Salmon is widely touted for its nutritional benefits, especially its high concentration of essential fatty acids. But salmon is also a fatty fish and is not a complete food source like whole live prey.
This means the question of can axolotls eat salmon is slightly more complicated than it might seem at first glance.
Axolotls are a unique species of Mexican salamander that are sometimes called the “Mexican walking fish,” according to Scientific American.
While axolotls are fast dying out in the wild, they are finding new life in the pet trade and are increasingly popular with aquarists.
Figuring out what to feed a pet axolotl can make the difference between a healthy and long-lived pet and constant illness and shortened life expectancy. In this article, we take a close look at salmon as a food source for axolotls.
Watch An Adult Axolotl Eating Salmon Fish Pellets
Axolotls have unique dietary needs as well as unique feeding behaviors. Sometimes, this makes feeding pellets over live foods a smart choice.
Salmon fish pellets are a popular choice with axolotl keepers as a staple or backup food source.
In this YouTube video made by an axolotl keeper, you can watch an adult axolotl eating salmon fish pellets.
These pellets are sinking pellets, which means instead of floating on the top of the water, they are made to sink to the bottom where axolotls can find them easily.
Can Axolotls Eat Salmon?
If you have ever watched an axolotl eat a sliver of tasty salmon fish, you already know the answer to the question of can axolotls eat salmon. Salmon is high in fat and reliably delicious, especially for a pure carnivore species like the axolotl.
But there are some reasons why you don’t want to feed your axolotl salmon all the time.
The one exception to this is if you choose to feed salmon in a pelleted food that is fortified with other nutrients to balance out the Calcium to Phosphorus (Ca:Phos) ratio and fat content.
Feeding salmon in a fortified pellet form is similar to gut-loading high-fat treat foods like waxworms and butterworms to make them more nutritionally sound for axolotls.
Some axolotl keepers believe you should only feed whole live food to pet axolotls while other keepers believe pelleted foods like salmon pellets can be a good alternative.
Because you never know what may happen in the pet feed market, it is always smart to have a variety of food options to choose from and to keep pellets and frozen foods as a backup source in case your regular whole live foods suddenly are unavailable.
This makes salmon in sinking pellet food form a good backup food source just in case you run into any trouble getting your axolotl’s regular live prey food.
The Nutrient Profile of Salmon Fish for Axolotls
As this food type nutritional chart from Caudata.org outlines, salmon definitely fits the bill when it comes to being a protein-rich food choice for axolotls.
However, as you will notice, salmon has about twice the fat content of earthworms, which are widely considered to be the most complete and balanced staple food source for adult axolotls.
Salmon also has an extremely poor Ca: Phos (Calcium to Phosphorus) ratio, which means it is suitable as a treat food only when fed on its own (and not in a fortified pelleted food form).
Is Feeding Salmon Safe for Axolotls?
As the Caudata axolotl keepers forum thread points out, feeding fresh or frozen/thawed raw salmon is not the same as feeding a whole prey food that contains bones, organs, and skin.
Your axolotl will be taking in lots of protein and plenty of fat but will miss out on receiving the vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients that your pet also needs to stay healthy.
As well, anytime you handle live raw fish or meat of any kind, there is always a risk that you might pass along bacteria or parasites to your axolotl, no matter how carefully you prepare and serve the fish.
Cooking can destroy existing parasites or bacteria, but since your axolotl is not accustomed to eating cooked food, it may cause digestive disturbance.
As well, cooking salmon will destroy many of the other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in this fish that could benefit your axolotl.
As the Conscious Aquarist explains, an even greater risk is the presence of an enzyme called Thiaminase in some fish.
Thiaminase inhibits the absorption of thiamine and is also known to actively destroy thiamine.
Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is essential for helping your axolotl convert food into glucose for energy and also to help keep the entire central nervous system functioning as it should.
While fresh fish contains thiaminase, frozen fish contains even more of it. This is because freezing doesn’t harm thiaminase in any way. While the fish is frozen, the thiaminase continues to break down thiamine, destroying it completely.
When your axolotl eats the frozen fish, your pet won’t take in any Vitamin B1 and the still-bioactive thiaminase will start to destroy your axolotl’s existing supply of thiamine.
Over time, your axolotl may start to exhibit a variety of health problems related to low thiamine levels.
Some types of salmon do not contain Thiaminase, most notably Atlantic salmon and Coho salmon. These are still quite fatty fish but are safer to feed than the rest.
It is also vital to determine how many fish you feed your axolotl were bred, fed, and raised.
Some feeder fish may be raised on a diet of thiaminase-rich fish, which means that even fish that don’t have thiaminase biologically can have a similar impact by eating feeder prey that contains thiaminase.
How to Feed Salmon or Trout Pellets to Axolotls
If you opt to feed your axolotl fish pellets, these are frequently sold as “salmon pellets,” “fish pellets” or “trout pellets.”
The Salamander Site explains that one of the benefits of feeding salmon or fish pellets is that they have a strong odor.
Axolotls don’t actually have a very good eyesight but they do have a keen sense of smell. Axolotls rely on large movements such as wiggling or swimming to attract their attention and let them know food is available.
But axolotls also use their sense of smell to find prey. In the wild, axolotls spend a lot of time snuffling around in the debris at the bottom of the lake system sniffing for potential food sources.
This is why feeding a pellet with a strong odor can be a good choice for feeding your axolotl. Some keepers have good success with dropping the pellets into the water so that they fall near to the axolotl, attracting attention visually and with scent.
Axolotls that don’t see the pellets falling will still be able to detect them by scent and be able to swallow the softened pellets relatively easily.
It can be a good idea to feed the salmon pellets in the evening since this is often when axolotls will become more active in feeding behaviors. Then you can wait until the next morning and remove any uneaten salmon pellets to avoid algae build-up in the tank.
Should You Feed Salmon to Axolotls?
Feeding raw or cooked salmon isn’t the best choice for a pet axolotl as a primary or staple food source.
However, salmon in the form of a complete and balanced sinking pellet is actually a good choice for adult axolotls.