Why Is My Axolotl Not Eating?

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Whether you’re bringing your new axolotl home or are ready for your regular daily feeding routine, it can be scary when your axolotl refuses to eat. Especially if there were never issues before, or you know they should’ve eaten by now. 

Your axolotl’s feeding routine is important, and when they aren’t eating properly, it can lead to development problems, body deterioration, and more. 

However, there is no need to fear right away. As axolotls age, they naturally don’t need to eat as often. While adults eat only every 2-3 days, a young axolotl may eat twice a day. 

By first ruling out the age factor, water conditions, and stress, you should be able to find and fix the problem at hand if nothing else is causing your axolotl to refuse food.

Life Stages (With Ages)Frequency
Hatchling (~3 weeks)Twice per day
Baby (~3 months)Twice per day
Juvenile (~5 months)One per day
Sub-Adult (~1 year)Every other day
Adult (~3 years)Every 2 – 3 days

Sources (Adapted from): ResearchGate


What Causes Your Axolotl To Stop Eating?

What Causes Your Axolotl To Stop Eating?

Sickness or Infection

One of the reasons your axolotl could’ve stopped eating is because they’re sick. A sick axolotl is known to always refuse food, so it’s always essential to make sure that they’re healthy. 

It’s also good to make sure they don’t have any internal or external bacterial and fungal infections. 

Check their gills for any signs of a fungal infection, and consider using Axie Aid if you are concerned about external fungal or bacterial infections. 

As these are generally more serious and lead to severe weight loss and loose stool, any sign of significant weight loss is a sign of danger for your axolotl. 

For other problems, make sure to use a safe antibiotic medication. Consider bringing them to your vet to identify the issue further or if you’re unsure or looking for alternative safe treatment methods.

Parasites

Another thing to look out for is external or internal parasites, as they can be very dangerous to your axolotl. 

One of the telling signs of this issue is loss of appetite. While intestinal parasites are known to cause your axolotl to eat aggressively, they eventually stop eating, and you’ll start to notice significant weight loss as they reach lethal conditions. 

Only a vet can determine if they are suffering from parasites. Consider bringing a stool sample to your vet to get a proper diagnosis.

Blockage or Constipation

If your axolotl appears more like it’s floating around rather than swimming, this could be a sign of constipation. 

Large pebbles and tank accessories can block their digestive systems, which can cause a severe blockage if consumed. This can be lethal, as it could completely prohibit food from passing. 

While consuming smaller pebbles and sand can make constipation more common, you can often wait it out. 

Some young axolotls that aren’t used to eating pellets haven’t developed proper intestinal flora yet, and one of the common treatments for this is a vet treatment based on kerosene oil. 

Make sure to contact your veterinarian for any true blockage or serious constipation.

Stress

One of the first signs of stress is generally loss of appetite. New axolotls may not eat due to the stress of a new environment, though they should be fine for a few days without eating. 

If the tank conditions are stable, adults can go without food for up to 3 weeks if normally well fed. 

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Some other things that may cause stress are bright lights, a lack of or improper hide, or even strong currents, which can be solved using a sponge filter. 

They can also become stressed due to attempts to handle or chase them around their tank. It’s recommended to avoid handling and use a properly sized mesh net when necessary to avoid injury or suffocation. 

It’s also important to look out for nippy tank mates and avoid having different-sized axolotls together as they may cannibalize or cause stress to others.

Food is Inadequate.

Axolotls instinctively prefer moving food. Therefore, pellets, freeze-dried mealworms, or other unmoving foods may not interest them, especially if previously fed live food. 

Some of these types of food often lack proper nutrition and aren’t always the best for them anyways. 

Another issue is that the food could be too large, making it difficult for your axolotl to eat. Make sure to break the food up into properly sized pieces before feeding.

Poor Tank Conditions

Improper tank conditions may cause your axolotl to refuse food. It is recommended you get a water test kit, strips, or drops, to check your water quality, and make sure to reference the chart below. 

Even low levels of Ammonia and Nitrite can be harmful to your axolotl, so it’s recommended to do regular water changes and tank cleaning. 

It is also good to check the temperature regularly as seasons change because temperatures under 13°C will cause them to prepare to hibernate, leading to refusal of food. 

Temperatures above 22°C will cause stress. Therefore, it’s essential to utilize frozen water bottles, fans, and chillers to lower temperatures. 

It’s also good to note that high temperatures will make Ammonia far more dangerous to your axolotl. 

Also, make sure your axolotls aren’t crowded and consider transferring them to a tank by themselves. This is because injuries from other axolotls can lead to a loss of appetite or them attacking other axolotls due to improper feeding if they’re healthy.

Best Parameters
Gallons per Adult10
Water Temp15-18°C
TAN0 mg/L
Nitrite0 mg/L
Nitrate20 to 60 ppm
pHAround or above 7
KH3-8°
GH7-14°
Oxygen Saturation70-100%
Salinity0 g/L

Reabsorbing Eggs

An important thing to note is that this is a female-specific issue, as female axolotls go through periods of egg production along with egg reabsorption. 

After reabsorbing eggs, they will often refuse food for up to a month. It’s also good to note that gravid females have a more difficult time reabsorbing the eggs and can be at higher risk of internal infection.


How to know Your Axolotl is sick ?

How to know Your Axolotl is sick ?

Lack Of Appetite

A sick axolotl will almost always refuse food given to them. If you’ve tried offering different forms of food, especially live food, and they still refuse, they’re likely sick or have a more serious issue than just being picky or not hungry.

Bring them in for diagnosis

A sick axolotl can be hard or impossible to self-diagnose, and many fish aquarium treatments can be toxic to your axolotl. 

It’s essential to do proper research on treatments and bring your axolotl in for an accurate diagnosis so that you’re able to make them happier and healthier without the possibility of causing more harm than good.

Possible signs

Though difficult to self-diagnose, there are some possible signs to look out for, such as 

  • changes in behavior other than their lack of eating
  • back deformities
  • tumors that look like cotton-like tufts
  • poor balance while swimming
  • deterioration of their gills
  • jaundice. 

If you notice anything similar to these possible signs, it’s always good to bring your axolotl to a vet for further diagnosis and treatment.

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How to encourage Your Axolotl to eat?

How to encourage Your Axolotl to eat?

Try Different Food

Axolotls are known for not always liking pellets or improperly stored food. 

Some forms of non-live food you could try are safe cuts of meat that aren’t prepackaged, though you will have to provide multivitamins if this is your only way of feeding. 

Another option is training your axolotl to eat cat food, which is a nutritious and affordable way of feeding. A common frozen or freeze-dried one is Tetra Bloodworms, but they’re often better for treats. 

The best live food to consider feeding your axolotl are African Night Crawlers, but they are large, and you’ll have to cut them up into smaller pieces before feeding. 

A good thing to note is that axolotls are primarily nocturnal, so feeding attempts are more successful in the evening.

Force Feeding

If you’ve confirmed your axolotl is healthy or aren’t able to make the trip to the vet till a later date, you might want to consider force-feeding. However, this should always be a last resort for your axolotl. 

First, try holding food in front of them or try placing it into their mouth with a pair of blunt forceps. 

If this doesn’t work, gently remove them from their tank and hold them with a moist, soft cloth while occasionally pouring water on them. 

While doing this, use your choice of wet food in a syringe, place it gently in their mouth and slowly feed them, making sure they properly swallow. 

It is recommended to have a friend help you with this or even talk to your vet for help and more suggestions.

Patience

Sometimes all it takes is a little patience. When referencing the feeding chart, they might not be hungry yet because they don’t have to eat as much as they get older. So, you might be worried over nothing. 

If your axolotl is female and has recently reabsorbed eggs, you might have to wait up to a month until they’re interested again. 

Although if neither of these is the issue, you won’t need patience, though you might need a vet to diagnose the real underlying cause.


What should you do if your Axolotl still isn’t eating?

What should you do if your Axolotl still isn't eating?

Check them over

Make sure you check them over well and look for any signs of injury, illness, discoloration, or other unusual changes to your axolotl. 

Consider using the wet cloth handling method mentioned in the force-feeding section for a closer look. 

If you were unable to identify any specific issues or see something you’re unsure about, be sure to bring them to a vet for proper diagnosis.

Wait A Day or Two

It’s always possible you might have to wait a few days, especially if you’ve recently changed up the tank or did water changes to satisfy their needs. 

Because of this, they might be stressed due to the changes in their environment, especially if they were recently transferred to other tanks. 

If they still don’t want to eat after a few days following these changes, there’s most likely a deeper issue. If you’re unable to diagnose your axolotl, make sure to bring them to the vet.

Take them to the Vet

If you see any signs of severe weight loss, it’s usually a sign you shouldn’t wait any longer to try to find out what’s wrong on your own. This is especially true if there’s any deterioration of their gills, overall appearance, and activity. 

These are signs that your axolotl is going downhill and will need help improving their health as soon as possible with the help of a vet. 

Try to reference the age/ feeding chart at the beginning of the article to see the last time your axolotl should’ve eaten and how often they normally should be eating. Make sure it’s not too late for them. 

If it seems way too long since the last time they ate, it most likely has been, and getting in touch with a vet is recommended, especially if you can’t identify the issue.