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How to Help an Old or Sick Mystery Snail

I am a snail breeder who is actively engaged in the community of research around snails.

A younger and more wily snail. He kept trying to crawl off the table while I was doing his repair.

A younger and more wily snail. He kept trying to crawl off the table while I was doing his repair.

Have you ever wondered how to help an old or sick mystery snail?

Chances are that if you are a loving mystery snail owner, you are among several others out there who find themselves completely lost in terms of getting any true advice.

It isn’t that you aren’t doing something right—there honestly is very little information out there about mystery snails! I’m writing these informative pieces for those who I hope to aid along their mystery snail journey by providing bits and pieces of data that are tried and tested.

For anyone looking to help an old or sick mystery snail, I have a piece of advice that may help you. I am going to cover two items in this article that may help you, depending on the needs of your small friend.

Option 1: Repair a Cracked Snail Shell

If the problem is a crack in the shell or obvious damage, such as a hole or a chip near the operculum (the ‘flap’ that you see when the snail is tucked inside its shell), you don’t need to let the snail die!

Most people think that at this point it’s just a goner, but not so! You can create a makeshift patch for the snail. This is a bit tricky, but if you are careful, it can be done without doing further damage.

I am including several pictures and the video which first introduced me to this method. The maker of it suggests bits of eggshell or pieces from an old snail shell, if available. This is basically what you do.

Read the steps below and then watch the video for a good understanding of how to make the repair without mistakes.

  1. Gather your supplies. You will need a fresh eggshell or old snail shell, a gel superglue, (Very important: If you use a liquid super glue, it is likely to leak through the damaged shell as you are making the repair, and you risk gluing the body of the snail to its shell!) a surface to work on, nail file (a glass one works best in this case), a bowl, some wet napkins, and scissors.
  2. Remove the snail from the water and place it into a small, sealed container with holes in the top so it can breathe. You can leave a small amount of water in the bowl until you are ready to ‘operate.’
  3. Take a piece of eggshell or section of an old mystery snail shell and place it against the damaged area. This is so you can size the piece correctly. You want the patch you are making to be larger than the area of damage. This is very important. If you make it the same size or smaller, you risk gluing the snail to your handiwork.
  4. Take a pair of scissors and cut the piece of shell you are using to make the repair fit.
  5. Once you are satisfied with the patch, carefully put some glue around the perimeter of the bottom part of the shell. Stick it on the snail and press down gently. You can take a toothpick or the nail file to help smooth it over the damaged part. If you use the eggshell option, note that it will break a little bit to fit the mold. This is okay. It will not fall off in the water.
  6. Give the snail time to dry. When using the gel superglue this should only take a few minutes. Drain the water from your container and line the bottom of it with some damp napkins. Leave the snail on it to dry. Make sure it is not sticking to the napkins.

When Is It Necessary to Repair a Cracked Shell?

It's important to note that mystery snail shells will start to erode with age, though I am unsure of the extent that age contributes to the disintegration.

Before I knew some of the things I do now, my poor snails had constantly eroding and chipping shells. Since mystery snails only live around a year or two at most, I figured it was caused by age. Eventually, through research, I realized that PH levels in the tank are the most common culprit for this problem.

In my opinion, repairing shells only becomes necessary when there is real damage, such as an actual hole that goes all the way through the shell, or a chip near the operculum, which makes it very difficult for them to come out of the shell.

Think about it. Would you want to leave if your body was just one long membrane, rubbing up against the sharp edges? Ouch. You don't need to repair every little inch of erosion on your snail shells. Only do it when the risk becomes life-threatening.

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I do know that snails make a makeshift patch to deal with the problem temporarily using a bit of their own membrane. Nature doesn't seem to have equipped these guys very well to deal with the issue, hence the reason most snails die when a large crack is incurred.

Old Snail taking an air bath. You can see him popping a little bit from the shell. Even though this is about all he does at this point, I think he enjoys the love :)

Old Snail taking an air bath. You can see him popping a little bit from the shell. Even though this is about all he does at this point, I think he enjoys the love :)

Personal Example

I call the above snail 'Old Snail.' Yes, he has a name . . . this is the first snail I did such a repair on. It was an extremely tricky 'surgery' because he is a very old snail, as the name suggests.

I thought he was already dead, but when I picked him up there was no telltale smell of rotting that dead snails are notorious for. There was a huge crack at the very edge of the shell though, making it impossible for the poor little guy to come out.

After watching the video above, I decided to try and make the end of his life a little bit easier. Since the damage was next to the operculum and was so large, I decided that the eggshell wouldn't be strong enough in this particular case. I thus took a bit of an old mystery snail shell to make the repair. It was a difficult, tricky process that took me around an hour. When he was finished, I held my breath, praying, hoping that I didn't somehow manage to mess up the whole thing- or worse, glue him inside!

The Result

About six hours passed before he finally made an attempt to move around using his new, sloppily refurbished shell. When he did, though, I noticed that he was only using his left eye and antenna. He was doing this little funky crawl-walk around the other snails, afraid it seemed, of cutting himself on the 'patchwork.'

The fact that he was moving around at all was a great improvement, considering that he was such an old snail and that chip was so severe. I debated on whether I should do anything else with him, and then decided, what the heck? So I went out and got myself a glass nail file, as the video suggested.

I made one more 'eggshell patch' above where I'd made the first one using the old snail shell since there was still a small gap there. And waited a few more hours . . . nothing happened, except the feeble antenna reaching out from the left side every now and then, giving off small signs of life. That's when I had a second thought.

Old Snail didn't have a lot of 'pep in his glide' but I did catch him nibbling a cucumber.

Old Snail didn't have a lot of 'pep in his glide' but I did catch him nibbling a cucumber.

Option 2: Give Your Mystery Snail an Air Bath

For an old or sick mystery snail, it's been recommended that giving them a quick, fifteen-minute air bath can sometimes help with a bit of rejuvenation.

I had read or seen this somewhere while researching tips on creating the shell patch (possibly in the same video, I can't remember at this point).

I took Old Snail out of the tank one more time to file him down a bit more, and, as he was drying, decided to give the air bath option a try, letting him sit on his side for a few minutes on a damp cloth.

There is no actual treatment for snails, as mentioned, but giving them an 'air bath' can sometimes help bring them back to life, even for a short while. This seems to be especially helpful for old mystery snails that just don't have a lot of 'pep in their step' left (or their glide).

To give a mystery snail an air bath, this is what you do:

  1. Place the snail on a damp cloth inside a bowl. Fluff the towel up a bit, so that you can prop the snail up comfortably.
  2. Place the snail on the side of its shell that doesn't have the spiral. I'm not sure why, but this is the easiest way for snails to come out of their shell.
  3. Leave the snail to 'air dry' for fifteen minutes. Don't leave them out for longer than twenty, as it could actually do more harm than good for your snail. I actually give Old Snail about twenty minutes as this is the only thing that seems to invigorate him a bit. He doesn't do much now except to pop about halfway out of his shell, but hey . . . that's something, right? As good as can be expected for an 'old fellow.'
  4. Place the snail back in the tank.

What Happened After I Gave Him an Airbath

You can see the result of giving Old Snail an air bath in the video above.

Finally, after trying three times, I got him to come out of his shell, and not only did he come out, but he made a run all the way up and down the side of the tank. It was pretty funny because he didn't do anything else after that. He came out long enough to go up and down the side of the tank, once, and went back to his comfortable resting mode. It was as if he was saying to everyone, hurrah! I did it!

I haven't seen him do it since, but after a week and a half, he's still hanging onto life. It may not seem like much, but considering that most snails, especially the older ones, die as soon as they chip their shell badly, it's something of an accomplishment.

Now I give the little guy an air bath about every other day, and he pokes himself halfway out of his shell as if to say thanks! I swear to God he seems to enjoy it and knows that (maybe somewhere in the little intelligence-box section which could be called a 'snail brain') he's being helped in some way.

Just goes to show what a little snail love can do.

With love,

Emerald ~

You'll want to fluff up a damp rag so that the snail can rest comfortably in a propped position.

You'll want to fluff up a damp rag so that the snail can rest comfortably in a propped position.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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