Axolotls are a very unique species of salamander that are native to only one place in the world: Mexico City, Mexico. They have an ancient and noble history and are featured in many Aztec myths and stories.
While axolotls are now said to be critically endangered in their wild habitat, they are quite popular as pets and do well in captivity as long as their basic needs are met.
Feeding your axolotl the right foods in the right quantities and at the right times is a very important part of keeping your pet healthy and happy. Diet is also very important if you plan to breed your axolotls.
In this article, we will talk about feeding your axolotls earthworms. Earthworms are a favorite axolotl food but there are some safety tips you will want to know about.
We will talk about how often to feed earthworms, how many earthworms to offer, and when it is the right age to start feeding your axolotl earthworms.
How Do Axolotls Eat? A Quick Overview
Axolotls are salamanders. Salamanders are purely carnivorous and will eat just about anything, as Untamed Science highlights.
Right from hatching, axolotls will seek out pure protein foods. They are especially attracted to movement, which will cause them to make an automatic “snapping” motion with their mouth.
But you may not know that salamanders do not have teeth the way we have teeth. They do have a type of teeth but they are very basic. The axolotl’s teeth are more for grasping and gripping their dinner rather than chewing it.
So basically, axolotls can’t chew their food like you chew your food. They will simply grasp and swallow their food. The larger the food source, the more tries it may take them to swallow all of it.
As Axolotls.org points out, because an axolotl will try their best to swallow a prey whole, the best way to keep your axolotl safe during feedings is to feed only size-appropriate worms or other food sources.
Another option is to cut up the food into bite-size portions. However, then you can’t rely on the wiggle movement of the prey to attract your axolotl’s attention.
Are Nightcrawlers a Good Food for Axolotls?
As Vegas Axolotls breeder points out, earthworms are actually a great food for adult axolotls.
The reason earthworms are usually not recommended as food for younger or hatchling axolotl is only because of their size. Earthworms are typically quite large and wide and very young axolotls may have a hard time grasping and swallowing them.
You can always get around this issue by chopping up your earthworms, but not every keeper has the stomach for this, which is understandable.
Watch An Adult Axolotl Eat a Large Adult Nightcrawler
In this short YouTube video, you can watch Co-Ax the axolotl, who lives at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, eat a very large adult earthworm.
You can see how the moment the wriggling earthworm is lowered into the tank, Co-Ax sees the movement and snaps, swallowing the earthworm whole little by little. It takes about a minute and a half for Co-Ax to get the whole earthworm swallowed.
How Often to Feed Nightcrawlers to An Axolotl?
Different axolotl keepers and breeders have different thoughts on how often to feed earthworms and how many to offer per feeding. Some feed nightcrawlers every day and some every other day.
But every keeper seems to agree that young axolotl (younger than six months old) should only get one-half an adult earthworm and that should be cut into smaller pieces to avoid a choking risk.
My Aquarium Club points out that axolotls take about two or three days to fully digest their last meal.
This means that the older your axolotl gets, the more they will eat and the more important it will become to space out feedings.
Hatchling to juvenile axolotls
Hatchling to juvenile axolotls typically needs to eat every day. This is both because they cannot eat as much food and because they are still growing fast and are burning up a lot of energy on that every day.
It can also take more work and energy for very small and young axolotls to consume their dinner. Most keepers will feed brine shrimp and bloodworms to very young axolotls and save the earthworms for when their pets get bigger and stronger.
Most axolotls become sexually mature around the age of six months. While they may continue growing for another six months or so, the growth rate will be slower than what you see during the first six months.
As well, once your axolotl nears their adult size, they will have bigger mouths, bigger stomachs, and more grasping strength to eat larger prey and eat more at one sitting.
So once your axolotl reaches the age of six months, one to two medium-sized nightcrawlers per feeding should suffice.
When your axolotl reaches their full adult size or turns one year old, whichever comes first, you can start feeding the large nightcrawlers. However, for safety reasons, you should still watch your axolotl feed just to make sure there is no choking risk.
Do Axolotls Need to Eat Other Foods Besides Nightcrawlers?
The general consensus among experienced axolotl keepers and breeders is that earthworms are one of the best foods to offer axolotls in captivity.
Earthworms, or nightcrawlers as they are frequently called, are a very complete source of nutrition. It is a bonus that they can be fed live when they are very fresh.
As Northern Axolotls explains, it is fine to feed a diet of nightcrawlers as long as you don’t have any trouble getting a steady supply in your area.
However, it can be smart to get your axolotls used to eating other types of foods as well. You may also want to consider growing your own nightcrawlers at home so you always have plenty of fresh worms to feed.
If you decide to feed your axolotl only nightcrawlers, you will need to get used to breaking the worms up into smaller bits until your axolotls are big enough to eat them whole.
Some keepers like to alternate nightcrawlers with a complete and balanced fish-based sinking pellet food or repashy gel just to make sure their pets are getting the most balanced nutrition.
How to Prepare Nightcrawlers to Feed Axolotls
Live nightcrawlers are usually sold in styrofoam or plastic containers and are packed with some dirt.
You will need to wash the nightcrawlers well before feeding them to your axolotl. The dirt will mess up the pH in your tank water and can cause choking or intestinal blockage if your axolotl swallows it.
It is very important to pay attention to where any store-bought nightcrawlers come from, as Axolotl Nerd points out.
In the same way, if you use commercial pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides on your own lawn, you may want to think twice before feeding your axolotl any earthworms you dig up out of the garden.
The best nightcrawler food for your axolotl will be sourced from organic soil that is free from any toxins or chemicals that could be harmful.
A healthy, well-fed and well cared for axolotl can easily live for as long as 15 years. In the wild, axolotls are apex predators (top of the food chain) but in captivity, they will be fully dependent on you for their health, life quality and longevity