Out of more than 500 different species of salamanders, axolotls remain utterly unlike the others.
For starters, the axolotl is only found in one place in the world. Axolotls also keep some of their juvenile (immature) features their whole life instead of crawling out onto land like other salamanders.
And axolotls are both a relatively recent salamander species and also an unusually primitive type of salamander.
Add all this up, and what you’ve got is a neat pet that has some very specific care and diet requirements. In this article, we take a close look at the topic of can axolotls to eat waxworms. Let’s find out now!
Watch An Adult Axolotl Eat a Waxworm
In this keeper video from YouTube, you can watch an adult axolotl attempting to eat a large waxworm.
The eating pattern that you see in this video – where the axolotl alternately swallows and then spits out the waxworm – is very common in axolotls. It happens because the axolotl doesn’t have developed teeth.
Instead, axolotls have only a few teeth stubs or stumps. These stumps are only useful to grab onto prey and hold it and sometimes also for softening it up. Axolotls have to swallow their food whole, which can be hard when the prey is wriggling or larger.
Can Axolotls Eat Waxworms?
As you now know from watching the video, axolotls can eat waxworms. It helps to try to match the size of the waxworm to the size of your axolotl so your pet doesn’t struggle so much to swallow it.
But should axolotls eat waxworms? This is a better question to ask. To answer the question of whether axolotls should eat waxworms, we need to take a closer look at the axolotl’s dietary needs and whether waxworms meet some or all of those needs.
Should Axolotls Eat Waxworms?
As Axolotl.org explains, axolotls are a fully carnivorous species. They only eat animal protein.
The only time an axolotl will ever eat any plant matter is if their prey has eaten it and the plants are in their prey’s stomach. This can provide some trace nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in a form the axolotl is able to digest and make use of.
But otherwise, axolotls have a specific type of digestive tract that can really only break down animal protein.
Since waxworms are a type of animal protein, they are okay to feed to axolotls….at least in theory.
But as the Reptile Forums axolotl keepers thread points out, waxworms are not the ideal protein source for the axolotl’s nutrient needs.
Specifically, waxworms are higher in fat than some other protein sources and can cause a nutritional imbalance in your axolotl’s diet if fed too frequently. Axolotls do best when they have a high protein, low-fat food source.
What Are Waxworms?
To understand why waxworms are not an optimal staple food source for axolotls, it helps to learn more about their life cycle and nutrient content.
As Fluker Farms explains, waxworms are the larvae (caterpillar) of the wax moth. The waxworm’s primary food source is wax – specifically, beeswax from bee colony hives.
This makes waxworms nearly pure fat. As Brisbane Veterinary Service explains, whole foods like worms are good for axolotls.
But some worms are much lower in fat than others. This is important to know so you can choose the right whole foods for your axolotl.
As Science Online points out, poor nutrition will result in a sick animal.
This doesn’t mean that the occasional waxworm for a treat is going to make your axolotl ill. But it could mean that feeding waxworms at every meal may set up a nutritional imbalance that could eventually cause illness in your axolotl.
What Are the Best Worms for Axolotls to Eat?
Axolotls need different types of foods at different stages of their life cycle.
This is mostly because axolotls do a lot of growing in the first year or two of their lives.
Small baby or young juvenile axolotls may only measure a half-inch long. They have very small mouths and tiny stomachs and can only handle very tiny prey worms like bloodworms and black worms.
By the age of around six months, axolotls may measure up to six inches long. Their mouths are bigger, they are stronger and they have grown the teeth stumps for grasping live prey.
This is when experienced keepers often start to transition axolotls to larger whole food prey like earthworms and nightcrawlers. Both types of worms are considered an ideal food source for older juvenile or adult axolotls.
For juvenile axolotls, it may be necessary to chop up earthworms at first. Nightcrawlers are typically larger than earthworms and should only be fed to fully grown adult axolotls.
The general consensus among experienced axolotl keepers is that earthworms or nightcrawlers can be fed daily as a sole whole and complete food source.
How Often Can Axolotls Eat Waxworms?
As Vegas Axolotls breeder points out, too-frequent feedings of high-fat foods such as waxworms can eventually cause fatty liver disease as well as weight problems.
Waxworms also present other challenges that make them a poor food choice for axolotls.
While earthworms, nightcrawlers, and bloodworms (to name a few ideal food choices) will continue wriggling and moving about even after submerged in water, waxworms tend to drown so quickly they just sit there on the tank floor.
Axolotls have very poor eyesight and will only hunt when they detect movement. So if the worm is not wriggling, your axolotl won’t even know it is there. This presents two problems:
1. You will need to grasp and manually move the waxworm to get your axolotl to try to hunt and grab it to swallow.
2. Waxworms that remain in the tank uneaten will contribute to water quality issues that could in turn breed algae, bacteria, and disease.
For these and the other reasons already mentioned earlier here, it is best to save waxworms for a very occasional treat. It is fine to never feed waxworms at all – your axolotl will not suffer for their absence.
However, if you are feeding waxworms to another pet and happen to have one or two leftovers, it is okay to offer your axolotl one or two a month as a special treat. Your axolotl will likely love them because they are high in fat and very tasty.
How to Safely Feed Waxworms to Axolotls
As with any whole food prey or even pelleted foods, always match the size of the food to the size of your axolotl.
Since axolotls cannot chew their food, feeding a too-large food can easily cause choking or suffocation. Even if your axolotl manages to swallow a very large food item, this could lead to digestive upset, intestinal blockage or impaction.
The best way to feed an occasional waxworm treat to your axolotl is to chop it up into pieces you know your axolotl can swallow or choose smaller worms that are safe.
You can offer the waxworm to your axolotl with tongs and wiggle it about to trigger your axolotl’s hunting instincts. Supervised feedings are by far the safest option just to make sure your axolotl doesn’t struggle to swallow the waxworm safely.
Safety Factors When Feeding Waxworms to Axolotls
Finally, be sure to safely source your waxworms from a trusted breeder. This way, you avoid introducing parasites that could harm your axolotl.