The 10 most Common Health Problems in an Axolotl , the Symptoms and Solutions
When you choose an axolotl as a pet, it is necessary to set up a tank especially for it by trying to reproduce as faithfully as possible its natural environment, if not your axolotl will not delay to fall ill, here are the known diseases in axolotls and especially the symptoms in order to act at the right time if that were to arrive.
Common diseases and problems in axolotls include injuries and amputations, chemical burns, floating, anorexia, fungus, intestinal blockage or obstruction, bacterial and fungal attacks, abscesses, ascites, red legs and anchor worms (Lerneosis).
As you can see, the list is a bit long, but don’t worry, if you take good care of it, none of this will happen to your axolotl, but it’s good to know these diseases and symptoms, and why not what to do in case it happens to your axolotl and that’s what we will see in this article.
Let’s dive in …
1- Amputations and Injuries :
We will start with this problem in axolotls ; in fact it is not rare to see an axolotl missing a leg, a piece of its gills, the end of the tail, a piece of its lip …
This is usually due to cannibalism, and it happens when you put together, in the same tank, axolotls that have at least 2 inches of difference in size, and the larger can easily attack the smaller one.
The reason can be hunger, because an axolotl can eat its fellow axolotl, but also the fight of territory especially when the tank is too small for them and they can fight and injure each other also for the females.
If you notice that your axolotl is injured even if it is alone in the tank, check your decorations, its shelter may be a sharp edge … etc.
What to do?
Start by isolating the axolotl that was attacked and consider buying it a new tank, or give it to a friend once it has recovered and the part it was missing has regenerated.
To avoid this, it’s necessary to respect the rules of space and the size of the tank as well as the rules of good neighbourliness in the axolotls.
2- Flotation :
This problem is very common in axolotls and due to the accumulation of gas in the intestines and your will surely experience it one day or another because the causes of floating are numerous and we find:
- Stress due to water quality or something else.
- Poor digestion of food
- Water temperature
- Intestinal occlusion
What to do about flotation
In fact, if your axolotl starts to float suddenly and cannot join the bottom of the tank in spite of all its efforts, it is necessary to put it quickly in a tank by putting there that a small volume of water so that the legs of the axolotl can touch the bottom of the tank and that it calms down finally and rests.
Leave it in this tray until it deflates, just add a little water to the tray and see if it still floats!!
And at the same time check the water of your tank, the level of Nitrites 00 ppm, ammonia 00 ppm and, Nitrates, this one must be less than 60 ppm, and change at least 40% of the water of the tank if it became toxic if not the totality.
If there is another axolotl in the tank, check if it is not the one that is stressing it.
If finally your axolotl is slow to deflate, more than 5 days, I advise you to take it to a vet, it may be suffering from an intestinal occlusion.
3- Intestinal Occlusion :
As its name suggests, intestinal occlusion or blockage in axolotls is a problem that occurs when the digestive tract of this adorable little monster becomes blocked !
The ingestion of gravel or a small piece that comes off one of the decorations is often what causes this intestinal occlusion in the axolotls.
That’s why I recommend to use as substrate only river sand and rocks bigger than the head of your axolotl .
The symptoms of the occlusion are :
- An axolotl that refuses to feed…
- He will bend over himself
- It may float to the surface because the digestive gases can no longer escape from its body.
- You can even see the small pebble if it is a young axolotl , still half transparent like albinos.
What should I do if my axolotl has a bowel obstruction?
Not much generally, but you can stop feeding it, and if it doesn’t evacuate the gravel for 2, 3 or 4 days, you should consult a veterinarian.
Some prescribe Paraffin oil, others recommend castor oil or even put the axolotl in the refrigerator to help it evacuate but I can’t advise you on any of these things, I haven’t tried them and I’m not a veterinarian.
How to avoid intestinal obstruction in axolotls?
You should avoid putting gravel in your tank; and if you do put some in anyway, at least get into the habit of feeding your axolotls on a clear glass plate or bowl that you put at the bottom of the tank slowly after you put the axolotl food in it.
By doing so, they cannot suck up gravel with the food.
4- The problem of Mycosis in axolotls
Mycosis is a kind of fungus ( Columnaris or Fungus / mold Saprolegnia ) that appears in a cottony form, usually attached to the gills of the axolotl or in the form of dark patches on its skin.
It is decomposition that generally causes and promotes the formation of this fungus.
This is probably due to a bad maintenance of the tank, you may have let some food decompose in it, pellets for example ….also check the water temperature and try to keep it below 22°C.
What to do about Fungus ?
Make sure to change the water of the tank and to clean the substrate and the decoration, the fungus will fall of itself within at least 48 hours , but if it delays to do it (more than 3 days), go to see a veterinarian he will explain you how to give a salt bath to your axolotl).
To prevent the formation of fungus on axolotls :
Make sure that the water in the tank always remains clean and at the right temperature.
Never let food or insects fall into the tank and decompose inside.
Use a good filter
5-Anchor worms or Lerneose ( Lernaea )
It is a small Parasite, not larger than one and a half millimetre, generally of white or red color whose females of this parasite will cling after mating to the gills and on the skin of the axolotl and to feed there.
Symptoms of anchor worm infection (they are rather parasitic crustaceans) are loss of appetite, difficulty breathing if the gills are too affected and you will also notice that the axolotl will often scratch against the decorations of the tank to try to detach it but generally it will be without success.
What to do about anchor Warms?
The best way is to hold your axolotl in a wet tissue and remove them one by one, and disinfect the area affected by Lernaea with betadine because there may also be eggs on his skin.
It is also necessary to isolate the affected axolotl and replace the water of the tank which could contain eggs of this parasite.
How to avoid this parasite?
It is always necessary to check the small fish that you use as food for your axolotl as well as the shrimps, to put in quarantine any fish of cold water (favorite medium of this parasite) and to check it before introducing it in the tank of your axolotl.
6-Red Legs Syndrome
As the name suggests, this deadly and highly contagious bacteria when it infects an axolotl, red spots will appear on its body and its legs will turn reddish before it spreads throughout the axolotl’s body and will in most cases cause its death, as it is usually detected too late to be treated.
Other symptoms of red legs disease ( Aeromonas hydrophila ) are bleeding from the eyes and skin, anemia and weight loss, and the axolotl will suffer from some kind of lethargy.
What can be done about it?
If there are other axolotls in the tank, take them out immediately and put them in separate bins.
The affected axolotl must immediately see a vet , an antibiotic will be injected, he will be able to save it but at an advanced stage, this disease is incurable, you must also expect your axolotl to die !
How to avoid it ?
It is a bacterium carried by other amphibians, so avoid introducing another axolotl in the tank before it spends a week under observation in a separate tank or another tank.
7-Anorexia and intestinal worms
If your axolotl is anorexic, this means that it is getting thinner and thinner and will soon die from it !
The symptoms are clear, a thin axolotl, which refuses to knot and which has difficulty to move.
The cause could well be either, an unsuitable food, you may not have succeeded in making it pass from bloodworms to pellets and it refuses to eat them, or your pellets are too big and it can’t swallow them ….
Poor tank maintenance can also trigger this problem, dirty water can force the axolotl to regurgitate its food and become anorexic over time.
Intestinal worms can also cause anorexia in your axolotl because they will feed on what they ingest and will leave nothing of the food they digest.
What to do?
See a vet to confirm this diagnosis and he will surely tell you to take care of the tank, use appropriate pellets (size and quality) and live earthworms to feed your axolotl.
8-My axolotl has an abscess on the head !
Yes, it can happen that an abscess forms on the head of your axolotl if it has just injured itself inside its oral cavity (in the mouth).
A tooth that gets infected can cause this, a food that he has just eaten and that cuts his cheek from the inside like the tail or the slightly sharp flipper of a guppy … etc…
What to do about abscess ?
A visit to the vet is advisable in this case, but basically you have to isolate the axolotl until the bump (abscess) disappears on its own, after the wound in the mouth has healed and then disinfect the area of the abscess, with a colloidal silver bath to avoid over-infection of the area. if I remember correctly, but you have to ask your vet for more advice on this.
9- Fluid accumulation (Edema and Ascites), and abnormal cell growth (Tumors).
Fluids that build up in a kind of pouch that appears on your axolotl can be caused by a lack of nutrients, kidney problems or even heart damage and old age generally.
But these kinds of problems are usually due to a genetic abnormality, so there is nothing you can do about it, and only your veterinarian can tell you more if this kind of health problem appears on your axolotl.
What can be done to avoid this?
If it’s due to bad genes, nothing ! sorry but if your axolotl is malnourished, you must remedy it by varying its food, not only give it earthworms, you also need balanced pellets n a little bit of fresh water fish flesh and make sure that the water has the recommended hardness and contains the right amount of mineral salts.
10- The Chronic Stress
This is probably the most common problem among owners of axolotls, these small pets, are often victims of stress, because there are many reasons, let’s start with the symptoms you will see in a stressed axolotl:
- Gills bent forward
- Gills turning bright red
- Gases and flotation
- An axolotl that stays in its shelter even at night.
- An axolotl that refuses to eat
- A hyperactive axolotl that hits its snout on the walls of the tank
- An axolotl that comes to the surface too often
There are still some, but these symptoms are the most common when talking about stress in axolotls.
The causes of stress are also numerous and include the following:
- A dirty tank
- A pump that is too noisy
- A filter that does not work well or that creates a strong current in the water.
- Toxic water overloaded with nitrates, nitrites and ammonia.
- A larger or aggressive tank mate
- Water too hot
- An incomplete nitrogen cycle
- Water that is too acidic and could also cause skin burns in axolotls.
What should I do if my axolotl is stressed?
Well, the answer is quite clear, it is necessary to avoid causing it by making sure that your axolotl lives in a tank well prepared and made especially for axolotls, spacious and calm without too many swirls or lights.
Take care to feed and take care of your axolotl, also think of varying its diet …
Answering your questions about axolotl illnesses :
I just read your blog about common axolotl illnesses. I was hoping you might be able to help me out,
I have no idea what’s going on with my axolotl. His name is Jabbers and he’s about 3 years old.
About a month ago he suddenly developed white spots on his skin, but they don’t look like fungus to me.
They haven’t really spread more than what they are now. I cleaned his tank completely and put in freshly cycles water.
He got suddenly skinny when the spots appeared, but he has been eating well the entire time.
Now, overnight, his gills got like a thousand new fluffy strands. They keep changing from pale/clear to a dark pink.
I don’t have any vets near me with training for my poor bean, so if you have any suggestions for me, I will gladly take them. I’ve included a few pictures of him for your reference.
Thank you so much for your help and time!
This answer could help :
I think that you are using some saltwater tanks ornaments .
As you know they are freshwater , it should not have ornaments of marine origin because they raise the hardness of the water.
If it’s the case , remove those ornaments and try to feed it with live bugs.The best way for them to recover quickly is to feed them live worms.
It could be ammonia burns , in this case you will need to :
Use freshwater test kit to monitor the water (PH … etc)
Make water changes, 3 in a row of 40%, one per day.
Siphon its feces.
Change with water at the same temperature and without chlorine.
Then 2 changes of 50% per week and every month a total water change.
This kind of stuff also happens when the cat often drinks from the aquarium!! it can easily infect the water!!
So if you have a cat, keep it away from the tank
I’m really sorry for what happened to your axolotl, unfortunately I’m not a vet and I don’t have much experience with axolotls
Since it’s not fungus, that’s all I can think of! the water quality, try to test the water and change it more often, check the filter if it’s working too. Always Sniff out the waste and the food leftovers….
Concerning the color change of the grills, do not worry, it just reflects its mood, pale yellow that is to say your axolotl is relaxed and red when it is attentive, curious, in hunting mode, angry … etc
Malnourished axolotl : How to save an annorexic axolotl ?
If you have found or bought an anorexic axolotl, and you want to save it and help it to regain its ideal weight, you will follow these steps:
1- Take the axolotl to the Vet so that he can examine it and verify that it does not suffer from a disease or an intestinal obstruction that prevents it from eating. It may have intestines obstructed by a stone or an agglomerate of bones if it has swallowed a fish at its previous owner’s house and has badly digested the bones … etc
PH, bad water quality, parasites , pimples ,abscess, worms on the gills, stress or an aggressive tank mate could also be the source of his anorexia.
2- Prepare a small container to keep your axolotl in , put it in a quiet room that can be plunged in the dark. check water parameters before introducing the axolotl.
Put in just one shelter, a substrate and just enough water to keep the axolotl alive, you will also change the water every day.
You can’t put this anorexic axolotl directly into a tank because it’s easier to handle, monitor and help it feed in a small container.
3- Prepare earthworms or nightcrawlers (very nutritious and they will help your axolotl to regain weight and heal quickly) and frozen bloodworms as well as Hikari pellets and beef heart that you will cut into smaller pieces in case your axolotl refuses to eat the worms.
Using aquarium tweezers, start by giving the malnourished axolotl small pieces of earthworms (3 to 5 mm) that you will shake in front of its nose until it decides to eat them.
The smell will surely whet its appetite, you can also use pieces of blackworms, they also smell stronger and can also push the axolotl to feed.
You can also try to put some bloodworms in front of your axolotl, at night, don’t put a lot of them so that you know if your axolotl has eaten them or some of them.
If your axolotl refuses to eat the pieces of earthworms and bloodworms, try beef heart or Hikari pellets, it may be his usual food!
Usually axolotls accept to eat the pieces of earthworms, in this case, you will increase more and more the length of the pieces of earthworms as your axolotl recovers its strength.
When you see that your axolotl starts to move in the container, and it has recovered some weight (this can take up to 30 days when the anorexia is severe), do not rush the process and be patient.
You will then put your axolotl in the tank and continue to give him complete and live earthworms until he becomes normal again. Try also small pieces of Beef heart meat , this will help him to recover quickly.
PS: if you notice white poop, stop giving him beef heart (a little fat) and continue with worms and Hikari pellets.
You can then give him other foods, why not live freshwater fish or shrimp to vary his menu.
Know that some malnourished axolotls unfortunately arrive at points of no return, that is to say, you can no longer save them even with force-feeding , so do not feel too guilty if you try everything but your axolotl still refuses to feed, so let him go in peace, in the axolotl paradise.