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Why Is My Axolotl Floating?

by Lucy

Legend has it that axolotls were named after Xolotl, the Aztec deity of fire and lightning. With such a distinguished history, it’s no wonder these amphibians are a popular pet choice, but their growing popularity also means pet owners are near brimming with queries about this unique and endangered species. 

Questions like: Why is my axolotl floating? Your amphibian may be floating due to various reasons. These include bloating, the presence of excess ammonia in the tank, or impaction. Luckily, there are ways to help an axolotl that seems to be floating abnormally.

Axolotl owners looking to find answers behind their pet’s sudden light-weightedness and solutions to fix the issue can depend on this trusty guide below. All you need to do is stick with us to learn more! We’ve lined up everything you need to know to get your little buddy feeling right as rain again.

3 Reasons Why Your Axolotl Is Floating

Axolotls may look like cutesy creatures right out of Pokemon, but these amphibians are very real, with needs and specific care requirements to remain happy and healthy. More often than not, a floating axolotl is a sign of something being amiss in their care routine.

The species possess gills, but their physiology includes lungs, and they’re also capable of absorbing oxygen through their skin. Another fun fact about axolotls is that they don’t bite or chew on their food. Instead, they tend to suck down their prey, including small fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae. 

You may be wondering why any of this is important in a section that’s supposed to highlight the reasons why axolotls float. Don’t worry; there’s a method to our supposed madness. Scroll down below to discover why the above info is pertinent to the issue of floating axolotls.


Flatulence or gas is common in all living things, and axolotls are no different. While humans don’t start defying gravity when they’re facing a belly full of gas, your axolotl can take to floating due to similar concerns. 

As to what can cause these amphibians to develop gas, well, let’s just say there can be a few reasons. A common culprit behind your axolotl being gassy is swallowing air bubbles. Remember when we mentioned these little guys tend to suck down their food? That makes them vulnerable to ingesting air bubbles too. 

Besides that, axolotls actually like eating air bubbles because it helps keep their gills healthy. While ingesting air bubbles won’t always result in gas, you can tell air bubbles are the problem if you notice your amphibian floating on their back, with their tiny legs facing upwards. 

Another reason your axolotl can face flatulence is overeating. If you’re the kind of pet parent who’s constantly worried about their pet not getting enough food, you may be overfeeding your amphibian. 

While young axolotls need to be fed daily, adults only require feeding twice or thrice a week. Additionally, it’s best to put in only as much food as your amphibian(s) can eat in two to three minutes. You can also fish out any remaining food debris to avoid overfeeding and water pollution. 

Lastly, axolotls can develop flatulence due to inadequate water conditions. Improper nitrite and ammonia levels, along with fluctuating water temperatures, can all contribute to gas issues in the species. 

It’s best for axolotl owners to keep a water testing kit handy to be able to monitor water quality according to their pet’s needs. 

Excess Ammonia Levels

Ammonia should be non-existent in ideal tank settings for axolotls. Also known as the invisible fish killer, ammonia can not only endanger the life of your amphibian but can also lead to digestive concerns, and eventually, gas. 

Ammonia is a natural component in fish tanks and develops due to the presence of fish waste. It can also originate due to rotting food particles and other types of organic debris. Ridding an axolotl fish tank of ammonia requires a robust filtration system and frequent water changes. 

Ammonia buildup can be readily detected via water testing strips. Ammonia, and nitrite levels in your amphibian’s tank should always be at zero. Anything more should prompt an immediate water change to ensure the levels go back to normal. 


Many axolotl owners make the mistake of adding gravel in their pet’s tank instead of sticking to a sandy substrate. This is an easy mistake for beginners to make. 

Once owners learn axolotls tend to suck in their prey, they opt for gravel flooring to ensure their amphibians don’t end up sucking sand into their system at chow time. 

Unfortunately, the problem with a gravel substrate is that there’s no guarantee your axolotl won’t be ingesting it by mistake. In fact, some pet experts suggest that axolotls make it a point to eat pebbles to help with digestion. 

Since the species doesn’t have normal stomachs, they can sometimes rely on the grinding of gravel inside their tummies to help digest food. That leads to an even bigger concern – impaction. 

Your axolotl may turn to eating gravel for a practical reason but end up harming themselves when the pebble is too big and gets stuck in your pet’s system. 

This impaction can lead to food and air being trapped in their body and is a serious condition that requires a visit to a qualified veterinarian for immediate treatment. 

Axolotl owners should also note that the species can swallow rocks just slightly smaller than their heads. That means you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking your amphibian is safe from impaction because the pebbles you’ve used in the tank are sizable. 

How To Help Your Axolotl Stop Floating

Now that we’ve covered the most common reasons why axolotls can float, it’s time to focus on those solutions we promised. 

Typically, the ideal resolution will depend on ascertaining why your pet is floating in the first place. That’s why we’ve divided this section into three headings, depending on the cause of the float. 

You can scroll down to the reason you suspect is making your axolotl float and get started from there.

How To Stop An Axolotl Floating Due To Gas

If your amphibian is floating due to the presence of gas, you’ll have to identify the cause of bloating to reach the right solution. 

For instance, if your axolotl has gastric issues due to overfeeding, reduce the number of pellets you’re feeding your pet and observe them carefully. If you notice your pet walking on the bottom of the tank in a day or two, you’ve resolved the concern. 

On the other hand, if you suspect the culprit is the air bubbler in your pet’s tank, you can replace the air bubbler with live plants. Doing so will help stop your axolotl from eating bubbles, and the presence of live plants will make up for the oxygen requirement the species has. 

How To Stop An Axolotl Floating Due To Excess Ammonia

We always recommend axolotl parents keep a water testing kit ready to help monitor tank conditions. You can utilize a testing strip from the kit to check the tank’s ammonia levels. Anything higher than zero should immediately prompt a water change to help reduce the ammonia level. 

Don’t forget to test the water after carrying out the water change. The faster you rid your axolotl’s tank of ammonia, the better their chances are for recovery and going back to normal. 

How To Stop An Axolotl Floating Due To Impaction

Believe it or not, you can refrigerate your axolotl to help them pass the pebble or gravel causing the impaction. If you’re wondering whether refrigeration means what you think it does, allow us to assure you, the answer’s yes. 

Housing your axolotl in a glass or plastic container with water and placing them in the refrigerator helps bring your pet’s body temperature down and makes for a smoother defecation process. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of placing your pet in the fridge, you can set the container with your axolotl in a sink with ice instead. 

First-time axolotl owners can be a little hesitant to carry out the refrigeration process. If you’re the same, don’t worry. If you suspect your amphibian is suffering from impaction, it’s best to take a quick trip to the vet for proper diagnosis and handling. Remember, there’s always another viable alternative.

Final Thoughts

We’re at the end of our guide and hope our fellow amphibian enthusiasts have enough info on how to tackle a floating axolotl crisis. As charming as these adorable amphibians are to observe, they have specific care requirements that pet owners need to be aware of. 

That’s why it’s best to research what your amphibian may require, from tank size to water quality requirements, before you bring your pet home. If you’ve already bought your pet home, bring yourself up to speed as to what your little guy or gal requires.

Most of the reasons as to why axolotls can float are related to care requirements going amiss. So the better prepared you are to take care of your pet, the better your overall chances are of avoiding such concerns! 

Up Next: Can Axolotls Live With Fish?

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