Stressed axolotl signs are varied and tend to be the same as when sick. Signs to look out for are curled gills, loss of gills, lack of appetite, and frequent floating. If your amphibian friend displays stress signs, it indicates something is wrong with the aquarium’s environment and needs help.
Signs of a stressed axolotl
Signs of a stressed axolotl may include:
1. Bending gills
Gills bending or curling forward, often due to water issues, signify an axolotl that is stressed and devoid of happiness. For instance, your pet may be exposed to intense water currents or water with a spike in ammonia levels.
2. Deteriorating gills
The deterioration of gills in axolotls is usually caused by high toxic ammonia levels in a watery environment. However, other chemicals, mainly lots of nitrite and nitrate, can also trigger this stress sign.
3. Folded tail tip
A folded or curved axolotl’s tail tip is a serious sign and symptom of a pet with debilitating stress or sickness. To correctly identify this stress sign, understand the anatomy of your aquatic pet.
4. Lack of appetite
Loss of appetite may be due to an aggressive aquarium mate, high temperature, contaminated water, an infection, or substandard water quality. Any of those problems may leave your axolotl not only stressed but also dead.
5. Gulping air frequently
An axolotl is capable of breathing underwater primarily via its gills and skin. The thinner skin allows dissolved oxygen in the water to be diffused into the body, which helps vital processes function such as respiration and metabolism.
However, a stressed axolotl may go to the water surface to try and gulp for more oxygen when the water below suffers from inadequate oxygenation.
6. Frequent floating
Axolotls are bottom dwellers and nocturnals, preferring environments with faint light.
This behavioral trait keeps them safe from potential predators such as tilapia and storks and allows them to normally breathe the oxygen dissolved in water via their skins and gills.
Although an axolotl can float for fun, performing frequent and prolonged floating is a sign of a stressed and uncomfortable pet. For example, air reaching an axolotl’s gastrointestinal tract can compromise its innate buoyancy leading to unusual floating behavior.
7. Panic-stricken swimming
An axolotl swimming around its aquarium rapidly and even crashing is a sign of pain, stress, and a call for help. Panic-stricken swimming may be due to high levels of toxic chemicals such as ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite in the tank. Also, tap water is another potential source of contaminants.
Sometimes, bloating and constipation may lead to a floating axolotl that is unresponsive and stressed. But, within a short time, the digestion issue often disappears and the animal resumes moving underwater normally.
On the other hand, serious issues such as poor water quality may force the pet to be unresponsive and unhappy for a long time, even if you try to scare it a little.
9. Skin discoloration
A stressed and sick axolotl usually loses the natural color of its body and gills. The skin may appear reddish or lighter/darker. The red swelling of axolotl skin may be due to the Aeromonas hydrophila attack. Skin with scratches and burns resembling white cotton may also indicate an axolotl with stress.
Blood loss can also cause skin discoloration.
10. Nausea and vomiting
If your axolotl is experiencing this sign and symptom of stress, the main suspects should be high ammonia levels in the water or overfeeding.
READ ALSO: Can Axolotls Go on Land and Breathe Out of Water?
How to help a stressed axolotl
To help a stressed axolotl, you can rely on the following tips.
1. Administer salt bathing
Axolotl salt bathing is an effective treatment option for fungal infections appearing on the skin as white patches. Salt baths, lasting about 12 minutes for a few days, will almost immediately eliminate fungus and make the axolotl healthy and happy.
Ensure the salt used is not excessive and baths are not lasting more than a week to avoid worsening the infection and physical exhaustion. For example, for a 5-gallon tank, mix it with three tablespoons of non-iodized salt.
Alternatively, you can administer black tea bathing. Black tea is richly-packed with tannins, which contain antifungal and antibacterial properties. However, this treatment option only effectively eliminates minor skin issues like burns.
2. Deliver high-quality water
To deliver conducive water quality without stress, do not expose your axolotl to excess chemical concentrations and extreme temperatures. When using tap water in the tank, eliminate contaminants like chlorine with a water conditioner.
Use a tank or aquarium water test kit to regularly monitor the watery environment’s quality. To have a relaxed axolotls clean the tank throughly if it is contaminated.
3. Avoid excessive handling and interaction.
Since an axolotl is not a social creature, it prefers to spend its time alone, especially in hiding. An axolotl also has thin skin and a delicate body, mainly composed of cartilage, which is prone to infections and diseases.
Therefore, avoid handling your axolotl unnecessarily so that it is not stressed. If you must move your pet, use a net having fine holes so that the skin and limbs are not injured.
4. Ensure proper feeding
An axolotl may refuse to eat and become stressed because it is not properly fed. As an amphibian pet, feed it delicious prey such as frozen fish, mice, and bloodworms. Live fish and shrimp are vectors, and have lots of diseases and parasites that may easily attack the amphibian pet.
A live and bigger prey may also cause stress and injuries to your pet as it attempts to eat.
4. Provide proper substrate
Axolotls have a habit of trying to ingest anything and everything around them. Unfortunately, ingesting substrates may cause impaction, stress, and even death.
The substrate used should be bigger than the head of an axolotl to discourage ingestion. The use of bigger pebbles in the tank is an excellent option.
5. Avail conducive temperature
Avoid exposing your pet to bright lights and temperatures of more than 74°C. Proper lighting and temperature will not stress, reduce the appetite, and kill your axolotl.
Provide lots of hiding spots in the aquarium, including caves, plants, and driftwood. The decorations can help protect your exotic pet from direct light and thus make it feel comfortable and safe.
Use a tank fan or water chiller to provide a conducive water temperature.
6. Set up a spacious habitat
One of the main reasons your axolotl needs a bigger tank space is that it often produces lots of waste. Water becomes easily polluted and contaminated when its confined to a small tank.Secondly, since an axolotl can reach about 12 inches high, it needs enough space for growth and free movement.
A stressed axolotl will experience stunted growth. For an adult pet, house it in a 20-gallon tank or aquarium. Also, the aquarium should have a water filtration mechanism to deliver quality water.
Refrigerate the axolotl
Refrigerating an axolotl can treat digestive issues and impaction, which cause stress. In addition, cooling down an axolotl reduces its metabolism rate and the progression of infections and diseases, giving you adequate time to treat the cause of stress.
When the temperature is also lowered, an axolotl will try to eliminate the extra food and waste in the body.
In conclusion, introducing an axolotl into a new tank may make it suffer from stress. This reaction is normal since the pet needs time to familiarize itself with the unusual environment. However, if the pet is still stressed and uncomfortable after a few days, that is a sign that there are other forces at work. So, ensure that the new tank is spacious and has an appropriate temperature and quality water.
READ NEXT: 11 Best Plants for Axolotl Tanks