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Can Ball Pythons Swim?

by Lucy

There are many questions that come with having a ball python as a pet. As with all pets, you want to closely replicate your animal’s natural habitat at home. This means making sure their temperature, humidity, and environment are best suited for your python’s health, survival, and comfort.

So when you’re considering what to include in your python’s tank, you may catch yourself wondering whether or not they’ll need their very own pool to cool off in during the summer.

So, can ball pythons swim? Ball pythons can swim, and often so in the wild in emergencies where they have to avoid a large predator or during flooding. Ball pythons are very capable of swimming, but it is not necessary in captivity, nor something they enjoy.

Your ball python would, however, love to have a soak in water now and then, to cool off, absorb some moisture, and soften their skin, which helps for a smooth shed.

To find the perfect routine and water balance for your ball python, keep reading to find out what is good for them, and why you shouldn’t take them for a summer swim.

Do Ball Pythons Like To Swim?

Ball pythons are known to swim in the wild, and if you had to put your ball python in a pool or in a body of water, chances are they would swim and float across the water and not just sink to the bottom.

As snakes don’t show emotions very well, it can be hard to tell whether or not a ball python is having fun swimming around, but it is most likely that your ball python does not actually like swimming, and is instead just trying to stay afloat. For most snakes, swimming is simply a survival instinct.

Ball pythons do swim in the wild, but this is usually only ever brought upon by travel reasons, either trying to cross a large body of water or to make it through a sudden flood. They might also be forced to swim to escape a larger predator.

While they are able to swim, it is not the preferred method of travel for ball pythons, and you should never need to put your python in a body of water as a recreational activity. They do swim in the wild when needed, but they are not the best swimmers and are only spurred on by instinct.

Should I Let My Ball Python Spend Time In Water?

You should never put your ball python in water that is deep enough to cover their whole body. This will require them to swim to keep their head above the water, and this could not only exhaust them but severely stress them out.

Even though it is not advised to place your ball python in deep water, you do need to give them a large bowl of shallow water in their enclosure to soak in. Your python does not need to put their head underwater, and to be safe, you should not fill up their water bowl enough for them to fully submerge their head.

Another reason that you should not allow your ball python to spend time in a large body of water is that they are not able to regulate their body temperature, so the cool temperature from the water could cause them to become too cold.

There is no need for you to have a routine of placing your ball python in a bath of water. As long as you provide them with some water in their enclosure, they will enter and exit the water as much as they need to.

If your ball python is having some trouble shedding and soaking isn’t doing the trick, make sure to spray their enclosure 2-3 times a day for a few days leading up to their shed with distilled, room-temperature water to provide them with some extra humidity.

Should I Bathe My Ball Python?

There is almost no need for you to bathe your ball python, and you should never remove them from their enclosure to place them into a body of water, unless absolutely necessary for medical reasons, which we’ll discuss at the end of this section.

Generally, all your python needs is for you to place a large water bowl in their tank, which is shallow enough to not reach over their head when fully submerged. They will know when they need to soak in this bath and can avoid it if they need to. The best water bowls for pythons have a kind of ramp with some sort of traction so they can easily move in and out, like this one.

Some ball python owners claim that you do need to give your ball python a quick soak now and then to help them shed easily, but more and more owners are recognizing that this practice is not needed and that your ball python will know how long they need to spend in water and how often.

If you are spraying your python’s tank 2-3 times a day with clean room-temperature water for a few days before their shed, they will have all the moisture they need to shed perfectly.

You also need to ensure that the water your ball python is exposed to is at the right temperature. A shallow bowl of water in their enclosure will rise to the right temperature thanks to the humidity in their cage, whereas placing them in a separate body of water might cause them to become too cold and go into shock.

When Is It Necessary To Bathe A Ball Python?

There are only two reasons why your ball python would need you to assist it with bathing. For one, if your ball python is suffering from skin conditions such as scale rot, burns, lesions, or mites, a few shallow soaks in warm water mixed with a certain ratio of iodine or betadine is an easy way to help them heal and protect their skin from further infection or damage.

Second, if your ball python is suffering from stuck shed that didn’t come off with the next shed, you may have to give them a 15 minute shallow soak in warm water to soften the skin enough to gently remove it. However, do not pull at their skin! Use the pads of your fingers or a soft towel to gently rub the excess skin off, going down their length with their scales. Do not rub against the direction of their scales.

Tip: If your ball python is visibly distressed and own’t calm down, provide them with a rock or something else sturdy to hold onto in the middle of the shallow pool so they feel more secure. Always handle them gently and with slow movements.

Why Do Ball Pythons Need To Bathe Themselves?

There are a few reasons why a ball python needs to bathe, and why you should provide them with a shallow bowl for them to bathe in their enclosure.

Firstly, ball pythons can absorb water through their skin. This is one way that they keep hydrated, and also is a great way for them to soften up their skin, which goes a long way to ensure that their next shed goes smoothly.

The water hydrates and softens their skin, so when they shed, their outer layer comes off quite easily and doesn’t get stuck or too dry along the way.

Another reason your ball python might spend some time in the shallow bath you have provided them in their enclosure is because the humidity in their enclosure isn’t high enough, so they would try and soak in this water in order to regain some moisture and hydration.

Alternatively, your ball python might be soaking in their water because their tank is too warm, and they are trying to cool down while soaking in water.

Your ball python might also have some mites on its scales which could be causing them quite a bit of irritation, and one way for them to get rid of these mites or to find some relief is to soak in water.

How To Provide A Bath For Your Ball Python

Your ball python will know how long and how often they will need to bathe if you give them their own shallow bowl in their enclosure. This should be filled with water, but not enough to fully cover them when they sit in the bowl.

It is important to ensure that your ball python has this bathing space in its enclosure, as long as it is safe, as there are many benefits that this shallow bath can provide them.

When choosing this bowl for your ball python, make sure that it is big enough for them to coil up in to be able to soak in nicely, but not a deep bowl that it is too difficult for them to get out from.

You should also only use filtered water or warm spring water to fill up the bowl, as tap water can contain other chemicals such as chlorine, which could irritate your ball python.

The water should be at a temperature between 75-80°F, but if their enclosure is at the right humidity and temperature, this should not be a problem.

Your ball python will happily bathe himself when needed, so you do not have to entice them into the water. They will spend up to 15 minutes soaking away, letting their skin soften, and then they will get up and move away when they are done. 

Don’t be concerned if you see them bathing for a little longer than this – they might just want an extended soak to relax!

Problems With Bathing

It is safe enough to leave your ball python to get on with their business when bathing in a shallow bowl in their enclosure, but it is a good idea to keep an occasional check on them to ensure that they are happy and comfortable.

One issue to watch out for is if they show any signs of irritation. The water you use in their bowl might contain chlorine or other chemicals which could irritate their scales. If they are experiencing irritation, they would move around uncomfortably or get out of the water quickly and start rubbing against surfaces in their tank to try and soothe their skin.

If you notice that your ball python is acting this way, you should take the water out of the cage and wash the bowl thoroughly. Take your ball python out of their tank as well and pat them down with a clean towel to try and remove any excess water or chlorine off of them. 

In the future, use bottled, filtered, or distilled water in a shallow bowl instead, as this will have a lower chlorine content and will be gentler on their skin than normal tap water.

How Often Should You Change The Water In Your Python’s Enclosure?

Your ball python will rely on their bath or water bowl in their enclosure for many reasons, to keep hydrated, to soothe their skin, and to bathe and relax.

It is important to ensure that this water is kept clean and fresh so that it does not cause any irritation to your python’s skin.

To ensure the water and the bowl are kept clean, you should change the water in the bowl every day, and thoroughly wash the bowl every third day.

You do not want there to be any bad germs or bacteria growing in the bowl by not cleaning it, as this bacteria could cause an infection for your ball python, which could be life-threatening.

Do not use harsh cleaning products to clean out the bowl, as this could damage your ball python’s skin and make them really uncomfortable. Use mild antibacterial soap and water.

Dealing With Mites

A reason your ball python might be spending so much time in their bath is that they have mites under their scales. A mite infection can be difficult to deal with, but there are ways to prevent a mite infection from happening.

Firstly, you should boil and freeze substrate before placing it in your ball python’s cage. Any mites present in the substrate will be killed through the boiling or freezing process, and therefore won’t make it into your python’s enclosure.

Also make sure to always sanitize any accessories or décor that you put into your ball python’s cage, as you just can’t be sure where these have come from, and they might carry mites.

If you think that there might already be a mite infection in your ball python’s cage, it is best to speak to a professional who can give you good solutions on how to solve this issue and how you can give your ball python some relief and comfort.

Should I Take My Ball Python Out To Bathe?

There is no reason why you should have to take your ball python out of their cage and place them in a pool, bath, or large body of water.

The chances are that this will only stress out your ball python, and they will not enjoy the experience. In the wild, ball pythons only swim when necessary for travel or emergencies, and while they can swim, they were not built for it, and it is not something they would particularly like to do regularly.

All your ball python needs is a shallow bowl of fresh water in their cage every day that they can sit in and soak in when they want to. They will decide when they need to bathe, and you don’t have to worry about it!

Related Questions

Should I Watch My Ball Python While They’re In Water?

If, for some reason, your ball python is in a large body of water that would cover their whole body, you should definitely keep an eye on them. While they will swim in the wild to travel or escape predators, they are not built to be strong swimmers, and sometimes the water might get the best of them, especially if they are in a bathtub with no traction and no way out.

There have been cases in the wild where a ball python has drowned in water, and the last thing you want is to have your python encounter any problems while they are in your care. In a large body of water, a ball python might become exhausted or might become too cold, which could be life-threatening.

Regarding them spending time in a small, shallow bowl in their cage, you do not need to keep a constant eye on them, as there should be no risk of drowning if the water is not deep enough. However, you should keep an occasional check on them to make sure that the water is not irritating them at all.

Whenever your ball python is around water, you should check on them. They were not built to swim for long periods, so anything can happen.

Ball pythons can drown, and if you do not watch them in a body of water, or fill their bath up too deep, then there is a chance that they could drown. Never leave your ball python in deep water without constant supervision.

Can I Put My Ball Python In The Bathtub?

Many ball python owners choose to let their ball python soak in the bathtub or in a large container that is filled with an inch of warm water. This large environment gives your ball python enough space to move around in and lets them soak safely.

However, this isn’t necessary to do unless it’s for medical reasons, and your ball python will decide when and how long they want to bathe for if you simply leave a small bowl of water in their enclosure.

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