Why Is My Axolotl Floating?

Axolotls are known as ‘the Mexican walking fish’ because they like to walk along the bottom of their tank, so if they are floating there is probably something wrong.

An axolotl is usually floating because they have swallowed too much air from air bubbles or food that took in too much water. However, an axolotl can also be floating because it swallowed something too big like gravel that blocks its digestive tract – called impaction. Or there could be too much ammonia in the axolotl’s water. They could also be bloated from gas.

It’s always best to consult a veterinarian who knows axolotls but if you’re in a crunch here is some info that might help.

Air Bubbles

Sometimes axolotl owners have a bubbler in the aquarium. A bubbler makes bubbles to create more oxygen in the water. Axolotls don’t need a bubbler but if there is one they may simply swallow too many of the bubbles.

If the axolotl swallows too much air and floats to the surface their back will still be facing up if it is from too much air.

An axolotl may simply swallow too much air when they are eating. Axolotls are predators and they can be voracious eaters, so they may get a little too aggressive when eating and gulp quite a bit of air.

To be sure if your axolotl is floating from ingesting too much air, simply scare them down to the bottom of their tank. If they actually swim down to the bottom and then float back to the top then the floating is caused by air.

If they don’t swim to the bottom and just keep floating, then the cause is probably from something other than air.

If the floating is from swallowing too much air then don’t feed them for a few days and let the air pass.

Unsoaked Food

A lot of axolotls are fed sinking pellets. When these pellets are tossed in without presoaking, they absorb a lot of water.

Your axolotl may eat too many of the pellets before they fill with water, so the pellets then fill with water when the axolotl is already full which causes bloating and floating.

To keep this from happening, just presoak the pellets before feeding them to your axolotl.

If your axolotl is floating from waterlogged food, then this too shall pass. Just like with air, don’t feed your axolotl for a few days until the bloating goes down.


This leads us to an old argument of whether or not you should put gravel in your axolotl tank.

Historians argue that axolotls have always used gravel inside their stomachs to grind the food they have eaten to aid with digestion since axolotls don’t have normal stomachs.

However, there are plenty of axolotls living healthy lives who don’t have any gravel in their tanks.


I know, I know. Okay, the thing is that axolotls are predators and will often try to eat anything in sight, including your finger.

So, if you have a lot of gravel in your tank, your axolotl will eat it. If the gravel is too big it can’t be digested and can get stuck inside the axolotl which can trap air and food.

So, DON’T PUT GRAVEL IN YOUR AXOLOTL TANK! There the argument is settled.

Actually, anything in your axolotls’ tank that is smaller than the size of their head has a good chance of being swallowed by the axolotl.

Just use a bare-bottomed tank, large pieces of slate, or rocks that are bigger than the size of the axolotl’s head for the bottom of the tank. If you really want you can use sand or very fine gravel. Ahem, you get the drift.

If your axolotl is floating from impaction, this is way more serious. If possible you should let an expert or vet fridge your axolotl. The purpose of fridging is to lower the axolotl’s blood pressure so they can poop or upchuck whatever is causing the impaction.

If you must do it yourself then, ‘just keep swimming’. Oops, I meant reading.

How To Fridge an Axolotl

First, you will need a plastic container big enough to fit in the fridge while covering your axolotl in water and still leaving the water level an inch from the top of the container. Place a cover over the container to block light which can stress your axolotl.

You want your axolotl to sit on the bottom of the container but still be covered by water.

I personally would poke a hole or two in the cover to let more air in.

Make sure the water is dechlorinated.

Set the fridge temp between 42 – 54 F.

Use a turkey baster to clean poop from the container.

Check the water for ammonia daily because you will have to change the water during fridging.

You can have another container ready with dechlorinated water so you can simply slip your axolotl into the other container, then clean the used one and fill it with dechlorinated water.

Your axolotl needs to be fridged for three weeks but not more. You may actually see the object that the axolotl passed out of their body. If your axolotl has passed the object and seems fine, you can return them to its tank sooner.

When you return your axolotl to its tank, you need to acclimatize them back to its tank water. Simply put them in one of the containers with 75 percent fridge water and 25 percent tank water for one day.

The next day go with a 50/50 fridge and tank water.

On the last day go with 75 tank water and 25 fridge water. The next day, your axolotl should be ready to put back in their tank.

Too Much Ammonia

If your axolotl is floating, you should always check the water quality regardless, right away.

To test the water, all you need to do is buy some test strips. You just scoop some water out of the tank and place one of the test strips in the water.

All test strips will come with instructions anyways so follow them.

If your water has too much ammonia then do a 50 percent water change right away. Assuming you already know to dechlorinate the water and get it to the same temperature as the aquarium water before you dump the new water in the tank.

If your water gets too much chlorine again soon after then you need to start changing your water more often and consult an aquarium professional right away.

You will probably have to get a better filtration system if it happens more than once.

Bloated From Gas

If your axolotl is bloated from gas, then the fridging will solve it. However, it may be from something they are eating.

If you think your axolotl was floating from gas and your water has the proper parameters, then you can change its diet and try different foods to see if it stops the floating.


So, if your axolotl is floating, always check the water parameters right away to rule out too much ammonia. If it is from the water do a fifty percent water change.

If the ammonia is fine then scare them to the bottom and see if they float back up.

If they go to the bottom and stay, it is just a coincidence.

If they go down and float back up, they probably swallowed too much air or have gas. Don’t feed them for a few days to see if they quit floating. If it doesn’t happen again it was probably air.

Make sure you were presoaking the pellets if that’s what you were feeding them.

If they end up floating again, it is probably gas, you could try changing their diet.

If it still happens again, you may need to get rid of your air bubbler or air stone if you have one.

If your axolotl doesn’t scar to the bottom of the tank then it is something more serious which will require fridging.

Remember! You should always consult a professional before trying to fridge an axolotl yourself.

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