If you are bringing home an axolotl, naturally, you’ll want to know about tank setup and what you can and should include in there with them. What about plants, specifically? They can make for a great aesthetic but will an axolotl eat them; is it even beneficial for them to do so? Well, here is all you are going to need to know about plant-eating in these aquatic amphibians.
So, do axolotls eat plants? Axolotls don’t eat or need plants as part of their normal diet. Their body is designed to get all of the nutrients it needs from meat. However, axolotls aren’t always the brightest when it comes to knowing what exactly is and isn’t food and may also bite something out of curiosity – not hunger. That’s why even though they don’t need to eat plants, you may find that your axolotl does take occasional (or sometimes frequent) bites out of the plants in its tank.
This is why the choice of plants you place inside the tank is so crucial.
But we will get onto the best plants, later.
For now, just know that plants can make a great addition to a tank, but you do need to be a little mindful.
So with this in mind, let’s take a look at the relationship between axolotls and the plants they live with.
Will Axolotls Eat All Plants?
Some axolotl owners report their axolotl biting or nipping at almost anything (plant or otherwise) that enters their tank, while other axolotls couldn’t care less what plants they find around their home.
Axolotls are carnivorous meat eaters and are not likely to purposely eat plants in their aquarium because of hunger or a need for nutrients.
Instead, you may notice that they bite or chew on plants in their aquarium out of boredom or curiosity.
A curious axolotl may bite at a plant and remove chunks of its leaves before spitting out the chewed-up plant.
Others may actually swallow plant matter.
Typically eating small amounts of aquatic plants is not harmful to an Axolotl.
What you may notice, though, is a change in the consistency of their stools as the plant passes through their digestive tract.
An axolotl that is biting plants isn’t likely to be thinking about what type of plant it is biting and will have little care for type.
The nibbling they do is more about curiosity and the potential for finding a real meal of meat than it is a sudden urge to be vegetarian.
Will Axolotls Eat Plastic Plants?
If you place a fake plant in your axolotl’s tank and it moves and waves in the water, your axolotl may try biting to see if the plant is food. They may also bite a plastic plant if they think they see a living creature such as a worm or snail on the plant. It is very rare that an axolotl would seek to purposely eat and ingest fake plants as a source of nutrition.
Many axolotl owners use fake plants in their tanks without an issue.
However, if you do notice that you have an axolotl who is prone to biting or swallowing pieces of your fake plants, you may want to reconsider your choice of decorations.
Unlike most living plants that will break down and be digested by your axolotl, fake plants can cause blockages in your axolotl’s digestive tract.
If an axolotl swallows large pieces of fake plants, the pieces could get stuck in your axolotl’s digestive tract and block it from functioning properly.
This can lead to your axolotl becoming very sick and needing medical attention.
If you put fake plants in your axolotl’s tank, monitor them closely to see if they are taking an interest in biting them.
Can Axolotls Live With Plants
Axolotls can live with a variety of plants in their aquatic environment. In the wild, axolotls live in ponds filled with cool water plants, and having plants in their aquarium may help mimic this space. The right live plants also act as natural water filters and add beneficial oxygen into your axolotl’s water.
Axolotls love to hide and stay in shadowed areas of their tank.
By placing plants on the bottom of the tank that reach upwards or plants that float on the top of the water, you give your axolotl a lot of options for moving and feeling comfortable within their tank.
Plants can really benefit the water in your axolotl’s tank.
Plants use up nitrates that are added to the water when your axolotl releases stool.
By taking out nitrates from the water, they help prevent an unhealthy toxic buildup between water changes.
They also add oxygen back into the water, which is great for our axolotls who depend on oxygenated water for breathing.
Not only do live plants support healthy water in your tank, but they also make your tank look more appealing to the eye.
An axolotl in a tank is always a cute sight, but when you add plants of various sizes and textures, your tank can take on a new level of interest to anyone looking inside it.
What Plants Can You Keep In Your Axolotl Tank?
Several plants that do well in axolotl aquariums are Elodea, Hornwort, Java Fern, and Anubias.
You can keep a wide variety of plants in your axolotl’s tank, but certain plants will truly thrive in your aquarium while being safe and enjoyable for your axolotl.
The plants we have listed all do well in aquatic environments, can handle cold water, and don’t require a lot of light.
Elodea is a hardy aquatic plant that loves freezing cold water and requires no specific substrate along the bottom of your axolotl’s tank.
It is a good producer of oxygen, can handle any wear and tear your axolotl or other aquatic pets may present, and grows well without any special maintenance.
You may also find this plant listed as “water weed” in some locations.
Hornwort is a tall aquatic plant that can have its base buried in substrate at the bottom of a tank or floated within the tank.
It grows best in warm water but will handle a cold water environment without wilting or harm.
This plant adds a lot of visual appeal to a tank and makes a great ‘backdrop’ plant that axolotls can explore while still being soft enough that your axolotl cannot climb up the plant and out of their tank.
It is not poisonous and produces a good amount of oxygen as well!
Java Fern is a very popular plant in axolotl tanks.
A major perk of this plant is that while it has very broad, attractive leaves, the leaves are very soft and do not run the risk of harming your axolotl if it bumps into or glides quickly past their edges.
Java ferns may tempt your axolotl to try for a nibble, but they are non-toxic and easily digested.
They enjoy cold water and do not require much light, which is great for shadow-loving axolotls.
If you are looking for a plant to carpet the bottom parts of your tank, you might want to check out the similarly named Java Moss!
Our last big suggestion is Anubias which is a great option because of the wide variety of their types and appearances.
Anubias like cool, dim water and have so many different looks almost everyone can find one they enjoy looking at.
This plant does not like to be buried in the substrate but instead does well when tied to a piece of driftwood or other anchor and allowed to float just above the tank floor covering.
Anubias are non-toxic, and axolotls love laying under their leaves for a daytime snooze.
If you are just starting to add plants to your axolotl’s tank, the four plants above are great first choices that will stay healthy in your axolotl’s tank and not be a danger if your pet decides to give one a nibble.
The best way to know what your axolotl will and won’t eat is simply to observe its behavior on a day-to-day basis.
Axolotls don’t need plants to maintain a healthy diet, but at times certain axolotls will still take the opportunity to give one a taste.
Other Axolotl articles and guides you may be interested in:
- Do Axolotls Get Lonely? [Should Axolotls Be Kept In Pairs?]
- Do Axolotls Lay Eggs? [Everything You Need To Know]
- Do Axolotls Make Noise? [How Loud Are These Salamanders?]
- Do Axolotls Drink Water? [The Essential Water Guide]
- Do Axolotls Like Light? [How Much Do They Actually Need?]
- Do Axolotls Glow In The Dark? [Or Under Special Lighting?]
- Do Axolotls Carry Diseases? [Can You Get Sick From Them?]
- Do Axolotls Bleed? [This Is Essential To Know & Understand]
- Do Axolotls Sleep? [It’s Not As Clear-Cut As You Might Think]
- Do Axolotls Have Teeth? [Are They Known For Biting?]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.