Is Holding or Touching an Axolotl okay?

Sometimes called “water dogs”, the always-grinning Axolotls are native to the lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco in central Mexico. They’re critically endangered in the wild due to habitat loss and invasive species introduction but remain populous in artificial waters. 

Touching an Axolotl has always been a “touchy” subject with some experts vigilantly prohibiting it and others allowing light interactions. In this article, we’ll clear the confusion and provide you with a brief Axolotl guide that you can bookmark and refer to when required. 

Is Holding or Touching an Axolotl okay?


No. It’s generally not recommended to touch or hold your Axolotl unless there is an absolute emergency. This advice is mainly because: 

  • Axolotls have very delicate and sensitive skin, covered with a protective slime coat that can be damaged–leaving an opening for bacteria and parasites to enter. 
  • While your Axolotl may seem friendly towards you, handling it, especially being taken out of the water, can be extremely stressful. It can jeopardize their bodily functions. 
  • You may accidentally injure your Axolotl by handling it. Axolotls are fragile, and improper handling can leave them susceptible to physical harm. 

Read on to learn how to briefly touch your Axolotl if necessary.  

Also Read: Sucker Fish: Care Tips, Tank Mates & More

Axolotl Overview

Scientific Name:Ambystoma mexicanum
Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Pretty docile. May bite if provoked or stressed. 
Color:Shades of brown and albino
Lifespan:10-15 years
Size:6 to 12 inches
Diet:Carnivorous diet. Feeds on bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small fish. 
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons for a single Axolotl
Temperature:60 to 68F (15-20C)
WaterConditions:pH: Around 7.4 to 7.6
Moderately hard water
Tank Mate CompatibilityWith their kind.

Depending on your experience level, caring for your Axolotl can be pretty challenging. Maintaining low-temperature levels during summer and protecting their sensitive skin often prove to be demanding even for experienced aquarists. 

If you’re new to Axolotls or refining your knowledge about them, this guide is for you: 

Axolotl Habitat Setup and Maintenance

Axolotl Habitat Setup and Maintenance

Unlike most other salamanders, Axolotls reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. This unique train is called neoteny. They retain their gills and aquatic lifestyle throughout their entire lives. They also have exceptional regenerative abilities, regrowing entire limbs with bones and muscles. 

However, their regrowing capabilities don’t offset their sensitivity to environmental conditions. Here is how Axolotls like their habitat: 

Axolotl Tank Size And Water Parameters

Axolotls require ample space to move around and explore. They also require a large surface area for proper gas exchange. It’s advisable to provide a tank of at least 20 gallons for an Axolotl. If you’re planning to keep more, 10 gallons per additional Axolotl should suffice. 

As mentioned, Axolotls are pretty sensitive creatures. They thrive in water temperatures of around 60-68°F or 15-20°C. While they readily accept a lower temperature, higher temperatures over 72F can lead to health issues and death. 

Axolotls prefer slightly alkaline water with a pH between 7.4 to 8.0. It’s also essential to consistently monitor the pH levels in the tank as fluctuations can harm your Axolotl quite easily.  

They also prefer slightly hard water with a GH level between 8-12 dGH. Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are critical to be kept at a near-zero level to prevent toxicity.  

To maintain an optimum water temperature: 

  • Use fans to agitate the water surface and increase evaporation. It will cool down the water. Avoid directly blowing the fan onto the tank.
  • Use ice packs and frozen water bottles to reduce water temperature. 
  • Keep the tank indoors and covered to reduce heat flow to the water. 
  • Frequently change small amounts of water to keep the tank cool. 

To maintain proper pH and water hardness, use commercial buffers and adjusters. Water changes also often help reduce the levels

Also Read: Koi Fish – What Do They Eat?

Filtration and Water Quality

For Axolotl aquariums, choose filtration systems that provide both mechanical and biological filtration. Mechanical filtration removes debris from the water, while biological filtration breaks down harmful toxins such as ammonia and nitrite. 

We recommend using canister filters and sponge filters for smaller Axolotl tanks to limit the water current. But, for larger tanks, you may choose canister filters with a reduced water flow rate.

Furthermore, regularly monitor water parameters to ensure optimal water quality for your Axolotls. Perform regular water changes, 20-30% every alternate week, to reduce bioload and maintain water quality. 

Substrate Choice, Decorations, and Cleaning Routines

Many Axolotl enthusiasts prefer to have a bare-bottom tank, for them being easier to clean and maintain. It also prevents the risk of ingestion and impaction. 

However, we prefer keeping our Axolotls in sandy substrates or smooth gravel. Choose a fine sand that won’t harm the sensitive skin of Axolotls. If you choose smooth gravel, ensure it’s large enough for the Axolotl to prevent ingestion.  

Axolotls require a lot of hiding places to stay stress-free. Here are some good alternatives: 

  • You can use PVC pipes, ceramic pots, or aquarium decorations to create caves and shelters for them.
  • While live plants can be challenging to maintain in axolotl tanks due to the cold water temperatures and low light levels, some hardy species like java ferns or anubias can be used. 
  • Ensure all decorations are smooth and don’t have any sharp edges that could injure the axolotls. Avoid decorations with small openings that axolotls could get stuck in.

The cleaning routine for your Axolotl tank may involve: 

  • Partial Water Changes: Perform regular partial water changes to remove waste and maintain water quality. Change approximately 20-30% of the tank water every 1-2 weeks, depending on the bioload.
  • Siphon Substrate: If using substrates, use a gravel vacuum to siphon debris and waste during water changes. This helps prevent detritus buildup and allows better airflow to the plant roots.
  • Clean Decorations: Periodically remove decorations from the tank and clean them with warm water to remove algae or debris. Avoid using soap or detergents, as they can be harmful to Axolotls.
  • Monitor Filter: Regularly check and clean the filter to ensure it is functioning properly. Rinse mechanical filter media in dechlorinated water to remove debris. Avoid cleaning biological filter media to sustain beneficial bacteria.
  • Scrub Algae: Gently scrub the tank walls and decorations with a soft brush or algae scraper during water changes. Avoid using abrasive materials that could scratch the glass.

Also Read: Snail Lifespan – How Long Do Snails Live?

Feeding and Nutrition

Proper Diet for Axolotls

Axolotls rely on carnivorous diets. While a few commercial products are available, it’s better to feed them live or frozen meals. 

Proper Diet for Axolotls

Variety is the key when it comes to feeding your Ax. Ensure that your Axolotl receives all the necessary nutrients to prevent nutritional deficiencies and promote overall good health. 

Axolotls primarily eat live or frozen foods. The alternatives include earthworms, bloodworms, blackworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and small feeder fish. Live foods are often preferred because they stimulate the axolotl’s natural hunting instincts.

However, ensure that your live food, especially the feeder fish, is from a reputable source to minimize the risk of introducing parasites into the tank. 

High-quality Axolotl pellets can also be a part of their diet along with live food. Look for pellets designed for Axolotls or amphibians. Try a  few different options to see what suits your Axolotl’s taste. 

Feeding Frequency and Portion Sizes

Feed adult axolotls 2-3 times per week. Juvenile axolotls may require more frequent feedings, up to once per day to support their growth. Monitor their feeding according to their growth rate to prevent overfeeding and obesity. 

Offer food potions that are suitable for the size of your axolotl. Feed them as much as they can consume in a few minutes, removing any uneaten food to prevent fouling of the water.

Monitoring Eating Habits and Adjusting Diet as Needed

Axolotls have a lower metabolism in colder months. During this time, they may eat less. Adjust feeding frequency accordingly based on water temperature and seasonal changes.

Moreover, regularly monitor your Axolotl for any signs of malnutrition and digestive issues to adjust their diet accordingly.

Also Read: 15+ Fish With Big Forehead – Pictures & Facts

Health and Wellness

Common Health Issues

In addition to nutrition and tank setup, maintaining your Axolotl’s health is also critical. In this section, we’ll discuss some common Axolotl health issues and their treatments. 

Common Health Issues and Treatments

While Axolotls are generally hardy creatures thanks to their slime coat, they can still experience health issues. 

Fungal Infection

Symptoms: White, cotton-like growths on the skin, fins, or gills. The affected areas may appear fuzzy or slimy.

Treatment: Treat fungal infections with antifungal medications such as Hikari Ich-X. An improved water quality and reduced stress level can help the Axolotl’s immune system fight off the infection.

Bacterial Infection

Symptoms: Redness, inflammation, or open sores on the skin. Other signs may include lethargy, loss of appetite, or difficulty swimming.

Treatment: Use antibacterial medications, including metronidazole and kanamycin, to treat bacterial infections. It’s essential to address any underlying water quality issues and maintain optimal water parameters to support your Axolotl’s recovery.

Parasitic Infestation

Symptoms: Scratching or rubbing against surfaces, abnormal behavior, visible parasites on the skin or gills.

Treatment: Parasitic infestations can be treated with antiparasitic medications. Quarantine your infected Axolotl to prevent the spread of parasites to other tank inhabitants. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the tank and equipment to remove any remaining parasites.


Symptoms: Loss of appetite, bloating, constipation, difficulty swimming, or abnormal posture.

Treatment: If an axolotl shows signs of impaction, remove any substrate from the tank and offer a diet high in fiber to promote digestion. Daphnia or live earthworms can help stimulate bowel movements. 

Metabolic Bone Disease

Symptoms: Soft or deformed bones, difficulty swimming, abnormal posture, swollen limbs or jaw. It usually develops from a lack of UVB light.  

Treatment: Provide a calcium-rich diet and ensure proper water chemistry to prevent MBD. In severe cases, the guidance of a veterinarian specializing in exotic animals may be required.

Also Read: Types Of Aquarium Fish Food Types And Nutritional Values

Handling and Interaction

Moving on from the care guide, let’s discuss how you may handle your Axolotl in case of emergencies. 

Guidelines for Handling Axolotls

There might be situations where brief handling is unavoidable, like tank cleaning or moving them to another tank. In such cases, focus on speed and gentleness.

  • Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands thoroughly with clean water up to your elbow before handling your Axolotl in emergencies. Avoid soap and other chemicals when rinsing your hands. 

  • Wet Hands

Keep your hands wet while handing the Axolotl, although it’s trivial if you’re dipping your hands into the tank. 

  • Cupping

Avoid putting pressure on your Axolotl’s belly and support their entire body with a cupped hand. 

  • Use a Net or Container

Use a water-filled net or container to move your Axolotl instead of using your hands if possible. 

  • Gentle Release

Slowly release your Axolotl into the tank after handling. Avoid introducing stressors such as sudden movements and loud noises during the shift.

Also Read: What Is An Axolotl And Is It Suitable For Your Aquarium


Q: Is it okay to touch an axolotl?

No, avoid touching your Axolotl as much as possible. If you must, clean your hands, use a cupping technique, and gently handle your Axolotl during the process.

Q: Are axolotls friendly?

Yes, Axolotls are pretty docile in captive environments. But, they can bite if stressed. However, their bite is mostly harmless to humans.

Q: What can axolotls do that humans can’t?

Axolotl can regenerate their severed limbs, including bones, nerves, and muscles. This is a particular subject of interest among researchers.

Q: What is an axolotl’s lifespan?

In ideal conditions, Axolotls live for about 10-15 years. However, it depends upon their suitability to the environment and stress levels.

The Bottom Line

We’ve discussed whether touching your Axolotl is okay or not and have provided a basic Axolotl care guide. Hopefully, you’ll now be able to take proper care of your salamander friend and have a wonderful time. All the best! 

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