Why Is My Axolotl Not Eating & Growing: 5 Reasons | Aquascape Addiction

Why Is My Axolotl Not Eating & Growing: 5 Reasons

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Here are the 6 main reasons why your Axolotl is not eating, don't worry many of them are easy to fix but it's important to do so quickly so they live a long and happy life.

Why Is My Axolotl Not Eating & Growing: 5 Reasons

Just like any other animal out there, to stay alive, an axolotl needs to eat. Axolotls have a pretty varied diet, but whatever the case, if your axolotl refuses to eat, you have a problem. It’s not going to grow or stay alive for very long.

So, why is my axolotl not eating and growing? An axolotl not eating can be due to a variety of reasons including;

  • Ammonia.
  • Water temperature.
  • Wrong tank mates.
  • Wrong food.
  • Stress.
  • Impaction.

6 Reasons Why Your Axolotl Is Not Eating

a Axolotl

Let’s take a look at the various reasons which may be causing your axolotl to refuse food. It may be a simple and single cause, or it may be a more complex multi-faceted cause too.

1. Ammonia

One reason why your axolotl may not be eating is due to poor water quality, specifically ammonia in the tank. Ammonia is released by fish waste, uneaten food, and rotting plants.

If your filter is not running at full tilt or there is something wrong with it, it won’t be able to remove the ammonia from the water.

For one, ammonia can cause nausea and sickness in axolotls. Just like with you, if an axolotl is nauseous and queasy, it’s not going to eat.

Moreover, ammonia will also have much more sever effects as well. It will literally burn an axolotl from the outside, cause organ failure, and eventually death.

We have covered a separate guide on lowering Ammonia levels, you can read it here.

2. Water Temperature

The next reason why your axolotl may not be eating is because the water is not at the temperature which they require. An axolotl requires the water temperature to be between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the water is any warmer than this or any cooler, it can and does cause a lack of appetite. Now, the water being a bit cooler is not a huge deal, but the big problem is warm water. An axolotl living in water that is too warm for it will cause stress and it will also lower their metabolic rate.

A slower metabolism means eating less food. Eventually, living in waters that are too warm will more or less cook an axolotl and cause it to die, slowly and painfully.

3. Tank Mates

Yet another thing which may cause your axolotl to not eat is if there are aggressive tank mates in the aquarium, especially if they are also voracious eaters. Axolotls are very shy, peaceful, and gentle creatures.

They don’t like confrontation and will usually hide from anything they see as a threat, which is more or less everything but other axolotls, snails, shrimp, and other small and peaceful fish.

If you have large and/or aggressive fish housed with the axolotl, it’s going to be too scared to come out of hiding to eat. Even if it does come out of hiding, it may not be quick enough to get to any of the food before it is eaten by the tank mates.

4. The Wrong Food

Axolotls are not overly picky eaters, but then again, they’re all like snowflakes, in that no two are the same. Simply put, your axolotl might just not like the food you are feeding it.

Yes, this does happen. This is why the first solution to this issue of an axolotl not eating is to try and switch up the foods to try and entice it into eating.

5. General Stress

Stress can be caused by a variety of factors, really by any of the issues talked about above. However, one of the most common causes of stress in axolotls is moving. In other words, these animals are quite sensitive to changes in scenery.

If you just bought your axolotl and brough it home for the first time, chances are pretty big that it will be too stressed out to eat.

In this case, waiting a few days for the axolotl to get acclimatized to its new environment should do the trick.

6. Impaction

One of the biggest issues to affect axolotls in general is impaction. This is a very serious issue. You see, when axolotls eat, they are like a starving man at a buffet.

They eat fast, they eat it all, and they eat without any care. This often leads to axolotls eating gravel or sand substrate (more on the right substrate to use here). They’ll catch a mouthful of the substrate along with their food and swallow it.

Impaction is a condition which happens when this substrate and food compact together into a ball (or something similar), and clog up the digestive tract. This happens fairly often and unfortunately it often leads to death if not resolved quickly.

4 Reasons Why Your Axolotl Is Not Growing

Your axolotl not growing may likely be connected to it not eating, but there may be other causes too, so let’s take a look at why your axolotl is not growing.

Keep in mind that an axolotl should be sexually mature and fully grown at around 2 years of age at most, and by then, they should be around 8 to 10 inches long.

1. Not Eating

Alright, so the most common cause of an axolotl not growing, or at least not growing as fast as it should be, is simply because it’s not eating. If your axolotl does not eat, it won’t get the protein, minerals, vitamins, and calories it needs to grow.

It’s quite simple, and this is the case with every living thing. A lack of nourishment directly translates to a lack of growth, and eventually this can lead to death.

If your axolotl is starving, not only will it not grow, but it will also become susceptible to various diseases and eventually just starve to death.

2. Illness

If your axolotl is not eating and not growing, it may have some sort of illness, disease, or parasite. Now, there are dozens of parasites, viruses, and bacteria which can cause a multitude of conditions. It’s up to you to keep an eye on your axolotl.

This is especially the case if it is not eating and not growing. There are some common fungal, viral, and parasitic infections which axolotls may develop or be susceptible to.

It’s up to you to be able to recognize the symptoms and signs of a sick axolotl, and then go from there with the appropriate treatment.

3. Genetics

Although this is very rare, genetic mishaps to occur. In other words, you may have an axolotl which has a genetic error, which is causing it to not grow.

It could be a runt, it could have stunted growth, or it may just be a small specimen. Although, once again, this is not a very common occurrence.

4. Poor Water Quality & Parameters

The other reason why your axolotl may not be growing is due to overall poor water quality and living in the wrong water parameters. Ammonia and nitrates in the water, chlorine, heavy metals, and other such things can all stunt growth, and of course in one way or another, they can all cause death in axolotls.

Yes, these animals need specific water temperatures, pH levels, and water hardness levels too. If any one of these is off, especially for a prolonged period of time, they can all lead to stunted growth in one way or another.

What Do I Do If My Axolotl Won't Eat?

a Axolotl out of water

If your axolotl is not eating, there is of course an issue which you must take care of. Here, you want to start with the simplest and most rational solution, and then work your way down the list from one to the other.

1. Change The Food

If your axolotl is not eating, one way to get it to eat may be to simply change the good. Yes, axolotls do like to eat live foods, small things like insects, miniature fish (usually fish fry), and other such small things.

An axolotl may not want to eat that frozen or freeze dried food. Maybe it doesn’t taste right, maybe you have a picky axolotl, or maybe it wants to hunt for its dinner. Whatever the case may be, changing up the diet is often enough to get them to eat.

2. Check Water Conditions & Parameters

If the food itself is not the issue, it could be the water conditions and parameters that are to blame.

Therefore, check to see if the water temperature, the pH level, and the water hardness level are all at the ideal levels. If any one of them is off, take the proper steps to remedy the situation.

Next, test to see if there is chlorine, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, or heavy metals in the water. If any of these things are present, you need to take immediate action to remedy the situation.

A thorough cleaning of the tank, a pretty big water change, and changing the filter media (and making sure the filter is working), should be enough to take care of this.

At the end of the day, you need to ensure that you meet all conditions which are necessary for axolotls to live. Fixing these issues may very well get your axolotl to start eating again.

3. Keep An Eye on Tank Mates

If your axolotls are alone or living with other axolotls, or with shrimp and snails, you can disregard this section and move to the next one. However, if you have the axolotl in a community tank with other fish, keep an eye on them. Keep an eye out to see if the axolotl is fearful of the community members.

Also keep an eye out for bullying. An axolotl being bullied won’t eat. Also make sure that the tank mates don’t eat all of the food before the axolotl can get to it.

If any of these things are the case, you may need to remove the other tank mates from the equation.

4. Give it Some Time

Something else you can do, if the axolotl is not eating, is to just give it some time. This is especially the case if you have just brought the axolotl home.

Sometimes they just need a few days to get accustomed to their surroundings.

5. Seek Professional Help

If you none of these other solutions worked, and you fear that your axolotl is ill or suffering from impaction, if you recognize the signs and symptoms, try to treat it yourself.

However, if your own steps don’t work, don’t wait for too long to get professional help, as an axolotl not eating is a serious matter that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

Why is My Axolotl Spitting out Food?

Axolotls will often spit out food if they do not like the taste. They especially dislike any foods that have a bitter taste, such as red wigglers for one.

Axolotls may also spit out food if it is too large for them to eat or if it is too hard. They like tasty, soft, and small size foods that they can easily eat.

The solution here is to simply change the food. If you find the right food, the axolotl should not spit it out.

How Do You Tell If An Axolotl is Stressed?

There are a few different ways to tell whether or not an axolotl is stressed out. Here are the most common signs of a stressed out axolotl.

  • A curved or rounded tail tip is often an indication of stress.
  • If the gills of the axolotl are curved forward, it indicates stress and/or illness.
  • An axolotl that constantly hides and never comes out of hiding is most likely stressed.
  • Another big sign of stress in axolotls is if they do not eat.
  • If your axolotl is swimming frantically, it may be stressed.
  • Axolotls that float around more than they walk or swim may be stressed.
  • If your axolotl comes up for air at the surface often, it could also be stressed.

How Long Can Axolotls Go Without Food?

In terms of not eating, axolotls are quite resilient. These creatures can go for up to 3 weeks without food.

If they are well fed, they can easily survive for up to 3 weeks without food, although if they were not well fed, this timeframe may be significantly shorter. /p>

Also, this 3 week period is also based on a 60 degree water temperature. If the water is at the cooler end of the spectrum, it will prolong how long an axolotl can go without food.


Although axolotls can go for quite some time without food, it is not normal for them to refuse food. These are opportunistic eaters which will eat whenever they can.

So, if you notice that your axolotl is refusing food, there is an issue and it needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.

Image Credits: AJC1 & Mike Licht @ FlickrCC