How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath?

Do you know how long can snakes hold their breath? Contrary to what many people believe, it’s not indefinitely, and it turns out that the answer varies.

Snakes can be innocuous and docile one moment, and then suddenly they’re slithering across the ground with their tongues flicking in and out, ready to strike. But, of course, one of the most common questions people have about snakes is how long can they go without air before they suffocate?

How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath

Depending on the activity level and snake species, the length of time a snake can hold its breath varies greatly. Some snakes that engage in long-distance swimming can hold their breath for up to ten minutes, and snakes that spend most of their time on land can hold their breath for thirty minutes.

A snake’s ability to hold its breath for an extended period allows them to remain submerged underwater while hunting for food. This ability also comes in handy when snakes feel threatened and need to escape quickly.

If you wonder where different species rank when it comes to holding their breath, we have compiled some valuable information for you. When it comes to snakes, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there. So read on if you’re curious about how long a snake can survive underwater, as we’ll also be sharing some expert opinions on the matter.

How Do Snakes Breathe?

Snakes are often associated with danger and mystery, which is perhaps why so many people are curious about how they breathe. 

Unlike mammals, which have lungs and rib cages that help draw air into their bodies, snakes rely on lateral ventilation.

This means they move air into their lungs by contracting the muscles on either side of their body. As a result, snakes have to keep their mouths open while they are breathing, making them appear to be hissing. 

In addition to their unique respiratory system, snakes also have an efficient circulatory system that helps conserve energy.

Their heart is located near the center of their body, and they have two pairs of aortic arches that pump blood throughout their bodies. As a result, snakes can go for long periods without food or water.

How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath 1 How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath?

How Do Snakes Breathe When Eating?

When most people think of snakes, they probably don’t think about how the reptile breathes. After all, it doesn’t appear to have any lungs. 

However, snakes can breathe and eat simultaneously, thanks to a unique adaptation.

To understand how this works, it’s essential to know a bit about snake anatomy. Snakes have two main respiratory openings: the nostrils, used for inhaling air, and the glottis, which is used for exhaling. In between these two openings is the snake’s trachea, or windpipe.

When a snake swallows its prey, the muscles in its throat contract and push the meal past the glottis and into the stomach. At the same time, these muscles close off the nostrils so that no air can enter the trachea. 

This ensures that the snake’s prey doesn’t escape and prevents the snake from choking on its meal. As a result, snakes can continue breathing even as they’re digesting their food.

How Does a Snake Hold Its Breath?

When a snake holds its breath, it means that it is not currently breathing. This can happen for a few different reasons:

  1. Snakes can hold their breath when they are trying to avoid detection. Snakes are good at sensing vibrations, so if they sense that something is coming toward them, they may hold their breath to stay still and avoid being seen.
  2. Snakes may hold their breath while they are digesting their food. Digestion takes a lot of energy, and when a snake is digesting its food, it will not need to breathe as much.
  3. Snakes may also hold their breath when they are shedding their skin. Shedding skin is a stressful process for snakes, and having their breath helps to minimize the amount of oxygen they need.

How Long Can Different Snakes Hold Their Breath?


Anacondas are among the largest snakes in the world, and they are known for their powerful constricting ability. Although they are feared by many, they are shy creatures that spend most of their time hiding in the water. 

When they do emerge, they typically do so at night, searching for food.

Anacondas can hold their breath for up to 10 minutes, but they must surface for air more frequently when they are active. They typically eat large prey, such as deer or pigs, but also eat smaller animals, such as rodents or birds. 

Anacondas are found in South America, and they typically live in swamps, marshes, or slow-moving rivers.

Burmese Pythons

Burmese pythons are one of the largest snake species in the world, and they are particularly well adapted to life in aquatic environments. Their bodies are elongated and streamlined, their nostrils are located on the top of their heads, and they have special valves that close off their throats when submerged.

However, unlike many other aquatic animals, Burmese pythons can go for long periods without taking a breath. They can store large amounts of oxygen in their muscles and lungs, and they have a slow metabolic rate that reduces their need for oxygen.

As a result, these snakes can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes at a time. This ability gives them a significant advantage when hunting prey, as they can surprise their victims by remaining submerged until it is too late.

Ball Pythons

One interesting fact about Ball pythons is that they can hold their breath for about 20 minutes. Ball pythons are a type of snake that is native to Africa. They are typically found in the savanna or grassland regions, where they prey on small mammals such as mice and rats.

Ball pythons are constrictors, meaning that they kill their prey by wrapping their bodies around them and suffocating them. Unlike some other snakes, ball pythons cannot be venomous, so they must rely on their physical strength to kill their prey.

Ball pythons are relatively small snakes, usually only reaching lengths of 3-5 feet. However, they can live for up to 30 years in captivity. Their lifespan is typically shorter in the wild due to predation and disease.

They have primitive lung anatomy that is not well-suited for underwater breathing. As a result, ball pythons must be careful not to stay submerged for too long or drown.

How Can Sea Snakes Hold Breath For So Long?

Most sea snakes spend most of their time underwater, only coming up to the surface to breathe. But how can they stay underwater for such long periods? Sea snakes have several adaptations that allow them to hold their breath for extended periods.

First, they have reduced lungs that take up less space in the body cavity. This allows them to store more oxygen in their blood and muscles. In addition, sea snakes have an efficient circulatory system that helps to distribute oxygen throughout the body.

Finally, their bodies can conserve oxygen by reducing their metabolism. As a result of these adaptations, sea snakes can stay underwater for up to eight hours at a time.

What Affects How Long Snakes Can Hold Breath

How long snakes can hold its breath depends on a few different factors, including the species of snake, the temperature of the water, and the level of activity. Generally, snakes that live in cold water can hold their breath for more extended periods than those in warm water.

This is because the colder temperatures help slow down the snake’s metabolism, allowing it to conserve oxygen. 

The activity level also plays a role in how long a snake can hold its breath. A snake that is swimming will use up oxygen more quickly than one resting at the bottom of the tank.

Ultimately, the length of time a snake can go without breathing depends on various individual factors.

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