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Can You Keep Axolotls Out Of Water?

Keeping axolotls as pets has seen a huge spike in popularity over the last decade and although a number of popular social media influences who keep their own pet axolotls have definitely helped, the uniqueness of axolotls has been the main driving cause of their massive surge in popularity.

We doubt that their popularity is going to stop any time soon and only expect more and more people to add an axolotl to their family over the coming years so wanted to start addressing some of the more common questions that we see asked each month.

One of the more commonly asked questions that we have seen people asking is about having axolotls out of water and the various implications of doing so.

Although axolotls are amphibians and have a set of lungs and a set of gills, they tend to prefer being in the water rather than out on land for a number of different reasons that we will cover throughout our article.

As we see a range of slightly different questions all relating to having axolotls out of water, we have decided to cover as many of them as possible in this article.

We have added our table of contents below so you are able to quickly and easily navigate to specific sections of the article if needed to get to the information you need without having to read the whole article.

Can You Keep Axolotls Out Of Water?

You should not keep an axolotl out of water for an extended period of time for any reason.

Although they do possess both lungs and gills, axolotls definitely do prefer to be in the water rather than out of it with the vast majority of an axolotls time being spent underwater than near the surface.

Taking your axolotl out of the water for an extended period of time can cause damage to its gills and skin causing it a number of potential health issues.

If the gills of your pet axolotl do dry out due to being taken out of the water then there is a chance that they could be damaged permanently and cause problems with your axolotls natural ability to breathe underwater through them.

Although it is rarer than damage to their gills and skin, axolotls can have issues with the thin, fin-like membrane on their tail if it dries out.

Although this is rare and most issues will clear up once the axolotl is put back into the water, there is a chance that any potential damage to this membrane will have an effect on your axolotls ability to move around underwater.

Can Axolotls Breathe Out Of Water?

Axolotls have fully functional lungs and gills meaning that they are able to breathe out of water if needed but keeping your axolotl out of water should be avoided if possible.

Although they are able to breathe out of water, their skin, gills, and tail membrane do need to be kept wet as long term health issues can occur if they are left to dry out.

In addition to that, there are a number of people who have axolotls in tanks with other animals that require access to land and even when the axolotl is able to freely move onto the land of its own free will, they choose to remain in the water.

Unlike most other animals that have evolved to have a set of gills, axolotls have their gills outside of their body with minimal protection too allowing them to dry out quickly and be exposed to damage easily.

Many axolotls will also show signs of distress and anxiety when they are taken out of water too. If you do notice this in your pet axolotl when you take it out of the water then you should return it to its tank as quickly as possible.

Just because your axolotl can breathe out of water does not mean that you should keep it out of the water if it obviously wants to return to it.

What Happens When You Leave An Axolotl Out Of Water?

If you do leave your pet axolotl out of water there is a chance that it will become anxious and panic. On top of this, their gills and skin will start to dry out quickly with their tail membrane starting to dry out soon after that.

Although some people do like to handle their pet axolotls, this should be avoided, even for short periods of time is possible due to the potential risks.

Although it is up for debate, we would class removing an axolotl from water and placing it in a container without water to be cruel and the vast majority of experience axolotl owners would tend to agree with us.

Not only can leaving your axolotl out of water cause it physical harm but it can also cause it mental issues too with spikes in anxiety in the animal.

On top of this, when your axolotls gills and skin are dry, they are more prone to damage too and with their gills already being exposed and open to damage, it is simply not worth the risk.

This is why we usually recommend people who are looking to keep pet axolotls just leave them in their tank with plenty of water to do their own thing.

Do Axolotls Always Have To Be In Water?

Although axolotls don’t always have to be in water, they do usually prefer to be left in the water to go their own thing.

Having your pet axolotl out of water for even a short period of time can cause it to become stressed and anxious as well as cause its skin, gills, and tail membrane to start to dry out quickly.

Many people new to keeping axolotls as pets tend to think that it is cruel to leave their pet axolotl in its tank alone without any company so will handle their pet.

The majority of axolotls will be totally fine alone in their tank and it is usually better to leave them in the tank with plenty of water than to handle them, especially as handling axolotls is one of the leading causes of damage to their gills.

If you do have a 20 gallon aquarium or larger then you can have multiple axolotls in the same tank without issue. Axolotls tend not to be territorial or competitive over females so aggression between multiple axolotls is rare.

This can be a quick and easy way to get your axolotl some company to prevent you wanting to handle it to prevent it from feeling lonely.

Axolotl Pokes Head Out Of Water!

Some axolotls will poke their head out of the water of their tank as they swim around and this can be totally normal for some animals.

It does not mean that they are trying to get out of their tank and only around a third of axolotls seem to do it on a regular basis when swimming with most usually keeping their whole body under the water.

For someone new to keeping axolotls, this may be interpreted as a sign of their axolotl wanting to get out of the water.

We have seen some people on social media report that they have taken their axolotl out of the water due to poking its head out while swimming thinking that it was trying to get out of its tank but this is not the case and is usually just the animal enjoying itself while swimming.

Please don’t think that there is anything wrong with your pet axolotl if it doesn’t stick its head out of the water when swimming around.

As we touched on earlier, this is a relatively rare behavior with the majority of axolotls not doing it so if your axolotl does not poke its head out of the water on a regular basis, it is actually in the majority and a normal behavior.

Do Axolotls Die Out Of Water?

Although axolotls can breathe out of water due to having a set of fully functional lungs, other issues can potentially lead to death if they are left out of the water too long.

Having your axolotl out of water for a matter of minutes can be enough for some minor issues to begin when it comes to their gills and skin drying out so it is best to leave your axolotl in water.

As we touched on earlier in the article, the dryer the axolotl’s gills and skin, the more prone it is to damage. Even a slight knock to your axolotl gills once dry can end up damaging them and causing your axolotl problems breathing underwater potentially leading to an easily avoidable death.

This coupled with the fact that do many beginners to keeping axolotls as pets handle their axolotls incorrectly and far too often, the odds of even a minimal injury to your pet axolotl do start to quickly stack up.

This is why we have stressed that you should ideally be just leaving your pet axolotl alone in its tank for as long as possible.

Can Axolotls Be Held Out Of Water?

Axolotls can be held out of water for very short periods of time and depending on your aquarium setup, this may be essential when cleaning their tanks.

Ideally, you want to support the body of the axolotl when handling it with a firm grip around the ribs to prevent it from wriggling free and transport the axolotl from its main tank to a spare tank containing water from its main tank as quickly as possible.

This is the easiest way to handle your axolotl out of water and due to having your grip around the ribs of the axolotl, your hands are no where near its gills minimizing the chances of any potential damage.

As the axolotl is only out of the water for a minute or two at most, this should also prevent its skin and gills from starting to dry out while out of the water too.

With the rise of social media, we have noticed more and more people handling their axolotls for way too long or keeping them out of water for ridiculous amounts of time to try and get the perfect photograph of their pet.

Although most do this innocently enough, they are usually unaware that they are leading to potential health issues in their pets that are easy to avoid if they just leave them in their tanks.


That brings our article going over if you can keep axolotls out of water to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand just how important water is to your pet axolotl and that we have been able to help convince you to leave your axolotl in its tank. We know that there are some situations such as having to clean your axolotls tank where it will have to be handled for a short period of time to move it into a spare tank during the cleaning process but other than that, handling your axolotl out of water really should be kept to an absolute minimum.