Can Snakes Drink Tap Water?

snake approaching a bowl of tap water

If you’ve just gotten your first pet snake, or you’re doing research to get ready for their arrival, congratulations!  Snakes can make great pets and will definitely keep you entertained.  Sometimes, it can be a little daunting to become a reptile owner.  Snakes eat, sleep, and live very differently than we do.  From special lighting to specific water, everything seems to be specialized!  You start to second guess yourself and find yourself researching;

Can snakes drink tap water?

The good news is that snakes can drink tap water.  But, some tap water contains harmful chemicals like chlorine that should be filtered out if present.  If you’re unsure about the quality of your water, you can look it up online, test it, condition it, or filter it. 

In general, if the water is safe for you to drink your snake can drink it.  But remember, snakes are a little more sensitive to chemicals that our bodies might already be accustomed to.

Do All Snakes Drink Water?

If you haven’t seen a snake drink water yet, you’re in for an adorable surprise!  Check out this video to see what snakes look like when they drink water:

As the title mentions, it really is cute to see a snake drinking water, and something you wouldn’t expect!

In the wild, snakes get most of their hydration needs met through their food.  Without getting too graphic, the fluid in their prey keeps their hydration levels pretty well balanced.  But, snakes that live near water can be observed drinking from that water on occasion!  In fact, wild snakes, like ball pythons, might even take a swim in the water if they feel like it!

Snakes in captivity might have slightly different hydration needs than their wild counterparts and may end up drinking more water as a result.  Live prey will give your snake the best hydration, but the are cons that come with feeding live food to your snake.  Frozen and thawed food is great if your snake will eat it, but these food sources need to be rehydrated in some way.  If your snake isn’t feeling perfectly hydrated you will see them drinking water, which isn’t a bad thing!  Actually, you should always give them access to fresh water, just in case they need it!

How Do Snakes Drink Water?

If you watched the video above you can see that snakes don’t drink water in the same way that a dog or a cat does.  The snake seems to taste the water with its tongue but then does not use the tongue to lap up any of that water.

Instead, snakes use folds in the skin around their mouth to create tiny tube-like shapes that act like straws and create suction.   The force of the suction created is how snakes are able to move water from a bowl into their body.

Why Can Tap Water Be Dangerous For Snakes?

You might be wondering why snakes can drink dirty lake water but not clean tap water from the faucet!

Well, snakes in the wild are adapted to drinking water with all sorts of different microorganisms in it.  Their bodies are familiar with the bacteria of the animals and water in the area that they are from.  So even if the water they drink in the wild is dirty, it’s still safe for them!

Our tap water is definitely cleaner and treated, but to get our water clean we sometimes add chemicals to it.  These chemicals are what can be dangerous for your sensitive scaly friend to ingest.

A lot of tap water contains chlorine and ammonia.  Snakes can be incredibly sensitive to both of these chemicals.  While a little chlorine won’t kill your snake, you might notice their skin becoming drier and them looking less healthy overall.  Continued exposure to chlorine could lead to a serious allergy or reaction!

Some snakes will not only drink their water to maintain hydration but might also submerge themselves in it.  This act of “soaking” can be observed in pet snakes and is another reason to make sure your water is snake-safe.  IF you’re curious about why your snake might be doing this, you can read more in our article here.

It’s important to make sure the water you offer your snake is chlorine-free, so you don’t have to find out whether your pet has a sensitivity.

How Do You Know If Your Tap Water Is Safe For Your Snake?

If you live in the U.S. odds are, you have drinkable water from your tap.  The EPA regulates tap water in the U.S.  But, these regulations are put into place for humans, not small sensitive reptiles.

Check the specs of your local tap water online.  If you can’t find them, or you don’t trust them completely you can also test your water at home.  Testing your water for chlorine is pretty easy at home!  You can buy test kits online, at a pet store, or even at a pool supply store.

If your tap water shows any level of chlorine, you’re going to want to remove that chlorine from the water!

4 Ways To Make Your Tap Water Safe for Your Snake

If your tap water is not already chlorine-free, there are a few ways you can still make this water safe for your pet!  Another option of course is to buy filtered spring water, but this can get costly over time.  Plus, if you find a way to make your tap water work for your pet, you can reduce your consumption of single-use plastics!

1. Filter It

A standard water filter should filter out excess chlorine.  There are endless options for water filters, but a filtered water pitcher that you can sit beside your snake’s enclosure is extra convenient!  You can attach filters to your tap, or even just get a small bottle that has a filter inside of it!  These filters will need to be changed regularly, so keep an eye on the expiration date.

2. Treat It

There are special water treatments sold specifically for snakes!  You can even get one made just for ball pythons!

Chlorine water treatments are compounds that neutralize chlorine in the water.  These treatments are easy to use and reptile safe.  You just need to follow the instructions and make sure you add the right amount of treatment to your reptile’s water!  Too little or too much could negatively affect water quality.

3. Boil It

You might be surprised to learn that boiling water is another ay to remove chlorine!

Chlorine evaporates from water quickly when heated up.  Boiling water for just a minute is an effective way to make that water chlorine free.  However, we do recommend letting your boiled water cool down before giving it to your snake.  Because of this, boiling your snake’s water may not end up being the most practical method.

4. Let It Sit Out

Probably the easiest method of dechlorination is to let your snake’s water sit out for a few days.

Because chlorine is naturally volatile, it will even evaporate from water without the help of boiling.  To use this method, you can pour some water into a dish and set it aside for at least 24 hours.  To be safe, you can leave this water out for up to 5 days to receive maximum dechlorination benefits!  In warmer temperatures, this will happen even faster.

Can You Give Distilled Water To Your Snake?

Some first-time snake owners think that distilled water is the obvious choice for hydration since it’s chemical free.

The problem with distilled water is that it is basically sterilized.  While distilled water doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals, it also doesn’t contain any beneficial minerals that you would get from normal drinking water.  To maintain a healthy level of hydration, your snake should be drinking water with minerals in it.

What Is The Best Way To Give Your Snake Water?

Even if you are feeding your snake live prey, you should still give them access to clean, fresh water.

The best way to provide water for your snake is in a heavy shallow dish,  You want the water to be shallow enough that your snake won’t drown if something happens.  You also want to make sure the dish is heavy so that it doesn’t tip over if they decide to climb into it!  There are many special dishes like this sold for snakes of all sizes.

Final Thoughts

Snakes can drink tap water but they can’t drink chlorine or ammonia.  If you’re not sure about the quality of your tap water, do some research.  Or better yet, test it yourself!  There are many easy ways to make your tap water safe for your snake to drink.  You can purchase a filter or a water treatment, but dechlorination can also be as simple as boiling your water or letting it sit out at room temperature for a few days.  If you dechlorinate your tap water, you can avoid any health issues that chlorine could cause your snake.