Can Ball Pythons Swim?

can ball pythons swim

Ball pythons are one of the most common species of snake that are kept as a pet.  Reptile owners love ball pythons for their relaxed natures, easy-care, and beautiful scales!

If you already own a ball python, you may have noticed that they sometimes like to rest in their water bowls!

You might be wondering, can ball pythons swim?

Well, like many other snakes, ball pythons are able to swim!  But, they’re not great swimmers, and will usually only do so in extreme circumstances.  Ball Pythons do enjoy soaking in shallow water, as it gives them many health benefits.  Ball Pythons should always have access to shallow water in their enclosures. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why your pet might be spending so much time in the water, and how to keep them safe.

What Is A Ball Python’s Natural Environment?

Do you know where ball pythons come from?

These snakes still exist in the wild and live in West and Central Africa.   Generally, you can find ball pythons in habitats like grasslands, savannas, or forests.   Usually, these snakes will be even more densely populated around bodies of water in these areas, like most other animals!

Ball Pythons tend to spend their days staying cool and mist by hiding in or under rodent dens.  Then, by night they do the majority of their activities, like hunting and socializing.  Because they are mostly nocturnal, they actually don’t require UVB lighting in their enclosures.

Ball Pythons are not naturally aggressive snakes,  Their main form of defense is to curl up into a ball-like shape, with their head peeking out of the middle.  And, you probably guessed already but this is actually where their name comes from!  Because ball pythons are not aggressive, they actually make great reptiles for handling!  To find out more about why these snakes are great to handle, read our article about the most handleable reptiles.

Can Ball Pythons Go In Water?

So we mentioned that you can often find these snakes near bodies of water, but, can they actually go into them?


Ball pythons are able to go into the water, and actually need water to survive just like other terrestrial species.  Although ball pythons can go into the water, they are not able to breathe underwater!  Ball pythons breathe air like we do, with two lungs, and can’t spend long underwater.

Ball Pythons Swim To Evade Predators.

One of the reasons you will see a ball python fully in the water, or swimming in the wild is to evade predators.

It’s a good thing these snakes can swim, because, sometimes, they need to.  Evading predator is a constant occurrence in the wild.  Birds, hyenas, leopards, large frogs, and even other snakes are some of the predators a ball python might need to avoid.

But, unless threatened, you won’t see a ball python going for a swim in the wild.  They might stay near a body of water, or even lie in a shallow pool, but that’s usually the extent of their aquatic adventuring!

Do Ball Pythons Like Water?

So in captivity, how is a Ball Python different?

In captivity, animals have time to relax, acclimate and even start to enjoy their daily lives.   While an animal can’t exactly tell you that they like something, you can judge this by observing their behavior!  If your scaly friend seems relaxed and spends a lot of time in or near the water, you can definitely assume they like it!

Ball Pythons Use Water to Cool Down.

One of the reasons that Ball Pythons like water is that they use it to cool down.

Water is a “heat sink” which means it absorbs heat and cools down the things in or near it.    If you find your ball python in their water dish a lot, it could be a sign that they’re too hot.  Or, this could also mean that they enjoy feeling a bit cooler overall.

They Maintain Hydration With Water.

One of the coolest things about snakes is that they can essentially drink through their skin.

Snakes can absorb water and rehydrate themselves without ever taking a drink!  It’s natural for ball pythons to rehydrate themselves by sitting in their water dishes.  Actually, it’s so common that this is a behavior that reptile lovers call “soaking.”  You could say that snakes enjoy the water because it makes their bodies feel better and more hydrated!

They Can Keep Themselves Parasite Free With Water.

Mites are a problem for ball pythons.  Mites can cause your pet pain and discomfort, but can even be fatal if left untreated.

One way that snakes can naturally keep themselves mite-free is by spending time in the water.  If they have a mild case of mites, they might even be able to get rid of the mites on their own just by soaking themselves!

Since mites can cause discomfort, it’s fair to say that snakes like the water, and the protection it offers them from these parasites!

Do Ball Pythons Like Soaks?

While again, we can’t be exactly sure if our animals like or don’t like something, it does seem like some ball pythons actually enjoy an occasional soak.

The difficult part about this topic is determining whether your snake enjoys soaks, needs soaks or is experiencing a combination of both things.

Warm water soaks are beneficial to snakes because they help them shed old skin, relieve constipation, and keep them hydrated.  It’s not a bad idea to offer your snake a shallow dish of water in their enclosure that they can soak themselves in!

However, it’s possible that your snake might be soaking themselves so much due to some bad husbandry.  If their enclosure is too dry or too hot, you’ll notice your snake sitting in water more than usual.

But usually, it’s not something you’ll see every day, and at that point, you can assume your snake is just soaking themselves to benefit their health and maybe because they enjoy it!

How Much Water Should You Keep In Your Ball Python’s Enclosure?

You should always have water available for your ball python!  But, you don’t want any deep dishes, that pose a safety risk for your scaly friend.   This video shows a good example of a nice shallow water dish that a ball python has chosen to sit and soak in.


You can see that it’s not too deep, but large enough for the snake to get cozy in!

If you do find that your snake likes to soak in their water dish, it’s important to make sure you fill it with chlorine-free water!  Chlorine can be irritating to the skin of a ball python and it’s best to avoid it as much as possible in their water.

Final Thoughts

Ball pythons can definitely swim, and spend time in the water both in captivity and in the wild!  They might only swim in dangerous circumstances, but are usually found hanging out very close to water!  As pets, these snakes might enjoy access to warm shallow water to help them regulate their temperature, hydration, and skin health!  If you have a ball python that seems to enjoy the water, go ahead and continue allowing them to bathe and relax!