Axolotl (pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl) is an unusual creature, known to be a member of amphibians. It is also related to tiger salamanders. Axolotls were first found in Lake Xochimilco, Mexico City.
They are generally unique creatures for so many reasons, but we’ll point to one specific occurrence with axolotls; these animals, as a matter of fact, reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. They’re also able to regenerate lost limbs and practically ‘stay young, and the same’ throughout their whole lives.
Now, despite being critically endangered animals, people still tend to get axolotls as pets. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re also thinking about getting an axolotl for yourself. Well, having such a creature as your pet requires thorough research and complete dedication. Every aspect of the animal’s life needs to be understood, and every requirement (habitat, diet, etc.), needs to be met.
So, what better way to start your journey than by going over some of the dietary preferences of these unique, little creatures. Therefore, without further ado, let’s get started!
What Do Axolotls Eat: Axolotl Diet
In The Wilderness
Considering that Lake Xochimilco is their main habitat, axolotls generally have an abundance of food at their disposal whenever they’re hungry. The Lake itself is rich in insects, crickets, worms, snails, mosquito larvae, frog tadpoles, small fish, and other small creatures.
Being carnivorous, axolotls will eat any small prey they can fit into their mouths. In the wilderness, axolotls locate food by smell. They hunt by ‘snapping’ at any potential food source, sucking it instantly into the stomach using the vacuum force.
Axolotls have to suck their food into their stomach because of their ‘functionless teeth’. These creatures cannot chew their food, nor can they tear it. Instead, axolotls suck the water, and with it, they suck the prey and swallow it whole.
This is important information for potential axolotl owners. Your axolotl will suck all of its food, so don’t be surprised if you never notice your pet not chewing on its food. Also, because axolotls are nocturnal animals, they tend to hunt at night. So, to maintain the tank in which your axolotl will live as natural as it comes, make sure to feed the pet at night as well. This way, you will avoid any unusual behavior.
Now, just because axolotls are carnivorous, doesn’t mean they only eat one source of meat. These animals require diversity, just like we humans do. So, if you plan on having a pet axolotl, keep in mind to provide a variety of meat sources; from insects and crickets to small fish or snail; make sure your pet has all the food at disposal it would be eating in the wilderness.
In The Captivity
As we mentioned in the previous paragraphs, axolotls need to eat similar food they tend to eat in their natural lake habitat. By knowing what they eat in the wilderness, we now know that the axolotl diet consists mainly of worms, insects, larvae, small fish, and generally any animal small enough to fit the mouth of an axolotl.
Now, to be more specific, axolotls in captivity need to eat water-based insects and smaller animals. This implies that the animals need to eat food naturally inhabited in lakes, rivers, etc. For example, axolotls in captivity tend to eat different types of worms (blackworms, blood worms, etc.), daphnia, brine shrimps, and similar foods. Nightcrawlers, known as earthworms (What do earthworms eat), are also a staple diet preference for axolotls.
Luckily for future owners, all of these water-based insects and animals can be purchased from local gardens. However, as a responsible pet owner, you need to pay attention to the quality of food you’re getting for your axolotl. For example, the food needs to be organically sourced, and free from infections or parasites. Otherwise, you could get your axolotl seriously sick.
If you can’t acquire organically source food for your axolotls, try to look for freeze-dried food as well. Though not as nutritional as raw food, freeze-dried food minimizes potential parasite infection.
If you don’t know much about these animals you’re supposed to feed to your axolotl, here’s a quick guide;
- Nightcrawlers/earthworms – this is the best dietary option for axolotls in captivity. Earthworms are highly nutritional and meet all the axolotl’s dietary requirements. You can purchase them at the local garden.
However, keep in mind that these worms need to be washed before feeding them to the axolotl. This will ensure they don’t eat the worms together with all dirt and soil. Also, the worms can sometimes be too big for the axolotl to swallow, so make sure to cut them into smaller pieces. In case you can’t find a reliable source of earthworms, you can always opt for black/white worms as a suitable alternative. They’re a good nutrition source for both baby and adult axolotls.
- Brine Shrimp – now, for people who are not getting an adult axolotl, brine shrimp is the best food for baby axolotls you can get. It is super affordable food for your pet.
However, there are a few downsides to brine shrimp; first of all, you will always need to get fresh, live brine shrimp since it tends to die off quickly in the tank with freshwater. This also means you will have to clean the dead brine shrimp from the tank since it’s rotting in the water can change its chemistry. Furthermore, some live shrimp can carry diseases, so you need to pay attention to your brine shrimp source.
- Daphnia – this is another exceptional food source for baby axolotls. Daphnia is a small creature that is highly nutritional for baby axolotls. However, because of its size, live daphnia isn’t suitable for adult axolotls, mostly because they generally fail to even see these small creatures.
Also, just live with brine shrimp, live daphnia can also be a source of parasite infection for axolotls in case you don’t pay attention to the quality of the food you’re purchasing. Always make sure to buy live daphnia from a reliable, reputable source, otherwise, you could risk your axolotl getting infected by unwanted parasites and bacteria.
How To Feed Pet Axolotls?
Because axolotls cannot chew or tear up their food, it is essential to know how to feed your pet axolotl properly. Due to their shallow and small teeth, axolotl needs to suck in their food. That is why their food needs to be either small or cut into smaller pieces (which is usually the case with worms, for example). This will make it easier for axolotls to swallow and digest the food, and of course, prevent potential choking.
Here are some other tips for feeding your per axolotl;
- To ensure proper feeding of axolotl with live food, use long tweezers to feed your dear pet. This will ensure less mess and a cleaner feeding technique. However, make sure the tweezers have no sharp edges, otherwise, you could injure your axolotl.
- After feeding your axolotl, make sure to always clean the tank or aquarium. Leftover food, especially shrimp or daphnia, can spoil the fresh water in the tank upon breaking down and rotting. As a result, the water in the tank could become harmful for the axolotl due to the development of ammonia spikes.
- Use a turkey baster to give the food to your axolotl inside the tank, move the food around, or even clean the leftover food in the tank. It is a great tool to have at your disposal when dealing with pet axolotls.
- Make sure to feed live foods to baby axolotls. Generally, adult axolotls rely on their smell when finding food and eating. However, baby axolotls don’t have a developed sense of smell, so they rely on the food’s movement in order to eat it. So, by providing live food to your baby axolotl, you’re increasing the chances of it eating the food.
Axolotls are truly unique creatures. Thanks to their strange appearance and other interesting characteristics (like lost limb rejuvenation), people around the world want to have axolotls as a pet. However, considering that these creatures are going extinct, it is important to bear in mind such information when getting an axolotl for a pet. Make sure to do your research about these animals and find a reputable, reliable breeder.