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What Do Axolotls Eat?

Last Updated - June 5, 2022

Axolotls, also known as Mexican walking fish, are species of amphibious creatures closely related to the salamander and native to New Mexico. They are a critically endangered species in the wild due to human development, wastewater disposal, loss of habitat due to droughts, and despite their increasing popularity as pets in recent years. 

If you are thinking of getting a pet axolotl, you most likely already did some research on the creature. Besides providing axolotls with an aquarium that mimics their natural habitat, it's essential to understand axolotls' natural diet and feeding behavior to keep them healthy and happy. What do axolotls eat in the wild? What are their feeding habits? What is the proper way to feed them?

A Few Facts About Axolotls 

Axolotls are natives of freshwater rivers and lakes in the middle of Mexico City. Axolotls are closely related to salamanders, but what makes axolotls so interesting and unique from salamanders, and indeed most amphibians in general, is that they never fully complete their metamorphosis.

Most amphibians begin as water creatures with gills and fins to swim and then gradually change to land creatures with air-breathing lungs and legs. Axolotls are different and special because they never fully lose their juvenile water-breathing features. 

The technical term for this is neoteny, and it means they retain their webbed feet and gills even after they have lungs and legs. This means they can continue to live in water even as adults, as well as being able to thrive on land. 

Another cool fact about axolotls is their ability to regenerate their limbs and organs when needed. They can regenerate their legs, heart, lungs, and even parts of their brains while still fully functioning. 

What Do Axolotls Eat In The Wild

If you consider getting an axolotl as a pet, learning about the axolotls' diet is essential to ensure that your pet axolotl flourishes. You will first want to understand this amphibian's natural diet in the wild so that you can assimilate to it as close as possible in captivity. 

Axolotls are carnivorous amphibians and are not picky eaters in the wild. Wild axolotls will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. This includes small fish, tadpoles, insect larvae (such as mosquitoes), worms, small crustaceans, snails, and even small animals like frog tadpoles. Axolotls have also been known to be cannibalistic, sometimes even eating the limbs of their own siblings. 

So what about in captivity pet axolotls? What can you feed your axolotl to help it flourish and grow? What is the best food for axolotls?

What do Anolotis Eat in Captivity 

Axolotl owners should strive to provide variety in axolotl's diet since that is the best way for your pet to get all the necessary nutrients to thrive. Also, provide natural habitat that allows them to be the top predators they once were.

Bloodworms

Bloodworms aren't true worms but rather bright red aquatic larvae of midge flies. They contain hemoglobin, a protein that gives them their red coloration and allows them to live in poorly oxygenated water.

Bloodworms are a great staple food for both babies and juvenile axolotl. They are also a great choice for owners as you can purchase them frozen, making them convenient and nutritional. Live blood worms are the most nutritional option, but they risk carrying parasites and diseases.

Worms

Worms like earthworms, Californian blackworms, nightcrawlers, and red wigglers are a staple food that is packed full of nutrients axolotl needs. When purchasing the worm, it's essential to purchase them from an organically sourced garden and chemical-free soil.

You can worm to axolotls of all ages. You will need to cut them into small pieces for the younger axolotls.

Brine Shrimp

Brine shrimp is an aquatic crustacean popular among axolotl parents and axolotl breeders. Live baby brine shrimp is great for baby and juvenile axolotls but not adults, and adult axolotls won't be able to notice the baby brine shrimp. For adult axolotls, feed full-grown brine shrimp.

Daphnia and shrimp can often transmit disease and carry parasites to axolotls, so you should look for organic crustaceans or freeze-dried options to ensure that you do not harm your axolotl. 

You can purchase brine shrimps as frozen, freeze-dried, or live. However, brine shrimp can be very messy to feed regardless of type. The best way to contain less mess is to pipette the brine shrimp into a bowl or another container.

Pellets

There are convenient pellets that axolotl owners can provide, and it provides all the nutrients your axolotl need.

The best pellets should be soft and sink as axolotl are bottom dwellers. It should also be the right size, small or extra small for juveniles and large or extra-large size for adults.

Shrimp and salmon pellets are also a great option as they have great nutrient value and can be found more easily- making them a popular choice among axolotl owners.

Other foods

Strive to provide variety in your axolotl's diet since that is the best way for your pet to get all the necessary nutrients to thrive. Along with worms, bloodworms, and brine shrimp, axolotls can also occasionally benefit from small bits of lean beef, beef liver, or chicken. 

What Do Baby Axolotls Eat?

When it comes to feeding baby axolotls, microworms, baby brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, live daphnia, mosquito larvae, and some underwater bugs are suitable.

What Does Juvenile Axolotl Eat?

For juvenile axolotls, a diet high in bloodworms, live brine shrimp, and other live worms ensures the fastest and healthiest growth, transitioning into more variety once fully grown. If you can't find any live foods or fresh options, go with frozen. Frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, and other frozen food will need to be defrosted before feeding your axolotl.

What Do Adult Axolotls Eat?

Adult axolotls can eat a range of food: bloodworms, California blackworms, earthworms, snails, insects, prawns, raw meat, and small freshwater fish like Guppies, feeder fish, tropical fish, and white cloud minnows. You can also feed axolotls pieces of boneless fish meat.

If you are going to feed live fish, make sure to slowly feed them to your axolotl and make sure they are small enough.

Feeding Tips

  • The best axolotl diet should consist of various varieties, but try to give them an earthworm or bloodworm at least once a week.
  • When feeding live food, be careful about where you get them as they can carry diseases and parasites that can cause infection.
  • Avoid the freeze-dry option as it doesn't have as much nutritional value, but it won't carry any parasites or diseases.
  • Brine shrimps make a great staple food for axolotl no matter what age they are.

When to Feed Your Axolotl 

Axolotls are nocturnal animals, and they hunt at night. So the best time to feed your pet axolotl is nighttime to avoid any unusual behavior.

The schedule you feed your axolotl on will change depending on your pet's age. A baby axolotl and young juvenile axolotls should be fed every day as they are still in a growing stage. You can cut back to once every few days once they are adults. You may be surprised to find that adult axolotls don't require frequent feedings.

You will want to be careful not to overfeed your adult axolotl. These amphibians are more in danger when they are overfed than underfed and can become blocked up and constipated or suffer from diarrhea if they overeat. A good meal every two to three days should be sufficient for any full-grown axolotl to thrive. 

How Axolotls Eat

Another consideration when it comes to the diet and feeding of a pet axolotl is how it eats. Axolotls have "functionless" teeth, so they suck up their food from the water straight into their stomachs without chewing. So you can't actually see your axolotl chewing its food with their rudimentary teeth.

Axolotl often ingests small bits of gravel, but this is not a concern as they actually need the gravel to help them digest their food. So this should be taken into account when it comes time to create your axolotl's habitat, and you will want to use fine sediment as the base for your habitat rather than large-sized rocks or gravel to ensure your pet doesn't choke while it is feeding. 

Axolotls feed at night in the wild so that they can hide during the day from predators, so you should strive to work with this behavior. Feed your axolotl with small-sized bits of food so that it doesn't choke. Baby axolotls do not have as developed a sense of smell as adults, so you may want to give them a little extra help finding their food. Sometimes it is helpful to use live food with babies as they are more easily spotted and eat their food. 

Once your axolotl is done eating, you should remove any leftover food as rotting food will change the chemical makeup of the water and could endanger your axolotl's health. You can use a turkey baster to suck out the uneaten food to dispose of easily. 

FAQs

Can Axolotls Eat Cat Food?

Avoid feeding your axolotl food as they typically contain plant-based ingredients and preservatives that aren't healthy for an axolotl.

Can Axolotls Eat Pellets?

Along with their natural diet, you can feed salmon pellets and sinking pellets.

How To Train Your Axolotl To Eat Pellets?

If you plan to feed your axolotl sinking carnivore pellet, note that axolotl may not know what it is at the beginning and will not eat it when it falls to the bottom of the tank.

To get your axolotl to eat the sinking pallet, you must shake in front of them with Aquarium tweezers until your axolotl eats it. Slowly, your axolotl will get to use the pellets, and you can feed it without an Aquarium tweezer.

In Closing

Axolotls are fascinating and fun creatures to have and raise as pets. They come in various colors and styles and are a fascinating study. You can raise them from egg to adult and watch them change in their partial metamorphosis, which can be a very satisfying and beautiful process. An axolotl can flourish and thrive in captivity with the proper care and will make a wonderful pet. 

lara grisko the pet staff

About the Author

Lara Girsko

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.

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