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We Believe in Axolotls

Feeding Axolotls

Axolotls are carnivores, so meat is essential for their diet. Axolotls swallow their food whole since they do not have teeth for grinding or biting. They use groove-like teeth to help grip their food. For this reason, the axolotl's food should fit in their mouth. When an axolotl goes to eat something, they open their mouth and inhale anything that is close. That is why it is important to use a bare bottom tank, rocks larger than the Axolotl's mouth, or sand that can pass through the Axolotl's stomach. Regular gravel can block the stomach & even cause death.  Axolotls will eat non-live food when a little over an inch in length, but the movement of live food entices them to snap.


Adult axolotls are best fed every other day or daily depending on your Axolotl's preferences & needs. When very young they should be fed frequently (once or twice daily).  Feed just as much as the Axolotl can comfortably eat within 5-10 minutes. Try to aim for their stomach to be as wide as their head.  If keeping more than one adult Axolotl in a tank, it is recommended to keep the Axolotls well fed so hungry Axolotls won’t  nip on tank mate. Any uneaten food should be cleaned from the tank daily to keep water optimum.  To minimize mess to clean up, a small terra cotta tray (water catcher for flower pot) can be placed in tank as a feeding dish as well as a turkey baster can be used to precisely land food on dish.  A variety of foods is best for optimal nutrition & to get a balanced diet. If your axolotl develops a nutritional problem, change its diet immediately and try to feed it a variety of foods. Nutritional deficiencies often lead to increased likelihood of the Axolotl acceptability to bacterial or fungal disease.


Great Foods for Axolotls


Earthworms & Night Crawlers

Nutritional value: Excellent

Earthworms and night crawlers are thought to be the same, but in fact they are the two different worms. Earthworms, also called red wigglers, are reddish brown in color and will grow about 4 inches long. They can be found during the day in the soil. Night crawlers are grayer and much larger than earthworms and can grow up to 14 inches long. Night crawler can be found at night when the dew is on the grass or on sidewalks after it rains. They can burrow during the day as deep as 6.5 feet.
Earthworms and night crawler both are a very nutritious source of food. For juvenile axolotls, earthworms & night crawlers can be cut up into smaller pieces to fit in the Axolotl’s mouth. Earthworms are widely available at bate shops and pet stores. Earthworms from your garden may be used but be careful, wild caught worms can also carry parasites and you want to make sure they have not been exposed to chemical fertilizers or pesticides. It is also best to soak the worms before feeding in nonchlorinated water. Worms give off a foul tasting slime when stressed as a defense mechanism. If you're cutting worms to fit in the Axolotl's mouth, rinse after cutting.

You can also grow your own worms which is good to obtain a steady source of earthworms for Axolotls, as well as to produce fertile compost for gardening. You will need a container that allows drainage and ventilation. Place soil in container with a bedding material on top. You want the bedding material to be light weight and retain moisture like coconut fiber, peat moss, shredded paper, or leaves. Add worms such as earth worms which have a fast reproduction rate. You will also need fruit and vegetable scraps like banana peels & melons avoiding any citrus which is too acidic to feed worms. Place food under bedding which will reduce the invasion of pests. You will also want to add egg shells to prevent acid conditions and it will also provide calcium for worms. Make sure not to add too much food which can foul the bedding and sicken or kill the worms. Also, make sure to keep worms at temperature of 32-85°F. Other bugs may live in habitat with the worms, but these are very unlikely to harm the worms or your Axolotl.


Blackworms


Nutritional value: Excellent


Blackworms live in shallow-water like swamps, ponds, or marshes and feed on microorganisms. Blackworms can be found at some pet shops and are an excellent food source for juvenile axolotls (small size fit easily into mouth). When keeping live black worms, worms should not be in too deep of a container of water. The water should just barely cover them and they must be rinsed with dechlorinated water every day to keep water from smelling foul. You will want to keep them in the refrigerator to keep from aging faster. Also remember to pick out any dead worms which will turn white when they die. Ask your pet store when their blackworms are delivered to make sure to get the healthiest, freshest batch as sometimes pet stores do not rinse them daily. When you get a new batch of blackworms, rinse them several times.


Bloodworms


Nutritional value: Excellent

Bloodworms are the aquatic larvae of midge flies and not actually worms. They get their name from their bright red color and they live in the sediments of ponds where they feed on detritus. Frozen blood worms are found at most pet stores and are an excellent source of nutrition. Bloodworms can be fed to adult axolotls as well as juvenile Axolotls (small enough to fit in mouth)  and are readily accepted by Axolotls as a food source. You can purchase frozen bloodworms in cubes or bricks. If using cubes, place the frozen cube in a cup with a small amount of dechlorinated water from the Axolotls tank. Wait for the cube to thaw and pour food in tank. The frozen bloodworm bricks usually have more bloodworms available but you will have to break up the brick in pieces since it is often too much for a few Axolotls. The brick can be useful if feeding a large amount of juvenile Axolotls as more of brick can be thawed as needed.


Brine Shrimp


Nutritional value: Excellent
Brine shrimp live in very salty water in which the salt content may be 25% and the water has a high amount of algae for food. They have no predators and at times they become so numerous that they form large brownish red streaks on the water, even though when brine shrimp first hatch they are small enough for 50 to fit on 1 pin needle. They start off in a hard shell called a cyst that contains an embryo. The cyst will remain in a dormant state until the right temperature and salt levels occur. The cysts are very hardy and may remain good for many years if kept dry. Once the cysts are rehydrated, they will hatch and feed on algae.

Frozen brine shrimp can be fed to larger axolotls as well as juveniles (small enough to fit in mouth) and are readily available at pet store. Plus, they are readily accepted by Axolotls just like bloodworms and they come in cube form or bricks. If using cubes, place the frozen cube in a cup with a small amount of dechlorinated water from the Axolotls tank. Wait for the cube to thaw and pour food in tank. The frozen brine shrimp bricks usually have more available but you will have to break up in pieces since it is often too much for a few Axolotls.



Pellets


Nutritional value: Good
Pellets provide an adequate diet for Axolotls.  Pellets have been formulated to the needs of carnivorous aquatic life living in the wild and eat a similar diet to an Axolotl. There are many different pellets you can feed your Axolotl.  Axolotls require sinking carnivore pellet such as pellets for salamanders or newts, salmon pellets, trout pellet, shrimp pellets, &/or any carnivorous food NOT freeze dried (does not have enough nutrition to support them).

When choosing a pellet, make sure to choose it based on the ingredients list. You want the ingredients to have meat as the first few ingredients since ingredients on labels are ordered in what they have the most of to the least.  I would stay away from ones that have vegetarian ingredients (algae, wheat, corn meal, alfalfa) near the top of the list and make sure it is not high in fat. You also want to make sure they sink since Axolotls prefer sinking pellets since they are bottom dwellers. Pellets are almost all floating. You can pre-soak the pellets and squeeze the pellets a bit to allow them to sink.

If using pellets make sure to remove any leftover pellets which may cloud water. Also keep in mind the food must be able also fit in the Axolotls mouth since the Axolotl swallows food whole.  Some Axolotls may need to be trained to accept pellets. You can train your Axolotl by using tweezers to wave the pellet in front of their face until they snap & eat pellet. Be consistent only providing the pellets for the Axolotl to eat. This may take a few days for the Axolotl to eat the pellets but once the Axolotl realizes it is food, you can feed anytime but should not be a sole source of nutrition. 


The Occasional Treat


Foods High in Fat


Nutritional value: Fair

Foods high in fat are not good for Axolotls. White worms and tubifex are the most commonly high fat foods that are feed to Axolotls. Live tubifex can also carry parasites, harmful bacteria, and diseases. Dog food has also been fed to axolotls and is not a great idea due to dog food containing a high proportion of oils and fats. Feeder fish are also high in fat and must be extremely careful or avoided all together as fish bought as feeders often carry diseases and parasites, as well as fish tend to nibble at the gills of Axolotls. White Cloud Mountain Minnows, guppies, and rosey minnows are good for the occasional snack just make sure the fish will fit in the Axolotl's mouth. Some varieties of fish are also deficient in thiamine which is needed to maintain cellular function and a wide array of organ functions.  Plus, they are often too fast-moving for some Axolotls to catch. When fed exclusively on these foods, the likelihood of sclerosis of the liver increases. Foods high in fat can be fed as an occasional treat if proper care is taken but never should be fed as their sole diet to avoid health problems.

Mealworms

Nutritional value: Fair
Other foods, such as mealworms, are quite low in calcium.  Calcium is required to regulate the heart, muscle functions, nerve communications, & hormonal secretions. Without calcium in the diet, many health problems can arise. They also have a lot of chitin (a structural protein in insects and some crustaceans) which axolotls can't digest, and passes through their guts intact.  Plus, mealworms present another danger.  They have powerful jaws that can damage an axolotl internally when Axolotls swallows whole. If you must feed mealworms, it is advisable to crush the jaws of the mealworms before feeding to make sure the Axolotl does not undergo any injuries. This can be done by using a strong forceps or tweezers. Mealworms can be given as an occasional treat if proper care is taken but never should be fed as their sole diet to avoid health problems.

Meat & Liver


Nutritional value: Fair
Meat & liver is no longer recommended as a sole food source for Axolotls or any amphibians. Mammal meat is not a "natural" food needed by the Axolotl. Beef & chicken liver contains excessively high levels of vitamin A, which can interfere with absorption of vitamin D and, therefore calcium. Other kinds of liver have nearly identical levels of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals as chicken and beef liver which will have the same effect.

Although meat is not recommended as a food that can be consistently given, you may feed occasionally as a treat. Frozen beef & lamb heart may be found at some pet stores. It is normally packaged in frozen cubes which you thaw before giving to your Axolotl.  Raw steak and chicken, have also known to be given to Axolotls as an occasional snack, which is cut into strips of approximately half a cm wide and 3 cm long. They then can be wrapped and frozen ready for feeding. Make sure to do regular water changes to keep water quality optimal.

Crickets


Nutritional value: Fair

Live crickets are readily available in most pet stores & bait shops. They should only be used as an occasional treat since they have a poor calcium phosphorus ratio. When crickets are used in terrariums as food they are dusted with a calcium/vitamin powder for complete nutrition. With Aquatic creatures like Axolotls, the powder is unable to be used since dust will wash away in the water and remain in water. Another issue with crickets is that they are fast moving as well as jump, making feeding difficult as well as difficult to sink since most Axolotl only eats sinking food. Also, any crickets left floating around in aquarium may find a way to escape and potently crickets can bite your Axolotl.



Foods to Stay Away From


Freeze Dried Food


Nutritional value: Poor

Freezed dried foods such as bloodworms, daphnia, and  tubifex lose most of its nutritional value during the freeze drying process as the cell walls become broken letting all the nutritional vitamins leak out. Due to this, freeze dried food do not have enough nutrition to support your Axolotl and many will not eat the Freeze dried food since it floats and Axolotls prefer sinking food. Also, it is possible for cheaper brands of freeze dried tubifex to harbor deadly bacteria.

Mice

Nutritional value: Poor

Mice and other rodents are not natural foods for Axolotls and can cause obesity in your Axolotls. Also, rodents could injure your Axolotl since mice have claws and teeth for biting leaving your Axolotl defenseless. Moreover, the food must fit in the Axolotls mouth which most rodents will not making eating difficult for your Axolotl.

Fish Flakes

Nutritional value: Poor

Fish flakes are not formulated for Axolotls. They usually have a lot of ingredients that are not for carnivorous amphibians. They may contain algae, wheat, corn meal, alfalfa, and other unnatural ingredients. Most all Axolotls will refuse to eat since all are floating & do not contain much meat. Uneaten flakes can also cloud water.

Other Amphibians

Nutritional value: Poor

Amphibians as food are not a good food source. Other amphibians are not appropriate due to possibly of carrying diseases or parasites that can be transmitted to your Axolotl. Plus, they may cause injury to your Axolotl or even be toxic to eat.