The axolotl (pronounced “ack-suh-lot-uhl”) is a salamander that is found in only one place on Earth. It lives in a single lake just outside of Mexico City, Mexico.
According to National Geographic, the axolotl is a salamander, but it is not like other salamanders.
Axolotls are neoteny salamanders, which means they keep some of their larval features all throughout life. Unlike most other salamander species, they also prefer to stay in the water throughout life.
While axolotls are growing in popularity in the pet trade, in the wild they are considered to be critically endangered, according to Live Science.
While axolotls are cute enough to practically sell themselves in pet stores, they do have some very specific care requirements. Learning how to feed your axolotl throughout life can take some practice!
In this article, learn what you need to know about feeding axolotls one of their staple foods – pellets. How many pellets should you offer? How can you know when your axolotl is full or still hungry? Do axolotls ever get tired of eating pellets? Find out now.
How to Feed Your Axolotl Pellets?
In this short YouTube video, you can watch an axolotl eat a softened pellet.
As Animals in Schools points out, because axolotls are primarily carnivorous and are accustomed to eating soft prey, it is important to feed a softer type of pellet that is easier for them to grab and swallow.
Any pellet you feed will naturally soften as it sits on the bottom of your axolotl’s tank. But you don’t want to choose a pellet that is too large because your axolotl may still have trouble swallowing it safely.
This will be much more important when your axolotl is still young and small, but experienced axolotl keepers and breeders say these salamanders retain their preference for soft pellets throughout life.
How Many Pellets to Feed Axolotl?
When axolotls are first born, they typically measure less than one-half inch. But just wait a handful of months and you will see an amazing change.
Many axolotls can easily reach 10 to 12 inches before their first birthday, and 17 inches is not unheard of, as Reptiles Magazine highlights.
So in the first six to 12 months of life, you can expect to have to adjust how much and how often you feed your axolotl several times.
What Quantity of Pellets to Feed Your Axolotl?
At Indiana State University, the university staff and student body maintain what is called an “assurance colony” of axolotls.
Since axolotls are now considered critically endangered in the wild, it is important that such assurance colonies exist so these amazing amphibians will live on.
Indiana State University has done a lot of great research to better understand how axolotls can self-regenerate as well as how to keep them healthy in a captive setting.
One of the research studies has looked at how many pellets and what type of pellets to feed axolotls at different ages and life stages. Here is an overview of what the researchers have learned to date:
Feeding for newly hatched embryo axolotl larvae
When axolotl first hatch, they have a residual yolk sac that is still attached to their belly. This yolk sac contains “reserves” to help them get through the first few days of life.
As soon as the yolk sac is no longer visible, you should start feeding your axolotl newly hatched brine shrimp. Otherwise, they may swallow air, which they won’t be able to get rid of until they are fed.
Feeding for hatchling axolotl larvae
Newly hatched axolotl larvae receive newly hatched brine shrimp only. The food is left for 24 hours and then the water is changed. The goal is to see hatchling axolotl with bright orange tummies (this indicates a good quantity of shrimp eaten).
Feeding for 1.5-inch axolotl young
When young axolotl grows to 1.5 inches long, their diet of brine shrimp is alternated with one-eighth-inch pellets. The pellets are already moistened and soft and are further softened when dropped into the water.
The goal is to successively offer less and less brine shrimp and more and more pellets until the axolotls reach at least two inches long and are eating only pellets.
Feeding for 2-inch to 3-inch axolotl
When the axolotl young have reached at least two inches in length, they should be eating only the one-eighth inch pellets. The researchers recommend salmon or fish-based pellets.
Feeding for 6-inch axolotl
In most cases, an axolotl will be sexually mature by the age of six months even if they have not yet reached their full adult size.
By the age of six months or six inches long, whichever comes first, the researchers’ transition to a larger pellet that is three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter.
Feeding for one-year-old axolotl
Once the axolotl has reached the age of one year old, the number of feedings and the number of pellets offered per feeding can be decreased.
So if you have been feeding four times per week, you can decrease to three feedings per week with a five pellet-per-feeding maximum per axolotl.
10 Tips to Transition Axolotls to Pellet Foods
If your axolotl comes to you as a newborn, you may not have any difficulty introducing pellets as the primary food source. But if you rescue an axolotl as an adult, you may find that your axolotl isn’t used to eating pellets.
Water Critters offers some great tips to help you train your axolotl to accept and eat pelleted foods readily:
1. Make sure the pellet is sufficiently small so your axolotl can grasp and swallow it safely.
2. Don’t overfeed or your axolotl may not eat because they are not hungry.
3. The best feeding method is to drop the pellets one by one into the water near your axolotl’s mouth to trigger the “snap” reflex – so make sure you choose a “sinking pellet” type that is formulated for axolotl nutrition.
4. Don’t worry if your axolotl initially spits the pellet back out – it is an unfamiliar food and may feel or taste strange.
5. If your axolotl is reluctant to try the pellets, it is okay to leave one or two on the aquarium floor overnight so your axolotl can check them out.
6. On “pellet day,” if your axolotl doesn’t eat the pellets, wait until the following day to offer the normal food.
7. If you end up having to feed the normal food, then try pellets again at the next feeding.
8. The most important goal is to make sure your axolotl continues to get balanced nutrition, so be patient if it takes some time to introduce the pellets – don’t start your axolotl just so they will try pelleted foods.
9. Try a few different types of pellets until you find one that your axolotl seems to prefer.
10. Rather than aiming for a pure pelleted diet, continue offering the occasional live foods as treats and for enrichment.
As you now understand, figuring out how to feed your axolotl a pelleted diet can take some trial and error. You may also need to adjust what you have just read based on the number of axolotls you are caring for.
It is always smart to talk with an experienced axolotl keeper and your exotic veterinarian if you have questions about your axolotl’s daily diet and nutrient needs.