Can Ball Pythons Swim? And How To Keep Them From Drowning

Can ball pythons swim?

Ball pythons are popular, long-lived pets and have been admired since the days of ancient Egypt where they were worn as living jewelry. They are typically very docile, friendly snakes that can grow anywhere from 3-6ft. One common question potential new owners have is can ball pythons swim? 

Ball pythons can swim but not all of them enjoy it. Due to the hazards involved, they should never be allowed to swim unsupervised or in cool water. Ball pythons will try to soak, however, so only provide them with a shallow dish in their enclosure to reduce the risk of drowning.

Younger ball pythons are typically very shy, while older ones become more curious. They are clever enough to get out of enclosures, but they are not always bright enough to keep themselves safe on warm rocks or in deep water so caution is advised. Keep reading to find out more about ball pythons and their ability to swim. 

Do Ball Pythons Like to Swim?

Like many animals, ball pythons are individuals. They each have their own personalities and quirks. Some ball pythons like to swim, while others do not. Sometimes one will despise water and barely get close enough to drink, while others like the occasional soak in warm water. 

That said, even though ball pythons can swim you should avoid taking them outside for a swim. In addition, ball pythons can drown, any watering dish should be shallow enough for them to easily get in and out of.

It is important to remember though that ball pythons are cold-blooded reptiles. This means that cool and cold water is extremely dangerous to them, so they must always be in warm water. It can’t be too hot though or it will burn them. Lukewarm or a little warmer is adequate.

Is it Normal for a Ball Python to Soak in Water?

It is definitely normal for a ball python to soak in water. It helps loosen up their skin in preparation for a shed on top of letting them cool down if they have gotten a bit too warm. Some of them also like to curl up into their bowls to drink.

Ball pythons need to have the humidity in their enclosures kept up around 60% to help with their sheds and reduce the risk of respiratory diseases. A large, shallow water dish, proper substrate, a good lid, and regular misting helps with this. Some ball pythons absolutely adore water and want to be spritzed or to play in their dishes. 

It’s also common to have a ball python soak in their water bowls if their humidity is too low. Their skin becomes too dry, and they become very uncomfortable. So, if there’s a ball python soaking that doesn’t usually, check the humidity levels. It may need some adjustments.

Can Ball Pythons Drown?

Ball pythons can drown and unfortunately, it is one of the most common ways a pet ball python dies. They are clever snakes, but they also aren’t always the brightest. Sometimes when they curl up into their water dishes, they will fall asleep and end up drowning that way.

Another way they can drown is if they are put into water where they have to swim in order to keep their heads above water. Eventually, they will get tired and be unable to keep themselves up, resulting in them drowning. This can happen very fast, so they must never be allowed to swim without supervision. 

They do not have gills and cannot breathe underwater. They can’t really hold their breath either, and submerging can cause death or some serious complications. Always make sure ball pythons can get in and out of their watering dish easily. 

How to Keep Your Ball Python from Drowning

In order to keep a ball python from drowning, supply them with a large, shallow dish. Give them something that is big enough for them to curl up into, but not deep enough for them to submerge their faces should they fall asleep inside of it. There are many commercial bowls out there marketed towards snakes and reptiles to consider, but larger females might need one made for them.

Additionally, if the snake likes to swim, making the water so it is warm will not put them into shock. Giving them enough they can always keep their head out of water as well as always making sure they can easily get out of the water should they get tired is ideal. 

Keeping Up a Ball Python’s Humidity Without Risking Them Drowning

Being reptiles, a ball python has to have quite a bit of heat. Their enclosures should always be within 85-91°F, which is going to cause a lot of liquid to dry up and evaporate rather quickly. This can easily be used to the advantage of the owner.

Select an Appropriate Substrate and Mist Regularly

One of the easiest methods of controlling humidity is by regularly misting the substrate. The water will evaporate from it and help naturally bring up the humidity. However, it can’t be too coarse, or it will hurt the snake.

Some appropriate substrate includes:

  • Shredded aspen
  • Coconut fiber
  • Reptibark

Coconut fiber is the best for keeping up humidity as it is very soft and absorbent. Aspen is also a popular choice, but it isn’t quite as good as coconut fiber. However, it is a very cheap option. Reptibark is a bit more expensive and doesn’t keep humidity well. 

Install an Automatic Mister

While a bit overkill for a ball python, an automatic mister can help automatically keep up the humidity. Some of the higher-priced models will mist whenever it falls below a certain percentage, however most of them simply work on a timer. In more arid climates or in the event the owners are going to be gone for a few days, having a mister might be a solid option for keeping up the humidity.

Keep a Large, Shallow Bowl on Both Sides of the Enclosure

In large enclosures, keeping a large, shallow bowl on both sides can help increase the humidity. The one placed on the hot side will evaporate much faster than the one on the cool side. Additionally, the snake will be able to drink and soak in whichever bowl it likes while the other one adds to the humidity.

Cover 75% of the Lid

Most reptile enclosures are almost identical to a fish tank, with the exception of having a mesh lid. This mesh lid lets out a whole lot of the humidity that really needs to stay inside. Cover up the cool side with a solid material such as plexiglass and it will make it so there’s less space for the humidity to escape while also allowing fresh airflow.

Custom reptile habitats actually make a perfect enclosure for ball pythons. It is designed to help preserve the right amount of humidity for ball pythons. 

Add in Live Plants

Live plants need a bit of extra work to add in than just plunking them into the tank. They need to be put in adequate substrate, need to have appropriate lighting, and need to be reptile safe. However, live plants help boost humidity as they too collect water. They also add a bit of extra shade which will make it take a little bit longer for the water to evaporate from underneath their leaves.

Additionally, certain mosses are great additions. They don’t need a lot of effort to grow, and they retain a lot of moisture. Keeping some good, wet mosses will help boost the humidity great while also not risking the snake drowning or hurting itself on sharp edges.

All of this being said, humidity can also cause mold. So make sure it is the proper humidity and keep an eye out for mold growing in the enclosure. Make sure to also clean the enclosure regularly. 

What Happens if a Ball Python Doesn’t Have Enough Humidity?

A ball python without enough humidity first off is going to have trouble shedding. It should have a shed that comes off in one solid piece, though a few large chunks can be acceptable. If there are small chunks leftover, the snake is going to be itchy, potentially cranky, and be at risk of infection.

Once a ball python starts going milky in preparation to shed, it is acceptable to boost the humidity to help them get off their shed with more ease. Slightly boosting the humidity is also helpful for them to get the last bits off if they are having difficulties. 

On top of poor sheds making them cranky and putting them at a risk for infection, low humidity also puts them at a risk for many other health risks. 

So Can Ball Pythons Swim? 

Ball pythons are wonderful, docile snakes that have been admired since ancient Egypt. They are clever, shy, and make for great pets. In fact, they are probably the best python you can have as a pet

A common question for new and potential owners is asking if they can swim, which they can but they can also drown. So make sure they can easily get in and out of their water dish. 

Additionally, they should have safe enclosures that have large, shallow dishes for them to soak in, good humidity, and plenty of safe enrichment to keep them happy and healthy. 

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