Written By : M Samy

Why do axolotls suddenly die ?

Why do axolotls suddenly die ?

Axolotl suddenly die because of poor water quality , diseases , parasites , infected wounds , impaction , infected food or poor diet , an aggressive tank mate or just of old age .

You think your axolotl might die? Start by doing this 

If you are worried about your axolotl’s condition , before trying to find out what is wrong with it, tubbing your axolotl would probably be the first thing to do so that its condition will not become critical and losing it if you leave it in the tank.

Otherwise, fill a small bottle with the tank water, get some stools and take your axolotl and these samples to the vet.

1- Sudden illness Can lead to your axolotl’s death 

why did axolotls die ?

Diseases  are sometimes behind the sudden death of an axolotl. They are often preventable and usually curable if you learn to detect changes in your axolotl normal behavior and and some of the most common diseases symptoms as soon as they appear and ignoring these signs of disease, could worsen it and sometimes even not detect it until too late as in the case of bacterial infections, like by Septicaemia, Aeromonas spp and Pseudomonas spp or parasitic when the axolotl has contracted Trichodina or Ichthyobodo, all these infections are related either to the introduction of other tank mates or just the degradation of the water quality.

To avoid your axolotl dying for no apparent reason, we often recommend that you buy axolotls from certified breeders and especially passionate about this animal precisely to avoid bringing home an axolotl that appears healthy but unfortunately has diseases inherited from its parents or organ malformations and tumors undetectable to the naked eye.

axolotls often die because of traumatic injuries

Axolotls are very fragile and can quickly succumb to injury or bleeding. They have skin that can easily get snagged by contact with a sharp element in the tank or by contact or altercation with another tank mate.

If the wound is not detected and treated in time, it can quickly become infected by bad bacteria or fungal and Saprolegnia.

2- Poor water conditions can cause the death of your axolotl

Uncycled tank or ruptured Nitrogen Cycle

The other common cause of unexpected death of axolotls is when they are directly introduced in an upcycled tank, a tank with not completed nitrogen cycle or finally in a tank where the nitrogen cycle just crashed!

There are many reasons for this such , poor water filtering system or biofilter insufficiency, increased ammonia and nitrate levels in the water due to a power outage and the pump shutting down in your absence for example, which will cause what is called the New Tank Syndrome. 

On the other hand, the Old Tank Syndrome, when the level of Nitrate increases in the tank, it can increase the acidity of the water which will cause skin infections and then the crash of the complete nitrogen cycle if you do not make multiple water changes and then ensure to restore the nitrogen cycle.

If your axolotl has just died or is showing signs of concern such as mucus formation on the axolotl’s skin or exophthalmia and corneal opacity, I would quickly advise you to start by testing the tank water.

Ammonia poisoning is the most common reason for death in axolotls

A high level of ammonia in the water over an extended period of time will surely cause the early death of an axolotl. It will start by running out of oxygen, come to the surface very often, it will then fall victim to ammonia burn and you will also notice some bloody patches on the body and purple gills, inappetence and uncontrolled floating.

The reason for the high level of ammonia in the water can be:

  • The introduction of new tank mates
  • A change of feed or feeding rate 
  • A clogged filter or a too clean filter, often cleaned with tap water
  • A weak or damaged biofilter or one that does not work often enough.

In this case, stop feeding your axolotl, you should then make successive water changes (25% to 30% each time), you can also use chemical filtration and/or nitrifying bacteria to accelerate the process and finally bring the PH back to its ideal level 6.5.

Learn how to use the testing kit and TDS meter to monitor the water parameters and intervene in case of need. If not, you can always take a water sample from the tank to a pet store, they may have a tank water testing service.

If after one day the ammonia level is still not decreasing, tubbing your axolotl will become necessary while waiting to restart the nitrogen cycle.

Too hot water can become lethal for an axolotl (Hyperthermia)

Increasing the temperature of the water in the tank can quickly become fatal for an axolotl because they are poikilotherms whose body temperature depends exclusively on the temperature of the water where they live.

If the water in the tank exceeds 75°C/24°C and this situation persists, your axolotl may die from metabolic malfunction and also from bacterial infections due to the rapid proliferation of these bacteria in the hot water.

Water that is too hot will also increase the level of ammonia which can also be fatal for your axolotl.

You can add a chiller just above the pump to lower the temperature of the tank, otherwise you will have to put your axolotl in cool water temporarily to avoid aggravating its case.

Other reasons that can cause the deterioration of the water quality and cause the premature death of the axolotl

  • Excessive or frequent water changes in the tank
  • Washing filters and media with tap water
  • Using unconditioned tap water
  • Introducing contaminated tank mates or decoration.
  • Incorrect dosage of dechlorinator or Ammonia Remover

3- Axolotls can die of Malnutrition 

Axolotls are very sensitive to what they eat, they have a very varied diet but it is often recommended not to disturb their eating habits and to stick to just two or three foods.

An axolotl can quickly die of food poisoning if it eats spoiled or contaminated food. Eating a small fish or shellfish that is infested with parasites could quickly cause the axolotl to die.

Too fatty diet is also a factor that can aggravate diseases and cause the crash of a fragile internal organs, especially for adult axolotls, as well as a poor diet, when the axolotl only has access to bad pellets, it can quickly die of anorexia.

4- Impaction and Constipation may quickly lead to death

A constipated axolotl will stop feeding, the same for an axolotl that suffers from impaction, but in this case, it may even suffocate and die quickly of asphyxia.

If an axolotl accidentally swallows a piece of gravel or a piece of food that it can’t spit out, it could be fatal. In this case, you must intervene quickly and remove the object.

If the impaction is internal, i.e. the object has passed into the digestive system, it may create a blockage and cause the death of the axolotl because only surgery can solve this problem.

5-Stress can lead to the death of an axolotl

A prolonged state of stress, caused by too hot water, an aggressive tank mate, bad lightning, sudden change of temperature… can kill an axolotl, and if combined with a too hot tank, it will cause infections. Signs of stress in axolotls are overly pale or overly developed gills and uncontrolled floating.

Stress can also kill an axolotl by aggravating its disease because stress is also known to weaken the immune system.

6- Uncontrolled Tubbing can get your axolotl killed

If you don’t follow the Fridging process properly, you can cause the death of your axolotl, already depleted by the quality of the tank water.

  1. Do not make the mistake of using water that is not treated to remove chlorine and chloramines. 
  2. The temperature of the fridge should be reduced gradually and never fall below 5°C/41°F. (Ideally 32°F/8°C)
  3. Prepare in advance bottles full of water that you will put next to the container of your axolotl to replace the water every day so that it does not die from lack of oxygen.
  4. Be careful not to drop your axolotl during the transfer to the container and cover the container once it is put in the fridge.
  5. Finally, you will have to get three or four bottles with the cycled water, put them in the fridge in order to gradually replace the water in the container with cycled water.
  6. On the day you are going to put the axolotl back in the tank, you need to gently raise the temperature of the axolotl, float the tub on the tank surface for an hour or two before releasing and putting your axolotl back in the tank.

7- Bad tank maintenance can cause the death of the axolotl

  • Not knowing how to take care of your axolotl tank can quickly cause the death of your axolotl by causing your tank to crash, here are the fatal mistakes to avoid in order not to harm your axolotl:
  • Never add untreated tap water in the tank
  • Never change more than 35% of the water in the tank (the ideal is 25%) and only once a week
  • Always use cycled water to clean your filter and media as well as the decoration elements (once a month)
  • Never leave leftover food in the tank for more than 15 minutes
  • Never put in the tank gravel or objects that your axolotl can swallow
  • Never add decorations with sharp edges or rough surfaces that could hurt your axolotl
  • Never introduce other axolotl or other tank mates into the tank before quarantining them for a few days
  • Never use malachite green, copper-based treatments and tetracycline 
  • Never put your hand in the tank before washing your hands with water and wiping them well.

Signs axolotl is sick and maybe dying

  • Bleeding
  • Dark curled and bent gills
  • Cotton-like tufts (advanced stage of Fungus) on the gills and the body
  • Skin covered with mucus
  • Loss of gills and skin shedding
  • Uncontrolled Floating and Frequent Gulps of air
  • Axolotl floating upside down
  • Lying flat on his stomach all day
  • Residue of ingested food in his poop.
  • Shrinking Gills and gills Deterioration
  • Damaged or Wounded coat and Skin lesions.
  • Curled Tail Tip or curled gills
  • Loss of appetite /ignoring its food /anorexia .
  • Frantic Swimming 
  • Lack of Responsiveness and activity
  • Loss of Color in Gills ( gills turning white )

8- Axolotls die of old age too 

Axolotls also die of old age, some live up to 15 years or more, but if an axolotl has bad genes or has lived in bad conditions, it may die prematurely because they are very sensitive to their environment, which has put them on the list of endangered species, they are sensitive especially to water quality and stress.

What to do with the dead axolotl ?

You are of course not going to give it to your cat! You can take a sample of the tank water and some stools and your dead axolotl and send them to the vet to find out what caused the death of your axolotl so that it doesn’t happen again.

You will then wash the tank, the decorations and the filter with a mixture of water and white vinegar and rinse well with water to remove any pathogens and kill any microbes and parasites.

You can finally bury your axolotl and plant a memorial plant to thank it for the joy it has given you and its eternal smile.

M Samy pet blogger and author at famillypet

About Author

Hey! 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