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Do Axolotls Sleep? [It’s Not As Clear-Cut As You Might Think]

Axolotls are unique in so many different ways. To the point where it only leads us to question what traits, tendencies, and behaviors we share with them. Sleep is one such example. Do these smiley salamanders rest in this way? Let’s find out?

So, do axolotls sleep? Axolotls do sleep and being crepuscular, will typically do so during the darkest hours of the night, and again during the day. Without possessing any eyelids, axolotls sleep with their eyes open. Retreating to hiding spots, remaining still, a lower frequency of gill movement, and being generally paler in color are the main ways to tell if an axolotl is sleeping.

I said they were unique in many ways.

If you didn’t know or think this already!

If you own a pet axolotl, you may even have noticed that they lay more dormant during the day.

It may even have made you a little anxious or concerned.

The good news is that there is no need to worry; it’s entirely normal, and it’s all down to their crepuscular (which we will explore shortly).

For an amphibian that is native to specific lakes in Mexico city, it comes as no surprise that they have their own way of doing things!

Let us now take a closer look at how your average axolotl does get their shut-eye. Well, not literally. But you know what I mean!

When Do Axolotls Sleep?

Axolotls sleep at two different times; during the darkest periods of the night, and for periods during the day (usually around mid-day).

At other times, they are active and will likely be roaming about the tank.

This includes dawn and dusk. In fact, this is when they tend to move quite a bit.

The scientific term for this is crepuscular.

Interestingly enough, this biological pattern is shared not only by axolotls but in other mammals, birds, insects, fish, and reptiles too.

The word crepuscular is actually derived from the word twilight (a term used to refer to the time shortly before sunrise and after sunset).

But why do axolotls live in this way?

Well, some scientists believe that it is a natural defense mechanism. They have evolved as a means of keeping themselves safe, and undetected from predators.

And this stands to reason.

In the wild, an axolotl’s main threats come from the likes of storks, herons, and large fish. Most of which are active and seeking food during the day.

So it makes sense for them to sleep during the night when they can go undetected and remain more vigilant in lighter periods.

And for a pet axolotl. Well, they retain their instinctual behaviors after all.

So, if you do own a pet axolotl and decide to stop by their tank in the period after the sun goes down, or shortly dawn, you will no longer be surprised to find them awake!

How Do Axolotls Sleep?

Axolotls tend to retreat to a familiar, quiet, and safe area to sleep. They’ll typically remain somewhat still during this time.

In fact, it is actually very challenging to tell when an axolotl is sleeping.

It takes a keen eye to notice lower gill activity, which is also one way in which axolotls in a sleeping state as they require less oxygen.

So, perhaps the main way to tell that an axolotl is sleeping is to consider:

  • Where they are,
  • How active they are,
  • Consider the time and day.

The truth is, it’s not always so easy to tell.

And it gets more complicated still as sleeping can be confused with sickness, or even death, in these salamanders.

There is no shortage of owners who have reported their concerns.

And the common recommendation is to give a gentle poke or even offer food in front to see whether the axolotl springs back to life, or shows any signs of movement.

This is why it is so essential if you own an Axolotl to be aware of the signs of sickness:

  • Disinterest in food
  • Gill deterioration,
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin),
  • Skin lesions,
  • General lethargy,
  • Poor balance

You can clearly see why sleeping and sickness get confused!

Nevertheless it’s important to monitor an axolotl and look for any of these changes; especially if they occur outside of the twilight hours or extend beyond several hours.

At the same time, as an owner it’s critical to keep a mindful eye on the environment.

Are there any causes or sources of stress?

Are conditions appropriate and conducive to health?

Is the water clean? What about light, temperature, and water current?

And just consider the fact that any sudden changes will cause a response in an axolotl.

For instance, axolotls should be kept between 60-64° Fahrenheit (16-18° Celsius) to thrive.

Warmer than this and an axolotl is likely to eat, defecate and move more.

Colder than this and an axies metabolism is likely to slow as they conserve energy to keep them warm. Eating, defecation, and movement declines.

Either way, unfavorable conditions result in stress, and sickness in time.

These are just some things to consider.

It’s essential to differentiate sleep from sickness (and vice versa!)

How Long Do Axolotls Sleep For?

Axolotls generally sleep for several hours at a time. Although, the amount of time an axolotl will sleep will depend on their age, weight, size, and status of health.

We’ve already discussed the complications of identifying sleep – so this is something that is a challenge for owners to effectively calculate.

That being said, it is safe to assume that if an axolotl is idle during the darkness of the night, they are more than likely to be sleeping.

And if twilight is known to last for 20-30 minutes, this means that an axolotl should sleep for up to 8-11 per night.

Of course, the only definitive way to tell would be to closely observe them over a period of time.

Tracking and analyzing their movement patterns, and generally getting a feel for how they behave across the full length of the day.

You would certainly have your work cut out!

How To Ensure An Axolotl Gets The Sleep They Need

Regardless of how much time an axolotl will sleep, what is important as an owner is to ensure their environment allows them to get as much rest as they need. It should be optimized and conducive so that they can sleep as and when needed.

We have to remember that axolotls have very specific needs and requirements. And anytime these are not being met; they will be stressed.

And a stressed axolotl is not going to be so willing to sleep. Besides, sleeping does not only require energy but it’s a time of great vulnerability.

So, here are some tips to ensure that your axolotl feels safe and secure enough to sleep:

  • Keep your axolotls tank in a safe, quiet area of the room,
  • Provide sufficient hiding spaces, and even certain plants (such as Anubias and Java fern)
  • Ensure the water temperature is optimal (between 60-64° Fahrenheit/ 16-18° Celsius)
  • Provide a high quality, nutritious diet,
  • Refrain from touching, poking, or interfering with your axolotl too regularly,
  • Keep an axolotl alone, and not kept with another or with fish.

You need to be particularly mindful of any lighting. Both natural and artificial lighting should be adequate but not excessive. Nor should it be too bright.

This is primarily why hiding areas are so important for axolotls; they can retreat into darker spots should they need to rest.


Axolotls do sleep; even if it’s not very obvious that they do!

And while they may sleep with their eyes open – they generally become dormant and concealed when they want to rest.

Just be sure to monitor your axolotl and keep a note of their resting and activity patterns. Try to get an understanding of when they are likely to sleep, and ensure that you provide an environment that allows them to safely do so.

If you do notice that they do not quickly return to their former self, then you may need to investigate further.

It could be a sign of sickness, or it could mean something in the environment has become a source of stress.

Sickness and sleep are similar in many ways in these salamanders.

Just be mindful, and respond accordingly.

Related Questions

Do Axolotls Float When They Sleep?

Some axolotls have been known to float when they sleep, but not all do and it is generally less common for them to do so. At the same time, an axolotl that is floating can indicate that they are sick – usually being a sign that they are suffering from constipation or impaction. This is especially likely if they are floating upside down or on their side.

Want to learn more about Axolotls? Then my following guides may be of interest: