Axolotls are unique in the world of salamanders. They are starting to be much more popular with amphibian lovers who want to enjoy these cute, long-lived salamanders up close.
But in the wild, axolotls are nearly extinct now. The main reason is those wild axolotls are only found in one lake in the whole world which is outside of Mexico City, Mexico.
This means that you, the axolotl enthusiast, are a huge part of keeping axolotls alive for the next generation to enjoy. And a big aspect of keeping your axolotl alive and thriving is choosing the right food.
Red wigglers are one of the better (but not best) foods to feed an older juvenile or adult axolotl. In this article, we will talk about why red wigglers are basically good food sources and how to feed them safely.
Watch An Adult Axolotl Swallow a Large Red Wiggler
In this video you can watch an adult axolotl hunting a large red wiggler.
Other Common Names for Red Wiggler Worms
Red wigglers are commonly confused with earthworms. Some keepers and breeders use these terms interchangeably and say they are the same animal.
However, red wigglers, aka red worms, are not the same species as earthworms. In the same way, earthworms and nightcrawlers, two more terms that are often used interchangeably, are not the same species.
Red wigglers are a type of composting worm that is slightly smaller and thinner than earthworms or nightcrawlers. They have a characteristic reddish color that gives them their common name.
Red wrigglers are also called by several other names, including tiger worms, trout worms, composting worms, vermiculite worms, and manure worms.
How Do Axolotls Eat Red Wigglers?
An axolotl hunting really has to be seen to be believed. Even in the larval stage, they do have a set of very basic teeth that are more like blunt stubs.
However, axolotls use these teeth only to grasp and hold their prey. The teeth can’t be used for chewing. This means that axolotls basically grasp and then swallow their prey whole.
Whenever you are feeding your axolotl, you should always make sure that the size of the prey is appropriate for the size of your axolotl.
As the Western Australia Department of Education explains, axolotls don’t have very good eyesight, in part because they lack eyelids.
For this reason, axolotls are attracted to dim light conditions that don’t do their eyesight any favors. Only larger wiggling and wriggling motions can attract their attention.
When an axolotl does detect movement, they respond by opening their mouth and snapping at the movement. This is how an axolotl hunts. Your axolotl won’t stop to determine if the moving object is too big for them to safely try to swallow.
So you will have to do that for your pet.
Are There Different Sizes of Red Wigglers?
Just as there are many different sizes of axolotls, so too are there many sizes of red wigglers.
In general, red wigglers range in size from two inches to five inches. Larger worms are suitable for larger axolotls.
As Thriving Yard outlines, on average, red wigglers will live from one to four years.
Red wigglers are sold in many pet stores and there are also online distributors that sell them. If you have red wigglers that are too large for your axolotl to eat safely, you can cut the worms up into smaller segments and try to feed them that way.
Are Red Wigglers Safe to Feed to Axolotls?
Red wigglers are thought to be toxic to snakes and their bitter taste may turn off other predators even if it won’t harm them.
As Water Critters explains, red wigglers can develop a nasty secretion based on what they are feeding on.
Red wigglers are frequently chosen to help break down the compost. So if you want to breed your own red wigglers, you can pay attention to how your axolotl responds and adjust the red wigglers’ diet as needed.
This may mean splitting off the part of your red wigglers colony that is destined to feed your axolotl away from the rest of your compost pile so you can better control their food source and try to diminish the bad taste.
Rinsing the red wigglers prior to feeding may also help to encourage your axolotl to try them because this can wash away the bitter-tasting slime.
Gulf Coast Axolotls offers another tactic to address the bitter slimy taste that many axolotls dislike. Alternately to rinsing, you can try to blanch your red wigglers before feeding them to your axolotl.
Blanching is done by rinsing your red wigglers in hot water first, then allowing them to cool and then feeding them to your axolotl.
When Can Your Axolotl Eat a Whole Red Wiggler?
In most cases, an axolotl will be fully grown in every way except size-wise by the age of six months.
However, it can up to 18 to 24 months before your axolotl has reached their full adult size.
There are many other factors that can also influence how large your axolotl grows as well as how fast your axolotl grows. Some axolotls will stop growing at nine inches. But there have been reports of axolotls up to 27 inches long.
Yorkshire Worms explains that the general rule of thumb is to start offering whole live worms when your axolotl has reached the length of six inches or the age of six months, whichever comes first.
Always supervise feedings to make sure your axolotl doesn’t run into any trouble, either from the bitter secretions that are the red wiggler’s defense mechanism or from the size of the worm.
Regurgitation When Feeding Red Wigglers to Axolotls
Because red wigglers can secrete a nasty-tasting slime, you may see your axolotl regurgitate (spit out) the worm once or several times after swallowing it.
Vegas Axolotls breeder points out that red wiggler worms are not the best choice for a staple food source if your axolotl cannot be taught to eat them readily.
Otherwise, don’t be alarmed if you see your axolotl eat half the worm, spit the entire worm out, eat half of it again, spit it out, eat the whole worm and spit it all out and repeat this process a few more times before finally swallowing it.
You may see your axolotl doing this for one of two main reasons:
- Your axolotl is trying to deal with the bitter slime by spitting it back out so it can “wash” in the water.
- Your axolotl is using their rudimentary blunt teeth to soften or even section off a large red wiggler further before swallowing it whole.
If your axolotl seems to be regurgitating more than usual, you may want to remove the red wiggler and wash it or blanch it and chop it up before offering it again.
Are Red Wigglers Good for Axolotls?
Red wigglers are basically solid, nutritionally sound food choices for older juvenile and adult axolotls.
However, the hands-down best food choice for axolotls in this age range are earthworms or nightcrawlers.
For younger juvenile and baby axolotls, bloodworms are a better and safer choice for a nutritionally sound, pleasant-tasting, and all-around good foods staple.
If you feed bloodworms to young axolotls and earthworms to older axolotls, you shouldn’t have to supplement with any additional vitamins and minerals to keep your pet axolotl healthy.