Should You Soak Ball Pythons In Water?

ball python after a soak

Soaking can be somewhat controversial in the reptile world!  If you’ve heard different opinions on this topic, you’re not alone!  With so many opinions, it can be difficult to determine whether or not you’re doing the right thing for your pet.

So, should you soak your ball python in water?

Ball pythons don’t have the strongest affinity for water.  However, there are certain times when you should absolutely soak your ball python.  If your pet is having trouble shedding, is dealing with mites, or is constipated, a soak is a great idea.  Who knows, you might have a ball python that even enjoys the water!

If you plan on soaking your ball python, it’s important to know when, why, and how to do it.  That way you can keep your snake safe and happy while letting them enjoy the benefits of warm water.

What Is the Difference Between A Bath and A Soak?

Before we get too deep into talking about “soaks,” let’s define a soak, and talk about how it’s different from a bath.

In the reptile world, we generally use the term “soak” to describe what we humans think of as a bath!  A soak is just a warm water tub that a reptile will rest in.  A bath usually implies some sort of soap or washing.

Unless a reptile is contaminated with something like heavy oil, they never need true baths!  But, to make it more confusing, people will often use the words, “soak” and “bath” interchangeably.

Just know, for the purpose of this article, if we talk about “bathing for shedding” for example, we are never talking about washing or using soap on your pet!  Hopefully that’s not too confusing!

Now, let’s discuss how ball pythons deal with water in general!

Can Ball Pythons Swim?

Like many reptiles, ball pythons have the innate ability to swim!  But, this doesn’t mean that they are good at it by any means.

In the wild, ball pythons will only be found swimming in moments of extreme danger or stress.  They will use the water to escape and evade predators, as a last resort.  Ball Pythons aren’t meant to swim or be in cold water for very long.   If you’d like to read more about ball pythons’ relationship with water, you can read our article all about it here. There’s also an myth that ball pythons can breath under water but that’s simply not true.

Even though ball pythons aren’t great natural swimmers, there are many individuals of this species that seem to enjoy spending time in the water.  You’ll notice this if you have one of these snakes!  They might soak in their water bowl every day, even though they are already well hydrated.

Why Do Ball Pythons Lie In Their Water Dishes?

You might wonder why your ball python is always lying in their water dish!  It’s true, they might just enjoy the feeling of being in warm water.  It’s also possible something in their environment isn’t regulated properly.

We’ll go over the factors that could make your ball python soak itself, so you can know for sure what they’re up to!

1.  They’re Too Hot

Your ball python could be spending time in their water dish because they’re too hot! Ball Pythons need a heat gradient in their enclosure that ranges from 75F – to 85F and includes an even warmer basking area on the warm side.

If they don’t have an area that stays at least 75F or cooler, it’s possible they’re in the water just because they’re too warm.

2. They’re Dehydrated

If your ball python is dehydrated, it might spend time lying in its water dish.

Reptiles are able to absorb water through their skin and will often do this by resting in water when dehydrated.  Ball Pythons should be in an enclosure that has between 55% and 65% humidity.  If not, they might try to correct this imbalance by giving themselves a soak in their bowl!

Like we mentioned above your ball python may also just enjoy a soak!  And there might be nothing wrong with them or their housing at all!

So, how do you know when it’s time for you to initiate a soak for your ball python?

When Should You Soak Your Ball Python?

Ball Pythons are very easy to handle, actually, they made our list of the top ten most handleable reptiles!  But, this could change when you stress your pet out or put them in a new situation.  Don’t force your snake into the water.  They might end up lashing out at you!

If your snake is flailing and thrashing, it’s probably a sign they don’t want to be in the soak, so unless it’s medically necessary, this probably isn’t a good idea for either of you!

If your ball python doesn’t naturally spend time in their water dish, there are still three situations when you will want to soak them.

But, before you get your snake in its first bath, don’t forget that they might be scared.

1. They Didn’t Fully Shed

Shedding is a process that usually takes snakes about 1 -2 weeks to complete!

Be patient and give your snake time to shed on their own.  A good shed will come off in one long piece of snakeskin, but this isn’t always the case.  If you find that your snake has some residual shed left on them, or if it seems stuck around a certain part of their body, a soak can help that!

Because shedding issues can be caused by dry skin, warm water is a quick fix.  This is true for not only ball pythons but also many other herps including the always popular leopard gecko. The warm water will soften your snake’s skin and allow them to complete their shed. Here is a video showing how you can help your snake shed the rest of thier old skin.

In addition to a nice soak, having something rough in your snake’s enclosure will also help them finish their shed.  They might use this rough edge by rubbing themselves against it while shedding.

2. They’re Conspitated or Impacted

Naturally, your snake can become constipated or even impacted.  If your snake is impacted, that means something is truely blocking their intestinal tract.

This is usually caused by accidentally ingesting something inedible.  It can be something as small as some substrate from their own enclosure that they take in while eating or burrowing.

If you are worried your snake is constipated, warm water soothes organs and helps move things along.  Warm water soaks often end up releasing poop, even in normal situations.  However, if you find your snake isn’t eating and hasn’t pooped in a long time, it’s never a bad idea to take them for an exam at the vet!

3. They Have Mites

Mites are something that many snakes who come from breeders can carry!

Mites are incredibly small and contagious among reptiles.  If left untreated, mites can seriously injure or even kill your pet.

Luckily, most cases of mites are easy to treat!  Mites can’t live underwater and giving your snake a soak is one of the best ways to kill and prevent mites.  If your mite problem is bad, your veterinarian might also recommend a betadine soak, which can help treat the wounds caused by blood-sucking mites.  Betadine should only be used in a soak as per a veterinarian’s recommendation.

Now you might be wondering, how should I bathe my ball python?  Are there any rules I need to know?

How To Soak Your Ball Python

There are some things to be aware of before soaking your reptile for the first time.  Luckily, it’s a fairly simple procedure.

Remember, unless it’s deemed medically necessary, don’t force a soak!  Your snake will tell you if they want to get in the water or not.

1. Get Your Supplies Ready

To soak your snake, you will want a large bin, a towel, and filtered or even distilled water.

Make sure that whatever you choose to soak your snake in is escape-proof.  This means that either the bin is very deep or your soak your snake in an escape-proof room.  If you put them in a bin with water, be aware that they can get out if they want to!

It’s important to always use filtered or distilled water for your snake’s baths.  Some snakes can be very sensitive to chlorine in their water.  Instead of waiting for your snake’s skin to show signs of irritation, avoid this by using chlorine-free water.

2. Warm The Water

A ball python’s bath temperature should be somewhere around 80F – 85F.

Snakes are cold-blooded, and if they are placed into cold water, their bodily functions will slow and even stop.  The water always needs to be warm in your pet’s soak.

You can check the water temperature by swirling it around and inserting a thermometer. Once your water is warm, you can add it to the bin you picked out!

3. Now, Soak!

Finally, you can introduce your snake to the water.

Hopefully, your snake will like the temperature of the water and be happy to rest in it for a while.  You want to soak your ball python for 10 – 20 minutes maximum.  If your snake seems happy to stay in their soak, you can always add new, warm water to keep the temperature up.

You can always cut the bath short if your snake starts to get restless, or if they poop in the soak.

4. Dry Your Snake

Once you remove your snake from their soak, it’s very important to dry them!  Leaving water on them could cause them to become cold quickly.  They could get the substrate in their enclosure wet and dirty if they aren’t dry when they return.

Final Thoughts.

If your snake seems to enjoy soaking or spending time in their water dish, let them!  Just make sure that their housing conditions are correct, and that they don’t feel like they need to be in the water for some reason.

Ball pythons can benefit so much from warm water soaks!  They help to keep them clean and hydrated and can be soothing for their tummies.  Hopefully, your pet also feels the same way when you give it a try!