Can You Hold an Axolotl? Read This Before You Do

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can you hold an axolotl

Axolotls are very fragile and delicate creatures that require extra care when kept in captivity.

They never really grow up and retain their larval state for the rest of their lives. That is why they have an unusual appearance and differ from other aquatic animals.

What?! That’s crazy… I know but let me explain…

Axolotls have cartilaginous skeletons which means they never develop a complete bone structure the way humans understand it. The skeleton does not become calcified even for older and mature axolotls.

Their muscles are similar to those of fish and they have very fine teeth on their upper and lower jaws to grab food and puncture it.

The extraordinary skeletal development of axolotls makes them fragile and sensitive. So, what happens if you have to take your axolotls out of the tank? Can you hold it?

Yes, you can hold your axolotl for a short period of time (no more than a minute!). They cannot survive for too long out of water. Also, their bodies are extra gentle, and axolotls have to be handled very carefully. They must not be squeezed, hit against surfaces, or made feel uncomfortable in any way.

Do not hold your pet without a good reason. The only exceptions are when you have to clean the tank, change the water or transfer it into a different container to take it to the vet.

Can You Hold An Axolotl Out Of Water?

As a pet owner, it is natural to have to remove your axolotl from the tank for one reason or another, such as cleaning the water or taking it to the vet. In these cases, you need to know how to deal with your pet properly.

Axolotls should not be held out of water for too long. You may do so for just enough time to transfer it from the tank to another container. When out of water, axolotls are not as sensitive as fish but this does not mean that you can keep it outside for an extended period of time.

It is true that axolotls have gills and lungs and rise to the surface occasionally to inhale air. This is by no means an indication that they breathe out of water. In the end, axolotls are aquatic creatures.

Axolotls can stay outside of water for an hour or less. In fact, according to experts, an axolotl must not be kept out of water for longer than a minute! It is not recommendable to keep them out even for this amount of time. Also, when on dry land, they have to be kept moist constantly so they do not become dehydrated.

Dehydration, breathing problems, and issues with their limbs are the three main reasons why axolotls should not be kept out of water.

Further down this article, we are going to explore why it is not recommended to touch and hold an axolotl.


Here is a list of possible consequences, if you keep an axolotl out of water for too long:

  • Limbs and Organs

Possible damage to limbs and organs may occur if you keep an axolotl out of its natural habitat for an extended period of time.

The limbs are not designed to support weight on dry land. In water, it is actually the water itself that supports an axolotl’s body and not so much the limbs. The legs are not strong enough to support its full body weight or walk distances on dry land.

As a result, the internal organs may start to crush under the body’s weight. Shortly put, keeping an axolotl out of water may lead to fatal injuries.

  • Dehydration

Another severe consequence of keeping an axolotl out of water is dehydration. Keeping an axolotl on land may lead to severe dehydration and illness. Also, its organs will start malfunctioning and eventually shutting down very quickly. Axolotls dry very fast and suffer from extreme and rapid water evaporation from their bodies.

  • Breathing Problems

Breathing problems are related to dehydration. The drier it gets, the less it is able to breathe due to malfunctioning lungs. The gills also do not work when dry.

  • Disease

Again, due to dehydration and lack of slime coat on the upper layer of the skin (which is protective), the axolotl can quickly become ill when it is on land for too long.

  • Stress

With or without being dry, axolotls are creatures that get stressed very easily. A stressed and disturbed axolotl can refuse to eat, and become restless and anxious, which can result in a weakened immune system. A sharp change from its natural environment can cause big amounts of negative emotion.

Is It OK To Touch An Axolotl?

Generally, nothing bad will happen to your axolotl if you touch it or pet it a bit. You can do so as long as you are gentle and the touch is very light. Remember to always wash your hands thoroughly before petting your axolotl —“ axolotls are very sensitive to bacteria and skin infections.

Axolotls are not like puppies or kittens and the concept of attention and touch is not familiar to them. They are solitary creatures that do not enjoy petting, attention, and other companions.

Also, avoid touching it with long nails to avoid causing accidental scratches to the skin. Axolotls are so soft that you may peel off a part of the upper skin layer. So, if your bubbly niece or goth nephew comes over with long nails and wants to play with your axolotl, be wary, haha…

They are very fearful creatures and may try to escape or do abrupt movements out of fear of being attacked when it feels you petting it. In general, it is better to avoid touching your axolotls in order to prevent stressing them.

Do Axolotls Like Being Handled?

No, they do not like being handled. If you pick your axolotl up, it will struggle and try to escape out of your hands. Before you pick it up, think carefully about how exactly you are going to hold it. A firm but gentle is needed.

Since it comes from water, your axolotl will be moist and slippery. Make sure you do not let it slip out of your hand by accident as this can be fatal. Be careful with the limbs to avoid breaking one or causing similar injuries. As mentioned, it will do anything to escape your hand and you need to be prepared. It is better to use two hands when picking it up.

How to Hold An Axolotl Safely?

1. Use both hands to prevent slipping.

2. Relax.

3. If the axolotl is too restless, gently let it back into the water and wait for a while.

4. Use your fingers to gently separate their legs. Apply a thumb and finger in front of its legs.


To sum it all up, you can hold your axolotl but only for a short period of time. They cannot survive for too long out of water. Also, their bodies are extra gentle and axolotls have to be handled very carefully. They must not be squeezed, hit against surfaces, or made to feel uncomfortable in any way.

If axolotls are kept out of water for too long, this can lead to severe damage to their health, including breathing issues, organ malfunction and eventual shutting down, fatal dehydration, loss of skin slime, infections, and diseases. Even if nothing like this happens, your axolotl can end up very stressed out which could lead to loss of appetite, anxiety, and restlessness. And all of this can result in weakened immunity and diseases.

In order to enjoy a happy, healthy, and calm axolotl, avoid taking it out of the water unless you clean the tank, change the water or take it to the vet. If you have to take it out of its natural environment, make sure you immediately place it into a pre-prepared container.

Axolotl. Facts & Information: A Complete Pet Owner’s Guide.

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