As axolotls continue to skyrocket in popularity in North America and Europe, the number of questions that we see people asking about taking care of axolotls continues to increase with each month that goes by. Keeping a healthy axolotl can be more difficult than most beginners initially realise but there are some signs that you are able to look for in your axolotl to help make sure that it is not only healthy but also happy in its tank.
Due to seeing a number of people reaching out to ask for ways that they are able to tell that their pet axolotl is healthy and happy, we have decided to publish this dedicated article going over the most common signs of a healthy axolotl. Now, you have to keep in mind that different axolotls can have very different personalities so some of the examples below may not be specific to your axolotl but for the most part, they are good indications that you have a healthy axolotl.
For example, a floating axolotl can be a sign of a gas build up due to the food in its diet and this can cause some axolotls distress and anxiety but we have seen reports from axolotl owners who’s axolotls will intentionally float in certain areas of their tanks. One axolotl owner reported having to take their axolotl to a veterinarian due to it constantly floating but the vet was unable to find anything wrong with the animal. After weeks of watching the behaviour of their axolotl, they realised that it seemingly made itself float because it like to rest its head on the synthetic silk plants in the tank and there was never anything wrong with the axolotl.
Healthy gills are a quick and easy way to gauge the health of an axolotl but it is not as easy as some beginners think. We constantly see people new to keeping axolotls worried about their axolotl’s health due to potential issues with the gills on their pet when the issue they are worried about is totally natural but it is great to see so many people paying close attention to their axolotl’s gills as they are very important and easily damaged.
The most common problem about axolotl gills that we see people getting confused with is when the color in the gills fade. As we covered in our article on why axolotl gills turn white, this is usually nothing to worry about and is just the blood draining from the gills due to your axolotl being inactive and relaxing so needing less oxygen. It is totally normal if your axolotl is staying still and is actually a sign of a healthy axolotl as the blood circulation within the animal is good enough to pass the required oxygen around the axolotl without having to flush the gills with blood.
Another issue that we see people getting worried about when it comes to axolotls gill health is if their gills are shrinking. As we covered in our article going over axolotl gills shrinking, this can be a sign of a potential issue but it is normal for a juvenile axolotls gills to lose their feathery appearance once they reach adulthood and appear to shrink so there are situations where this is nothing to worry about.
No Signs Of Morphing
Unfortunately, a number of photographs of morphed axolotls have gone viral on social media resulting in a spike in the number of people actually wanting their axolotl to morph from an aquatic axolotl into a terrestrial axolotl. As we covered in our article going over axolotl morphing, the morphing process is very dangerous as axolotls have not naturally evolved to release the required hormones from their thyroid to morph into terrestrial axolotls and there is a high rate of death when axolotls morph.
There are a number of signs of axolotls morphing but the most common ones are lethargy, a lack of appetite, and visible changes in your axolotl such as it developing eye lids. Although the morphing process is considered to be pain free, it is not considered healthy for axolotls to morph into terrestrial axolotls as unlike most other types of salamander, they never evolved to be able to safely go through the process.
Due to axolotls morphing being very rare, there really is minimal data available on things that you are able to do to try and increase the survival rate of your pet axolotl that is morphing too. Thankfully, this should not be an issue for the vast majority of our readers anyway as it is rare that an axolotl will actually morph.
Being Able To Control Its Own Buoyancy
As we covered back at the start of the article, there are a number of reasons that an axolotl may be floating and most of them are not necessarily signs of an unhealthy axolotl. Some axolotls will intentionally make themselves float in certain areas of their tanks at times while others will float due to an excess build-up of gas after eating some foods but feeding high-quality axolotl pellet food will usually prevent this.
We have a dedicated article going over why axolotls float but the main risk to their health that can cause them to float and lose all buoyancy is bacterial infections in the axolotl. Unlike fish, axolotls do not have a swim bladder and are unable to suffer from swim bladder disease making it more difficult to narrow down the exact cause too but if an axolotl is floating uncontrollably then there will usually be visible swelling in the axolotls body.
If you do suspect that your axolotl may be having issues with buoyance then booking a video call with a veterinarian to assess your axolotl is probably the best path forward. Video calls with veterinarians tend to be much cheaper than an actual trip to the local vets office but still offer you the exact same professional advice. A vet will be in a much better position to assess the current condition of your axolotls health and potentially issue medication for the condition if required.
Enjoys Its Hides
A very common mistake that people new to keeping axolotls make time and time again is to presume that a healthy axolotl will not spend much time in their axolotl hide but this is not correct at all. Some axolotls are shy and tend to prefer to spend a large amount of time in their hide or amongst plants if you keep a planted axolotl tank with this being totally normal for some axolotls and usually considered a healthy behaviour.
We have a dedicated article going over some DIY axolotl hides that you can try in your tank if you currently don’t have any hides in the tank too with a lack of hides being another common mistake people new to keeping axolotls make. Even a bold axolotl is usually considered skittish by the standards of other amphibians so you should always have at least two hides in your axolotl’s tank or some plants for them to hide amongst to relax and feel safe.
Due to its low price, ease of maintenance, and the majority of axolotls loving it, a java moss carpet is very common in an axolotls tank and the soft touch of the java moss can cause a healthy axolotl to lay there on the java moss relaxing for hours at a time. This is surprisingly common and does not mean that your axolotl is sick as some axolotls seem to really enjoy the texture of java moss and will happily lay on it in their tank for hours.
A Proportinate Body
A healthy axolotl will usually have a proportionate body with the proportions of the axolotl’s body changing if you have a pregnant axolotl about to release eggs or the axolotl has just eaten. For the most part tough, the body of the axolotl and tail should be in proportion to each other when it comes to length while also staying roughly around the same thickness too. As we touched on above, gas build ups from some food can cause an axolotls body to swell up a little as can bacterial or parasitic infections so any indication of anything like this may indicate that your axolotl has a problem.
A Liniar Tail
Although some axolotls will curl their tail for no reason and be perfectly healthy, it can be common for axolotls in water that is outside of recommended parameters to start to curl their tail like a U shape back up towards their head. This is often due to the water temperature being too hot for them or due to water parameters being off a but a water test kit will be able to tell you exactly what’s wrong with the water then you can fix the issue accordingly.
That brings our article going over some signs of a healthy axolotl that you are able to look out for to get an indication if your axolotl is healthy and happy. Just keep in mind that different axolotls can have very different personalities to each other and their personalities can play a large part in how they behave. This can cause some axolotls to show the behaviours above when there is nothing wrong with them and they are totally healthy.