Axl's Story

Axl: April 21st. One month in recovery

Here you'll find some snapshots of Axl's recovery along with his story. As a first-time axolotl mom, I've had a lot to learn. I'm grateful that I get to pass what I've learned along the way.

December 2022

Axl Comes Home

I know I will probably get a lot of hate for this, but this is the unfortunate truth for many misinformed first-time pet owners. Like most of us axolotl owners, I purchased an axolotl form a local pet shop and got the worst advice everrr. When we purchased Axl, he had one smaller leg from getting nipped by other tank mates, and was relatively skinny (although we did not know this at the time).

Excited, I asked "what is everything I need to take care of him?" The pet shop worker told me that I only had to feed him blood worms once a week, keep him with no light and no substrate in cold water, and that I could even use an old aquarium filter I had from a previous pet. Sound familiar?

That's it? I mean... I was very impressed by the low level of maintenance this cute little creature was going to be. Even my 8 year old son, eager to get his axolotl pet reassured me, "they eat blood worms, once a week, and like cold water and no light."

I purchased a canister of blood worms, a little cave for him to hide in, and our new axolotl. I recall joking with my son, "they live for 30 years? This guys is going with you to your college dorm." Yes, I was also told they live for 30 years and I secretly thought that he could at least keep me company when I became an empty nester some day. 

So, we set up a 10 gallon tank in my son's room, added our little 5 inch axolotl, set up an older filter and called it a day. 

Three months later, after weekly 20% water changes, feeding him once a week, and having him in a room that was warmer than ideal, he became very skinny and had very small gills. We realized that something was very wrong. 


Dos and Don'ts for axolotl-safe baths:

Always use Prime in water with any bath. 

Sick Axolotl

After three months of feeding him blood worms  just once weekly, Axl lost a lot of mass. The high ammonia in the uncycled tank burned off his gills. We were devastated and scared. Although he had never been plump, it was very evident that something was very wrong. 

How I cured my sick axolotl

I immediately joined an axolotl Facebook Group where I learned a ton. I also did extensive research online and learned everything I could to cure my axolotl. I am very grateful for the online resources and people on threads that helped learn everything I know today. 

4. I learned how to feed an axolotl properly for their size and found the useful chart provided here by Organ Axolotls.

5. To fatten him up I fed him tiny strips of raw wild-caught frozen salmon. They can't resist it and it was a last resort to get him to eat. I sat next to his tub multiple times a day and would offer food in front of his face over and over until he would bite. 

6. Optimal food is worms (night crawlers and red wigglers), emergency food was raw salmon, last resort was brine shrimp because for his length it didn't offer good enough nutritional value. 

7. Worms can give off a bitter taste when they are scared. I learned that when my axolotl rejected red wigglers, it helped for me to blanch them (dip in boiled hot water for 10-20 seconds) and cut them in half. 

8. By week 3 he was eating blanched red wigglers or cut-up night crawlers twice a day. Axl made a lot of progress in just one month. 

Axl Today

Keeping Axl's water between 60-66 degrees, with an air stone, and feeding him nigh crawlers (his favorite worm) twice a day has really made a huge improvement. This is him now, just 3 months from when we began his recovery. The plant he is resting his leg on is Anubias Nana Petite.