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Do Axolotls Eat Frogs: Understanding Axolotl Dietary Needs

do axolotls eat frogs

The first time most people see an axolotl, they often think it has been photoshopped. Axolotls, with their otherworldly feathery external gills and long tadpole tails, can seem too strange to be true.

What is true is that axolotls are real and extremely rare. The IUCN Red List currently lists axolotls as “critically endangered.”

As National Geographic explains, the axolotl is a type of neonate salamander that is found in only one place on Earth, a lake system to the south of Mexico City, Mexico.

While axolotls are close relatives of the much older and more common tiger salamander, they don’t mature as most salamanders do. Instead of walking out onto land in adulthood, axolotls stay in the water all their life.

This is what makes many first-time axolotl keepers wonder do axolotls eat frogs. After all, frogs love to live in and near water also. However, axolotls have very unique eating needs because of their fragility. So let’s find out – do axolotls eat frogs?

Watch An Adult Axolotl Eat a Small Frog Whole

In this short keeper-made YouTube video, you can watch the keeper feeding a small whole frog to an adult axolotl.

You can see how the keeper kind of wiggles the frog in front of the axolotl, which triggers the axolotl’s snapping reflex.

How Do Axolotls Hunt In the Wild?

In order to understand what you just watched in the previous section’s video, it is worth taking a little more about the axolotl’s senses and how this amphibian hunts in the wild.

First and foremost, as Live Science explains, it helps to know that axolotls are fully carnivorous. Their digestive tract can only digest animal protein.

Wild axolotls primarily live near the bottom of their home lake complex outside of Mexico City, Mexico. The light is dim and there is a lot of organic material at the bottom of the lake.

Axolotls don’t have good eyesight and often spend their days snuffling around in the organic matter looking for small whole prey. Their eyesight can really only pick up larger movements and changes in light intensity.

When an axolotl detects movement or a lighting change, this causes them to open their wide mouths and make a snapping motion. Adult axolotls don’t have teeth, per se, but they do have a type of teeth stubs that can be useful for gripping moving prey.

What this tells us is that axolotls will snap at pretty much anything that moves, whether it is edible or good for them to eat or safe for them to eat or not.

So do axolotls eat frogs? They sure will if a frog is unwise enough to move nearby and the axolotl can manage to grab the frog and hold on to swallow it.

But should axolotls eat frogs? This is the bigger safety question we will take a look at in the next section here.

Should Axolotls Eat Frogs? Why This Isn’t Always Safe

As Aztec Axolotls breeder points out, axolotls are predatory salamanders that eat only meat as food.

Plus, as you just learned, axolotls will eat anything that moves nearby to them. This includes other axolotls! After all, axolotls do not see well and rely on movement to hunt.

Axolotls can be safely housed with other similar-size axolotls. But even keeping baby or young juvenile axolotls in with older axolotls is not a good idea.

The same holds true for frogs. Some keepers will keep frogs and axolotls together, which may work if the frog is as large as or bigger than the axolotl. But there are other risks you also need to be aware of besides just size and hunting style.

We will take a look at these specific known risks in the next sections here.

Most Frogs Need a Different Type of Ecosystem from Axolotls

The majority of aquarium frogs require a warmer, much more humid type of environment to stay healthy in a captive setting.

Axolotls, as Reptiles Magazine points out, require a much cooler, darker ecosystem than what most captive aquarium frogs will require.

If temperatures regularly reach much above 70°F (21°C), you risk shaving years off of your axolotl’s life. Axolotls much prefer a temperature range of 60 to 70°F (15.5 to 21°C) with low to no added lighting.

This can cause one animal to have to deal with consistent stress, which in turn can cause illness, disease, and eventual fatality.

Some Frogs Can Produce Toxic or Poisonous Secretions

Many aquarium frogs are known to secrete mucous or toxins on the surface of their skin. Sometimes this is to keep cool or moist. Sometimes it is a protective defensive mechanism.

Either way, the axolotl is a soft-bodied salamander that doesn’t have any type of external defenses against skin stressors.

Similarly, since axolotls will definitely try to eat any tankmate that moves too close to them, it is possible your axolotl could swallow some of these toxins and get sick or die.

Frogs Can Introduce Parasites and Disease to Your Axolotl Tank

Because most aquarium frog species require sub-tropical to tropical environments that are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, fungi, and parasites, they could easily transmit these biohazards to your axolotl.

Axolotls won’t have any immunity to these types of introduced hazards since they live in a completely different ecosystem in the wild.

Even if your frog looks and acts completely healthy, this doesn’t mean the frog isn’t harboring diseases or parasites. Many frogs can be carriers for bacteria, fungi, parasites, or diseases that don’t affect them but will kill your axolotl.

Frogs May Cause Injury or Death If Swallowed

Axolotls rely on their ability to swallow their animal prey whole. While this typically works well with worms and micro-prey like daphnia and brine shrimp, it can quickly turn deadly with prey that has legs, arms, tails, or mouths to bite, snap or flail.

Your axolotl may well try to swallow a frog if it can grasp and hold onto any part of the animal.

But swallowing the frog isn’t nearly so easy or safe. The frog could push a leg out through the gill system and cause choking or suffocation or even just serious injury. You may have to extract the frog with tongs, causing further damage.

Avoid Mixing Axolotls and Frogs for Feeding or Aquarium Life

As Caudata, the popular amphibian keepers’ forum, advises, it is best to simply steer clear of mixing axolotls and frogs for any purpose.

Experienced axolotl keepers call this “species mixing disasters” for good reason.

Luckily, there is no shortage of high quality, nutritious animal protein foods that axolotls can safely eat. For young axolotls, brine shrimp, daphnia, blackworms, and bloodworms are great, safe, nutritious choices.

Older juvenile and adult axolotls can thrive on a diet solely of earthworms or nightcrawlers.

Pelleted foods can also be a good backup food source if you run into any trouble pricing your axolotl’s favorite live prey.

Ultimately, experienced axolotl keepers advise that frogs just don’t have any place on the axolotl’s “safe foods” menu.

An axolotl kept under ideal environmental conditions with an enriching aquarium habitat and appropriate, nourishing foods can easily live for 17 years or longer.

By making sure your axolotl doesn’t ever get access to dangerous tank mates like frogs, you can be sure you have your pet with you for many years to observe and enjoy.