Axolotls are strange looking amphibians and not many people know what they eat. They look like something caught between a fish and a lizard with their tail and four legs. To complicate things further, they live their entire lives in water! So, what food would you give this oddity?
Axolotls are carnivores and need a steady diet that’s high in protein and low fat. Axolotl food is fairly easy to come by in pet shops and online as they can eat live food, frozen food, and specially formulated commercial food.
Baby and adult axolotls eat different food depending on their age. Daphnia, bloodworms, blackworms, earthworms, and brine shrimp are all on the menu as well as small and sinking pellets.
Read on to find out what your axolotl should eat depending on its age and what they should never be fed.
Live vs. Frozen Food
Carnivorous pets will always prefer live food – their natural instinct is to hunt after all. However, there are always risks with offering live food to your pets. Fortunately, axolotls generally can’t be attacked by their food, but they can still be hurt by it.
All live food options (daphnia, bloodworms, earthworms, etc.) carry the possibility of parasites and disease. This is why frozen food options are so popular. The freezing or freeze-drying process eliminates the risks of contamination.
However, if you wish to feed your axolotl live food, then you can ‘grow’ your own! This way, you ensure they are healthy and in good condition, and you can save a lot of money in the long run as axolotls can live between 10 and 20 years.
If you are not using your own live food, then make sure to buy it from a reputable source, treat it for parasites, and quarantine the live food before feeding it to your axolotl.
What Do Young Axolotls Eat?
Young axolotls need a diet high in protein and fairly high in healthy fats to provide them with enough energy to grow their little bodies. When they hatch, they will spend the next 24 hours feeding off the yolk sac that has sustained them. After that, they need to be fed by you.
Baby axolotls have tiny mouths, so they need tiny food no larger than their mouths to avoid choking and death.
Let’s have a look at the most popular food options for young axolotls:
- Daphnia are small freshwater crustaceans that look similar to tiny water fleas or Moina. They are jam-packed with nutrients and healthy fats.
- Earthworms are protein-packed and tasty (according to axolotls). Just make sure you choose very small ones that are no larger than the space between your axolotl’s eyes. Earthworms should be fed to adult axolotls too.
- Small pellets that are specifically created with carnivorous aquatic animals in mind are usually full of the right percentage of protein (>40%), fats, amino acids, and vitamins.
Fun fact: Axolotls are named after the Aztec god Xolotl. According to the Aztec faith, Xolotl was the god of death, fire, and lightning and could turn into a salamander.
What Do Adult Axolotls Eat?
Adult axolotls need a diet high in vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats to maintain their weight and keep illness at bay.
Here are the most popular and trusted food options for adult axolotls:
- Bloodworms are generally frozen or freeze dried and rarely fed live. Regardless of how you buy them, they are full of protein and nutrients. They are bright red and yummy, which is stimulating for your axolotl.
- Brine shrimp is a fun live option because you can raise them safely at home. Brine shrimp are full of healthy fatty acids and taste great to axolotls.
- Specially formulated pellets that sink are an excellent addition to your pet’s diet as they have all the vitamins and nutrients an axolotl needs to be healthy.
Fun Fact: Axolotls can regenerate damaged parts of their bodies while still functioning. They can regrow legs, parts of their tails, lungs, and even parts of their brains! If your axolotl is in a stage where they’re injured and regenerating a part of their body, increase the frequency of feeding.
What Should I Avoid Feeding My Axolotl?
Just because axolotls are carnivores doesn’t mean they can eat anything, although they may try if given the opportunity!
Here is a list of food they should not be given:
- Human food
- Meat (with the exception of small pieces of fresh chicken as an occasional treat)
- Processed meats
- Fish food
- Hard shell crustaceans such as larger shrimp, prawns, or crawfish (with the exception of small pieces of shrimp meat without the shell as an occasional treat)
- Insects (with tough exoskeletons)
- Feeder fish
There is a lot of discussion around giving axolotls feeder fish such as guppies, cichlid fry, and minnows.
Feeder fish bought from a store often have parasites and diseases that are transmissible to axolotls. Also, they are kept in very poor conditions with barely any room to move. If you choose to raise them yourself, it can turn into a fairly expensive procedure.
A continuous diet of feeder fish will also result in a vitamin B deficiency in your axolotl, so we recommend staying away from feeder fish all together.
Unfun Fact: Axolotls are critically endangered because of expanding human settlements, damage to their native wetlands, and the illegal pet trade. There are fewer than 1,000 mature axolotls left in the wild. So, make sure you get your axolotl from a trustworthy breeder.
How Do I Feed My Axolotl?
Every axolotl owner needs a feeding kit with long-handled tweezers and feeding pipette (it looks like a small turkey baster).
When feeding live worms, grasp them in the tweezers and wriggle them in front of your axolotl to get their attention. When feeding daphnia, Moina, or frozen (and defrosted) bloodworms, suck up some water from the tank in the feeding pipette, add the food, and then gently squirt it out in front of your axolotl’s face.
If you are feeding previously frozen food to your axolotl, always make sure it’s completely defrosted in some water from the tank. Feeding partially frozen food to your axolotl can cause their internal temperature to drop drastically.
It’s important that any food you choose (especially pellets) sink to the bottom of the tank and don’t float. Axolotl’s do not like coming up to the surface to feed as fish do. They prefer staying on the floor of the tank where they feel safe. Food that floats will rarely be eaten.
Fun Fact: Axolotls are part of a special group called neotenics (like the olm blind cave salamander), which means they reach sexual maturity without undergoing a final metamorphosis as other amphibians do. This is why they still have gills, webbed toes, and tails as adults and why they never leave the water!
FAQs About Axolotl Food
How many worms should I feed my axolotl?
It’s not necessarily about “how many should I feed” but rather, “how long should I feed?”
Axolotls need to be observed while they eat. Because of their environment, any uneaten food can lead to chemical imbalances in the water and a toxic environment, which will cause illness and even death.
When you feed your axolotl, start a five-minute timer. Let them eat as much as they want for five minutes and remove whatever is left from the tank immediately. This ensures their tummies are full, they can’t overeat, and their tank stays free from rotting food.
How often should I feed my axolotl?
Adult axolotls should be fed every two to three days depending on their age and size.
Baby axolotls should be offered food once to twice a day while providing their bodies with enough fuel to grow and develop properly. As your axolotl gets older and finishes developing, the frequency of feeding can decrease to every second or third day.
Will my axolotl eat my other fish if I keep them in the same tank?
If it moves, an axolotl will try and eat it!
Axolotls are voracious predators and anything they think can fit into their mouth is fair game to them. They cannot be housed with other species of amphibians or fish as they will attack them.
Axolotls are also known to practice cannibalism and take a bite or two out of each other. This is why it’s vitally important to have an enclosure large enough if you house more than one axolotl together to avoid anxious confrontations.
In Conclusion On Axolotl Food
Finding the right axolotl food is fairly simple with all the online and in-store options, from specially formulated pellets to freeze-dried brine shrimp and daphnia.
Let’s recap the really important bits of information:
- Never feed your axolotl human food, hardshell insects, or another pet’s food
- Never leave food in the tank after feeding
- Baby axolotls love daphnia and earthworms
- Adult axolotls love bloodworms, black worms, and brine shrimp
- Get your axolotl’s food from a reputable source; alternatively, ‘growing’ your own food is the safest and cheapest option
- Enhancing a live/frozen diet with commercial pellets is ideal to ensure maximum nutrition