Axolotl Illness, Injury, and Treatment

Stress

Stress tends to be one of the biggest factors in illness. A stressed axolotl is much more likely to develop illness or infection, so it’s important to look out for the signs and be aware of stressors.

Common Stressors
  • Strong Water flow
    • Powerful filters that produce too strong a flow should not be used.
  • Temperatures over 75F/24C
  • Foul water
    • The result of inadequate water changes or lack of nitrogen cycle.
  • Untreated water
    • Remember to condition any water that is added to the tank.
  • Tank companions (i.e. fish, snails)
    • As stated in the beginning of this guide, fish can nip at your axolotl’s colorful gills and injure them.

 

Signs of Stress
  • Refusal to eat
  • Curling or hooking of the tail end/tip
Source: caudata.org
  • Gills facing forward
Source: caudata.org
Source: caudata.org

 

Injury

In the case of physical damage such as loss of a limb, gill damage, etc, the problem will usually solve itself. The thing about axolotls that made them famous in the scientific community is their remarkable ability to regenerate. Given enough time, your axolotl will be able to regenerate entire missing limbs or other body parts.

The main risk for your axolotl in this situation is infection, so during the healing process it should be kept on its own in cool, clean water. It has been observed by some owners that wound healing occurs more quickly at lower temperatures, from 41-59F/5-15C.

Impaction

Axolotl impaction is a condition caused when food is not moving through your axolotl’s digestive system properly. Some of the symptoms of this would be:

  • Refusal to take food for more than a few days
  • Bloating
  • Lack of waste

An extremely common cause of impaction is ingestion of gravel or small stones by your axolotl, which they are prone to do when they are placed in a tank with gravel or small stones of swallowable size (they can swallow anything smaller than their head).

In this case the best treatment for your axolotl is fridging, which well help them to pass or eject anything that’s sitting in their digestive system.

Impaction can also be a result of constipation, so make sure not to overfeed your axolotls. While they require daily feeding while growing, as adults they should only be fed every 2-3 days. Axolotls with this condition also respond well to fridging.

 

Floating Axolotls

Axolotls have the ability to float around their tank when they want to, but excessive floating can indicate a problem such as air bubbles in their guts or other digestive issues. You should only be concerned about floating if:

  • Your axolotl cannot return to the bottom of the tank
  • They float upwards against their will
  • Constant floating rather than just intermittent
  • Showing signs of stress in combination with floating

In this case, the usual course of action is to fridge your axolotl. Fridging causes the digestive system to release whatever is in it, so any digestive problems or blockages causing the gas build up in your axolotl should be alleviated by this.

 

Bacterial/Fungal Infection

In captivity, the biggest threat to your axolotl is going to come from bacterial or fungal infections. Heat-stressed axolotls can also show symptoms similar to axolotls with a fungal infection or develop an actual fungal infection much more easily, so it is important to check your water temperature when determining what might be wrong.

Common Ailments

    • Aeromona Hydrophila, or “red leg” bacteria
      • Known to cause red patches on the limbs and parts of the body
      • Treatment best left to an expert, usually involves injection of antibiotics
    • Chondrococcus columnaris, or just “Columnaris”
      • White fungus-like disease
      • Animals become sluggish and develop grey-white patches of bacteria on their skin.
      • Can be treated with salt bath in conjunction with fridging 
    • Saprolegnia
      • A common water-borne fungal infection
      • Like columnaris, leads to the development of white patches on skin or gills
      • Can be treated with salt bath (see here) in conjunction with fridging (see here)

 

If you suspect your axolotl has become ill, you best resources are the Caudata Axolotl Forums, listed on our Additional Reading and Resources page. The forum is full of extremely experienced axolotl owners who have seen it all, and if you upload some photos and detail your axolotl’s symptoms they should be able to point you in the right direction for diagnosis and treatment.

 

Keep Reading: Axolotl Care Sheet

  1. Tank Size and Requirements
  2. Filter and Water Temperature Requirements 
  3. Starting a Nitrogen Cycle
  4. Substrate Requirements
  5. Hides, Plants, and Decor
  6. Tank Cleaning and Water Chemistry
  7. Diet and Nutrition
  8. Illness, Injury, and Treatment – Current Page
    1. Fridging Guide
    2. Salt Bath Guide
  9. Additional Reading and Resources
Exotic PetQuarters