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How To Stop Your Axolotl Gills Shrinking!

As the popularity of keeping pet axolotl’s continius to sky rocket, we have noticed more and more people reaching out with various questions about keeping axolotls in the best possible health.

Although relatively rare, we have noticed a number of people reaching out and asking questions about their pet axolotls gills shrinking.

Due to the majority of axolotl owners knowing just how important it is to try and protect the external gills of your pet axolotl, we do sometimes see people reaching out worried due to noticing that their axolotl gills are shrinking.

This is why we wanted to publish our own dedicated article going over the ins and outs of why your axolotl gills may be shrinking to try and help you better understand the various reasons this may occur in your axolotl as well as how to treat it.

Please note, there are some very rare reasons that your axolotls gills may start shrinking where there is nothing you can do while on the flipside of this, there are some reasons your axolotls gills sill look like they have shrank when there is no issue at all.

We will touch on this in more detail later in the article but if you do think that there is a serious problem with your axolotl, you can book a video call with a veterinarian to have them check your axolotl over.

Why Are My Axolotl Gills Shrinking?

The most common reasons that axolotl gills start shrinking is due to illness, diseases, issues with water conditions.

Water conditions can be both positive such as a well oxyginated tank and negative such as being too warm or having an incorrect pH. In very rare situations, your axolotls gills may start to shrink due to your axolotl starting to morph too.

When we usually see people reaching out and asking about their axolotls gills shrinking they usually think the worst and think that there is something wrong with their pet axolotl.

Thankfully though, upon investigation, we usually see that the gills of a captive axolotl are shrinking due to excellent oxygenation in their tank and the gills simply not needing to be as large as they once were anymore.

Although there are still some illnesses, diseases, and negative issues with water conditions that can cause the gills of your axolotls to shink, the most common reason is due to you doing such a good job at oxygenating your axolotls tank.

The easier it is for your axolotl to breath in its tank, the less its gills will develop so they will appear to shrink a little.

“Frida the Axolotl” by carnifex82 is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

My Axolotls Gills Not Feathery And Shrinking!

When a juvenile axolotl reaches adulthood, it is normal for their gill filaments to change slightly and not appear as feathery as they once did.

This can also make it look like your axolotl’s gills are starting shrink but this is totally normal and expected with there usually not being anything to worry about.

We often see people reaching out worries about this and thinking that there is something wrong with their pet axolotl gills but it is simply your pet axolotl reaching adulthood and its gills adapting.

This is usually the stage where the adult gills of the axolotl will start to adapt to the oxygen levels in the tank too.

If your pet axolotl is between six and nine months of age and you notice these changes occurring then it is highly likely that it is just your axolotl reaching adulthood.

Although your axolotls gills will usually lose their feathery look at this stage, they will not always shink but this is normal.

Do Axolotls Lose Gills?

The vast majority of axolotls will not lose their gills unless there is trauma or disease involved. A very small number of axolotls will end up morphing from an aquatic axolotl into a terrestrial axolotl and completely lose their gills but this is extremely rare.

We have our ultimate guide to axolotl morphing that may be helpful to you if you are do think that your axolotls gills are shrinking to a level where your scolotl will lose their gills.

Other things to look for that can indicate that your axolotl is starting morph into a terrestrial axolotl is its dorsal fin will shrink and be absorbed into its body and that it will also develop eyelids.

There are some issues where your pet axolotl may lose its gills due to trauma or damage. This is usually more common if it has caught its gills on something in its tank that is sharp or another axolotl or animal in the tank has damaged their gill.

The damage is usually obvious on their gills though so it is easier to see and seeing advice from a vet may be worth it in this case.

Will Axolotl Gills Grow Back?

A healthy axolotl kept in optimal tank conditions does have the ability to grow its gills back if they are damaged. If your axolotls gills start to shrink due to illness or poor water conditions then they can also grow their gills back to normal size once the issues are corrected.

This is one of the truly remarkable things about axolotls as in addition to their gills, they are also able to fully re-grow their limbs in some situations if they are injured.

Although there are a number of potential issues to the gills of an axolotl, they are almost always able to grow their gills back with ease.

The main thing to keep in mind in this specific situation is that your pet axolotls gills will need optimal water conditions and dietary conditions in its tank for this to occur.

If your axolotls gills are shrinking due to diseases or poor water conditions, they will tend to usually regenerate surprisingly quickly once the issue has been corrected.


That brings our article going over why your pet axolotl gills are shrinking as well as how you are able to prevent them shrinking and regrow to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand the main reasons that your axolotls gills may be shrinking as well as how two of the most common reasons of this are not necessarily anything to be worried about.