Axolotls are interesting and fascinating in many ways, classified as a salamander but also commonly known as the “walking fish”. It naturally follows that if you are looking to keep and take care of one, you’ll have a range of questions to ensure you do so properly. Diet is one such area. More specifically, how much and how often do they need to it? I spent some time looking into the dietary needs and behaviors of the axolotl and will be sharing all my research here today.
So, how often do you feed an axolotl? Young axolotls should be fed daily, whereas adult axolotls only need to eat 2-3 times a week. It is during the other days that they digest and assimilate their food. The best way to feed them is by using forceps; holding their food and lightly dropping it in the water nearby.
Sometimes axolotls will lose interest in eating during the day, and feeding them at night when they are more active restores their appetite.
The total amount of food an axolotl requires ultimately depends on its maturity, size, and water temperature.
As with any pet that is kept in a tank, you need to do all you can to keep it clean.
One major factor that can have a big impact is uneaten food; so you should remove any uneaten scraps daily.
Let us now take a closer look at all the main questions a new owner is likely to face, including the specific foods that should be fed, whether you can overfeed them, how long they can safely go without food, and the main reasons why owners find their axolotl will not eat and you should be aware of.
So, be sure to keep on reading right until the very end if you want to be able to appropriately care for this cute and smiley salamander!
What Should You Feed An Axolotl?
In their natural environment, axolotls eat what they can get – being opportunistic eaters. They enjoy a carnivorous diet consisting of fish, crustaceans, small amphibians, mollusks, arthropods, spiders, and insects.
Unfortunately, they have also been known to eat each other.
In captivity, they can feed on a variety of foods that include small strips of liver or beef, brine shrimp, blood worms, earthworms, tubifex worms, frozen fish foods, and commercial fish pellets.
Bloodworms in particular are a popular choice with most owners due to the fact they are rich in vitamins and proteins and you can get them cost-effectively and easily from places like Amazon.
For axolotls that do appear to have a waning appetite, brine shrimp are an excellent idea because they are so flavorful. These are the ones to get off Amazon.
You can also offer your axolotl a multivitamin supplement to ensure they obtain all the nutrients in which they need.
For young and baby axolotls, they will only eat live foods until they grow to a size of around 2cms at least.
Some of the best live food options for new hatchlings include micro-worms, baby brine shrimp (BBS) and daphnia.
Along with doing a lot of research, it is a good idea and comes recommended that you speak to a vet about your axolotl’s specific diet, especially the amount of food to offer.
How often you should feed them depends on their size and their age, but generally speaking, most adults require 2-3 feeds a week.
Temperature is also an essential aspect of their feeding; if the water temperature is warm, their digestion will be faster and they will likely be able to eat more often.
In colder temperatures, digestion is slower and you may even notice more food being left or floating around the tank.
In fact, if the temperature drops below 10 °C (50°Fahrenheit ), they will likely regurgitate their food.
Your axolotl must be given a varied diet, but you can offer them high-quality pellets and flakes.
Looking for pellets? Check out my guide here: Best Pellets For Axolotls [What You Need To Feed, Why & How]
While these foods can be a staple, they shouldn’t be your pet’s only food.
Make sure you don’t feed fish or worms you caught yourself because they can carry parasites and other harmful pathogens!
Can You Overfeed An Axolotl?
It is possible to overfeed an Axolotl, and it is an easy mistake to make if you do not take the time to understand their specific individual needs and requirements.
This is why speaking with a vet, or specialist and seeking out an expert comes so strongly recommended.
Overfeeding causes a lot of problems for these salamanders, and it is easy to do considering the fact that as adults they only need feeding 3 days a week at most.
Some owners are unaware of this fact and naturally think they need to feed their axolotl every day.
While this is true for young and juvenile axies, consider that they should eat a lot less per sitting, and their requirements for food will diminish with age. It can soon turn problematic if their diet is not adjusted accordingly.
Overfeeding causes two main problems:
- An axolotl will suffer from digestive issues and complications because they are not physically capable of being able to digest their food. This can cause impaction, and obesity, and in extreme cases, can also be fatal.
- When axolotls are overfed, they begin rejecting their food. Unless removed quickly, all the leftovers will sink to the bottom of their tank, get trapped in the substrate, and will begin to rot. As it does so it will become a breeding ground for bacteria. It will smell and begin to cloud the water. This will cause a lot of stress for your axolotl. It also means you will need to change the water more often.
If you see your axolotl rejecting their food, this usually means that they have had enough.
You must do all you can to prevent overfeeding your pet; while it is easy to do and we do want to treat them, remember they only need a moderate amount of food (2-3x per week).
For each meal, it’s best to only feed them as much as they can consume in 1-3 minutes.
This typically ensures that you are feeding the correct amount, and ensures you do not overburden their digestive capacities.
This is of course an average and will vary from one axolotl to the other. Again, it all depends on their size and their age. Some smaller or younger axolotls may only need 1-2 minutes for example at first.
Adult axolotls can eat an entire worm in three minutes, while younger axolotls will consume much less during this time.
Therefore, if you wish to tailor your pet’s diet, you must discover how much they can eat in a span of 1-3 minutes.
While you do not want to overfeed your axolotl, you do not want them underfed either. You must make sure that they are getting enough to eat.
If you keep several axolotls, you must ensure each one is getting enough food to survive. It’s all too easy to drop some food into the tank, walk away, and forget to observe what axolotl has consumed.
Feeding several axolotls is hard work, but you must monitor their feeding habits.
You will certainly go through much trial-and-error to ensure each individual is adequately fed, but it is something you need to do if you plan on keeping several and you want them all to remain healthy.
How Long Can Axolotls Go Without Food?
A healthy axolotl can typically survive without food for up to 3 weeks. In other cases, they may only survive for 2 weeks, or if you are fortunate, they may even be able to reach 4 weeks.
Either way, you should never attempt to purposefully stop feeding your axolotl, reduce their access to food or test your axolotl’s limits. You must keep feeding them on a recurring and appropriate schedule.
While axolotls may not eat as much as other pets, you still need to consider, monitor and ensure their diet stays balanced.
You must ensure you neither overfeed nor underfeed them; which can be challenging without a routine and a schedule.
Many owners, therefore, keep a diary or a feeding calendar, and it comes strongly advised that you feed your axolotl on the same days each week for consistency and to ensure you do not get confused or forget.
If you need to be away, you will need to arrange with a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor to feed them as and when required.
You’ll also need to provide the specifics, what, when, and how much. Showing the caregiver the exact portion size of the food and other aspects of your pet’s care is advised.
If your axolotl suddenly loses their appetite or refuses food after more than a week of feeding, it is possible that something is wrong.
In this instance, you should look to get veterinary attention.
While amphibians tend to lose their appetite in winter when it’s cold, it should not dramatically affect their eating schedule – although it is something to be aware of.
Cooler temperatures will lower your pet’s metabolism and rate of digestion, meaning they will not have such a desire to eat, but this usually means they will eat less at a time as opposed to at a lower frequency.
Besides, there could be other reasons why they are refusing their food. So nevertheless, it helps to get an expert opinion on the matter.
Why Won’t My Axolotl Eat?
There are numerous reasons why an axolotl will not eat.
The following are the eight most common reasons to be aware of:
If an axolotl is experiencing any health issues, they will likely lose their appetite. You may even notice other signs, such as more lethargy or a lack of desire. They may even be more reserved.
If you suspect your axolotl is not at their usual best, it is advised to seek out veterinary attention at the earliest opportunity.
Axolotls are subtropical, and they have very specific requirements regarding the temperature of the water they need to be in. Between 18°c (64°F) and 22°c (71°F) is ideal.
If the water temperature exceeds 23°c (73.4°F), they can begin to suffer from heat stress which can be fatal.
Equally, if the water drops too low, below 13°c (64°F), your axie will begin to get cold.
Classic signs that they are in too cold water include behavioral changes, sluggishness, and a decreased metabolic rate (which means a lower desire for food). They may even poop more/less often.
Either way reactions to inappropriate temperatures are a normal physical reaction and not an indication of poor health.
If you notice the temperature is of, you should gradually alter them to a more comfortable level/setting. You should soon notice your axolotl returning to normal in a few days.
If you have recently moved house, moved the tank, or the environment has changed for your axolotl, they may refuse their food for the first couple of days – this is completely normal.
Forgoing food is your pet’s way of adjusting to their new environment.
A change in diet, feeding methods, and a new owner can also cause stress to some axolotls.
If this is your pet, you must acknowledge and be patient with them, giving them the time they need to adjust.
Issues With Food
If the food you give your axolotl is too big, too hard, or is not appetizing, they might ignore or even spit up the food.
You should offer food that you know they like and can safely eat; the portions should be bite-sized and not too hard.
If you feed pellets, make sure they soften quickly in the water. Avoid offering bitter-tasting worms like red wigglers; they are generally not a favorite among axolotls.
Impaction is very common in axolotls, and it can prevent them from eating for many days in a row.
They may have swallowed something that is causing a blockage. Axolotls tend to eat aquarium gravel and small rocks, generally anything thing into their mouth.
Otherwise, they may have eaten a piece of food too large, or are struggling to break down their previous meal depending on what it was.
Internal parasites can cause your axolotl to refuse their food and even throw up.
You should contact your vet to look into possible treatments if you suspect this could be the case or if you do notice regurgitation.
You may even need to collect a stool sample to make the parasite identification easier; but usually, a water sample will suffice.
Ammonia can make axolotls unwell, making them lose their appetite.
So, you must always ensure the water filter is cycled adequately. If you keep your pet in a tub, make sure to change the water daily.
The amount and time you should be feeding your axie will depend mostly on their size and their age.
Typically, baby and juvenile axolotls eat more frequently, even daily in the first few months of life.
Adult axolotls require feeding less, typically 2-3x a week.
Either way, you must ensure that your salamander is neither overfed nor underfed. It requires close monitoring, research, and seeking out expert opinion where you can.
Diet variety is also vital to their health. While the commercial feed is perfectly acceptable, this should not be all that they eat and you must ensure you seek out the highest quality options.
Be mindful of this species’ native environment and do your best to ensure that the temperature is as comfortable for them as you can.
Analyzing this closely is advised, especially in the beginning as temps either too cold or too hot will be equally problematic.
At the end of the day, Axolotls are ideal for those with little experience in keeping exotic pets.
With that said, you must ensure that you can appropriately meet the needs and requirements of this fascinating species; and commit the time and resources required for their care.
The number of pellets you should feed per day should depend on the size and age of your axolotl, the type and size of the pellet, and the temperature of the water in the tank. Generally though, the smaller and younger the axolotl, the more often they should be fed pellets, but the less they should be fed in total.
Like most foods, you should look to feed your axolotl worms for 2-3 minutes. During this time, they will eat what they want and all that they need without the risk of overfeeding.
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.