Can Ball Pythons Breathe Underwater?

Ball pythons don’t have the anatomy to breathe underwater, but they can hold their breath for a significant length of time.

Although most people know ball pythons can swim, have you ever wondered if they can breathe underwater?

While ball pythons can swim and hold their breath in deep water for several minutes, they should not be exposed to it on a regular basis.

Ball pythons can swim, and they can swim well, but it’s largely a matter of survival for them, not enjoyment.

Ball Pythons and Water

ball python scales

When a ball python enters water that is too deep, it will naturally wiggle back and forth to propel itself forward. This instinct is even present in newborn ball pythons.

Usually, it’s to find a dry spot to get out of the water.

However, ball pythons will only swim this way as a means for survival .

You shouldn’t make your ball python swim for long periods of time.

They will eventually become exhausted and may drown.

If you want to prevent your ball pythons from drowning in the water, make sure the water is shallow enough for them to comfortably touch the bottom of the container.

Another way to prevent exhaustion is to  provide them a place to lay and relax while in the water.

Can ball pythons breathe underwater?

Ball pythons are able to hold their breath but they can’t breathe underwater.

Most snakes have gained the ability to hold their breath underwater at some point in their evolution.

Ball pythons, like other python species, hold their breath underwater, especially when they are completely submerged.

There’s no need for concern if your ball python is completely submerged in its water bowl. Ball pythons could hold their breath for several minutes due to their “low ectothermic metabolism,” which means they need an external source of heat to complete their metabolism.

This metabolism allows them to take fewer breaths compared to the average animal which allows them to stay underwater for up to 20 minutes.

Ball pythons can submerge themselves in water and hold their breath, but they are unable to breathe underwater.

Ball pythons, like humans, have lungs that require oxygen and can’t get it from water.
I’ve seen ball pythons with their nostrils completely submerged in their water bowls. They use it as a way to cool down or relax.

It’s possible that your ball python will try to eat underwater at times.
Ball pythons are natural constrictors, and not even water can stop them from feeding when they constrict.

Can ball pythons swim?

Ball pythons can and will swim when the water is deep enough. They will swim for the sake of survival, and it is usually to find a safe area to rest.

The way they swim is they project themselves forward by wiggling their body from side to side in a serpentine pattern.

Never place your ball python in water that is too deep for them to rest on. When a ball python is in deep water, make sure they have somewhere to rest.

It’s difficult to say if ball pythons as an entire species like to be in the water. This usually comes down to

It’s impossible to say whether ball pythons as a whole enjoy being in the water. This is usually determined by the personality and preferences of each ball python.

I’ve cared for hundreds of ball pythons over the years, and whether they want to be submerged in water or not depends on the individual snake.

Some of them will lay in their water bowl on a regular basis, while others won’t. Ball pythons may relax when placed in water to soak, while others will try to flee as soon as possible.

Some ball pythons don’t mind water misting, while others will shy away.

A water-loving ball python will have little to no reaction a soak in warm water. Ball pythons that don’t like it may swim around looking for a way out of the water.

Can ball pythons drown?

Yes. Ball pythons, like you and me, breathe oxygen, so they can drown if they are in water for too long.

When they need to breathe, they have the instinct to get out of the water, therefore they won’t drown if they fall into a shallow water bowl.

Ball pythons can drown in deep water if they don’t have anywhere to rest and stop swimming. Never immerse them in water that is too deep for them to rest comfortably on the bottom.

When a ball python is forced to swim for long periods of time will eventually tire out and drown.

ball python in water

Do ball pythons need baths?

They don’t accumulate dirt, oils, or bacteria because they shed their skin.

When they shed, they also get rid of any debris that has accumulated on top of it.

For more information on ball pythons and shedding click here.

The only time a ball python need anything resembling a bath is if they need a soaking to aid in shed removal.
Never use soap when soaking ball pythons. To get rid of any chlorine, ammonia, or nitrites that are toxic to reptiles, you can use a water treatment like Reptisafe.

Any soap will do more harm than good and because they’re likely to end up ingesting some of the soapy water, it’s best to keep it soap-free.


As a survival response, ball pythons tolerate water and swim. Even if ball pythons can swim and hold their breath underwater, you shouldn’t force them to swim.

It’s beneficial to give your snake a soak or a quick wash down, but putting them in water that’s too deep for Giving your snake a soak or a fast wash off is great, but putting them in water that is too deep for them to rest in will cause them to drown.

Since swimming is a survival response for ball pythons, they will continue to swim until they feel safe. If not they will swim to exhaustion and potentially drown.

Ball pythons can hold their breath underwater, so it’s ok for them to have their head fully submerged.