feel threatened. Since they have no worries about where to sleep, they can and will sleep wherever they please.
Mystery snails stick themselves to the sides of aquariums and ornaments with a sticky mucous that is secreted from their foot. They use this same mucous to stick themselves in place when they are ready to sleep.
How To Tell If Your Mystery Snail Is Asleep Or Dead
It’s quite simple to tell whether your mystery snail is dead or alive, so fortunately you don’t have to worry about accidentally disposing of a still-alive snail.
Mystery snails can hide inside their shells for hours or days at a time. They may do this because they are cold, they are full, or they are being harassed by tank mates. But how are you to tell that they are still alive?
The easiest way to tell if your snail is still alive is to simply lift it out of the water. If it is alive, it will protect itself by keeping its operculum tightly shut. An operculum is a thin, shell-like structure attached to the snail’s foot. Snails can open and close the operculum when they want to hide inside their shell.
If the snail is dead, the operculum will fall open and the snail’s body will fall or hang out of the shell. Also, dead snails smell terrible. It is simple to tell if a snail is dead or alive by the smell alone.
Don’t be alarmed if you see your snail floating through the tank. While it can possibly mean that your snail has died, that is not always the case. Sometimes, snails will get air bubbles in their shells that cause them to float. They will continue to float until they can rid themselves of that excess air.
Some species of snails will intentionally float because it allows them to have easier access to prey. They allow air to get into their shell and will float in place until their chosen prey comes along and they can eat.
If you are worried that your floating snail may be dead, simply lift it from the water and follow the suggestions we provided above.
|Is The Operculum Open?
|Does It Smell?
Although mystery snails don’t necessarily hibernate, they are known to go into a state of torpor, which is very similar, albeit shorter. Likewise, mystery snails have interesting sleeping habits very unlike that of our own. With these two things combined, many people mistake their resting snail for being dead.
So, next time your mystery snail hasn’t moved for hours or days, don’t worry. Remember this article and take the proper steps to see if your snail is really dead, or simply taking a snooze.
Also check out our full article on how big mystery snails can get or exactly what mystery snails eat. Or perhaps you’re especially eager to know if mystery snails eat algae and how mystery snails mate? You can also read more about snails here.