Why is My Axolotl Floating? Reasons + What to Do

Floating is a normal behavior in axolotls, but it can sometimes be a sign of various problems with the pet or its habitat. As a pet owner, you want to make sure you can differentiate the normal and the abnormal floating in order to take the necessary measures to keep your pet safe and healthy. So, why do axolotls float and what should you do to save the amphibian?

Is it normal for an axolotl to float?

Axolotl floating

It is not normal for axolotls to float in their tanks because they’re amphibians that dwell at the bottom and like to keep their feet on the bottom surface. A floating axolotl is most likely a sign of bloating, impaction, or excess ammonia in the tank.

In its natural habitat, the axolotl moves around the bottom as a defensive mechanism for survival. The rare cases of intentional floating for baby and adult axolotls are for safeguarding themselves from potential predators at the bottom of the tank.

Axolotl predators may include large fish and birds, notably storks and herons.

Still, the pet can float for a few minutes just for fun, which can be risky and lead to it swallowing air. Air increases the axolotl’s buoyancy, making it difficult to descend back to the tank’s bottom.

In such a situation, you may mistakenly think your pet is bloated or suffering from constipation. Simply nudge or blow on it to help it return to the bottom of its tank to start walking again.

Why is my axolotl floating and not moving?

In the event that your aquatic pet is floating on the tank’s surface more than it should and without returning to the bottom even if you scare it a little, that should concern you.

Here are the reasons why your axolotl is floating:


It is common for keepers of axolotls to add a bubbler to their tanks. A bubbler can be important in a tank or aquarium since the bubbles released are beneficial to the water. The bubbles can boost the conditions of living for your aquatic pet and plants and assist in water oxidation.

Your axolotl may not need the addition of a bubbler in its aqueous habitat, even though, for whatever reason, it seems to love air bubbles.

Exposing your amphibian pet to a bubbler will result in its swallowing of air bubbles. Your pet, just like humans, can also suffer from a digestive disorder involving gas and bloating. Bloating hinders the normal mechanism of digestion.

It is also possible for your Mexican walking fish to suffer from gas and bloating resulting from the air bubbles swallowed during speedy eating. Considering your axolotl is a predator, it often aggressively eats, leading to gas buildup in the stomach which necessitates floating.

A sign that your pet is suffering from gas and bloating is when it floats with its back on the water surface.

It’s suffering from impaction

This point leads us to an old, tired argument about whether gravel or stones should be or not included in the habitat of an axolotl. Some people have always argued for the inclusion of gravel in the aquarium or tank of this pet. They suppose that gravel ingested by an axolotl can help in the digestion of food because the pet has an unusual stomach.

Understand there are lots of axolotls benefitting from healthy living without partaking in gravel eating.

Since axolotls tend to ingest almost anything within reach, avoid availing rocks or gravel smaller than their heads in their tanks. Consumption of rocks or gravel is known to yield impaction. As a result, the axolotl will find it hard to get rid of the ingested materials.

Impaction can push your pet to float and even harm it as there is blockage of air and food.

There’s excess ammonia the tank

Ammonia is one of the popular wastes found in the environment of aquatic life. The toxic gas results from the breakdown of organic matter in the tank of your axolotl. Ammonia is also released in the aquarium or tank as a by-product of the axolotl’s metabolism.

The resultant high levels of ammonia can compromise the water quality and be ingested by your pet to trigger its floating behavior owing to stress. A spike in ammonia level of more than 0 ppm in the tank or aquarium will make axolotls suffer from ammonia burns.

Feeding on unsoaked food

When you put your sinking pellets or unsoaked feed in the aquarium, with time, even when in the stomach, they tend to absorb lots of water. If your pet consumes lots of sinking pellets, they will cause your satiated amphibian friend to suffer from bloating, which may trigger its floating.

How to Stop an Axolotl from Floating

Since floating is a strong indicator that something is wrong with the health or environment of your walking fish, you should be quick to find the applicable solution. Most of the reasons for the floating of your axolotl may prove deadly.

Here’s how you can stop your axolotl from floating:

1. Change the feeding habits and type of food

First, avoid feeding your water-dwelling amphibian for a couple of days. You should not attempt to forcefully feed your pet until the bloating issue has been resolved by its system.

As well, always be conscious of what your axolotl eats so that it does not suffer from gas and bloating issues. Feed your pet the right type and amount of food, not excess and not too little, and follow appropriate eating intervals.

2. Get rid of excess ammonia in the tank

Use testing strips to examine if the water of the tank has excess ammonia or chlorine. Once established that ammonia is the cause of the floating behavior, you will have to lower its concentration. Substituting about 50% of the tank water with fresh, dechlorinated water is one sure way of eliminating excess, harmful water chemicals.

3. Maintain proper tank temperature

Since an axolotl, like other amphibians, is a cold-blooded animal, always see to it that the temperature of the tank water is conducive for its comfortable living. Any small fluctuation in temperature can be harmful, especially to a baby axolotl since it is not hardy.

4. Refrigerate the axolotl

Use a water chiller or an aquarium fan to refrigerate an axolotl. That is done to lower the temperature of the blood, vital in assisting it to regurgitate or poop any gravel ingested.

5. Provide smaller gravel

If you must provide a substrate or gravel in the tank, see to it that it is bigger than the head of your axolotl to discourage swallowing, which results in impaction.

6. Clean the tank regularly

Routinely clean the tank of your amphibian pet to get rid of its poop and any other waste. An unhygienic habitat may force it to float as it is stressed.

7. Add floating plants in the tank 

If your pet seems to be having more fun on the surface of the tank water, discourage the risky behavior by covering the tank with floating plants that are safe for axolotl tanks.

Does Floating Mean My Axolotl Is Dying?

The answer to the question may be yes or no. Floating may not always be dangerous to your axolotl. The floating of your axolotl can be for fun or due to health and environmental issues.

Therefore, you have to make sure you decipher the meaning behind the floating behavior. For instance, if an axolotl floats its anterior legs in a conducive water tank that is a sign it is just messing around. But, floating hind legs may be a mating or bowel movement behavior. 

On the other hand, refusing to stop floating for many hours even after attempts at a gentle scare may indicate an amphibian with health issues and in danger of dying. Apart from floating, including the floating tail, other potential signs of danger to look out for include refusal to eat, falling off of gills, and skin shedding.

Seeing your aquatic pet floating for extended periods, you should immediately take appropriate action. Floating is a rare behavior of axolotls and thus if that continues for hours it could be an indication of an underlying, serious issue.

Taking an appropriate course of action may involve consulting a tank expert or veterinarian, especially in case the implementation of the home solutions provided above proves unsuccessful to dissuade floating. Do not attempt some solutions like fridging an axolotl if you are not too sure about what you are doing to avoid worsening its health and even causing its demise.


READ NEXT: Stressed Axolotl Signs and Help Tips

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