Do Snails Need Water? [Complete Guide]

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Anyone who is considering owning a snail needs to know how to properly take care of them, and this includes knowing if they need water. Like all animals, snails need water whether they live on land or in water. Do Snails Need Water? Ok, so all snails need water, but can water snails live out of water? Do they drink water? We’ll cover this and more here.

Do Snails Need Water?

Types Of Snails

Snails are some of the oldest animals in the world. Ancestors of today’s snails can be found dating back 500 million years to the Cambrian period. It may be surprising that fragile, soft-bellied animals have lived this long. How have they done it?

Snails are very adaptable and have learned to live all over the world. They can be found in common places like your garden, but they can also be found in temperatures of extreme cold and heat.

Generally, land snails are equipped with a lung that they use to breathe air, while aquatic snails are equipped with a set of gills that lets them breathe water. Even this varies, however.

Some snails, both terrestrial and aquatic, have a lung and gills that allows them to go in and out of water. Some of these snails live the majority of their lives in water, while others need to stay on land for most of their lives.

To learn more about these complex breathing systems, check out our full guide.

Do Snails Need Water?

Do snails need water? We’ve determined they do. They need to retain moisture in their skin and they need it to drink. So, lets take it further. Can all snails live in water? While there are aquatic snails, there are also snails that live strictly on land.

Do Garden Snails Need Water?

You may be wondering, do land snails need water? As stated above, all snails require water to live. Without it, they will quickly dry up and die. Garden snails and other terrestrial snails will often drink water from shallow puddles. They also derive water directly from the leaves they feed on.

Although terrestrial snails need water to survive, too much of it can be dangerous. Most land snails only have a lung to breathe dry air, so if they find themselves in a large body of water, they can drown.

Most snails can hold their breath for a few hours, so they can usually find their ways out of the dangerous water before it is too late. They will feel around with their muscular foot for rocks and plants and crawl themselves out of the water.

Terrestrial snails also need water to move around. They use a mucous trail, that consists of 90% water, to get around, gliding their muscular foot through the mucous to travel.

Do Aquarium Snails Need Water?

Because aquarium snails live the majority of their lives in water, it is safe to say that they need water to survive.

However, anyone who has owned an aquarium snail and didn’t have a lid on their tank has likely experienced the critters escaping. This may lead you to wonder, can apple snails live out of water? Can other aquarium snails?

In fact, there are some species, like the mystery and apple snails that can breathe air.

These snails have both a lung and gills to allow them to gather oxygen from the water and from dry air. They even have an organ called a siphon that they stick above the water surface to breathe air.

Still, although these snails are capable of breathing dry air, they can only do so for a limited time. If aquarium snails find themselves out of water for more than a few hours, they will dry up and die.

Do Sea Snails Need Water?

Water is vital to marine snails and they cannot live without it. Most snails that live in the ocean never come out of the water unless forced to.

The only ocean-dwelling snails that can breathe dry air are some species that live in intertidal regions where the tide ebbs and flows. Some of these snails are equipped with a lung rather than gills.

During periods of low tide, these snails emerge from their shells to breathe the air and explore their surroundings. When the tide comes back in, they hide in their shell, sealing themselves safely against the water.

These dry-air breathing oceanic snails are the exception, however, not the rule. Most marine snails live with either one or two sets of gills to breathe water where they live their whole lives.

assassin snail
Assassin snail in water

Do Snails Like Water?

Water is vital to a snail’s survival, but whether or not they like water really depends on the kind of snail. Freshwater and marine snails love water and they live there for their whole lives.

Terrestrial snails on the other hand, don’t so much like water as it is simply necessary to their survival. They prefer to drink water from small, shallow drinking pools where they are safe, avoiding deeper waters where they may drown.

Watch this happy snail drinking water:

How Do Snails Drink Water?

The way in which snails “drink” is quite fascinating because they don’t usually drink in the sense that we think of it. Although they can use their mouths to drink, they have evolved to “drink” water in a more efficient way.

Snails absorb water through their skin in a process called contact-rehydration.

When a snail needs to “drink”, they flatten themselves against the water and absorb it through their cells.

Researcher D.J. Prior studied this phenomenon to find out how snails were absorbing water through their skin, so he added an extra-cellular marker named “inulin” to the water to trace it.

Unexpectedly, the inulin was absorbed with the water. This implies that the snails were not taking up water through the process of osmosis. Osmosis is a process where water diffuses through a semipermeable membrane, and is the main way in which water travels in and out of cells.

Prior deduced that snails were not absorbing water through their cells. Rather, the water was traveling around the cells.

Prior found that snails were changing the permeability of their skin. In other words, when a snail is ready to “drink”, they widen the space in-between their cells to allow more room for the entrance of water.

By absorbing water in-between cells rather than through them, snails are able to absorb large amounts of water more quickly.

Can Snails Survive In Water?

No matter whether they live in water or not, snails can survive in water. Water only becomes a problem for terrestrial snails that breathe with a lung, but even they can survive water for some time.

What Are Snails That Live In Water?

There are many snails that live in water like pond and marine snails. Any snails that you find for your aquarium, like mystery, apple, nerite and assassin snails, all live in water.

Can Land Snails Live In Water?

Land snails cannot live in water. Some can hold their breath for a few hours, and some even have gills that allow them to explore water for extended periods of time. Still, land snails can never live in water full-time.

Can Assassin Snails Live In Cold Water?

Although you don’t want the temperature of your tank to be too cold, assassins can thrive in much colder temperatures than other snails. They can happily live in temperatures ranging from 64-86oF, so you can certainly keep them in a cold-water tank if you’d like.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Mystery Snails Live Out Of Water?

Mystery snails have both a lung and gills to breathe air and water, so they can survive outside of water for a few hours. However, they cannot live outside of water permanently.

Can Freshwater Snails Live Out Of Water?

The answer to this question is also no. Many freshwater snails, like aquarium snails, can survive outside of water for a time, but they can’t live out of water.

Even pond snails, who have a lung rather than gills, can not live outside of water for long. Although they need to surface frequently to breathe dry air, they cannot live outside of water permanently or they will dry up.

Can Sea Snails Live Out Of Water?

Marine snails definitely cannot live out of water and will quickly dry up and die if they are removed from the water. They are generally only equipped with gills, so they cannot breathe dry air at all.

The only possible exception are intertidal snails that breathe with a lung when the tide goes out. They close themselves inside their shells when the tide comes in, so it may be possible for them to live permanently outside the ocean, but it is doubtful.

Where Do Water Snails Live?

Snails are an incredibly diverse species and aquatic snails can be found everywhere. You can look almost anywhere and you will find a snail because they live in the ocean, aquifers, creeks, rivers, springs, ponds, lakes, and wetlands.

They have adapted to live in cold waters and tropical. Freshwater and salt. It all depends on the kind of snail you are looking for.


Just like with any living creature, snails need water to survive. In fact, water is especially important to them, because without it, they will dry up and die rather quickly.

Whether or not a snail can survive outside of water is a completely different question and it all depends on what kind of snail it is. Some snails live permanently on land while others live their whole lives in the water. Still, others like to explore in between.

Want to learn more about snails? Click here to read our guide to how snails breath, here for whether they have a foot and here to learn how they swim. You can find all our snail guides here.

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Frank Kane

By Frank Kane

Frank is a huge animal lover with many pets of his own. He loves sharing all his knowledge of all creatures here and learning more whenever possible.