Written By : M Samy

12 axolotl Normal Behaviors and the suspicious ones

Axolotls have normal behaviors like chilling almost all the time, floating around, gulping, flapping their gills and deploying them when they get curious or it’ s feeding time.

There are other behaviors that can be triggered by its environment or its health condition and this is what we will also see in this article that I invite you to read carefully.

1- Axolotls Being still 

Axolotl behaviors and the suspicious ones

Axolotls love chilling, they are nocturnal type animals and quite sensitive to daylight, so they spend most of their day resting in a hide, on a decorative element, on an air stone or just on the bottom of the tank or surface.

During the day, axolotls like shady places, when the tank is lit, they sometimes even huddle together in the same hide or in the darkest corner of the tank.

2- Axolotls like Floating

Axolotls like to relax and float in the water at mid-depth usually, you can just see their gills moving to get dissolved oxygen in the water.

The only behavior that can alert you is when they come up to the surface of the water and delay because they are trying to swim down but can’t, in this case the axolotl suffers from uncontrolled floating and the causes are multiple, including when they swallow air bubbles, poor water quality, temperature rise, stress, impaction or other axolotl disease.

An axolotl that floats for several minutes without moving, or floats on its side or upside down is an axolotl that is in distress, you should quickly Tub him and check what is wrong!

3- Gulping air and water

Gulping is a common behavior for axolotls, you will often see them open their mouths and suck water out from just behind their heads and into their gills to get a good dose of oxygen.

They often do this as well when you do water changes and the water you put back in the tank is a little fresher, they may also be testing the water quality for unwanted chemical molecules.

They also come up just to the water line (on the surface of the tank), take their mouth out of the water and gulp for air.

Gulping for air under normal conditions will help axolotls float more easily or get more oxygen into their lungs. You will then see your axolotl release air bubbles through its mouth when it decides to dive and stay at the bottom of the tank.

Young axolotls have not yet mastered this technique and sometimes they will suck in more air, get their belly full of air, which will keep them a little more on the surface or stress them out a little since it is difficult for them to get down to the bottom of the tank. Don’t worry, this problem will disappear once they’ve pooped.

They also show this behavior (gulping water) sometimes after eating, this can help them to clean the inside of their mouth cavity and pass their food and digest it better.

But this axolotl behavior can also be a bad sign when it is incessant, it is usually due to degraded water quality or lack of dissolved oxygen in the water due to temperature rise or the tank is just overcrowded and you need to add a bubbler or an air stone, otherwise increase the flow of water through the filter to ensure a better oxygenation of the water in the tank so that your axolotl can breathe with its gills and skin without having to come up and gulping air.

4- Gills Flapping

Waving their gills is a normal behavior for axolotls, they also and mainly breathe through their gills by waving them to create movement in the water and filtering dissolved oxygen.

When tank conditions are ideal, axolotls do not need to agitate their gills too often and the more oxygen is scarce in the water, the more often your axolotl must agitate its gills.

Axolotls also often move their gills when they notice movement in the water or even outside the tank, they are just curious and want to signal their presence.

When they see food, especially when it is something living, axolotls deploy their gills just before pouncing on their worm or a small fish or any other living food to paralyze it with fear and make it easier to capture its prey.

Spreading their gills can also be a sign of aggression when a tank mate gets a little too close to the axolotl.

You should be concerned when your axolotl is curling its gills towards the front of its head. This is usually a bad sign, your axolotl is stressed or sick, something is not quite right with their water, perhaps a crashed Nitrogen cycle or the detection of chemicals in the water.

5- Axolotls like swimming

Axolotls are not active swimmers but love to swim quietly and gently make rounds in the tank from time to time, usually to just if there is nothing to eat or just to relax and stretch their tails. 

You should also know that young axolotls are a lot more energetic than adults and usually get spooked faster than adult axolotls.

But if you notice that your axolotl suddenly becomes very active, starts darting about the tank and starts swimming a little faster than usual, know that something is off in the tank. The first suspect would be the presence of chemicals in the water or a sudden rise in temperature.

When the water is not clear, or something or someone is tapping the glass (they feel big vibrations in the water and a big noise because of the ultrasound), they can also get spooked and frightened because they can’t see far and they can make sudden movements in the water and swim fast as if to avoid being eaten by a predator (an innate behavior), this can happen every time they detect a sudden movement, this usually just freak them out.

Don’t worry in this case, your axolotl will calm down on its own after just a few seconds when it realizes that it is not in danger.

6- Shaking their head (thrashing)

Thrashing is a typical behavior in axolotls, they often do this when they eat to make it easier to swallow their food.

Axolotls also shake their head when they capture a worm, they are just snatching it to stun it and swallow it safely.

Axolotls may also shake their head as if to say “no, I don’t want this” when you feed them. This means that your axolotl is ignoring its food and may be sick if it is not just full.

7- Swallowing and spitting Food (worms)

This is a normal behavior for axolotls, they can regurgitate their food for different reasons like when they are not hungry anymore, but also when the portion is too large or the worm is too big to swallow in one go.

Axolotls don’t have much to do in the tank and like many other animals, they sometimes want to play with their food before swallowing it.

Axolotls may spit out their food, usually their pellet because they haven’t chewed it enough or the pellet is too hard to swallow. They regurgitate it so that it becomes a little soft in the water and will swallow it back again.

Usually , axolotls tend to chew up their worm to soften its flesh and try to kill it before breaking it down and may regurgitate it and repeat the process if it doesn’t succeed on the first try and feels the worm is still struggling in its mouth.

But a Fridged , sick or stressed axolotl can also spit out its food, in this case it will just abandon it and not swallow it after that.

8- Bumping into things in the tank

Axolotls , especially a newly introduced ones , don’t know their tank yet , and even though they have a very good sense of smell , their eyesight is not that good , so they often bump into the edges of the tank and decorative elements.

That’s why it is recommended to avoid sharp objects with sharp edges or rough surfaces that could hurt your axolotl because they have a very fragile skin and especially to avoid infection of the wounds by parasites and fungus.

Axolotls can also bump on things when there is a lot of movement in the tank. They are animals that in nature live in a lake with calm waters, so don’t use powerful filters so that the water stays calm and not too agitated.

9- Axolotl’s tail up in the air and shaking it

This behavior is typical for male axolotls during the mating season, it is their way to show the female that they are ready to sow their eggs.

Axolotls have a strange way of mating and usually, when the female is ready and agrees, the male will start to deposit his sperm cones on the bottom of the tank and the female will suck them into her egg sac (in her belly) to fertilize the eggs.

10- Axolotls lift their legs

Axolotls sometimes stand almost vertically on their two hind legs.

They usually do this not to play as some enthusiasts think, but to have a better view of the water surface (innate hunting behavior) on one side and on the other for better digestion after a heavy meal.

Your axolotl can also swallow air bubbles and can not expel them, this will somehow force him to adopt this posture, this will quickly be resolved after they’ve pooped.

Axolotls only stand on their front legs when they raise their tails to deposit their sperm cones when mating with females.

11- Axolotls like biting and nipping

Of course, axolotls don’t have big teeth, but they are still predators and will try to taste anything that seems to move in their tank, sometimes just out of curiosity but often to know if it is edible or not!

Your axolotl may bite you even though it will not hurt you. Nipping is also a common behavior in axolotls, especially in juvenile ones when kept together.

Axolotls will nip at other axolotls, gills, paws and even tails, sometimes out of cannibalistic instinct when they are hungry and want fresh meat, but they often nip because they are territorial and like to have their own space.

12- Axolotls miss their food

This behavior is typical for axolotls, they often don’t see their food when you drop it in the tank.

Even if they have a very sensitive sense of smell, their sight is limited, they see better on the side and you often have to wave their food in front of their nose so that they see it and take it in.

Axolotls are instinctively attracted to live food and that’s why they sometimes grab a pellet before hitting the bottom of the tank and ignore it once it lands on the substrate.

On the other hand, when you give your axolotl a live worm or a cricket, it will quickly notice and rush to it.

Don’t confuse axolotls who miss their food with those who simply refuse to eat, in which case, something is off and you need to make an effort to figure out the reason.

Final Thoughts

Axolotls are often quiet in temperament, especially during the day, they also have their own habits and any sudden change in their environment such as water quality or temperature can quickly cause them to behave differently and this would be a sign that something is either off or frightening them.

Even though axolotls are beginner friendly pets, you should be attentive and know your axolotl’s habits and behavior at each time of day so that you can react quickly when you notice even a small change in their behavior.

M Samy pet blogger and author at famillypet

About Author

Hey! Salim Makhloufi (alias M. Samy) here , Welcome to my Blog I'm an animal lover, especially pets and Really concerned about their well being ; I've been around and caring for all my life and Now ; a full-time Pet blogger at your service . My motto here at Famillypet is: "Pets First" ... Read More