Chinchilla (Chinchilla laniger), degus (Octodon degus) and guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) are South American rodents living in a semi-arid habitat with varying, species-specific adaptations to water deprivation. Nonetheless, several diseases have been linked to insufficient water intake when these species are kept as pets, such as urolithiasis or obstipation. This study evaluated preferences for drinking systems. Six animals of each species were given a choice between an open dish and a nipple drinker. Food intake and water intake were measured daily for 13 days. Chinchillas in this study had significantly lower water intakes than the other two species, indicating particular species-specific adaptations to aridity. All chinchillas favoured open dishes, whereas the degus and guinea pigs had variable individual preferences. Water intake of chinchillas was similar or higher in this study than in previous studies where nipple drinkers were used. The results indicate that degus and guinea pigs can meet their drinking water needs with nipple drinkers; for chinchillas, other drinking systems may be more adequate.