Bloodworms may not sound delicious to you, but to your axolotl, they are the equivalent of the tastiest of treats. Some experienced keepers call bloodworms “axolotl candy” – and for good reason.
Axolotls are purely carnivorous, which means they only eat animal protein. This is true right from hatching. Axolotls are born with a small sac of yolk still attached to their tummies. This protein is there to help them survive the first day or few of life.
From there, axolotls will instinctively seek out any kind of animal protein they can grasp and swallow. Bloodworms are particularly nourishing because, as you likely guessed, they are 99 percent blood.
There are several different types of bloodworms you can choose to feed to your axolotl. This can be confusing if you are brand new to learning to care for axolotls.
How big should the bloodworms be? How many should you offer? How long should you leave them during feeding time? We will answer these and other important questions in this article.
What Are Bloodworms for Axolotl?
As National Geographic explains, some bloodworms belong to the same family of segmented worms that also includes earthworms, or nightcrawler, another popular axolotl food.
These bloodworms are the marine equivalent of land-dwelling earthworms. They like to live in sandy silt at the bottom of rivers and lakes. Some types will also live in coastal salt waters.
A different type of bloodworm is actually not worms at all. They are the larvae of a fly called the midge fly.
Both types of bloodworms are perfectly fine to feed to your axolotl, although the second type is typically easy to find in aquarium stores and pet stores. Sometimes you can also find them in your backyard.
Like axolotls, bloodworms are also carnivorous, which means they eat primarily animal protein for food. They bite their prey with their tongue, injecting venom to immobilize their prey so they can consume it.
Bloodworms are a near-universally popular bait choice for fishermen and are a staple treat food for many aquarists as well.
Why Feed Bloodworms to Axolotl?
Bloodworms are a very popular food source for axolotl, especially hatchling and juvenile axolotl.
Bloodworms are considered to be less nutritionally complete than some other types of axolotl food, so it is important not to make bloodworms your only food offering.
Of course, bloodworms are so tasty that axolotl will always eat them, which makes them a great backup plan all throughout life in case your axolotl isn’t feeling well one day.
But experienced keepers explain that bloodworms should be fed as a treat or supplemental food only, especially once your axolotls are fully grown and ready to breed.
Watch an Experienced Axolotl Keeper Prepare and Feed Bloodworms
In this helpful YouTube video, you can watch an experienced axolotl keeper prepare frozen bloodworms and feed them to his axolotl.
The “turkey baster” method he uses is popular with experienced keepers and breeders because it easily ejects the bloodworms into the feeding dish without adding extra wastewater that might mess up the pH in the tank and create more cleaning chores.
How to Feed Bloodworms to Axolotl?
As Aquarium Source explains, there are three main types of bloodworms that keepers typically feed to axolotl: frozen, freeze-dried, and live.
Frozen bloodworms are typically pre-packaged in little reddish squares. They are usually sold in sheets of squares and can be easily stored in your home freezer.
In most cases, frozen bloodworms stay good for at least six months when stored in the freezer. But they take a little more preparation time to feed since you have to thaw them first.
Freeze-dried bloodworms are not frozen but dried. These are usually packed in an airtight container that you can store indefinitely in a cool, dry place such as your pantry.
You will need to soak freeze-dried bloodworms before offering them to your axolotl so they soften. Some freeze-dried bloodworms are of higher quality than others and it is important to pay attention to this when deciding how often and how much to feed.
Just like you likely prefer your food fresh, your axolotl is likely to enjoy live bloodworms the most out of these three common options. However, feeding live bloodworms will be slightly more complicated for you, the keeper.
The source of your live bloodworms really matters. For example, you may pay more to buy live bloodworms at an aquatic supply store, but there will be less risk that the bloodworms may carry parasites or diseases.
As Fishkeeping World explains, live bloodworms are very perishable and must be used within a few days of purchase.
They need to be rinsed thoroughly to avoid adding any contaminants, sand, silt, or dirt to your axolotl tank. But if you can find and feed live bloodworms successfully, the plus side is that they tend to be more nutritious than the other types of bloodworms.
Live bloodworms will also bring out the hunter inside your axolotl. Because they move a lot, they will activate your axolotl’s snapping instinct.
This can be an especially good perk if your axolotl is young and still just learning to eat or isn’t feeling well and needs a little extra encouragement to eat.
How Many Bloodworms to Feed to Axolotl?
The number of bloodworms you feed to your axolotl will change throughout life.
And as we mentioned here earlier, since bloodworms are not considered to be a complete and balanced source of nutrients for axolotls, you should always balance how much you feed against the other types of food you need your axolotl to eat.
An axolotl that gets full on tasty bloodworms isn’t going to be as excited about eating their pellets or the other food that delivers the rest of their nutrient needs.
Newborn to hatchling axolotl
The younger and smaller your axolotl is, the more important it is to serve food that may entice the “snapping” instinct. Very young axolotl has a strong instinct to snap when they see movement and this is how they know it is time to eat.
Very young axolotl also have much smaller mouths and can only eat very small foods. Bloodworms are easy for newborns and hatchling axolotls to grab and swallow.
The golden rule when feeding a very young axolotl is to feed as much as your axolotl can consume in two minutes of feeding.
One brick of frozen bloodworms will be too many (when thawed) for a single young axolotl so you may need to break the brick into mini-chunks first.
Adult axolotl should be eating other food for their primary nutrient source. By this stage, the axolotl will be large enough to easily grasp pellets and more nutrient-dense protein prey, including worms.
But you can still offer bloodworms as a treat food. You can apply the two-minute rule for living, wriggling bloodworms, or extend it to five minutes in the case of frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms that don’t move.
Safety Tips When Feeding Bloodworms to Axolotl
Very young and small axolotl may have a harder time grasping and swallowing even tiny bloodworms. It is not uncommon for hatchling and juvenile axolotl to get the bloodworms caught in their gills.
It is always smart to observe your axolotl during feeding anyway to see how much they eat and make sure they are safe.