Can Snakes Drown

Snakes can make wonderful pets and people love them!

And snake owners think they’re pretty special in their own right and go out of their way to learn about how to keep their scaly friends comfortable. 

The question – Can snakes drown – may seem a little weird.

But, snake enthusiasts will tell you that sometimes snakes and water don’t go together.

Snakes can drown if the water level is deep enough. 

Thanks to their buoyant bodies, almost all snakes will be able to swim if you cast them in water.

However, if their heads stay underwater long enough, water may fill their lungs, leading to death. 

That’s why proper snake care requires owners to be aware of the dangers water may pose for their pets and how they can safeguard their well-being. 

How Long Can a Snake Stay Underwater?

Did you know that some sea snakes can hold their breath underwater for 30 minutes?

That’s pretty incredible, right?

However, even sea snakes that can swim underwater for hours need to float up to the surface for air, despite their skin absorbing oxygen from water.

Like all living things, snakes need oxygen to survive.

They take in air through their nasal passages (or openings) and breathe by expanding and contracting the muscles between their ribs.

This is primarily because snakes (unlike mammals) don’t have a diaphragm that helps with inhaling and exhaling air. 

Oxygen exchange occurs in the portion of a snake’s lung that’s near its head.

Even though their lungs extend, the section of a snake’s lung near its tail doesn’t help in the act of breathing and functions more like an air sac.

That’s also what allows snakes to stay afloat in water. 

Unlike water or sea snakes, regular snakes have what it takes to stay floating in the water, but they don’t have the capacity to hold their breath underwater for too long.

And, what’s more, the ability of a snake to hold its breath underwater may depend on various factors like its type, whether it’s exerting energy, etc. 

Some snakes can manage to hold their breath underwater for around 8 to 10 minutes – if they’re not exerting energy in any other way.

For instance, if the snake is swimming (using its entire body to propel itself through the water), this can impact the time it can stay underwater safely. 

Nonetheless, it’s highly advisable for snake owners to ensure that their reptilian friends aren’t ever put in the position where their breath-holding abilities are put to the test. 

Why Do Snakes Drown?

Snakes will drown if their head stays underwater for too long and water fills their lungs.

Unfortunately, this can happen due to various reasons.

For instance, quite a few reports of snake drownings involve snakes in captivity. 

Some reports mention drowning due to a deep water dish.

Snakes ventured near or inside the container for a drink of water and drowned because of not being able to climb out. 

Drownings have also occurred where owners allowed their pets to swim in the tub, only to discover their pets drowned. 

It’s not precisely clear why drowning occurs in captivity.

For instance, no one can pinpoint the events that lead to such an unfortunate event.

However, the majority consensus is that it’s best not to take chances when it comes to water and snakes.

Ensure that any water dish you buy for your pet’s enclosure isn’t big enough to allow your pet to climb into it or isn’t too deep.

Additionally, if your pet likes bathing, get an adequately-sized shallow container to make sure there’s just enough water to allow your snake to keep its head above water. 

Finally, when you allow your snake to bathe, don’t leave it unsupervised.

That way, you’ll be able to watch over your pet and ensure you’re there to help if your pet needs your assistance. 

How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath?

How long a snake can hold its breath underwater will typically depend on the type of snake it is.

For example, sea snakes can hold their breath anywhere from between 30 minutes to 8 hours.

That’s because their bodies are designed to stay in the water for prolonged periods.

They also have the capacity to absorb oxygen via their skin. 

On the other hand, snakes that stay primarily on land may be able to hold their breath ranging from 8 to 15 minutes – depending on their species.

What’s more, if the snake is exerting energy underwater by swimming, its ability to hold its breath can be affected. 

Can Snakes Drown In Their Water Bowl 

Even though most people have trouble believing it – snakes can, in fact, drown in their water bowls.

Some snake owners reported coming home to find their pets lying head down in the water after climbing into the water dish.

While others claim their pets didn’t venture in the water bowl (their bodies remained outside the container) while only their heads submerged in water. 

No matter what the case may be, it’s crucial for snake owners to safeguard their pets’ safety by providing a water dish or bowl that’s the right size for their snake.

Don’t be tempted to go for water bowls that are too big or deep compared to the size of your snake because this can create a drowning hazard. 

Snakes are prone to soaking in their water bowls when shedding time is around the corner.

If your pet is the same, you can lookout for a water bowl that’s wide with sides that aren’t too high so that your pet stays comfortable and can easily hold its head out of the water.


The fact that water can be dangerous for snakes is a little challenging for some to believe.

Plus, there’s the fact that snake owners may think their pets are in no danger from water because they can swim.

The truth, however, is that snakes can drown in water, even if its level doesn’t appear too deep to us. 

That’s why snake owners need to be cautious about the dishes they place in their reptile’s cage and make sure any water bowl they purchase isn’t just the right size for the enclosure but also their pet. 

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