Animal lovers find natural occurrences like animals mating or hunter-animals catching their prey fascinating. Aquarists are fortunate as they can witness these awe-inspiring moments, such as two snails stuck together, without having to wait in the bushes or stake out trees.
Two snails stuck together can mean several things, including mating, hitching a free ride, and searching for food. While snails come together for these universal reasons, research indicates that this phenomenon is mainly associated with apple snails.
Are there additional factors that could result in two snails stuck together? Let’s explore this further to broaden our understanding.
Real-Life Experience of Two Snails Stuck Together
In my conversation with a meticulous marine aquarist, valuable insights were shared regarding the occurrence of snails getting stuck on the backs of others.
According to this enthusiastic individual, it is not uncommon to find two snails stuck together, often due to their sheer enjoyment of hitching a free ride.
The aquarist’s observation involved two orange apple snails and a Nerite snail in their aquarium. The Nerite exhibited active movement throughout the tank, often choosing to ride on the backs of the apple snails.
However, a careful examination revealed that the snails were not engaged in mating behavior. In an attempt to address the situation, the aquarist introduced calcium into the tank, suspecting that the Nerite may have been seeking this nutrient when climbing onto the Apple Snails’ backs.
While all the snails seemed to appreciate the calcium, the Nerite persisted in returning to the back of another apple snail. This indicated that the issue was unrelated to food or calcium, as the Nerite would promptly climb back onto an apple snail even after separation.
Nerite Snails Stuck Together: The Uniqueness of the Neritidae and Neritiliidae Families
Fluctuating resources, even temporarily, force animals to migrate. Other animals will migrate in search of optimum reproductive conditions.
Migration in Nerite snails is considered essential but remarkable in its own way, especially given that snails have limited mobility compared to other animals. The phenomenon is common among Nerite snails living in the wild.
Often, these snails will have their larvae swept downstream into the sea. When they hatch, the Nerite young will hang around river mouths. The hanging around does not last long as the snails await the right opportunity to migrate, this time, upstream!
If the Nerite snails depend on their abilities to migrate upstream, usually defined by fewer predators and more food, it will take them years to complete the journey. However, Nerite appears to have some ingenious moving methods against the water flow.
The Neritidae and Neritiliidae gastropod family move long distances by clinging to the shells of adult snails. Scientists consider this behavior equivalent to hitchhiking, a common behavior of humans seeking to move from one point to another in places without public transport.
I think we have found the answer to the question posed by one marine aquarist. Nerite snails tend to get stuck on the back of other snails because they love hitchhiking.
The Case of Mystery Snails Stuck Together: Are They Making Love or Fighting?
Before delving into the reasons behind mystery snails getting stuck together, let’s explore some unique characteristics of this particular species.
As their name suggests, mystery snails are the most enigmatic among gastropods. They stand out for not having separate male and female sex organs and not being hermaphrodites.
Additionally, they belong to the apple snail species, the largest freshwater snail species. They can live both on land and in water due to having both lungs and gills.
Another intriguing feature of mystery snails is their elongated siphons, which allow them to reach the water’s surface without needing to stay there, as they can comfortably stay submerged.
Despite these unique characteristics, mystery snails are known for their docile nature. They do not engage in physical altercations with other snails or animals in their immediate environment.
Thus, assuming that they are fighting when two snails are stuck together would be misleading. When two mystery snails are found stuck together, especially for extended periods, they are likely mating.
The snail mating process is intricate and involves significant courtship before the snails come together. During mating, they secrete a slimy substance to keep themselves adhered to and ensure a smooth and uninterrupted session (source).
Mystery snails are known for their frequent mating, making it common to find them stuck together. During mystery snails mating, separating them when stuck together would disrupt their reproductive process!
Related Reading: How Do Snails Reproduce?
A Tale of Garden Snails Stuck Together
It turns out that garden snails also get stuck together. This tale is beautifully captured by Sandy from Bedfordshire.
At dawn, while walking through the woods, Sandy noticed the cold air with a foretaste of winter. Looking down, she saw two garden snails seemingly glued together by the mucus-like substance that snails secrete.
Garden snails often come together in freezing temperatures, perhaps to keep each other warm. Typically, they seek shelter under rocks or inside the hollows of forest trees. Sandy described them as mollusks stuck together like boiled sweets in a jar.
However, Sandy’s interest was not in snails coming together for warmth. It was a pair of snails lying on their sides. Their shells were open, facing each other, revealing a significant portion of exposed snail flesh. Upon closer observation, Sandy noticed that the snails were joined at the hip, lying shoulder to shoulder.
She witnessed the wonder of creation—a pair of snails becoming one, lost in ecstasy.
The Most Unlikely Reason: Getting Stuck Together for Food
In addition to hitching a ride and mating, apple snails can get stuck together while feeding. These snails primarily feed on algae and other biofilm materials, which can sometimes get stuck on their shells as they move around in the tank.
When other snails detect the food residue clinging to their mates’ shells, they instinctively climb onto their backs to consume the food. Consequently, it is common for snails to climb onto the backs of their fellow snails to feed.
Can Snails Get Stuck in Decorations?
Snails can indeed get stuck in decorations. Most aquarists will tell you they have an aquarium in their house for aesthetic reasons. The aquarium often contains various decorations to enhance its beautiful appearance.
However, there is a downside to these decorations. These decorations can pose a danger to the aquarium inhabitants, particularly snails.
The following common decorations can inadvertently trap snails as they move around:
While it’s understandable that you may want to personalize your aquarium and achieve your aesthetic goals, it’s important to consider the potential risks these decorations may pose to your snails.
Finding a balance between aesthetics and the well-being of your pet snails is crucial.
Snails getting stuck together is a natural phenomenon, so novice aquarists need not be alarmed when they observe their snails appearing to be stacked on top of each other.
There are various reasons for this behavior, including:
- Feeding on food residue stuck on their shells.
- Merely hitching a ride.
Given that snails move slowly, any opportunity for a faster mode of transportation is likely a welcome break for them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are my water snails on top of each other?
Water snails may be on top of each other because they are attempting to mate. Male mystery snails may climb on top of other males due to their inability to discern the gender of the other snail. However, females do not mount others for mating but may do so while searching for food or hitching a ride.
Can snails unstick themselves?
Snails can sometimes unstick themselves by using their muscular foot to create movement and detach from surfaces. However, if a snail is tightly stuck or in a difficult position, it may require external assistance to become unstuck. A gentle hand to help them release their adhesive grip can be necessary in such situations.
Can snails get stuck upside down?
Snails can get stuck upside down. When a snail gets flipped over or ends up in an inverted position, it can have difficulty righting itself due to the shape of its shell and the mechanics of its muscular foot. In such cases, it may require external assistance to help them turn upright again.
How do snails turn over?
When snails climb surfaces, they occasionally experience climbing accidents that result in them unintentionally falling on their shells, causing them to flip upside down. Once upside down, snails rely on their muscular foot and a series of rippling movements to gradually turn themselves over.
Can garden snails move upside down?
Garden snails can move upside down, although it can be more challenging. They use their muscular foot to create a rippling motion, pushing against the surface and gradually moving forward. While upside down, their movement may be slower and more complex. However, they can still navigate and eventually find a way to flip themselves over.