Do Axolotls Have Gills? Its What Makes Them Unique…

Axolotls are cute unique looking creatures. They look like a salamander so often they are confused for some type of salamander. However, axolotls are like a fish. Unlike their salamander relatives, axolotls live completely underwater.

What? How can this be, you may ask. To explain this, we must answer one question, do axolotls have gills?

The headdress at the back of an axolotl’s head is actually a network of gills that allow an axolotl to breath underwater like a fish. Axolotls have three gills on each side of their head.

The gills of an axolotl are actually very complex and high performing. Their gills work by pulling in water and siphoning oxygen from the water. The oxygen is then transported into their body for use. What is really fascinating is that the gills also filter carbon monoxide and leave it in the water.

The lungs of an axolotl remain for their entire life. They have three on each side which described above as looking like an Indian headdress. This is one of the easiest ways to distinguish an axolotl from a salamander.

The axolotl doesn’t have to be moving for their gills to work. They can take in oxygen just by moving their gills around. As long as water is moving against the gills they can take in oxygen.

Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why your axolotl doesn’t move around a lot sometimes so it can make it boring to watch. However, the more you feed your axolotl by hand and interact with them, the more they will move around whenever they notice your presence.

Depending on their personality, some axolotls won’t move around much anyways. Axolotls have different personalities so don’t feel bad if your axolotl doesn’t move around much regardless of what you do.

An axolotl’s gills are a great indicator of their health. When you first buy an axolotl, always check their gills, and make sure they are not damaged. If their gills are damaged, they could have an illness/disease, too much stress or may have been attacked by one of their tankmates.

Especially when axolotls are younger, their gills can be eaten by older or bigger axolotls. It is very important, anytime you have axolotls in the same tank, they should be the same sex and the same size. axolotls are predators and the bigger axolotl will always try to eat the smaller axolotl.

Also, if they are not the same sex the female will be bred way too much to lead a healthy life.

What Does It Mean When Axolotls Flap Their Gills?

If your axolotl is flapping their gills repeatedly, it could mean the water is too dirty. They probably aren’t getting enough oxygen from the water. Hence the flapping of the gills to try to get more oxygen from the water since they cannot expel oxygen from the water unless the water is moving against their gills.

If this happens after you first bring your axolotl home then make sure you cycled your tank properly. You need to keep the bad bacteria out of the water because it will steal the oxygen from your axolotl.

Where Are the Gills On An Axolotl?

The gills on an axolotl are directly at the back of their head or behind their head.

How Many Gills Do Axolotls Have?

Axolotls have three gills on each side of their head.

Do Axolotls Lose Their Gills?

Axolotls can lose their gills because their tankmate bites them off, disease or illness, dirty water and too much stress. They can lose all or some of their gills.

Will Axolotl Gills Grow Back?

Axolotls gills will grow back as long as they are healthy and live in water with the proper water parameters. It needs to be determined why they lost their gills in the first place. If their tankmate bit their gills off they will certainly grow back after the naughty tankmate is removed.

If they lost their gills because of bad water conditions, you need to clean the water and make sure it is changed at least once a week.

If they lost their gills because of stress then try to figure out what is causing the stress. It could be too much foot traffic from people going by their tank, too much light, too strong a water current, dirty water, an aggressive tankmate etc. Remove the stress.

Why Are My Axolotls Gills White?

Don’t be alarmed! It is actually common for the gills of an axolotl to turn white after long periods of inactivity. All you have to do is feed them some food and get them moving again.


I hope I have explained that axolotls have gills, why, how they use them and what can go wrong with their gills. If you are an axolotl enthusiast like us keep coming back for more!

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