Do Aquarium Snails Feel Pain? (2023)

Aquarium snails are tiny organisms and they can feel pain due to various things. The movement of other aquatic pets like large fish quick move can produce shocks and can be a source of pain for tiny snails.

Do Aquarium Snails Feel Pain? Yes, aquarium snails can feel pain. They have sensory organs and simplified nervous system responses to feeling pain through different mechanisms like pressure, heat, or any chemical used for tank cleaning. They can also suffer due to any human activity in the tank, such as maintenance, cleaning, and regular water change process.


  • 1 Do Aquarium Snails Feel Pain?
    • 1.1 Sense Organs of Snail Responsible for Pain
      • 1.1.1 Sense of Touch
      • 1.1.2 Sense of Smell
      • 1.1.3 Sense of Heat
    • 1.2 Pain Feeling Mechanism
    • 1.3 Pain Inflicting Factors in Snails
      • 1.3.1 Through Touch/Pressure/Force
      • 1.3.2 Through heat
      • 1.3.3 Through chemicals
      • 1.3.4 Through Disease
    • 1.4 How to keep aquarium snails safe?
    • 1.5 How to reduce pain in snails while removing them from the aquarium?

Aquarium snails are beneficial aquatic species, intentionally kept by aquarists in the tank.

They keep the tank clean by eating algae, waste food, and other organic debris in the aquarium.

Aquarists perform different activities daily to maintain the aquarium environment as per the requirement of their pets. It can include repairing, physical cleaning, disinfection of the tank with chemical and partial water changes every week.

These activities can be harmful and a source of pain for the snails. Different snail diseases can also cause pain in them.

Sense Organs of Snail Responsible for Pain

Sense organs collect information about different environmental changes like smell, pressure, and temperature and send them to the brain in the electrical signals forms. Snails do not have a proper brain and specific sensory organs.

They have numerous sense cells present at different body spots responsible for various senses like smell, taste, heat, and humidity. The most sensitive areas are its head, lips, and tentacle areas.

(Video) Do Snails Feel Pain?

Information acquired by sense cells process by nerve cells tied together to form a ring near the head known as ganglia.

Sense of Touch

All of a snail’s body is sensitive to touch, especially the head and tentacles. Snail feels the pressure and extent of touch as sense cells activate on its body. They tend to hide inside their shell according to the force or poking gesture.

Sense of Smell

It is a chemical sense responsible for taste and smell. Its sensory cells are present in lips, smaller and larger tentacles.

They help snails to test water quality and other chemicals. Snail tries to move away or hide in the presence of unfavorable water conditions and other harmful materials.

Sense of Heat

These cells are responsible detect any temperature changes in the aquarium surrounding environment. They protect themselves from heat as they are fragile living organisms.

During moderate temperature changes, snails tend to hide. However, in case of excessive temperatures, they try to move away from that area.

Pain Feeling Mechanism

Different parts of this mechanism are sense cells, nerve cells, and ganglia to process the sensory information.

Sense cells detect the harmful stimulus and send the signal in the form of an electric impulse to ganglia. In this way, they feel the pain and respond accordingly.

Pain Inflicting Factors in Snails

Snails are omnipresent organisms in aquariums because of their eruptive growth in a moist environment.

There are plenty of chances of their suffering because of tank activities and other aggressive aquatic inhabitant residents in the tank.

We will discuss various factors that can cause harm or pain in the snails categorized based on their sensory mechanism.

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Through Touch/Pressure/Force

Snails are weak, fragile, and lethargic organisms that do not rapidly move from the site of harm. Application of slight force can harm their protective shell and ultimately cause pain to them.

There are plenty of tank activities that involve some types of physical movement and use of pressure.

In case of repairing any accessory inside the aquarium, there is a possibility of damage to the snails. An example of such activity is filter change, cleaning of filters, or maintenance of air stones.

Cleaning of tank substrate involves physical movement of the tank interior like rocks or gravel, which results in loss of habitat and a painful situation for snails.

The regular water change process in the aquarium is another activity that requires extensive physical work. If not done with due care, it causes damage to the snails and instills pain in them.

Few snails can trap in impellers of the tank water circulation pump and get crushed.

If snails sharing a tank with some large, aggressive fish like red devil cichlid, plecos, or shark, they do frequent rash movements and bite everything that comes in their way.

Moreover, some of them are fond of digging. In all of these scenarios, snails are very much vulnerable to damage and painful situations.

Through heat

Snails are severely sensitive to excessive temperature rises as they are fond of cold environments. If due to some malfunctioning, the aquarium heater increases the water temperature beyond acceptable limits.

It causes snails suffering, and they try to hide or make frequent movements that are their pain indication.

Another reason for temperature rise is the direct impact of sunlight on the tank.

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Through chemicals

Chemical sensor cells are present on the Snail’s body. They are sensitive to different water quality parameters such as ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

These chemicals are most painful than dangerous for them. You can observe their effect on snails by their hide or flee response.

Some people use certain chemicals like copper, salt, alum(aluminum sulfate), and bleach to remove the unwanted population of snails in the aquarium.

These chemicals can kill them by a painful process. For example, salt dehydrates them and makes their slime dry. In this way, they become immobile dried up dead tissues that are a painful death.

If tank water does not dechlorinate completely, the chlorine will affect their body and make them suffer.

Through Disease

Snails are prone to various diseases like mantle collapse, tentacle loss, thin and fragile shells, or other problems due to fungus and parasites in the aquarium. These are painful for them and enhance their suffering.

How to keep aquarium snails safe?

As human beings, it is our responsibility to reduce the suffering and pain of other creatures, which beneficial for us. Therefore, here are few tips we can adopt to save the aquarium snails from agony and hurting.

● Perform the tank chores or any maintenance work with care to avoid causing any physical damage to snails.

● Keep the water quality parameters as per recommended values like pH, hardness, temperature, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

● Snails should not keep in a tank that contains immense aggressive predator pets.

● They should not be starved and served with plenty of food as long as you want to keep them in your aquarium.

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● Any flipped or upside down snails should be turned right to restore their functionality and end their suffering.

● In case of any disease, proper care and prescribed remedy should be used to cure their illness.

How to reduce pain in snails while removing them from the aquarium?

Sometimes it becomes inevitable to reduce or get rid of snails from your aquarium. In that case, different chemicals available to control them.

It is a humane practice to use chemicals like alum that are not as painful as other materials like salt and copper. In this way, we can reduce their suffering.

Another solution to reduce their suffering before getting rid is to numb them with some sedative material. You submerge these in a 5% ethanol solution, which will euthanize.

In this situation, the use of chemicals to kill them will cause less distress and muscle pain. It is a humane way to remove them.

Aquarium snails are pretty much-living organisms and have sensory cells to feel different environmental conditions like temperature, pressure, chemical changes, etc.

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Do Aquarium Snails Feel Pain? ›

"It's one of those things that drives you to avoid those [painful] things in the future," he said. But animals with simple nervous systems, like lobsters, snails and worms, do not have the ability to process emotional information and therefore do not experience suffering, say most researchers.

Do snails feel physical pain? ›

Snails may have opioid responses and mussels release morphine when confronted with noxious stimuli. Both reactions suggest that these animals do, in fact, feel pain. While mollusks don't have brains per se, they do exhibit some nervous system centralization. They have several pairs of ganglia connected to a nerve cord.

Do snails have feelings? ›

In summary, snails might have the biochemical potential to feel love, but they might not have a socially-mediated evolutionary reason to feel love. They engage in reproductive behaviors, but we don't know whether they feel love or pleasure during reproduction.

Are aquarium snails sensitive? ›

Snails are very sensitive to high copper levels in water, so if you are adding tap water to the aquarium, especially if you have copper pipes, you should monitor its copper content with a simple aquarium test kit.

Do snails feel pain when salted? ›

“Slugs and snails are extremely dependent on a high water content in their bodies. They constantly need water to replenish any the lose. “We don't know how much pain they feel when in contact with salt, but a slug or snail caught in granules will try to wiggle away while exuding a lot of mucus to clean their skin.”

Do snails get sad? ›

Are snails depressed? I guess they do move a little slow. Us: (laughing at the bad joke) It's a bit more complicated, but no. Snails aren't depressed.

Can snails love their owners? ›

Some people with snails do claim that they like being touched on their shells and occasionally their heads. However, it can be difficult to determine a snail's emotions due to their striking differences from us. Some species may be less fearful of human handling and may be more apt to enjoy petting.

Are snails happy in captivity? ›

I find watching snails quite relaxing. They just slither around at their own pace and enjoy their surroundings. The girls really seem to enjoy watching them too. We had these snails in a takeaway container for two weeks while moving house and I could tell they were happy when put into their new enclosure.

Do snails remember their owners? ›

Do snails recognize humans? Snails have very bad eyesight so they won't recognize you by sight. But, their sense of smell is quite good and they will begin to recognize how you smell.

How intelligent are snails? ›

“We tested memory ability in individual pond snails across a range of tasks including memory of what is good or bad to eat, and predator avoidance. This revealed that individuals who are good at one type of memory are generally very poor at other types of memory.” The study is published this week in Scientific Reports.

Can my snail see me? ›

A: Yes, snails can see. For most North American land snails, the eyes are located at the ends of the two upper (longer) tentacles. In a few species, the eyes are located at the bases of these tentacles. The snails' eyes are fairly advanced, with lenses that can focus, similar to the lenses in our eyes.

Are aquarium snails blind? ›

Some snails have large eyes and see well; some have a very limited visual field, while others are completely blind.

Do aquarium snails poop a lot? ›

The downside is that they contribute their share of waste after the cleanup job by pooping. Incidentally, snails poop often. You could clean out the aquarium and find a lot of snail poop back there within a very short time.

Is Salting slugs cruel? ›

Yes, it is cruel to salt a slug. Pouring salt on a slug triggers osmosis and causes the slug to die a slow, painful death of dehydration. Humans would experience a similar effect by pouring salt into their open eyes.

What color is a snail's blood? ›

Did You Know? Snails, spiders and octopi have something in common- they all have blue blood! We're not talking in the sense of royalty, these creatures literally have blue blood. So why is their blood blue and ours red?

What animals Cannot feel pain? ›

Summary: Fish do not feel pain the way humans do, according to a team of neurobiologists, behavioral ecologists and fishery scientists. The researchers conclude that fish do not have the neuro-physiological capacity for a conscious awareness of pain. Fish do not feel pain the way humans do.

How do I know if my snails are happy? ›

How to tell if your fish and snails are not happy - YouTube

Do snails have memory? ›

When they are deprived of calcium in the water that they live in (which they need to build their shell), smart snails still form long-term memory following two training sessions. But long-term memory is blocked in snail populations which form a weak memory.

Can a snail love? ›

Snails live anywhere from 1-10 years in the wild, and up to 25 years in captivity. While this answer may surprise you, without the threat of predators or other environmental concerns, the average snail can live a long life.

Is it cruel to have a pet snail? ›

The Giant African Snail, a popular pet, attacks many crops, may spread plant (and human) diseases, and damages stucco buildings by eating them. So invasive snails cause widespread ecological and economic damages, and can even harm human health.

Do snails like being stroked? ›

If your snail seems to be in a friendly mood, it will be okay to stroke its shell a little bit. Stroking or touching the shell is a great way to interact with your snail and to "play" with it.

How long is a snails lifespan? ›

Snail Life Span

Two to five years is typical for most wild snails but some larger species could possibly live up to fifteen years.

Can I release my pet snail into the wild? ›

Hi, You may release him only if he's a species that lives naturally in your area. We don't want to spread invasive species. Once that's certain, the best thing to do is look for a place where snails of his species gather together, say byes and release him to be with them.

How can you tell how old a snail is? ›

Counting snail shell rings

A study of a population of these snails in England was able to work out how old these snails are. That's because, as they get older, you can count growth rings at the edge of their shell. Some of the snails were at least six years old and probably more like eight or nine.

How do you tell if a snail is a boy or a girl? ›

The easiest way to check the snail's gender is by turning it upside down. This way, you'll be able to see if it's a female or a male snail. Check the upper part of the right mantle cavity. If there's a penis sheath next to the gills, then your snail is male.

How smart are aquarium snails? ›

Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Aberystwyth used pond snails to investigate learning and memory. They found that if an individual is good at forming memories about food they are poor at forming memories related to predator threat and vice versa.

Can you keep 2 snails together? ›

You can keep multiple snails in a clear terrarium made of plastic or glass. Cover the bottom with moist paper towels, or provide 1 to 2 inches of soil. Don't use dirt from your garden, which could contain pesticides or parasites; instead, purchase chemical-free substrate at a pet store.

Why do snails kiss? ›

Let's just take things slowly: Snails appear to be kissing as they cross one another's paths on a log. It was never likely to be a whirlwind romance, but the courtship between these two looks like it's moving at a snail's pace.

Do snails feel pain when cooked? ›

"It's one of those things that drives you to avoid those [painful] things in the future," he said. But animals with simple nervous systems, like lobsters, snails and worms, do not have the ability to process emotional information and therefore do not experience suffering, say most researchers.

What animals Cannot feel pain? ›

Summary: Fish do not feel pain the way humans do, according to a team of neurobiologists, behavioral ecologists and fishery scientists. The researchers conclude that fish do not have the neuro-physiological capacity for a conscious awareness of pain. Fish do not feel pain the way humans do.

Does salting a slug hurt it? ›

Yes, it is cruel to salt a slug. Pouring salt on a slug triggers osmosis and causes the slug to die a slow, painful death of dehydration. Humans would experience a similar effect by pouring salt into their open eyes.

Do snails feel fear? ›

We all know that frightening experiences give us powerful memories. Now, researchers at the University of Calgary have demonstrated that an invertebrate is also capable of learning from fear. They published their findings in The Journal of Experimental Biology earlier this month.


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