Can Cockroaches Swim? Surprising Aquatic Abilities

Cockroaches are infamous for their resilience and ability to survive in harsh environments. Whether it’s crawling through tight spaces or surviving without food for weeks, these pesky insects have adapted to thrive in a variety of conditions.

But what about swimming? Can cockroaches swim? This is a question that has puzzled many people, and in this article, we will explore the swimming abilities of cockroaches in different environments.

So If you’re curious and want to know more about cockroaches in water then Keep reading to know more.

Can Cockroaches Swim?

When it comes to swimming, cockroaches may not be the first creatures that come to mind. However, these resilient insects possess some surprising aquatic abilities.

It may surprise you to learn that cockroaches are actually quite good swimmers and can navigate through different environments, overcoming various obstacles in their path.

While they are primarily known for their scuttling skills on land, many species of cockroaches are capable of swimming to some degree. In fact, some species can even swim underwater for short periods of time.

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Can Cockroaches Swim in Chlorinated Water?

Cockroaches are incredibly adaptable creatures, but their swimming skills have limitations when it comes to chlorinated water.

Chlorine is a chemical commonly used to treat and disinfect water, such as in swimming pools and some tap water systems. While cockroaches can technically swim in chlorinated water, it poses a significant threat to their survival.

Chlorine can harm cockroaches in several ways. When cockroaches come into contact with chlorinated water, the chemical can penetrate their exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and damage to their respiratory system. This can cause respiratory distress and even death in cockroaches.

As a result, cockroaches have a natural aversion to chlorinated water and will typically avoid it if possible. They instinctively recognize the danger it poses to their well-being.

Instead, they seek out alternative water sources that are free from chlorine, such as natural bodies of water or non-treated water sources.

Can Cockroaches Swim in Oil?

Cockroaches encounter a unique challenge when faced with oil. Unlike water, which is repelled by its hydrophobic exoskeleton, oil poses a different set of obstacles for these resilient insects.

Cockroaches cannot swim in oil. The nature of oil prevents it from being repelled by the hydrophobic exoskeleton of cockroaches.

When submerged in oil, their bodies become coated, hindering their movements and impairing their ability to stay afloat. This coating can also lead to suffocation, further limiting their survival chances in an oily environment.

Oil acts as a viscous barrier, making it difficult for cockroaches to navigate through it. They are unable to paddle or scull their way through oil as they would in water.

Instead, the thick consistency of oil slows down their movements and hampers their ability to escape.

It’s worth noting that oil can have varying levels of toxicity depending on its type and composition. Some oils may also contain additional chemicals that can pose further risks to cockroaches.

Can Cockroaches Swim Up Toilets?

One common concern is whether cockroaches can make their way into our homes through toilets. While it is theoretically possible for a cockroach to enter a toilet bowl, swimming up through the plumbing is highly unlikely.

While cockroaches can navigate through various environments, the design and conditions of toilet plumbing make it challenging for them to make their way upward.

Cockroaches are primarily attracted to areas with darkness, moisture, and easily accessible food sources. Toilet plumbing does not provide an ideal environment for these insects.

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The water flow within the plumbing pipes, combined with the lack of solid surfaces to crawl on, presents significant obstacles for cockroaches attempting to swim up toilets.

Additionally, the shape and structure of toilet traps, known as “S-traps” or “P-traps,” act as barriers that prevent cockroaches from entering the toilet bowl.

These traps contain water that creates a seal, preventing the passage of gases and odors from the sewage system. The water level within the trap creates a physical barrier that cockroaches would need to overcome in order to reach the toilet bowl.

While it is theoretically possible for a cockroach to accidentally enter the toilet bowl, it is highly unlikely for them to swim up through the plumbing system.

Cockroaches are more likely to be found near drains or sewer lines, where they can gain access to the plumbing system from the outside.

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Can Cockroaches Swim Underwater?

Cockroaches’ underwater excursions are not meant for long-term survival. While cockroaches can swim underwater, they are not adapted to live there for extended periods.

When submerged in water, cockroaches use a combination of techniques to stay afloat and propel themselves forward. Their hydrophobic exoskeleton repels water, helping them to maintain buoyancy.

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Additionally, they have spiracles, small openings on their bodies, which they use to trap air. This trapped air serves as a temporary oxygen supply while they are underwater.

While cockroaches can swim underwater, their oxygen supply is limited. Without access to atmospheric air, their stored oxygen diminishes over time. As a result, prolonged underwater survival is not possible for cockroaches.

The exact duration that cockroaches can swim underwater varies depending on factors such as species, age, and environmental conditions.

Generally, they can manage underwater for short periods, such as a few minutes to perhaps half an hour. However, they will eventually need to resurface to replenish their oxygen supply.

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How Do Cockroaches Swim?

When a cockroach finds itself in a watery environment, it relies on a unique set of adaptations to navigate and survive.

Here are some key features and behaviors that allow cockroaches to swim.

Can Cockroaches Swim? How Do Cockroaches Swim?
  • Hydrophobic Exoskeleton
    • Cockroaches have an exoskeleton that is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water.
    • This outer layer acts as a protective barrier against water absorption, allowing the cockroach to stay afloat and preventing it from becoming waterlogged.
  • Air Trapped in Spiracles
    • Spiracles are small openings on the sides of a cockroach’s body through which it breathes.
    • These openings also play a crucial role in swimming.
    • When a cockroach is submerged in water, it traps air bubbles in its spiracles.
    • These air pockets act as a makeshift oxygen supply, allowing the cockroach to breathe while submerged.
  • Sculling Movement
    • To propel themselves through the water, cockroaches employ a sculling movement with their legs.
    • This motion resembles the paddling of oars, allowing the cockroach to move forward and stay afloat.
  • Enhanced Leg Functionality
  • Survival Instincts
    • When submerged, cockroaches exhibit a survival instinct known as thigmotaxis.
    • They tend to gravitate toward solid surfaces, such as walls or objects, to reduce water resistance and improve their chances of staying afloat.
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Can All Cockroaches Swim?

The swimming ability of cockroaches can vary between different species. While most cockroach species have some degree of swimming ability, not all of them are equally proficient at swimming.

Some species have not been observed swimming at all, while others are known to be strong swimmers. The ability to swim can depend on several factors, including the species of cockroach, the environment, and the availability of water.

Cockroaches that live in or around water sources are more likely to have developed the ability to swim.

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Can I Drown Cockroaches to Kill Them?

Drowning cockroaches may seem like a straightforward solution to eliminate these pests, but it’s important to understand the effectiveness and practicality of this approach.

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Attempting to drown cockroaches by submerging them in water can be challenging and may not guarantee their complete eradication.

Cockroaches are skilled at finding ways to escape and survive in adverse conditions, including water. They can hold their breath for a considerable amount of time and utilize their swimming abilities to resurface and escape drowning.

And cockroaches are adept at seeking dry areas and hiding spots, even in submerged environments. They can locate small cracks, crevices, or other openings that provide air pockets, allowing them to survive even when submerged.

While drowning may be effective in eliminating a small number of cockroaches, it is often not a practical or efficient method for controlling a larger infestation.

Cockroach populations can be extensive, and it can be challenging to submerge every individual and prevent their escape.

Drowning Cockroach
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Can Cold Water Kill Cockroaches?

Exposure to cold water can affect the survival of cockroaches, as they are cold-blooded insects and their body temperature is dependent on their environment. Cold temperatures can slow down their metabolism and cause them to become sluggish.

However, it may not necessarily kill them unless the temperature drops significantly. If the temperature drops below freezing, it can be lethal for cockroaches, as they are not adapted to survive in such extremely cold temperatures.

So while cold water may not always be lethal for cockroaches, it can still affect their behavior and survival.

How to Remove Cockroaches from Water

Discovering cockroaches in water can be a concerning situation. Whether it’s a swimming pool, bathtub, or any other body of water, it’s important to take appropriate steps to remove these pests.

Here are some effective methods to remove cockroaches from water.

How to Remove Cockroaches from Water
  • Scoop Them Out
    • If you spot cockroaches floating on the water’s surface, using a fine-mesh net or a small scoop can help remove them.
    • Carefully scoop up the cockroaches and transfer them to a sealed container for disposal.

  • Drain the Water
    • If the water source is easily drainable, such as a bathtub or sink, draining the water can help eliminate the cockroaches.
    • Make sure to seal off any drains or outlets to prevent the roaches from escaping.
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  • Clean and Sanitize
    • After removing the cockroaches, thoroughly clean and sanitize the affected area.
    • Use a mild detergent or disinfectant to wipe down surfaces and remove any traces of roach pheromones, which can attract other cockroaches.
    • This helps prevent future infestations.
  • Seek Professional Assistance
    • If you’re dealing with a persistent or extensive cockroach infestation, it’s advisable to seek the help of professional pest control services.
    • They have the expertise and knowledge to effectively eliminate roaches from water and implement long-term prevention measures.
Wear gloves and protective clothing, especially if you're dealing with potentially harmful water, such as in outdoor areas or heavily contaminated sources.

Prevention is key to avoiding future encounters with cockroaches in water. Regularly inspect and maintain water-related areas, keeping them clean and free from debris.

Ensure that swimming pools, hot tubs, and other water features are properly maintained and treated to discourage roach infestations.

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Final Thoughts

Cockroaches are surprisingly adept swimmers, using adaptations like their water-repelling exoskeleton, air-trapping spiracles, and leg movements to navigate through water.

While their swimming abilities may vary, most cockroaches can survive in water for a short time. However, they are land creatures and prefer to avoid water when possible. so, if you see a cockroach near water, know that it can swim, but it’s not its preferred environment.

If you come across cockroaches in water, you can follow the necessary steps that we mentioned in the article, such as wearing gloves and using a net or other tools to remove them.


Can a cockroach survive in water?

Cockroaches can survive for a short time in water but will eventually drown if unable to reach dry land.

Can baby cockroaches swim?

Baby cockroaches have limited swimming abilities and may struggle in water.

Can cockroaches swim up toilets?

Yes, cockroaches can navigate through plumbing pipes and potentially swim up toilets in search of food and shelter.

Can cockroaches swim through pea traps?

Cockroaches can squeeze through small openings, including pea traps, so it’s important to maintain proper plumbing hygiene and sealing to prevent their entry.

Can cockroaches survive in flooded areas?

Cockroaches can survive short-term flooding but prolonged exposure and lack of resources in flooded areas can negatively impact their survival.

Can roaches drown in hot water?

Yes, cockroaches can drown in hot water as it can cause physical harm and dehydration.

Can cockroaches swim vertically?

Cockroaches are more adept at horizontal swimming but may attempt vertical movement in certain situations.

Resources – (for further reading)

UC ANR – Cockroaches

Springer – Topic-4-COCKROACH ANATOMY

Pennsylvania State University – Oriental Cockroaches

I'm Ernest M Noah, the founder of I have years of experience as an exterminator in Texas and Idaho, and I'm passionate about educating people on how to deal with pest problems effectively and safely.