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Do Axolotls Move A Lot? [How Much Space Do They Need?]

If you are contemplating getting an axolotl, or if you have brought one home, you’re going to want to know how much they move. Or at least how much they should move. Are they big movers needing large tanks or silent resters who stay hidden away from view? In this article, we are going to be exploring and uncovering all you need to know about the movement patterns of these aquatic salamanders. 

So, do axolotls move a lot? Axolotls are not considered to be overly active, high-movement amphibians. They like to spend their days resting in a safe, comfortable spot while occasionally moving to the surface to breathe and skim for food or across their tank for some exploration. Young axolotls are known to move more often than older axolotls, and they move more often in the evening and night time than during the day.

Chances are, you still have some questions and this doesn’t quite give you all the information you need.

Don’t worry.

I’ve got you covered.

Keep reading and you’ll find all of the information you are seeking.

How Do Axolotls Move?

Given their aquatic environment, Axolotls move by both swimming with their legs and moving in a scuttle walk along the ground surfaces of their home tanks or natural lakes. Axolotls are also known for a dance-like movement seen only when trying to find the perfect partner for mating.

Because they are amphibians, Axolotls have gills for underwater breathing and develop lungs for breathing at the water’s surface. 

Their webbed feet make them fairly good swimmers, and they will swim to the surface for a breath and to seek food from time to time. 

Axolotls are better swimmers than they are walkers. 

They can walk along the bottom of their tanks and even climb on various surfaces but aren’t the most coordinated of movers. 

An Axolotls body mass and tail size in comparison to their legs make them awkward movers. 

Even though Axolotls have lungs and legs, they do not move well on dry land and cannot survive long out of the water. 

They truly are designed for moving and living underwater.

How Much Should Axolotls Move?

Axolotls spend part of their days and nights moving around their tanks but aren’t considered overly active pets. In the wild, Axolotls are not active hunters and move when necessary to find more oxygenated water or get away from predators. 

If you observe your Axolotl closely, you may notice that your Axolotl swims to the water’s surface several times, burrows in any rocks or sand at the bottom of their tank, or swims back and forth across their tank from time to time.

Axolotls usually move more often when they are young and slow down their movement as they mature and age.

A young axolotl may be seen swimming back and forth across their tank from time to time, while an older axolotl chooses to sleep the day away in a comfy location. 

Both of these behaviors are normal for the animal’s age.

Axolotls are not aggressive hunters. 

They generally choose to take the approach of waiting quietly for food to be nearby and then use a rapid sucking motion to bring in their food. 

This means you won’t typically see an axolotl stalking around their aquarium looking for a meal or treats.

What you will see is the Axolotl swim up to the surface on occasion for a breath of air or to skim for food sources at the water’s top.

You shouldn’t be concerned if your Axolotl spends a lot of its day hiding behind plants in its aquarium or burrowed in your tank’s bottom covering. 

While Axolotls are considered to be quite cute by many, they are not known for being actively playful.

When Are Axolotls Likely To Move?

Axolotls are naturally nocturnal and most likely to move during the evening and overnight hours. Axolotls also tend to move more during mating season as they try to pair with their partner and produce offspring.

Axolotls like to burrow down in silt or plants to rest during the day and move more actively during the overnight hours.

It is hard to tell if an Axolotl is sleeping because they do not have eyelids to close as people do! 

Don’t be surprised if your Axolotl finds a comfy spot during the day and doesn’t move much until later in the afternoon and evening.

Being nocturnal doesn’t mean that axolotls never move during the day. 

They will wake from time to time and may move to the surface of their aquarium or to a new spot across their tank. 

Young axolotls that tend to be more active may even wake to swim across their tank from time to time.

Outside of their sleep and wake cycles, axolotls move a lot during mating season as a way of attracting a mate and reproducing. 

Male axolotls who are around females will wave their tails and twist their bodies as part of a mating performance. 

Then the male and female will move together as well in a movement that is a mix of close proximity swimming and pushing each other through the water.

Why Might An Axolotl Move A Lot?

Axolotls do not usually spend excessive amounts of time moving. If your Axolotl suddenly begins to move more than normal, it may actually be a sign that something in their tank environment is not quite what it should be and is causing your axolotl stress. Things that may need adjusting in your tank include water temperature, the amount of light in your tank, and the amount of water movement happening in the tank.

If your Axolotl seems to be spending a lot of time swimming in a fast, rapid-leg-moving motion, it may be experiencing stress. 

An axolotl needs a specific aquatic environment to stay healthy and happy. 

Insufficient Water Temperature

To limit your Axolotl’s stress, make sure your water temperature stays between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

A tank that is too warm may make your Axolotl display their discomfort through movement, while a too cold tank could limit them from moving much at all.

Improper Water Chemical Balance 

The chemicals in an axolotl’s water – especially nitrate waste levels- can influence the behavior of the Axolotl. 

Like all amphibians, Axolotl’s are sensitive to anything that is touching or may be absorbed by their skin. 

When chemicals in the Axolotl’s water are incorrect, it can cause the axolotl physical pain, to which they respond by swimming to seek a new, less harmful environment. 

This is why it is generally recommended that you get a filter for your Axolotl.

Too Much Water Movement

Axolotls like calm, fairly still waters.

If you have a bubbler or high-power filter in your tank that creates a lot of water current or turbulence, you may find that your Axolotl struggles to find a good spot to rest and relax.

Instead, they may frequently move from place to place in their tank to try and find a place out of the way of moving water.

The best filters clean the water sufficiently while causing minimal water movement.

Too Much Light

Axolotls actually thrive with minimal light.

The only light these amphibians really need is natural sunlight light, that indirectly enters the tank during the day.

Installing bright lighting can actually result in a stressed axolotl; which can result in an increase in movement in an attempt to find shelter.

Read more: Do Axolotls Like Light? [How Much Do They Actually Need?]

A Result Of Age

Remember, axolotls don’t only move because of stress. Young axolotls move a lot in comparison to older ones, and axolotls who are trying to mate will move a lot as well. 

The most important thing is to observe your Axolotl on a day-to-day basis and know what amount of movement is normal for it as an individual.

How Much Space Do Axolotls Need To Move Sufficiently?

To move sufficiently, an axolotl is best kept in a tank that has at least 10 gallons of water and is long rather than tall. Axolotls are medium-sized amphibians and need room to easily turn and maneuver in their environment. Still, most axolotls prefer to have spots in their aquarium where they can feel hidden from view of predators instead of out in the open.

For the purpose of movement alone, it is best to look at tank dimensions over tank gallon size. 

A smart idea is to plan on providing twelve inches of tank length per Axolotl living in the tank. 

If you have one Axolotl, a 12-inch length will serve the Axolotl well.

For each additional Axolotl, it is wise to consider adding 12 more inches of space. 

Axolotls can be kept in tanks smaller than this recommended size, but sometimes there is a difference between surviving and happily thriving. 

Also, the more water your tank holds, the easier it is to keep wastes and other chemicals from building up in the tank.

Need a tank? My guide is for you: Best Tank For Axolotl [Top Picks And Buyers Guide]


As you can see, axolotls aren’t considered the world’s most active, but they do move and provide entertainment for their owners on their own terms. 

If you watch your Axolotl closely, you would see it swimming but up and down and side-to-side in its tank from time to time. 

You may see it walk across the tank’s bottom or burrow down in the tank’s ground rocks for a perfect resting place. 

A medium amount of space and appropriately managed water can keep these creatures fit and happy.

Other Axolotl articles and guides you may be interested in: