Can Ball Pythons Swim? The Complete Guide


Movies like Anaconda and all its sequels may have you wondering whether or not your ball python can swim too. After all, it doesn’t seem to care much for water except when it soaks in its water bowl, right?

The answer to your wondering would be yes. Ball pythons can swim. They have often been observed swimming in rivers and lakes in the wild but, yet they are not even close to being the best at it when compared to other snakes. This is because ball pythons’ ability to swim stems from a survival mechanism and is not used for travel or hunting.

Home video of ball python swimming.

In this article, we investigate just how good ball pythons are at swimming, whether they even like water in the first place, whether or not they can drown, and if it’s a good idea to give your ball python a bath or put a bathing bowl in its enclosure.

ball python in close up

Are Ball Pythons Good Swimmers?

Despite the fact that ball pythons are capable of swimming, its not a huge surprise to find out they aren’t exactly the best swimmers around.

This is mainly due to two things – they are terrestrial snakes, and they are native to West and Central Africa.

Terrestrial snakes, true to their name, spend the majority of their lives on land. They don’t typically climb trees or swim to hunt or move and will stick to the fields in most cases. Ball pythons are very much terrestrial snakes. They spend their days burrowed beneath rocks or soil, and their nights hunting for mice or rats found mainly in the bush or grasslands. Since they have no real need to swim, their abilities have not developed to the point where they could be classified as good swimmers.

Some ball pythons may prefer staying close to a water source like a river or lake, and this may mean it has to swim every now and then. Not all ball pythons do so, however, and whether or not they will get into the water in the wild is entirely up to their individual disposition and personality.

The other reason why they are not commonly good swimmers is as a result of their origins. Ball pythons are native to West and Central Africa, a region of the continent known to be arid at times and often suffer from droughts or extended dry seasons.

Since they do not come into contact with large bodies of water all that often in the wild, it makes sense that they wouldn’t be the best at swimming. Ball pythons mostly use their swimming ability when there is absolutely no alternative and are certainly not on the same level as other pythons.

Can Ball Pythons Drown?

Unlike many other species of snake that only have one functioning lung, ball pythons have two. They breathe in oxygen just like all land animals and need it to survive. Since they require air to live just like all other terrestrial creatures, it is very much possible for them to drown if submerged underwater for too long.

Most of the time, ball pythons’ instincts will tell them to get out of the water if it’s too deep. This means the chances of a ball python drowning are very slim, and only likely if they are forced or trapped underwater.

Ball pythons can also tire from swimming and will eventually drown in deep water if they can’t find a way out.

Do Ball Pythons Like Water?

Although they are not great swimmers, many ball pythons do love water. Other than them needing to drink water to survive, water can also aid in shedding and help a ball python relax. In many cases, water also increases the humidity of the air around it, which ball pythons especially enjoy as they prefer humid climates.

We discuss the benefits of water to ball pythons in the next section.

Do Ball Pythons Soak in Water?

Ah! Don’t we all love a good soak in the tub after a long day? You may be surprised to discover there’s a good chance your ball python likes it too!

Some ball python owners have noticed their snake submerge itself in its water bowl for what seems like ages. Water is extremely important to ball pythons and they may be soaking in it for a variety of reasons including the following:

They Enjoy It

Just like humans, some ball pythons may simply like water. This is very much dependent on your snake’s personality, but there is no harm in letting it soak whenever it feels like it as long as the water is replaced and the bowl is cleaned after every session.

If you notice your ball python has an affinity for water it may be worth letting it soak in warm water every now and then as well. Cold water won’t necessarily hurt a snake, it may just cool them down too much and eventually make them uncomfortable.

They’re Having a Problematic Shed

You may notice your ball python chooses to soak in its water bath exclusively when shedding. This is actually a natural instinct and extremely beneficial to the shedding process.

Most reptile owners know they need to crank up the humidity when their pets are beginning to shed, and for ball pythons, soaking has almost the same effect.

The water helps loosen its skin and could be especially useful if there are still pieces of old skin stuck to the snake after it has shed.

If the ball python completed its shedding cycle but has not yet lost its eye caps, soaking could be an excellent solution as well. Make sure to get your ball python in water almost daily in this case. If the eye caps don’t fall off by themselves after a few days of soaking, take your ball python to the vet.

Never try to remove eye caps yourself.

They’re Dehydrated

In this case, you may notice your ball python spending more time than usual in the water despite it not being near its shedding cycle. If you suspect your snake is dehydrated, check for the signs such as wrinkly skin, constipation, and sunken eyes.

Instead of just letting your snake soak, it is important to correct its tank conditions. Soaking will not stave off dehydration in the long term.

Check the temperature, humidity level, and heating pads in its tank and ensure they are in the correct range. Also, make sure it has an ample supply of chlorine-free drinking water in a clean bowl.

If the ball python’s condition doesn’t improve, take it to a vet.

They’re Too Hot

Just like humans, ball pythons will soak in cool water if their surroundings get too hot. If you notice your ball python soaking in its water bowl more than usual, and you’re sure it’s not due to dehydration or shedding, check the temperature of its vivarium.

The ideal temperature range would be between 78 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is above this, the problem is relatively simple to rectify and should be done immediately.

Ball python on a log

Can Ball Pythons Hold Their Breath?

If you’ve ever seen a ball python soak, you may be wondering how it can completely submerge itself underwater, head included, for such a long period of time.

Although most ball pythons can hold their breaths for anything between 4 and 10 minutes, some are able to do so for up to 20! [Source]

There’s generally nothing to worry about if your ball python’s head is underwater for a while, as long as you are sure it can get out when it wants to.

Can I Bathe My Ball Python?

Believe it or not, the bathing of ball pythons is a much more common occurrence than you may imagine. Most people can’t fathom the idea of giving their snake a bath, but it is a widespread practice and provides a lot of benefits to your snake.

If you want to bathe your ball python, fill the tub or a plastic pool with just enough relatively warm (not hot or boiling) water to reach just below the thickest part of the snake’s body. Ensure this water is clean and, if possible, chlorine-free as some ball pythons are allergic to it.

Place your snake in the tub, ensure it can’t escape, and then simply leave it to relax for anything up to 20 minutes. However, if your ball python thrashes when in contact with water it might not like the sensation and shouldn’t be forced into the bath.

Bathing your ball python not only helps with shedding and keeping it hydrated, but it could also help kill mites on the snake’s body. A secure bath is also a great spot to put your ball python on days when you are cleaning its tank. If you are worried about your ball python drowning, simply place a scrunched-up towel in the bath so it has somewhere to rest its head outside the water.

Some owners prefer giving their ball pythons outdoor baths which are said to stimulate their mental activity as well as their immunity. It’s also quite fun to do together with your ball python on exceptionally hot days.

Always take care when first introducing your ball python to the concept of a bath. While some ball pythons will love the water, others may despise it. [Source]

Should I Include a Bathing Bowl in My Ball Python’s Enclosure?

As has been explained above, your ball python’s reaction to water may range from love at first sight, to pure hatred. If you notice your ball python seems to enjoy soaking in its water bowl, it may be a good idea to invest in a larger bathing bowl.

This should only be added if the tank is big enough to still provide the ball python with ample place to hide and burrow after the bathing bowl is installed.

It is also essential to remember ball pythons won’t know the difference between a water bowl and a bathing bowl and will drink from both. This means you absolutely must replace the water in whichever bowl it used after it has soaked. It is also good practice to clean the bowl with a weak bleach-water mixture and leave it in the sun to dry.

Warm water, especially in its bathing bowl, may encourage digestion and end up with the ball python pooping in the water. In this case, you should clean the bowl and replace the water immediately, and regardless of this, you should still be changing your ball python’s water every day without fail.

Conclusion

Although ball pythons do not naturally have an affinity to swimming, many do enjoy water outside of just drinking it.

Much of this depends on the ball python’s personality and temperament and it is never a good idea to force any snake into water. Despite all ball pythons being able to swim, it doesn’t mean they like doing it. In a ball python’s head, the only reason for it to swim may be as a survival tactic which is why some ball pythons seem desperate to get out of any body of water.

It’s important to take note of your snake’s preferences and not push it out of its comfort zone. This could cause frustration for you, stress for your ball python, and a deterioration of the trust built between owner and snake.

If you’re lucky enough to own a ball python that likes water, though, there are endless opportunities for it to have fun swimming, soaking, or bathing as the need may arise.

Brigitte Cave

Bridgitte grew up on a farm and eventually spent 5 years on Mahe Island in the Seychelles during her teen years. Her time living on a farm was spent mostly around animals including dogs, cats, cows, horses, and all sorts of fowl (chickens, ducks, and geese included). You can find out more about Bridgitte at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/ Bridgitte is a keen horse rider and has competed in many showjumping competitions. She loves writing about pretty much all animals, and particularly dogs, cats, small mammals, horses and reptiles.

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