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The moment you Google the word ‘chinchilla’, you’re bombarded with garbage websites telling you chinchillas hate water, and that they’ll die if they come within fifty feet of the stuff. Although that’s not true, it does raise the question: what do chinchillas drink, if not water?

Do chinchillas need water? They do, like every other animal. They die without it. Chinchillas need water bottles as using a water bowl gets your pet’s and fur wet. Experienced owners recommend giving chinchillas filtered water or distilled water, although if the tap water where you live is fresh and clean, it may be suitable.

You shouldn’t ever leave your chinchilla without water. While they can conserve fluid well, doing so is cruel. The guide below explores what kinds of water are suitable, whether you need a chinchilla water bottle or a water bowl, how much water chinchillas need in a day, and lots more besides!


Can Chinchillas Drink Water?

Chinchillas drink water just like every other animal.

Water is vital for almost every function in the body. For starters, around two thirds of an animal’s body is made of water. It helps transport nutrients to cells, and remove waste products from cells, too. It keeps the muscles and joints working as they should. All the organs need it, too.

The reason why animals need a constant supply is that it’s always being lots. Animals will:

  • Lose water when they go to the toilet
  • Lose water when they breathe
  • Lose water when they sweat or pant (although chinchillas don’t do these things)

Chinchillas are better at conserving water than most animals. That’s because they come from a dry habitat, so they needed to adapt to low levels of water. They nevertheless need a constant water source. Here’s a table covering the different kinds of water, and whether they’re suitable or not:

Type of Water Suitable?
Tap Water Yes/no. Dirty tap water can contain giardia. But most tap water is clean.
Filtered Water Yes. Filtered water can’t contain bacteria.
Distilled Water Yes. However, distilled water doesn’t have as many minerals.
Bottled Water Yes, although it’s wasteful.

It’s for these reasons that we think filtered water is the best.

Can Chinchillas Drink Tap Water?

how much water do chinchillas need?
Chinchillas come from a dry habitat, so are excellent at conserving water.

This is something that owners disagree on. Some will say they’ve kept their chinchillas for years on tap water with no ill effects. Others will say that when they did, their chinchilla had diarrhea or didn’t want to drink it.

The reason for this discrepancy is that tap water is of variable quality. Some countries’ tap water isn’t as good as others’. The United States is an excellent example of how water quality even varies within a country, particularly between cities and the countryside.

The biggest issue with tap water is that it can contain giardia. Giardia is a kind of micro-parasite that lives in the guts. It’s passed on through feces, so if even microscopic amounts of farm animal or pet feces gets into the water supply, it can spread. It causes diarrhea in infected animals.

Many countries/states publish information on the quality of their tap water, so you could do some research to find out how clean yours is. But as a rule of thumb, if you don’t drink your tap water, don’t give it to your chinchilla. 

Do Chinchillas Need Filtered Water?

Filtered water is a step up from tap water. Most filters get rid of bugs like giardia. Other stronger filters can even get rid of chemicals like fluoride; while fluoride is perfectly safe, some people are uncomfortable with it anyway.

There are lots of ways to filter water. Perhaps the most common is using a carbon filter. Carbon filters contain activated carbon/activated charcoal, which absorbs any chemicals or bugs in the water. Filtered water may also be passed through a ‘micron filter’, which is simply a very fine filter that hardly anything but fluid can pass through. It’s because of the variety of filters that you hear products using terms like ‘double filtered’ or ‘triple filtered’.

You can either buy filtered water or make it yourself. Brands like Brita make filters that you can use at home. You can even buy a filter that attaches to your faucet/tap which makes the process even easier.

Do Chinchillas Need Distilled Water?

Distilled water is absolutely pure. It’s produced through evaporation. Regular water is boiled, and the evaporated steam is collected. Everything that was in the water is left behind when boiled, and only the water remains.

Chinchillas don’t need distilled water. Filtered water is fine, and in some cases, your tap water may be clean enough for them too. But if you have the option of providing cheap distilled water, it’s the least likely to contain giardia.

However, distilled water doesn’t contain the minerals that regular water does. In a restricted diet like chinchillas have, water can be an important mineral source. What’s worse is that mineral-less distilled water can even leach minerals from your body. It’s for that reason that we recommend filtered water.

Do Chinchillas Need Bottled Water?

Bottled water is highly variable in quality. Some brands like Dasani are nothing but filtered tap water, which means there’s little point buying them. Others are spring water, which means they have higher levels of certain minerals.

Rather than buying bottled water, we recommend either filtered or distilled. That’s because it’s far less wasteful. You should only consider bottled water if you can’t access a filter, a way of distilling water or getting distilled water, and if your tap water is of awful quality.

How Much Water Do Chinchillas Need?

Chinchillas hardly need any water because they’re great at conserving it. 

If you’ve ever looked closely at your chinchilla’s wee (and let’s face it, what better way is there to spend a weekend?) then you may have noticed it’s a deep yellow color. This indicates that it has lots of urea in it, but not much water. The more water is in the urine, the lighter the color. Chinchillas also don’t pant or sweat, so can’t lose water that way.

How Much Water Does a Chinchilla Drink a Day?

chinchilla water bottle
Chinchillas should have a diet of hay, which is dry. They therefore need to drink water rather than get it from their food.

Chinchillas drink roughly 2oz of water a day, which is 55ml. 

The exact amount your pet drinks depends on its level of activity. The more active your chinchilla is, the more it will need to drink, as it loses water when it breathes out. 

If your chinchilla eats lots of foods with water in them, it will need to drink less. You shouldn’t feed your chinchilla watery snacks like vegetables or fruits, but if you do, you’ll notice it drinks less.

How Long Can Chinchillas Go without Water?

Owners don’t know how long pet chinchillas can go without water, but periods of longer than 24 hours are not recommended.

They likely can survive a while, as there will be times in the wild when chinchillas have to go without water. The Andes can experience drawn-out dry spells, as the chinchilla’s habitat is right next to the driest place on Earth (the Atacama Desert).

If you are planning on leaving your chinchillas alone for 24 hours or more, e.g. if you’re going on holiday, get somebody knowledgeable to check in and care for them. Alternatively, contact rescue centers and breeders and ask whether they can care for your pet for the time being.

Do Chinchillas Need Water Bottles?

All pet chinchillas should have water bottles that they can drink from. These are like the water bottles you give to other pets. They should be hung on the side of the cage where the chinchilla can’t access them. You can pop them on the outside of the cage with the spout poking in through the bars.

If you have more than one chinchilla, it can be a good idea to provide two water bottles. That’s because chinchillas can get territorial.

Can You Give a Chinchilla a Water Bowl?

Chinchillas shouldn’t have water bowls in their cages. There are lots of reasons why.

  1. Your chinchilla could pee in the water bowl by accident. While it’s possible to toilet train most chinchillas, some don’t take to it, and even the ones that don’t can sometimes have accidents or miss.
  2. Your chinchilla will get dirty hay in its water bowl. Chinchillas love to waste hay.
  3. Your chinchilla could get its fur wet from the open water bowl. 

This means that a chinchilla could get sick from having a water bowl, either because its water is contaminated, or because its damp fur develops a fungal infection. A water bottle is preferred in all circumstances.

How Often Should You Change a Chinchilla’s Water?

You shouldn’t wait for your chinchilla to run out of water entirely before you change it. Instead, you should switch it for fresh every day or every other day. This stops bacteria building up on/in the spout and getting into the water.

There’s no reason not to change your chinchilla’s water this frequently. That’s because it’s such a small job that only takes a second to do. But by doing it, you ensure a) that your chinchilla never runs out of water, and b) it won’t be drinking dirty water.


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The Big Chinchilla Quiz

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