How Often Should You Change Your Reptile’s Water?

how often should you change your reptiles water

Snakes, lizards, and turtles are some of the most entertaining and unique animals to have as pets.  Once you become a reptile lover, you never go back!  The one problem with reptiles is that they don’t come with instruction manuals.

So simple things like water dishes can become a source of confusion and frustration!  Even the amount of water in an enclosure and the quality of the water are important things for many reptiles.  Today, we’re going to focus on one topic in particular.

How often should you change reptile water?

Depending on the reptile, standing water should be changed every 1 – 2 days.  Some reptiles may need more frequent changes if their water dish becomes dirty, while others may not need a water dish at all!  How often your reptile uses its water dish determines how often you should change it.

Let’s take a look at the specifics of reptile water and learn how you can be the best owner for your scaly friend!

What Kind Of Water Should You Give Your Pet?

Before we talk about changing water, it’s important to note that the type of water you offer your pet is also important.

For most reptiles feeding water straight from the tap is okay.  The problem with some tap water is that it can contain high levels of chlorine.  While drinking this water would be okay for your pet, soaking in this water could cause issues.

The reason that you might not want to offer unfiltered tap water to a snake for example is that a snake might choose to soak in their water dish.  For chlorine-sensitive pets, tap water would cause skin irritation and it’s best to keep it limited, especially for snakes.

In most cases, you can put tap water into your retile’s enclosure, but if you have easy access to filtered water, that might be an even better choice.

How Often Should You Change Your Reptile’s Water?

So, how often should you change reptile water?

In normal circumstances, changing water every 1 – 2 days is perfectly acceptable.  Of course, not all circumstances are normal.  Water may become dirty or soiled with urine and feces.  In humid environments, water could breed bacteria or fungi.  If your reptile soaks in its dish, the water should also be changed afterward.

So, how can you tell if the water is bad?  How do you know when to change it more regularly?

How Do You Know Know If Your Reptile’s Water Is Bad?

There are a few ways to tell if your reptile’s water dish has gone “bad.”  Please note that you should never wait for these signs to change a water dish.  But, if you do notice one of these things before your daily or bidaily water change comes up, you’ll want to switch the water out sooner.

Soiled Water

If your reptile has entered their water dish to poop or pee, you’ll definitely need to change the water.  It’s common for reptiles to defecate during a soak or when they enter the water.  Did you know that reptiles can increase hydration by absorbing water through their skin?  Because of this, the hydration boost makes passing the feces easier, so it’s to be expected!  Change soiled water as soon as you notice it. And if it’s happening a lot, consider giving your pet more regular soaks.

Water Used For Soaking

If you notice your pet spending a lot of time in their water dish, you’ll have to change the water much more frequently.

Imagine taking a couple of baths a day and using the water for a few days at a time!  It wouldn’t be hygienic or healthy, and it’s definitely not for your pet reptile either.  It’s normal for reptiles to want to jump into their water dishes every once in a while.  But if they do this often, it could point to humidity imbalances in your enclosure.  This table shows relative humidity ranges for general groups of reptiles.

Reptile Humidity Chart

If you do think your reptile is spending time in the water because of low humidity, check out our tips for keeping humidity up in a reptile tank.

Either way, make sure to always change your reptile’s water dish after they have spent some time in it!

Water With a Weird Smell

Is there a better way to put this?  Probably!  A more relatable word than “weird?”  I don’t think so!

When you smell water that has been sitting for too long, it has a weird smell.  that smell could signify bacteria, mold, mildew, or fungal growth.  While your water shouldn’t be sitting for longer than two days, it’s still possible it could become contaminated within that time frame.   Trust your senses and change your reptile’s water if you smell something funky in their enclosure.

If you feel like your water is smelling weird every time you leave it for a day or two, you probably need to clean your water dish!

How Often Should You Clean A Reptile Water Dish?

Cleaning your reptile’s water dish is such an important part of reptile husbandry.

Many of our scaly friends don’t eat out of a bowl or off of a plate, so it can be easy to forget that they need their dishes done.  But, their water and water dishes are a natural breeding ground for bacteria and should be cleaned about once a week.

If your reptile does use its water bowl as a litter box, it’s probably a good idea to clean the bowl afterward.  Other than that you should be good to clean the dish just once a week.

How Do You Clean A Reptile Water Dish?

Are you wondering if there is a special way to clean your reptile’s dishes?

Of course, there is!

One of the reasons why keeping a pet reptile is a big responsibility is that most reptiles carry and shed salmonella bacteria throughout their entire lives.  Not only is this a good reason as to why you shouldn’t kiss your pet reptile, but it also means you have to be very careful about where and how you wash their dishes!

You should try your best not to wash your reptile’s dishes in the same sink as your dishes.  In the worst-case scenario, you could contract salmonella and get very sick, in the best-case scenario, it’s still gross!  Try washing your reptile’s dishes in a garage or bathroom sink.  Always make sure to use brushes that are only for your reptile’s equipment.  Make sure that you not only clean the water bowl but also do your best at disinfecting it.  Watch this video for a quick tutorial and a cleaning product recommendation.

See, it only takes a couple of minutes but will keep your pet healthy and happy!

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve covered the big picture of changing your reptile’s water bowl but let’s get into the nitty gritty answers for specific species.

How Often Should I Change Snake Water?

Snake water should be changed every 1 – 2 days.  If your snake soaks in their water, make sure to change it after and also make sure you are supplying them with filtered water only!  Snakes like ball pythons might spend time in their water dishes, and you don’t want that to hurt them.

How Often Should I Change Lizard Water?

Water for leopard geckos and bearded dragons should also be changed every 1 – 2 days.  If your pet leaves some lunch in there, make sure to change it sooner.  Because you will probably have a smaller water dish for these desert animals, you may end up needing to replace the water even more often than normal!

How Often Should I Change Turtle Or Tortoise Water?

If you have a small box turtle or tortoise, you might need to change their water daily.  Water dishes for these reptiles are very shallow and they may end up walking right through them.

Semi-aquatic and aquatic turtles are a special case.  Because they live in their water, their after needs to be maintained at a higher level than a bowl of drinking water would.  If you have a reptile like this, make sure to do your research on when to do water changes and when to clean your tanks.

How Do I Know When To Change Snake Substrate?

A good rule of thumb for keeping your snake healthy is to change the substrate regularly.  Changing all of the substrate every 2 – 3 months should be sufficient.  Every day, you can spot clean any spots that get dirty or wet and put new substrate in to fill those spots.

If your substrate starts to smell or get soggy, it’s a clear sign that it’s time for a change, no matter how much time has passed since you last changed it.

Final Thoughts

In most situations, reptile water should be changed every 1 – 2 days.  Water dishes should be cleaned about once a week.  Even though many reptiles are low-maintenance pets, it is still necessary to do a little work every day to ensure that they receive the best quality of life possible under your care!