Axolotl Illness & Disease

Axolotls are rather resilient creatures, but poor living conditions can contribute to disease and other illness. While axolotls are able to regenerate their limbs (making them incredibly fascinating scientific subjects!)

Their are many diseases that can still adversely affect them and it is important to know how to properly care for your axolotl should they fall ill. Because axolotls are not fish but still live their entire lives in the water, they are prone to many diseases common in both caudates and other water-dwelling creatures. Below is a list of the most common causes and considerations of axolotl illness, disease and other health issues. Feel free to contact us for advice in regards to your axolotls health (note that we may take several days to respond), but please understand that while Axolotl Online aims to provide a guide to the most common issues that face axolotl owners, we CANNOT guarantee any advice given is correct. Please remember that the advice or directions given by us is no substitute for advice given by a professional veterinarian. If you are in an emergency situation and concerned about what steps you should take to treat your axolotl, you should take your axolotl to a vet immediately.

Temperature

Temperature is of huge concern for axolotl owners. Axolotls will not deal with temperatures higher than 23º celsius (73º fahrenheit) and will deteriorate quickly at temperatures higher than this. Axolotls are used to the cool waters of their native Lake Xochimilco in Mexico and will survive & thrive in temperatures as low as 5ºC (41ºF). For many axolotl keepers living in hotter parts of the world (like here in Australia) this becomes a huge problem in summertime when aquarium temperatures rise. Axolotl owners who have air-conditioning in their homes are in luck here because having the a/c running at a temperature of 19-20ºC might just save your axolotls!

Tank Cooling: There are a few ways to cool down your tank, but most of these methods are not foolproof.

  • Fans – fans can be used gently blowing across the waters surface to bring the temperature down. Aquarium fans are generally rather inexpensive and will properly sit on the glass rim of your tank. They are mostly useful if you only need to bring your tank temperature down by a few degrees, any higher and the fan won’t be enough. This method works best on smaller tanks.
  • Ice bottles – a common homemade method of tank cooling is to use frozen bottles of water to bring your tank temperature down. This method can be dangerous because it can cause tank temperatures to quickly crash down and then rise again if the bottles are not rotated regularly. It is important to understand that for smaller tanks, use smaller bottles and rotate them more frequently. Larger tanks can use larger (1.25L or 2L) bottles but must be aware that if the tank is too large it can quickly become a headache, as a 2L bottle may melt quickly and only slightly lower temperatures. Seal your bottles so water cannot leak out, or make sure the frozen ice water is dechlorinated before freezing it.
  • Tank chillers – chillers are expensive and require more power to run (generally more power than a canister filter). They are however the only real way to make sure your tank will not heat up too much for your feathery-gilled friends. Personally, I would only recommend the cost of purchasing and running an aquarium chiller for those with large setups who have already probably blown their tank budgets! But if you can get a tank chiller for cheap somewhere it is certainly worth it and will save you the stress and hassle of keeping your axolotl out of harms way during the warmer months. My personal experience with chillers has been fantastic; just remember to buy a chiller rated somewhat higher than your actual tank capacity. Most (cheaper) chillers are designed to only drop the temperature down a couple of degrees of the tanks they are rated for (ie. a 250L chiller will drop the temp by 2-3ºC on a 250L tank). In warmer months tanks can get up to 5º, 6º, 7º higher so you will want your chiller to be able to drop the temperature down enough. We recommend JBJ Artica Aquarium Chillers for their durability and affordability.

If you are unable to use the methods stated above to control your tank temperatures, you might want to consider fridging your axolotl over the warmer months. This will require a bit more effort on your part (15 minutes/day for water changes) but can be an effective and inexpensive way to keep your axolotl healthy, happy and safe during the summer months.

Water Flow

Water flow can negatively affect axolotls and is a common cause of stress. Many axolotl owners do not take this into consideration during their initial tank setup and find their axolotls not eating or especially unresponsive. Axolotls need slow moving water and filters that cause the water to move around rapidly will cause your axolotl distress. Two common signs of stressed axolotls are their gills being turned forwards (facing towards their face) and the tips of their tails being curled around. The ideal water flow in an axolotl tank is ‘none’, but this will be almost impossible for most filters (and water should move around the tank for ideal filtration anyway). The easiest thing to do to lessen water flow is to block the filter output with an object, or use a spray bar to evening distribute the water. Axolotls spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank so aiming the flow towards the top of the water can also help. Hang-on-back filters: If you have a hang-on-back (HOB) filter, you can use part of a plastic bottle, cut in half and then taped over your filter output.

 

Fridging

Please visit our fridging guide on advice how to fridge your axolotl. Fridging can help with an axolotls healing and regenerative process.

6 comments:

RowinJanuary 14, 2014 at 04:09Reply

Hi,

for several years I have 2 dark-colored axolotls. Last year I noticed one of them losing pigment, eg. white areas appearing. This worsened for some time, at which point I sought advice on a remedy. I learned about fridging and decided to try it. The axolotl has been in my fridge for almost a year and made a remarkable recovery. At that point I decided to place it back in the main tank with the other one. Now, a few months later, the pigmentation loss had become evident again.

The other axolotl has not had any problem with this pigmentation loss at all.

Do you have any advice for me how to cope with this issue?

Thanks in advance,

Rowin

DanJanuary 28, 2014 at 20:55Reply

Hi Rowin,
Thanks for your comment. Is it possible the ‘losing pigment’ you speak of is a fungus growing on the skin of your axolotl? Where does it start to lose pigment, its toes or gills?
I had a melanoid axolotl that had lighter areas appear on its skin as time went on. He always seemed happy however and it never appeared to be a health concern. I will have to look into this for you further to determine a cause, but ruling out any kind of fungal infection would be a good first step.

Regards,
Dan

JevanJune 1, 2014 at 00:28Reply

First off – fantastic website!

My tank set up and inmates:

I have two axolotls (one golden and one wild type – both males) that I have owned for four years now. They live in a 250L tank with two (now giant) female fantailed goldfish – yes this is said to be a big no no. However the four of them have lived happily together since I got them when they were all very small. I have no issues with gill biting or the axolotls trying to bite/eat the fish etc. The tank is cooled via a fan that runs 24/7-365 and maintains a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius – max 21 in the summer. The tank is filtered with a high quality in tank physical/biological filter. The tank also has an air pump with air stone. The water flow is not an issue as the filter is positioned correctly. I also have many good hiding places such as a giant castle and a large piece of hollow driftwood and no direct sunlight hitting the tank. The substrate in the tank are large (4-5cm) pebbles.

Cleaning:

The tank is cleaned every 10 days via cleaning the physical (sponge) section of the filter and changing 20% of the water. I also clean the substrate with a gravel filter every 3 months.

I used to check water parameters for the first few years, but I found that my maintenance regime maintains perfect water quality so I no longer check.

Feeding:

Ox heart, pellets, live crickets (farmed), and live tiger worms (also farmed). Feed twice weekly or less – depending on stomach width.

My question:

One of my Axolotls (the golden one) has developed what look like discoloured (orange) indents (2 of them) on his face. He is showing no signs of distress. However the indents keep getting larger and one is right next to his eye. I have tried salting the water with aquarium salt to levels that both the goldfish and axolotls will tolerate. However this has not appeared to help.

Do you have any suggestions of what this might be and what might help?

Cheers!

Jevan

DanJune 29, 2014 at 08:32Reply

Hi Jevan,
Thanks for your comment, many apologies for not getting back to your sooner. Sounds like your setup is perfect – except for the bad tankmates, but it seems like they’re living happily so sometimes it’s not always a disaster! Often the problems with goldfish and axolotls (if they don’t get eaten) come from the fish harbouring internal diseases/parasites from living in pet shop tanks with hundreds of others. But if you’ve had them for four years, this appears unlikely.

Though what you describe sounds very unusual and definitely not normal. Is the affected axolotl still eating normally? I had a couple of axolotls that were affected by some unidentified illness that caused them to literally just about shrivel up. They lost all manner of body fat and tissue and looked like skeletons with skin.
It was an awfully sad thing to watch happen – I hope that this is not the beginnings of a similar illness here. If you can send me photos to admin[at]axolotlonline.com I might be able to get a better understanding. Otherwise if you haven’t already, I’d advise you to post a topic on the Sick Axolotl forum on Caudata.org. There are veterinarians that frequent the board there that might have more insight.

Hope you find a way to help your axie.
Regards,
Dan

KatAugust 14, 2014 at 01:36Reply

Help needed!
I have 2 young axolotls, one wild type and one golden albino, both the same age!n Worried about my golden axolotl, she doesnt seem to have grown at all, still only 3 inches long, doesnt seem very interested in food and is now sitting in an S shape (but no major curl at the end of her tail) I have fished her out of the tank and put her in a separate container for closer monitoring, she seems to have healthy skin, legs and gills but a small hole right in the centre top of her head. Not sure what to o next, don’t want to lose my golden baby!
I have owned axolotls for years and never come across this problem, my tank conditions are steady and within the required temperatures… I am literally at a loss with this golden baby!

Any advice is much appreciated,

thanks

Kat

DanSeptember 2, 2014 at 10:05Reply

Hi Kat, thanks for your comment & many apologies for not getting back to you sooner.
This situation doesn’t sound very good unfortunately. I’m not sure what would have caused this hole in her head but it sounds potentially serious. My advice here would be to take her to a vet, preferably an amphibian specialist. As you left this comment a while ago you might have already taken action.

Best wishes,
Dan

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