Can Snails Breathe Underwater?

Can Snails Breathe Underwater

Can Snails Breathe Underwater?

Imagine you’re taking a leisurely stroll by the edge of a calm pond, admiring the diverse array of creatures that call it home. Suddenly, your eyes catch sight of a small snail slowly making its way across the surface of the water. As you watch, you might wonder, can snails breathe underwater?

Some snails breathe underwater. These species typically have gills or modified lungs that allow them to extract oxygen from water. However, not all snail species have this adaptation and can only survive in aquatic environments for short periods.

In this exploration, I will look closer at the relationship between snails and water and uncover the surprising truth about whether or not snails breathe underwater.

Do Snails Breathe Oxygen?

Snails have lungs, and they need oxygen to survive. This obviously means they need constant access to the air, so while you might often notice snails in the water, they always need to come to the surface to breathe.

The very same applies to water snails or aquatic snails because while these species like to inhabit the water, they still need oxygen and access to the air to breathe.

Can Snails Live in Water?

As mentioned, snails can live in water; some species even prefer it that way. It’s true; some snail species are known as freshwater or aquatic snails, and they like to inhabit rivers, lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water.

Such snails have developed mechanisms to stay submerged, and they also have streamlined shells, enabling them to move more efficiently in water.

This means aquatic snails are somewhat different from common snails.

What’s the Difference Between Land Snails and Aquatic Snails?

Land and aquatic snails share many similarities, and they belong to the Gastropoda family. Both types of snails have soft bodies that they use for movement, and they are herbivores that mostly feed on plants and fungi.

Talking of snail food, discover whether grapes are safe for snails to eat and learn about other types of fruits and vegetables that can be included in a snail’s diet by checking out this article.

The main difference between these two types of snails is their preferred habitat. Land snails are often found on land, while aquatic snails usually live in freshwater environments, including rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams.

This is because aquatic snails are adapted to living in water and have features like their gills that allow them to do so. Some aquatic snail species have also adapted to stagnant water as they know how to extract oxygen from the water.

Let’s take a quick look at a few different types of snails:

  1. Ramshorn snails: Ramshorn snails are often kept as pets. They have a flat shell and can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds.
  2. Bladder snails: These snails have elongated shells and can be found in ponds, streams, and rivers. They are often used as a food source for fish.
  3. Trumpet snails: These snails have spiral-shaped shells and can also be found in ponds, lakes, and streams. Aquariums often use trumpet snails to help keep the substrate clean, as they like to burrow and stir up debris.

Looking for a great addition to your aquarium? Look no further than Malaysian Trumpet Snails from One Stop Aquatics on Amazon! These small burrowing snails will help keep your aquarium clean and healthy by eating leftover food and preventing toxic gas buildup. They’re perfect for any tank size and can be a nutritious feeder snail for small Pufferfish.

The above examples should help you better understand that some snails have different features which enable them to stay underwater and live in the water.

How Long Can a Snail Stay Underwater?

You might also be wondering, “Do aquarium snails breathe underwater?” The answer is no because aquarium snails also need oxygen and access to the air to breathe.

And then you might wonder if snails can stay submerged in the water or perhaps how long they can a snail stay underwater.

Snails can only stay underwater for a certain period. This duration depends on the condition of the water and the species of snail.

For example, studies show some snails can stay underwater for hours or even days because they use their gills to extract oxygen from the water.

A pond snail can stay down there for even longer because they form a mucus layer around their bodies to trap air bubbles.

In general, snails are not designed to stay underwater exclusively. Still, some species can stay down there for extended periods in the right conditions.

Can Slugs Also Stay Underwater?

Slugs and snails share many similarities, but slugs do not have visible shells and are usually found in damp habitats.

That said, slugs are also occasionally found in freshwater environments, which causes people to ask similar questions such as:

  • Can slugs swim?
  • How long can slugs stay underwater?

Simply put, slugs also need air to breathe, and the duration they can stay underwater depends on the type of slug species and the water conditions.


In conclusion, while snails need oxygen to survive, they have adapted to living on land and water. Aquatic snails have developed specialized breathing structures to extract oxygen from water. In contrast, land snails have evolved lungs to breathe air.

It is fascinating to learn about the unique characteristics of these gastropods and how they have adapted to their environment. So next time you spot a snail or slug, take a moment to appreciate their amazing abilities to survive both on land and underwater.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a snail stay underwater?

Most land snails cannot breathe underwater and will drown quickly if submerged. However, some aquatic snails have adapted to life underwater and can stay submerged for several hours or even days. The duration they can stay underwater depends on the species and their level of adaptation to aquatic environments.

Do aquarium snails breathe underwater?

Aquarium snails are adapted to living in water and can breathe underwater. They have gills, which are used for extracting oxygen from the water. Some species of aquarium snails also have a lung-like organ called a “pallial cavity,” which also allows them to take in air from the surface.

How long can slugs stay underwater?

Most slugs are not adapted to living in water and do not breathe through gills. They will begin to drown if submerged as they cannot extract oxygen from the water. Generally, it is only a few minutes before a slug suffocates and eventually dies if it cannot reach the surface.

Can water snails survive out of water?

Water snails are adapted to living in water and depend on it to survive. While they can survive short periods out of the water, they will quickly dry out and die if not returned to a moist environment.

Do snails need oxygen?

Snails need oxygen to survive. They breathe using a specialized respiratory structure called a “pulmonary cavity,” which allows them to extract oxygen from the air. Some aquatic snails also have gills that enable them to extract oxygen from the water. Without oxygen, snails would be unable to carry out cellular respiration and would eventually die.

How do sea snails breathe?

Most sea snails, or marine gastropods, breathe using a gill or gills, which allow them to extract oxygen from the water. However, a small number of species possess a lung and are adapted to intertidal environments, becoming active only at low tide when they can move around in the air.

How do land snails breathe?

Land snails employ a relatively simple respiratory system that is situated in a compact cavity nestled between their bodies and shells. This cavity receives air through a small aperture or pore located on the snail’s body, precisely beneath the lower rim of the shell, enabling the snail to breathe.

Do snails breathe through their skin?

Snails possess thin, water-permeable skin, which allows water snails to respire through their skin. However, this permeability also means snails continually grapple with water loss through their skin. Beyond skin respiration, snails primarily breathe using gills located within the pallial cavity.

Do snails breathe out carbon dioxide?

Just like humans, snails expel carbon dioxide as a part of their respiratory process. They absorb oxygen, which is then distributed to different parts of their bodies, and the byproduct of this metabolic process, carbon dioxide, is then released.


This article was written by Derek Cullen, a Dublin-born adventurer and travel writer with a passion for exploring the world. The article was expertly reviewed and edited by Paul Odoteh, founder of


  • Paul Odoteh

    Paul Odoteh is an established writer and editor with nearly 10 years of experience in writing and editing. He holds a bachelor's degree in IT and has written for numerous publications and individuals. Currently, Odoteh is dedicated to expanding his blog,, which was inspired by his passion for owning an aquarium.

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  • Derek Cullen

    Derek Cullen is a writer from Ireland with 9 years' experience writing for various online publications. Specializing in health and wellness, Derek uses his expertise to write accurate articles that inspire others toward a more healthy and authentic lifestyle.

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