Axolotls are a critically endangered species of salamander that is thought to have descended from tiger salamanders.
These unusual and adorable amphibians are prized by pet keepers around the world even as they are dying out in their native territory near Mexico City, Mexico.
As Mass Audubon explains, salamanders often get mixed up with lizards. In truth, they do share some similar features.
But salamanders in general only spend their juvenile life in water. In adulthood, salamanders transition to life on land. Many even breed and lay their eggs on land.
As the University of Kentucky highlights, axolotls offer a direct contrast to the rest of their species, staying in the water their whole life. Axolotls have very unique care needs and dietary needs as a result. Many keepers want to know if axolotls can eat crickets safely.
In this article, learn what expert keepers and axolotl breeders have to share about can axolotls eat crickets.
Watch Two Adult Axolotls Eating Crickets
In this keeper-made YouTube video, watch two adult axolotls hunting two large crickets.
Even though axolotl hunting behavior is typically triggered by movement, the keeper points out that axolotls are not great hunters by nature.
In captivity in particular, this makes it very important to supervise all feedings to be sure your axolotls are able to safely and effectively feed.
Can Axolotls Eat Crickets? Yes They Can
Most salamander species are land-dwelling in adulthood. This means salamanders mainly hunt bugs such as maggots, grubs, snails, and crickets, as Untamed Science points out.
In the wild, axolotls typically wouldn’t encounter crickets very often. However, like other salamander species, axolotls can also eat crickets. They will simply rely on you, the keepers, to place the crickets on the water so they can hunt.
Are Crickets a Good Food Source for Axolotls?
As Caudata Culture describes, while crickets are relatively easy to obtain in pet stores and online, they are not a complete source of nutrition for axolotls.
The reason for this is because crickets do not have an optimal calcium-to-phosphate ratio. While you can dust the crickets with some calcium powder before depositing them in the water, chances are good it will wash off before your axolotl swallows them.
For this reason, experienced axolotl keepers recommend that you only feed crickets to your axolotl as a treat. Earthworms are the best staple food for adult axolotls and bloodworms are the best staple food for baby and juvenile axolotls.
Can Axolotls Catch Crickets?
This is a great question. Crickets, after all, are land-dwelling insects. Axolotls spend all of their lifespans in the water.
The most recommended food for axolotls is food that either sinks readily or swims. This is because axolotls rely on movement to trigger the feeding behavior. This is especially true for babies and young juvenile axolotls.
Crickets don’t sink and they don’t swim. So how can axolotls ever catch a cricket?
Crickets will still move about on the surface of the water and this movement will attract the axolotl’s attention and trigger the hunting behavior. However, it may take your axolotl several tries to actually catch their cricket treat.
If your axolotl is having a lot of trouble hunting and catching the cricket, you can grasp it with some stainless steel tongs and lower it. Try moving it in front of your axolotl to help get their attention and prompt them to swallow the cricket.
It may take some time for your axolotl to get the hang of catching crickets. But with some patience and practice most axolotls usually figure it out.
Are There Different Sizes of Crickets?
This is another great question to ask – after all, there are many different sizes of axolotls!
Axolotls start out their life as very tiny babies. Most axolotl babies are less than one-half inch long. By the age of six months, they maybe five or six inches long. By the age of 24 months, axolotls will range in length from nine to 17 inches on average.
CricketCare.org gives you a great overview of the many different sizes of feeder crickets that you can obtain online or from local pet stores.
Here are some of the most popular sizes of feeder crickets so you know what to look for based on the size of the axolotl you are caring for:
- Pinhead crickets: 1/16″ long
- Week-old crickets: 3/16″ long
- Two weeks old crickets: 1/4″ long
- Three weeks old crickets: 3/8″ long
- Four weeks old crickets: 1/2″ long
- Five weeks old crickets: 3/4″ long
- Six weeks old crickets: 1″ long
You want to be sure the crickets you select will easily fit into your axolotl’s mouth and be able to fit down their throat. Otherwise, there is a risk of gagging, choking, and suffocating.
For this reason, it is smart to err on the side of caution and select a smaller size cricket than what you think your axolotl is big enough to feed on safely.
Other Safety Concerns When Feeding Axolotls Crickets
In addition to the concerns already mentioned earlier here (about cricket size versus axolotl size and nutritional imbalance from a cricket-centric diet), here are some additional safety issues to watch for.
l. Crickets can bite!
Most people don’t realize that crickets can bite. After all, most people have never been personally bitten by a cricket. But crickets are actually omnivores (they eat a diet of both plant and animal matter) and they bite their food just like people do.
If cricket is being hunted, they can bite to try to defend themselves. Axolotls are very soft-bodied and vulnerable. They may be injured by a cricket bite, however small.
2. Crickets can carry parasites
Crickets are also known to carry parasites, especially when sold in bait shops or caught in the wild.
The safest route is to use captive-bred crickets from an online distributor or local pet shop, but there is never going to be the absence of risk when feeding crickets to axolotls.
3. Crickets have a hard exoskeleton
Crickets have a hard outer shell that is called an exoskeleton. This eco-skeleton is made from a material called chitin. Axolotls do not have the ability to digest chitin.
Undigested chitin may lodge in your axolotl’s gills, throat, stomach, or intestines, causing choking, suffocating, intestinal impaction and death.
If you see your axolotl struggling with the chitinous outer skeleton on cricket, you should never hesitate to step in and remove the cricket. Always keep a pair of stainless steel tweezer tongs on hand just in case you need them.
How Often Should You Feed Crickets to Axolotls?
The younger your axolotl is, the more frequently they will need to eat. Baby and young juveniles typically eat daily while older juveniles and adults may eat three to four times per week.
Crickets should be a treat food only, which means most axolotl keepers will offer them once a week or every two weeks.
Some axolotls may not prefer to hunt crickets, which is found since they don’t have a lot to offer nutritionally
Learning how to feed your axolotl safely and appropriately at each age and life stage will ensure your pet will enjoy a long and healthy life with you. Axolotls can easily live into the double digits with good basic care, diet, and husbandry.