Axolotls can be very fun aquarium pets to have as long as you know how to take care of them. Probably the most important thing to know is how to tell if your axolotl is healthy.
To know if your axolotl is healthy, you need to watch them. The belly of your axolotl should be round and about the same size as their head. Their skin should be clear of parasites and unusual markings, especially on their tail. Their gills should be fluffy and not curled forward. Your axolotl should always be moving normally and not lethargic or unusual. Do a daily health check and check for signs of disease.
Okay, it sounds easy enough but the best way to know if your axolotl is healthy is to follow the proven methods to ensure your axolotl’s health.
Check Your Axolotl Daily
Check to make sure your axolotl is moving as much as usual and has normal gill movement. If your axolotl is alone it shouldn’t have any marks or wounds on its skin. If they have another axolotl in the tank check for open wounds and make sure they are not infected.
If they do have open wounds from another axolotl then you may need to separate them.
Other than a daily health check you need to check for signs of disease like:
- Loss of Appetite
- Gills Deteriorate
- Gill direction
- Not Moving
- Pale in Color
- Open Sores
- Gasping for Air
Let’s dive into more detail.
Note: If you find signs of disease, it is very important to get your axolotl to a health professional as soon as possible.
Signs your axolotl might not be healthy
Loss of Appetite
This one is easy. If your axolotl is not eating then you can try different foods to get them to eat and watch them for the following signs of disease as well.
Loss of Movement
If your axolotl isn’t moving as much as usual and its movements are very slow then something is probably wrong.
Gills Are Deteriorating
Watch for the gills to change color, shrink, or altogether start decaying very fast.
The Direction of The Gills
If your axolotl’s gills are curled forward instead of back then something is usually wrong. Make sure it is not stressed from the water current being too strong before you blame a disease. Usually, if it is a disease then the gills will be curled forward and deteriorating.
Axolotls are known as the Mexican walking fish because they prefer to walk along the bottom. They don’t spend a lot of time near the surface of the water so if they do then something is usually wrong. Make sure they aren’t just burping but if something is wrong they will look like they are floating near the surface.
Not Moving A Lot
If something is wrong then your axolotl may not be moving as much as usual. If they are in this state and something is wrong, when they do move, they may crash into decorations and be clumsier than usual like they are disoriented.
Pale in Color
When axolotls are pale in color, it could be from the current of the water in the tank being too strong. Make sure the water current isn’t too strong before you attribute the pale color to disease.
Your axolotls’ skin will become yellow in color rather than pale.
These are pretty obvious and look different than scrapes or scratches on the skin. Open sores are easier to see if your axolotl doesn’t have a companion.
Gasping for Air
This is simply if your axolotl keeps looking like it is breathing very hard and gasping for air. Kind of like if Santa Claus went for a jog.
These signs of disease are usually more evident during the larval stage of your axolotl when they are sexually mature, and in females because of breeding.
Here are some other issues that will affect your axolotl’s health:
Maybe not in that order but let’s dive in and learn more about each one.
Any type of animal can be affected by stress just as we humans can. Too much stress in an axolotl is easy to recognize because they will become much less active and maybe even start hiding more than usual.
How the axolotl’s tank is set up can affect the stress level of your axolotl.
The best way to set up your axolotl tank is to put a lot of hiding places for them.
The first issue when setting up a stress-free tank is to make sure there is enough room. Most people say axolotls need at least 10 gallons of space for each axolotl. It may sound simple enough, but your axolotl needs to be able to turn around its tank.
Remember your axolotl can grow to be 8-12 inches long. So, with that in mind, we don’t believe in having more than two axolotls per tank. If you do have two axolotls then make sure they are of the same sex or they will be breeding too much. It is not healthy for the female to breed too much.
Also, if you keep two axolotls, you need to make sure they are the same size, or the larger axolotl will eat the smaller one. I know it sounds crazy, but axolotls are careless predators, so you have to be careful when you have two of them together or one of them will be under way too much stress.
You also don’t want to mix axolotls with other species, especially fish. Axolotls are prone to parasites and will pick them up easily if you mix them with fish.
However, if the two axolotls are the same size and sex then they will be fine together and will eventually even play and lay on top of each other. You still need to watch them though to make sure they are getting along.
If your axolotls are the same sex and the same size but one of them is too aggressive, you should probably remove the aggressive axolotl and try a different one.
So as far as stress goes, you will know your axolotl is happy and stress-free if there are no marks on its skin, it is moving around fine, its gills aren’t curled forward, and it is getting along with its tank mate if there is one.
Diet is another way to tell if your axolotl is healthy. As mentioned above your axolotl should be moving around with its gills back but it should also be eating well. If your axolotl is not eating well then it is not healthy.
To ensure your axolotl is healthy you can feed them a steady diet of live or dead foods.
The most common live foods to feed your axolotl are worms such as Earthworms, blood worms, black worms, and white worms.
For dead foods, we recommend a fish pellet high in protein and vitamins. Read the label to make sure the fat content is not higher than 5% and the pellets aren’t bigger than 5mm.
You can also give your axolotl treats such as frozen brine shrimp or chunks of beef heart.
Although stress and food are important, water quality is the most important issue to keep your axolotl healthy.
First, you need to keep the temperature between 60 – 64 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to invest in a chiller or heater if you have the funds to keep the water temperature just right. You will need a chiller if you live in a warmer climate like South Texas and a heater if you live in Alaska.
You should keep a thermometer in your tank to monitor the temperature.
With the right temperature, you also need a filter for biological, mechanical, and chemical materials. It is easier to purchase a canister filter that filters all three.
With the water temperature and filters in place, you will need to perform weekly water changes to keep the ammonia levels down in your water. Ammonia levels build up from your axolotl’s poop.
You should also keep a turkey baster on hand to grab the little log-shaped poops that axolotls leave behind. You want to try to grab them before the axolotls step on them and turn them into poop dust that can spread through the water.
When you do the weekly water change, just change about 30% of the water and replace it with clean water that has a water conditioner added to take the chlorine out.
Sometimes, because of hormones, your axolotl will morph into a salamander. No one knows why but it will put your axolotl in a weakened state and with the same needs as a salamander rather than an axolotl.
The easiest way to tell if your axolotl is morphing is their eyes will bulge and it will lose its gills. They usually will not survive this but sometimes they will. If they completely morph into a salamander then they will need to be taken care of differently as if they were a salamander.
You need to set your tank up properly in the first place with lots of places to hide, proper filters, and water temp equipment like thermometers, heaters, and chillers.
Once your tank is set up, make sure you are feeding your axolotl properly and doing a daily health check to look for signs of disease.
Voila! It is not difficult to know if your axolotl is healthy. It does involve daily responsibility but once you get used to it, it will become habitual and easy.