Do Axolotls Need Air?

Despite the fact that axolotls barely leave the water bottom and almost never float or swim, they do need oxygen to breathe.

The Mexican walking fish is famous for its curious appearance, four limbs, and its inability to survive outside of water for too long. It spends most of its time walking along the water bottom, instead of swimming and this is where its name comes from.

If axolotls never leave the water, do they need air?

Axolotls need air just like any other living being. Specifically, axolotls need oxygen from the air so every now and then the axolotl will come up to the surface of the water and inhale air to give itself oxygen.

This is a completely normal activity for them.

As fragile and underdeveloped as an axolotl may seem, they do grow rudimentary lungs which they use to breathe. As already mentioned, they rise to the surface every now and then and this is perfectly normal. However, if you notice your pet doing this too often, then something may be wrong with it.

Do Axolotls Breathe Air?

Axolotls do not exactly ‘breathe’ air – they inhale the oxygen particles contained in the air. Axolotls breathe through their cartilaginous gills (the feathery-like parts on their head) by diffusing oxygen that has dissolved in the water through their skin.

This only applies to very young and small axolotls. Older and larger ones ensure their oxygen supply by filling their rudimentary lungs at the surface of the water.

Do Axolotls Need an Air Pump?

Air pumps are installed by aquarium owners to provide access to air in their tanks and thus supplying the fish with oxygen. Air pumps are especially vital for ponds and bigger artificial water establishments.

Axolotls, however, do not require the installation of an air pump or an air bubbler. A filter is enough of an oxygen provider, besides, your axolotl will rise to the surface on its own every now and then to inhale air.

If you are wondering how the water in the tank and its inhabitant supply themselves with oxygen, here are a couple of different ways this happens:

1. Through Surface Agitation

Surface agitation is the process through which oxygen molecules from the air are dissolved into water. Surface agitation literary means the disturbance of water when the water picks up oxygen particles from the air, brings it back inside and the aquatic creatures are able to breathe it.

It also appears when pumping air into the water by a bubbler or an air pump. If done this way, air must be pumped into the water until bubbles rise to the surface.

2. Through the Filtering System

Having a filtering system is an absolute must for an axolotl’s aquarium. It cleanses the air and turns toxic substances into healthy and beneficial bacteria for the axolotl. It also provides movement of the water layers and thus ensures natural access to oxygen.

3. Naturally

A tank is an artificial environment but a rather small one (assuming it is a home tank) and it is open, with not too much water inside.

Some oxygen does penetrate the aquarium and molecules fall inside on their own. However, just sitting and waiting for oxygen to fall from the air is not a reliable method. Filtering and some water movement should be artificially provided.

How Do You Know Your Axolotl Has Enough Oxygen?

You know that your axolotl is able to breathe and is healthy and happy by several observations:

  • Comes to the surface for air
  • Is not pale or feeble
  • Eats well

It is perfectly normal for your exotic friend to come to the surface every now and then, gasp for some air and dive back into the water. The axolotl inhales air whenever it feels like it needs oxygen and swims back to the water bottom where it belongs.

If your axolotl is energetic, playful (in its own, unique way), and moves around the tank then it means that it is healthy and happy. Also, having its full color and not appearing weak and pale is another sign of good health. Make a note that when sleeping, axolotls can turn paler than usual but do not stress, this is perfectly normal.

Be careful, if you notice your Mexican walking fish gasping for air too often even when it is in the water. This may be an indicator that something is wrong. If you notice any of this, it may be a sign that you need an air bubbler or an air pump to provide oxygen. Generally, this equipment is not essential for axolotls but yet again every case is different, and exceptions are always possible.

Do Axolotls Need an Air Bubbler or An Air Pump?

The next dilemma that comes naturally is whether you should put an air bubbler or an air pump in your axolotl tank.

As already mentioned, both pieces of equipment are not vital for keeping your axolotl alive. A filtering system is typically more than enough to keep the oxygen flow constant. However, there are sometimes exceptions where an air bubbler or pump will not be harmful.

Having either one or the other will increase oxygen exchange in the tank, which means that there will be more oxygen supply for your axolotl.

An air bubbler will help with water evaporation, which will help cool down the water. Axolotls naturally inhabit cool and shady waters and do not enjoy warm temperatures. An air bubbler will help maintain more suitable and cool water for the axolotl.

Axolotls are very sensitive creatures and are very susceptible to stress and aggressive environments. Air bubblers may have a very strong flow, therefore, ask for a bubbler that allows for regulation of the strength and intensity of the airflow.

Finally, you may decide to skip the bubbler or the air pump, but buying a filter is an absolute must! Axolotls produce a lot of natural waste and if not cleaned, it produces high amounts of ammonia that are fatal. A filtering system will ensure clean and healthy water at all times.

Can Axolotls Live Without Air?

No, they absolutely cannot. Sometimes people have a false idea in their heads that aquatic animals do not need air (oxygen) to survive just because they do not live on the surface. This is not correct as every living being needs oxygen to survive. In fact, even fish breathe oxygen particles in the water.

Although axolotls do not leave water and cannot survive outside of it for too long they also need oxygen to survive and rise to the surface every now and then to inhale air.


To summarize this article, here are a couple of the most important points to take into consideration, if you planning to take care of an axolotl:

1. Axolotls do need air.

2. They grow rudimentary lungs, which serve them to breathe.

3. They rise to the surface occasionally to breathe in air.

4. Axolotls do not necessarily need an air pump or an air bubbler to survive.

5. The water in the tank gets oxygen supply through agitation, filtering, and natural.

6. You know your axolotl has enough oxygen when:

  • It comes to the surface every now and then.
  • It is playful, energetic, and has a healthy coloration.
  • It eats well.

7. Axolotls cannot live without air.

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