Note: Pet Educate is reader supported. If you make a purchase through a link on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission - at no extra cost to you. This includes links to Amazon.

Do Axolotls Float When They Die? [What You Must Know]

If you have noticed that your axolotl is floating in its aquarium, you will be very concerned. Is it a sign of death, even? Besides, many other small aquatic creatures often float when they die, so it’s a fair association. Well, here is everything you are going to want to know.

So, do axolotls float when they die? Axolotls that have died may float 1-2 days after passing. Although, an axolotl may be prevented from floating upward due to tank décor or plants obstructing them. However, a floating axolotl is not always a dead axolotl; it may be a consequence of imbalanced water, digestive troubles, bloat, or even healthy roaming activity. 

While floating can be a sign of distress for an axolotl, it can have several different causes that we will look into today.

So if you have some questions and concerns about what is and isn’t normal floating behavior, stick around.

It’s incredibly important that you do. 

Why Is My Axolotl Floating?

An axolotl may be floating for a few reasons, such as an ammonia imbalance in their water, impaction, or bloat. All three of these conditions can cause your axolotl to feel unwell and have trouble moving around their tank. Or, it could be that they have died. 

Imbalanced Water

Axolotls are very sensitive to the quality of the water in their tank. 

They like living in cool, clean, mineral-rich water. 

As axolotls eat and live, they naturally create waste that is high in ammonia. 

If ammonia builds up in the tank, it can lower available oxygen, be ingested by your axolotl, and leave your axolotl feeling very stressed. 

A stress reaction in axolotls is to float towards the surface of the water. 

Floating as a result of stress is thought by some to be an attempt by the axolotl to leave its current living conditions in search of something better. 

Other scientists feel that as the water’s ammonia level rises, axolotls will float to try and find oxygen from near the tank’s surface. 

Digestive Trouble

Sometimes axolotls run into digestive trouble, and clumping food will block their digestive tract. 

This can also happen if your axolotl decides to bite into something in the tank that isn’t food, and the item won’t break down as it passes through the axolotl’s stomach. 

Gas and other materials back up and throw off your axolotl’s ability to stay low in the water leading to floating. 

Along with floating, an axolotl with impaction will not move much and usually will not eat.


The other common cause of floating in axolotls is bloating. 

Bloating can be caused by or happen alongside impaction but can also happen for other reasons. 

Other common causes of bloating are infection and gas getting trapped in an axolotl’s abdomen. 

A bloated axolotl is usually visually swollen and struggles to stay at the bottom of the tank, which leads to long periods of floating.

Is It Normal For My Axolotl To Float?

Some axolotls may float from time to time, but it is usually a short-lived experience before they settle back to the bottom of their tank. Axolotls may live in water, but they are still creatures that prefer to stay hidden, low in their environment, and as close to the ground as possible.

If your axolotl is floating for a few minutes from time to time, you likely have nothing to worry about. 

Young axolotls are especially known for floating, swimming, and moving actively around their tanks. 

Other axolotls may float because they enjoy breathing at the water’s surface from time to time. 

If your axolotl is rarely seen floating and suddenly starts floating frequently, is floating for an extended period of time, or appears to be trying to swim but is still floating upwards, your axolotl may be in need of attention. 

Axolotls experiencing stress and medical problems may float and be unable to sink back down to their tank bottom. 

The best way to know if floating is a normal activity for your axolotl is to spend frequent time observing them in their tank. 

An observant owner can be a lifesaver for an axolotl because they are the ones who will notice changes in their axolotl’s behavior and routines.

What To Do If Your Axolotl Is Floating

If you are concerned about your axolotl floating, you should first check your axolotl for signs of life. If your axolotl is alive but stuck floating, check your water parameters, take a break from offering food, and consider carefully attempting what is known as refrigerating your axolotl. 

Unfortunately, an axolotl that has passed away and gone unnoticed may float after a day or two. 

Axolotls who pass away do not immediately float. 

As their body finishes the process of dying, it may fill with gas and waste, which leads to the axolotl floating to the top of their tank. 

If your axolotl is floating but not moving and does not respond to being tapped or show signs of breathing, it has most likely died. 

At this point, you should remove the axolotl from its tank, dispose of the body, and clean out your tank as soon as you feel up to the task.

If your axolotl is, however, still showing signs of life, you can then move on to checking water quality/stopping feeding, depending on the context.

Tank Clean & Water Change

By checking on the axolotl’s water quality, you can help your axolotl get back to a comfortable state. 

Remember, an axolotl that is in an environment contaminated with too much ammonia will likely float. 

If your axolotl is moving and breathing and doesn’t have any noticeable bloating, it may simply need a nice tank cleaning and a large water change. 

Check your tank’s water parameters to make sure both temperature and chemical levels are in a healthy range for your axolotl. 

You may need to consider a filter, or a filter change, too.

When the water is a healthy and relaxing place, you will notice your axolotl settle back down.

Consider Feeding 

An axolotl that has bloating or impaction and is floating should not be fed

Depending on how severe the impaction or bloating is, an axolotl could experience severe illness along with floating. 

At this point, you could contact your veterinarian or carefully try the process of refrigerating your axolotl. 

Consider Refrigeration 

Refrigerating an axolotl cools the axolotl, lowers their blood temperature, and can help an axolotl get rid of any backed-up food or fecal matter.

But, ‘refrigerating an axolotl’ does not mean actually putting them in a refrigerator. 

Instead, your axolotl will be placed in a smaller, shallow container that is filled with very cold refrigerated water. 

Using dechlorinated bottled water is the best for this process. 

You can place several bottles in the fridge at a time and pull them as needed. 

Each day that your axolotl is in the refrigerated water, it will need a full water change of fresh, very cold water.

Observe your axolotl for signs of passing stool or spitting up food. 

This process is believed to help reset your axolotl’s digestive system effectively.

How Do You Know Your Axolotl Is Dying?

Signs that your axolotl is dying may include excessive floating, a loss of appetite, gills that are deteriorating or losing their color and motion, poor balance when trying to swim, and skin sores or injuries. When an axolotl cannot properly breathe or swim, its life is likely nearing the end.

Sadly, floating is sometimes an indicator of the recent or approaching death of an axolotl. 

Because floating is tied to many health issues such as disease, impaction, and bloating, it may be a sign that your axolotl has permanently declining health. 

Death is never something we want to face with our pets, but when we know it is coming, we can prepare our hearts, minds, and situations for this scenario.

And remember, an axolotl that passes away may not instantly float. 

They may instead look very still at the bottom of their tank with gills that are overly still and show little response to changes in the tank environment. 

Because axolotls love to nap and hide, it is possible you might not notice right away they have died. 

After a day or two, an axolotl that has passed away will likely float.


Axolotls often float when they die, but they do not always float because they are dead.

It’s an important distinction to remember.

Just because your axolotl is floating does not mean they have necessarily passed.

And while it is often a sign of ill health, It can also be just a natural part of their roaming behaviors and routine, especially when they are young and sprightly.

So, the biggest takeaway here today is that you are going to need to be mindful.

You need to try and take note of your axolotl’s typical behavior and try to identify when, why, and for how long any floating has occurred.

Learning how to optimize their environment, course-correct if things have gone awry, and how to identify signs of death (when the time, unfortunately, does come around) will also be invaluable.

Related Questions

Why Is My Axolotl Floating Up?

Axolotls may float up as a consequence of imbalanced aquarium water (chemical imbalance), as a result of ill health (including impaction or bloat), or they could have died.

What Do You Do With A Dead Axolotl?

The best thing to do with dead axolotl is to wrap them in a towel and place them in a plastic container. From there you should place them in your garbage. While you can bury them in your yard, you will need to be particularly mindful of digging deep to ensure they are not dug up and eaten by opportunistic feeders.