how do gerbils drink water

How Gerbils Drink Water

Have you ever wondered how gerbils manage to get water in arid environments? Gerbils are highly adaptable desert-dwelling rodents that obtain water through food consumption and by drinking clean, fresh water. As a gerbil owner, understanding their water-drinking habits and needs is crucial to ensure their health and happiness. This article will provide insights into gerbil water-drinking habits, helping you take better care of your gerbils.

Natural Habitat of Gerbils

Originating from Africa and Asia, gerbils primarily inhabit arid or semi-arid regions such as deserts and grasslands. These areas have scarce water sources, presenting a significant challenge for animals to obtain sufficient water. To adapt to this environment, gerbils have developed unique physiological and behavioral traits enabling them to survive under extreme conditions.

One notable feature of gerbils is their ability to obtain water through food consumption without the need for additional drinking water. Their diet consists mainly of plant-based foods like seeds, nuts, fruits, and roots, which have high water content, fulfilling their basic water requirements. Gerbils also efficiently reduce water loss through their kidneys and urine. Their well-developed kidneys produce concentrated urine, conserving water. Moreover, gerbil urine serves the dual purpose of marking territory, enhancing their sense of security.

Another characteristic of gerbils is their peak activity during dawn and dusk, a strategy to avoid high temperatures and intense sunlight. During the day, gerbils retreat to underground burrows, maintaining a cool and humid environment to minimize water evaporation. These burrows typically have multiple entrances, facilitating easy access to food and water sources. Gerbils come out at night to forage and stay active, utilizing the cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall to replenish water and energy.

Can Gerbils Drink Water?

While gerbils can obtain water through food, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to drink water separately. In fact, clean, fresh water is essential for maintaining their health. Prolonged water deprivation can lead to dehydration, posing severe risks to their well-being. Dehydration symptoms in gerbils include lethargy, decreased appetite, dry skin, sunken eyes, and difficulty breathing. Timely intervention is crucial to prevent potential fatalities.

As a gerbil owner, providing an adequate supply of clean water daily is essential. You can choose to use a water bottle or water dish, but consider the following:

Ensure the water source is clean, free from impurities or contaminants, to avoid digestive issues or infections in gerbils.
Change the water daily to prevent spoilage or mold growth, which could affect gerbils’ taste preferences or health.
Place the water source in an easily accessible location for gerbils, avoiding any difficulties or dangers in reaching it that may affect their willingness to drink or safety.
Provide an appropriate amount of water to avoid imbalances in gerbils’ water intake or unnecessary waste of water resources.

Gerbil Water Drinking Frequency

The frequency of gerbil water consumption depends on factors such as age, weight, types of food, water content in their diet, activity levels, and environmental temperature. Young or lighter gerbils generally need more water due to faster metabolism and increased water loss. Conversely, adult or heavier gerbils require less water as their metabolism is slower, resulting in reduced water loss.

The type of food and its water content also influences gerbil water intake. Foods with higher water content, such as fresh vegetables or fruits, may reduce the need for additional drinking water. Conversely, foods with lower water content, like dry seeds or nuts, may necessitate more drinking.

Gerbil activity levels and environmental temperature further impact water intake. Increased activity or higher temperatures lead to more significant water loss through respiration and sweating, requiring additional water consumption. Conversely, decreased activity or lower temperatures result in reduced water loss, requiring less water intake.

Therefore, there’s no fixed standard for gerbil water drinking frequency. It varies based on individual differences and external conditions. As a gerbil owner, rather than imposing restrictions, provide ample clean water daily and monitor water levels. A noticeable decrease suggests lower water intake, possibly due to high water content in their food or reduced activity. An increase may indicate lower water content in their food or increased activity. Observe gerbil behavior and physical condition for signs of dehydration or adequate hydration.

Gerbil Water Quality Standards

Water quality standards for gerbils refer to the requirements for water purity, as different water qualities can impact gerbil health differently. In general, gerbil water should be pure, free from contaminants like chlorine, which can harm their digestive and immune systems, leading to decreased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, infections, and other issues.

As a responsible gerbil owner, provide water that meets the following standards:

Preferably, use filtered or bottled water. Filtered or bottled water undergoes processing to remove impurities and harmful substances, ensuring cleanliness and safety. Use a water filter or purchase bottled water for gerbil consumption.

If using tap water, let it sit for 24 hours to allow chlorine to evaporate before offering it to gerbils. Tap water commonly contains chlorine, a chemical used for water disinfection but harmful to gerbils. Allowing the water to sit in an open container for at least 24 hours allows the chlorine to naturally dissipate before giving it to gerbils.

How Long Can Gerbils Go Without Water?

Gerbils, being desert animals, can survive for several days without water. However, this doesn’t mean they can go without water for extended periods. In reality, gerbil bodies still require water to maintain normal physiological functions. Prolonged water deprivation can lead to dehydration, impacting their health and lifespan.

The duration gerbils can go without water depends on individual differences and external conditions. Generally, gerbils can endure longer periods without water under the following circumstances:

Their food has higher water content, like fresh vegetables or fruits, which can supplement their water needs, reducing the necessity for drinking water.
Their activity levels are low, or the environmental temperature is low, reducing water loss and extending the time they can go without drinking.
They are in good health without any illnesses or infections, maintaining water balance and increasing their tolerance to water deprivation.

Conversely, gerbils cannot endure prolonged periods without water under the following circumstances:

Their food has lower water content, like dry seeds or nuts, requiring more drinking water to compensate for the insufficient water in their diet.
Their activity levels are high, or the environmental temperature is high, leading to increased water loss and reducing the time they can go without drinking.
Their health is compromised with any illnesses or infections, disrupting water balance and decreasing their tolerance to water deprivation.

How to Provide Water to Gerbils Properly

Supplying water to gerbils is a crucial aspect of their care, directly influencing their health and happiness. Choosing an appropriate method to provide water ensures cleanliness and safety, allowing gerbils easy access to drinking water. Two common methods for supplying water to gerbils are:

Using a water bottle: Water bottles are a convenient, sanitary, and efficient way to provide water to gerbils. Hanging a water bottle on the gerbil cage allows them to lick the ball-shaped valve, accessing water as needed. This method prevents water contamination from gerbil food or feces and avoids spills or wastage. Regularly check the water level and quality, replacing it with clean water to prevent spoilage or mold. Periodically clean the water bottle to remove deposits or bacteria, maintaining cleanliness.

Using a water dish: A water dish offers a natural, comfortable, and enjoyable way for gerbils to drink water. Placing a water dish inside the gerbil cage allows them to lick the water surface as needed. This method mimics the gerbil’s natural environment, providing a sense of freedom and encouraging activity and entertainment. Change the water daily to prevent contamination from gerbil food or feces. Pay attention to the size and depth of the water dish to avoid spills or drowning. Regularly clean the water dish to remove deposits or bacteria, ensuring cleanliness.


Gerbils are adorable creatures that require daily water intake for their health and happiness. Providing water to gerbils is crucial, and selecting an appropriate method ensures cleanliness and safety. As a gerbil owner, understanding gerbil water-drinking habits and adjusting water supply based on individual differences and external conditions is key. By offering clean, fresh water daily and monitoring their behavior and physical condition, you can help your gerbils lead happy and healthy lives.

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