Cockroaches: Can They Swim Or Would Water Kill Them?

Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Jason Nguyen

Cockroaches are believed to have first appeared on Earth during the Carboniferous Period, more than 250 million years ago. Over 4,500 different species of cockroaches are said to exist in the world. Over the years, many urban legends have surrounded this bug, one of which is that cockroaches can hold their breath for extended periods.

However, it is undeniable that cockroaches are adaptive species that can live in various situations that other insects would not be able to. One of the most resilient species, cockroaches, can withstand extreme weather, go days without food, find shelter, and consume practically anything, including other cockroaches.

Taking their resilience a step further, this article explores whether cockroaches can adapt to water. 

Importance Of Water For Roaches:

Water is essential to cockroach survival. Their hiding place is typically found close to the water supply. Some cockroach species are also known as “water bugs” because they prefer damp environments for habitation, reproduction, and life. Despite their incredible resistance, cockroaches nevertheless require oxygen to thrive.

Roaches, however, are difficult to eradicate with water. Even though they can’t swim well, they can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes underwater and 40 minutes above water, making drowning rare. They accomplish this by spiracles closed, which makes them float. They can bob to the surface to acquire oxygen while allowing time to flee.

The most frequent cockroach species seen in homes are German and American cockroaches, both of which dislike water. To consume and keep hydrated, they just require sources of moisture and water.

Oriental cockroaches are common in areas with open water, like flooded basements. They’ll look for bathtubs, showers, or puddles near the home’s foundation when they’re inside your house

Can Roaches Drown In Water?

cockroach swim

If you have a pet Madagascar Hissing cockroach, it’s safe to say you should keep it away from large and open water sources. This is especially true for a pregnant cockroach.

Like any air-breathing species, cockroaches will eventually die if they are completely drowned in the water and unable to surface for air.

Despite being surrounded by water, they lack the gills or organs to filter oxygen into their bodies. However, drowning a roach isn’t simple for three reasons:

Holding Their Breath: 

Cockroaches use their entire bodies as lungs to hold their breath in addition to floating. When completely immersed, a roach can go without air for up to 30 minutes. Moreover, roaches excel at pretending to be dead. Even if they are simply holding their breath, they may pretend to be dead as they lie in the water. They’ll watch for a way out before dashing for safety.

Climbing Ability:

Roaches cannot climb completely flat surfaces. Like any creature, they could find it difficult to ascend a slippery slope, such as the inside of your toilet bowl. However, roaches are remarkably good climbers and will probably find successful traction for climbing somewhere. 

Spiracle Respiratory System:

Roaches don’t use lungs for breathing as most other animals do. They utilize a spiracle respiratory system instead. A roach’s body is covered in several holes and pockets. To let in air, these open and close like valves.

The roach does not require its face to breathe. In danger, cockroaches can cover these openings. Roaches can seal off their airways while submerged in water to prevent water from entering their bodies. Additionally, this traps air inside of them, enabling cockroaches to float.

Can Roaches Swim In Water?

Cockroaches can endure some time submerged in water. To move across rooms or even between apartments, they can use drains. Because of this, cockroach infestations in buildings or other large facilities can be very challenging to eradicate.


Technically, roaches cannot swim. A cockroach that closes its spiracles will retain air inside its body and float. The roach will paddle its legs in an effort to survive. This can, to a certain extent, assist in guiding it to the opening of a drain or the edge of a buck. It might be able to paddle while submerged, but its motion is restricted. Therefore, it isn’t truly swimming above or below the surface.

There are two major reasons for this. First, because of their dexterous legs, cockroaches can climb up most surfaces. Swimming, though, won’t be facilitated by design and build. Second, cockroaches are not aquatic insects. They do not have the correct instincts for swimming or for navigating in the water.

Flushing Down The Toilet:

If you flush a roach down the toilet, it may not come back up. It will be forced down the drain by the increased water pressures. A toilet water trap will keep the roach at bay and prevent it from coming up the pipes even if this fails and it survives. However, flushing won’t get rid of the bug.

Can Baby Roaches Swim?

There are three stages in a cockroach’s life: the egg stage, the nymph stage, and the adult stage. Young, immature cockroaches start to emerge as soon as the eggs start to hatch. They are really vulnerable at this point. They can’t go for very long without nourishment. Additionally, they have less chance of surviving in the water than an adult would. Cockroach babies are incapable of swimming, but if they end themselves in water, they can float there for a while.

How Does Hot And Cold Water Impact Roaches?

Although cockroaches can withstand a range of temperatures, they are not immune. Roaches will die if exposed to temperatures more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit. For roaches, even colder temperatures are painful. But they are more resistant to cold than to heat.

Final Thoughts:

The most frequent insect seen in homes are cockroaches, and getting rid of an infestation can frequently be very challenging. Despite not being particularly good swimmers, cockroaches are not easily killed by water. Cockroaches can survive in the water for a long time because they have the ability to seal the breathing pores in their bodies. When holding their breath, underwater cockroaches can survive for up to 40 minutes.


Can cockroaches survive being flushed down the toilet?

The answer is yes, cockroaches can survive being flushed down the toilet. While it may seem like a surefire way to get rid of them, cockroaches are actually able to hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. This means that they can easily survive the journey through your plumbing and end up right back where they started: in your home.

Can cockroaches swim through drains?

It is a common myth that cockroaches can swim through drains and other small openings. However, this is not the case. Cockroaches are not good swimmers and will drown if they are submerged in water.

Additionally, their bodies are not designed to fit through small spaces like drains. So, if you see a cockroach in your sink or tub, don’t worry about it swimming through your plumbing! Just remove it from the water and let it dry off before releasing it outside.

Can cockroaches swim through water?

While we don’t normally think of cockroaches as good swimmers, they are actually quite good at it. They can paddle with their legs and move fairly quickly through the water. So if you have a cockroach problem in your home, don’t be surprised if you find them swimming in your sink or bathtub!

Can German cockroaches swim?

German cockroaches are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes. They are often found near water sources, such as in kitchen sinks or bathroom tubs. German cockroaches can also float on water for long periods of time.

Can Hissing cockroaches swim?

It’s a common question asked about these unique insects. The answer is yes, hissing cockroaches can swim, but they don’t do it often and certainly not for long distances.

Hissing cockroaches are good swimmers because of their strong legs and paddle-like appendages called cerci. These appendages help them to move through water quickly and with ease. However, hissing cockroaches don’t typically swim unless they absolutely have to. In most cases, these insects would rather walk on land than take a dip in water.

Can Oriental cockroaches swim?

Yes, Oriental cockroaches can swim. They are often found near water sources, such as sewers, drains, and damp basements. Oriental cockroaches can hold their breath for long periods of time and are strong swimmers. If you have an infestation of Oriental cockroaches, you may find them in your swimming pool or hot tub.

Can American cockroaches swim?

Yes, American cockroaches are excellent swimmers and can stay afloat for long periods of time. In fact, they have been known to survive being flushed down a toilet! If you have an infestation of these pests, be sure to check all potential hiding spots, including near water sources.