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Can Snakes Drown?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about pet snakes. The question can snakes drown often comes up when discussing the placement and depth of water bowls, for example. It’s important to know that it’s entirely possible for your snake to drown if its habitat is not set up properly.

The good news is that it’s a very rare occurrence for snakes to drown. Most pet snakes have water bowls that are set up properly and are not deep enough for the snake to risk its health. Even wild snakes really drown because they’re intuitive and naturally good swimmers.

It’s important to know that snakes require fresh air just like people do in order to be happy and healthy.

There are even species of snakes that spend their entire lives in the ocean that still need to breathe air to survive.

Your pet snake doesn’t live under those extreme circumstances, but you still might find it resting and its water bowl enjoying a nice soak. Here’s what you need to know about the risk of snakes drowning.

Can Snakes Drown?

It’s entirely possible for snakes to drown. Snakes need to breathe air into their lungs to get oxygen just like mammals do which means they can’t spend all their time underwater.

If a snake is deprived of air for too long, it could drown just like any other animal. This is true for common pet snakes as well as exotic sea snakes that spend their entire lives living in the ocean.

Snakes have a lot of cool evolutionary adaptations that allow them to keep breathing under extreme circumstances. If you ever watched your pet snake unhinge its jaw to eat dinner, you might have spotted your snake’s glottis.

This is a specialized organ that functions kind of like a snorkel for your pet snake. Your snake can extend its glottis out of its mouth to breathe around large meals that it’s trying to eat which allows it to keep breathing even while it’s swallowing something that’s wider than its own body.

It’s not very likely that your pet snake is going to drown because it’s just not exposed to enough water. In order to keep your pet snake safe, you must make sure that it’s never submerged in so much water that it has to swim to get up to the surface and breathe.

We’ll talk about how to position your water bowl for maximum safety in the next section, but for now it’s enough to know that you never want a water bowl that can accidentally get your snake trapped.

Just remember that your pet snake needs to breathe just like you do and everything should be all right.

How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath?

There are over 3,000 different species of snakes in the world. Answering how long can snakes hold their breath depends on which one of these species were talking about.

Your typical terrestrial snakes, like ball pythons and garden snakes, can only hold their breath for a few minutes, but sea snakes are able to hold their breath up to 8 hours.

Snakes breathe in the same way that people do by inhaling air through their mouth and nostrils. However, snakes have different types of lungs with a specialized long called a righthand lung that runs down nearly the entire length of the snake’s long body.

Some snakes can have two lungs, but all snakes have at least the righthand lung. Snakes can constrict muscles along their ribs to move air through their lungs down the length of their body.

It might surprise you to know that most species of snakes are actually very good swimmers. Despite not having flippers, fins, or any limbs to help them move through the water, the sidewinding motion of snakes is actually ideal for carving through the waves.

Some sea snakes spend nearly all of their lives in the water and only surface for 30 seconds every few hours. Even snakes that live in the desert, like rattlesnakes, can hold their breath for a few minutes even though they aren’t the best in open water.

Can Snakes Drown In Their Water Bowl?

The truth is that your pet snake can drown and its water bowl if it’s not set up properly or if the snake is old or injured.

However, it’s very rare for snakes to drown in their water bowls as they can typically get out of their own power and they don’t get stuck in their water bowls very easily. Let’s first talk about why your snake has been spending so much time soaking in his water bowl.

Soaking is a common behavior for all reptiles.

As it turns out, most reptiles like to spend a little bit of time soaking in shallow water because this helps them manage their shedding as well as any mites or skin irritation.

It’s perfectly normal for your snake to spend some time soaking in it’s nice, warm water bowl and just relaxing. There are a few precautions you can take to make sure that your water bowl is a safe place for your sake to soak.

The first thing you should do is make sure that your water bowl is the right size and shape for your snake. There should be enough room for your snake to curl up and soak, but not so much room, and depth, that your snake could potentially drown.

The water bowl should be very easy for your snake to navigate which means that your snake can easily slither in and out of the bowl. The water bowl should not also have any obstacles underneath or on top of it which could collapse and cause your snake to get stuck.


Next time someone asks you “can snakes drown,” you can let them know that even sea snakes that can hold their breath for eight hours can drown if they don’t get access to fresh air. It’s not very likely that your pet snake is going to drown in his water bowl, but you’re still going to want to make sure that the bowl is shallow and easy for your snake to navigate. If you’re lucky, you might even catch your snake using a built-in snorkel to help it breathe while it’s chowing down on its next meal.