Is Tap Water Safe For My Snake – And What About Distilled Water?

Tap water contains varying levels of chlorine which can irritate snakes. It is recommended to use a water conditioner or RO purifier before giving tap water to your snake. Bottled water may be used but distilled water must be avoided.

Snakes make feisty pets – they come with a lot of personality! Feeding, caring and providing the right water for your snake is quite straightforward once you’ve got your facts right. When it comes to keeping your snake hydrated, here are a few things you should know.

Understanding the needs of your snake is the first step in providing a nurturing environment. Establishing healthy drinking habits and providing the best type of water ensures a happy, healthy pet. Here’s everything you need to know about how your snake drinks water, and how you can keep it sssssatisfied!

Can Snakes Drink Tap Water?

Tap water usually contains the minerals necessary for your snake’s growth. However, the quality of your tap water depends on your location and local water safety standards. Most tap water contains trace levels of chlorine and fluoride, which are added to treat the water. The EPA regulates the number of additives in your tap water. 

Chloramines, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, can irritate and harm your snake. High levels of chlorine can also prove fatal. Unfiltered tap water can also contain ammonia and nitrates, which can harm your snake.

If the tap water in your area is hard, it can cause deposits of limescale in your tank (especially on the glass). This makes it more difficult to clean and maintain your enclosure.

As a rule of thumb, if you can drink your tap water, then your snake can too. However, we advise you test your water for Free and Total chlorine (chloramines) each time before giving it to your snake.

Dechlorination – the process of removing chlorine and chloramines from drinking water – must be followed. You can run your water through a carbon filtration system before giving it to your snake.

You can also use a reptile water conditioning liquid (Amazon example) before setting up a water bowl. These conditioners enrich the water with electrolytes and remove harmful toxins.

What About Bottled Water?

Bottled water goes through a refining process where chlorides and fluorides are removed. Most bottled water is also enriched with minerals.

So you can safely give bottled water to your snake. Bottled spring water and purified water from underground aquifers can also be given.

Can Snakes Drink Distilled Water?

Do not give your snake distilled water. Distilled water is water that has been demineralized and deionized. Distilled water has no contaminants but it is also devoid of minerals and electrolytes. Since distilled water cannot mimic the conditions of water found in the wild, it is not advisable to give it to your snake.

Distilled water cannot supplement your snake’s calcium and mineral needs.

However, you can use distilled water to mist the walls of your tank – since there are no dissolved minerals, there is no fear of limescale or other deposits.

Why Do Snakes Need Water?

Snakes found in the wild do not have access to ‘pure’ water devoid of all contaminants. However, they have evolved to drink water with microorganisms and minerals, not artificial chemicals found in most tap water. Lead, arsenic, and chloramines are a few ‘foreign’ additives in the water that your snake may adversely respond to.

Water is undoubtedly essential for your pet’s survival. Snakes get most of their calcium from water and sunlight. Indoor snakes rely in UV lamps and adequate water for their calcium needs. Hypocalcemia – calcium deficiency – can be caused by dehydration.

So, it’s important to keep your snake well-fed and hydrated.

Your snake also needs a source of UV-B light to assimilate and metabolize calcium. UV-B light syntheses vitamin D, which in turn helps in calcium absorption.  Invest in a UV-B lamp (Amazon example) to make sure that your snake gets enough vitamin D.

How Much Food And Water Do Snakes Need?

The feeding habits of your pet snake varies according to its type. Snakes have been shown to consume prey of various sizes. This means that snakes ingest enormous meals and eat infrequently – for example, boas require 2-4 times their body weight in food per year. Snakes also have very slow metabolisms, which means that they do not need to be fed every day.

When it comes to water, it is difficult to determine how much water each snake needs – this study, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, shows that the individual differences are high. It is recommended to keep a bowl of fresh water ready for your snake so it can drink whenever it feels like it.

How Do Snakes Drink Water?

Snakes do not drink water as often as dogs or cats do – their hydration mechanism stems from specialized jaw muscles. Snakes use their jaw muscles to drink water with a smooth siphoning motion. Their forked tone is not of much use while drinking water.

The key organ here is the sponge-like jaw, which holds a number of small capillaries that suck and hold water. While drinking, the snake holds its mouth like an air-tight straw, sucking water and forcing it down the food pipe. This mechanism is similar to feeding – the water is pushed down the digestive tract by powerful jaw muscles.

Where Else Do Snakes Get Water From?

It is natural to worry if your snake is dehydrated if you find that it rarely drinks water. Don’t let this daunt you – if a snake appears otherwise healthy and sheds its skin ok, you have nothing to be worried about. Their water needs are met in the soaking tub.

Snakes absorb water in fascinating ways. These cold-blooded creatures rely on water and consequent humidity levels to maintain their body temperature. Not only do snakes drink water, but they also absorb it through their skin! When they soak in water bowls, they absorb water through their permeable skin. This serves an important role in general health and well-being.

Using A Water Bowl

A clean water bowl is one of the most important components of your tank. Since they absorb water through their skin, maintaining a clean soaking dish is a must. Your water bowl must be made of sturdy, smooth plastic or a plastic composite. Opt for a translucent plastic bowl so you can monitor your snake’s behavior in the water.

Your snake’s tank or enclosure must be large enough to accommodate at least two hiding spots. Get a water bowl large enough for your snake to soak in – this applies especially to ball pythons and larger snakes. Your soaking tub must be shallow enough to not let the snake drown. Replace the water in this dish every day.

Most snakes can bathe themselves by soaking in their water bowl. They also spend a long time in the tub when they shed their skin. Corn snakes, for example, like to spend more time in the bowl before their shedding cycle begins. This is why having a shallow dish is important – baby snakes can drown in deep bowls.

Cleaning Your Snake’s Water Bowl

As a rule of thumb, fill the tank with water that rises to half the height of your snake. For instance, if your snake is 1 inch tall, fill the tub with ½ inch of water. However, if you find that your snake spends an unusual amount of time in the tub, consult your vet.

Wash the bowl with soap and water once in two days, and replace the water every day. Disinfect the bowl twice a month with diluted bleach. If your snake defecates in the water, change it immediately.

This soaking dish is the same water bowl your snake drinks from, so clean it regularly. Fill it with filtered, conditioned water. Snakes are cold-blooded, which means that their habitat must be temperature-regulated. Keep the water warm – but not too warm. Do not pour scalding hot or ice cold water in the dish.

The Bottom Line

Ensuring a clean water bowl with fresh water is all you need to do to keep your snake hydrated. Keep a watchful eye on how your snake sheds to check if it is healthy and well. In the end, all you need is some love, care, and good water to bond with your danger noodle!

Russell Singleton

Russell has a Bachelor of Science (Environmental and Marine Geoscience) with Class I Honors. He is currently completing his doctorate in science and is passionate about all earth processes, especially isotope geochemistry and paleohydrology.

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