Constipated Axolotl? What Causes It and How To Treat
If you’ve noticed that your axolotl hasn’t pooped in a while you may have a constipated axolotl on your hands. The main causes for constipated axolotl are impaction and overfeeding. Nothing to worry about, however constipation in axolotls can be serious if left for too long, but it is often easily treated.
Below, you will find common causes for constipation with breakdowns of additional symptoms and treatments. Then, once you know what to look out for and how to help, I will cover some preventative measures you can take in the future.
Constipated Axolotl – Causes
Your axolotl can become constipated for a couple of different reasons. These potential causes include:
Impaction or intestinal blockage can happen when your axie eats something it can’t digest or easily pass. The blockage could be chitin, rocks, pieces of fake plants, tank decor, or anything else that your axolotl is able to find.
Often these blockages caused by chitin are the result of consuming mealworms or other insects with a chitinous exoskeleton. Gravel is another very common cause of impaction. Axies can and will swallow anything smaller than their head.
Oftentimes they don’t mean to eat the indigestible items but can accidentally swallow them while eating food. This happens because axolotls create a small vacuum effect when eating.
Usually, your axolotl will be able to pass small pieces of these items, such as mealworm exoskeletons. However, if they fail to do so and something gets stuck, it can result in a constipated axolotl.
Impaction – Symptoms
If you have a constipated axolotl on your hands as a result of impaction, it’s important to look out for the following symptoms:
- Passing less or no stool
- Bloating. A constipated axolotl that is suffering from impaction may also become bloated. Watch their belly to see if there is a noticeable increase in size. Changes in size from bloating should be apparent
- Reduced appetite. This can take the form of zero interest in food even if they normally enjoy it. Alternatively, this can take the form of axolotls eating then spitting the food back up
Impaction – Treatment
Once you have determined that your constipated axolotl is caused by impaction, you have two options for treatment – fridging or surgery.
Firdging is a process that involves placing your axolotl in a smaller container full of dechlorinated water and transferring them to your fridge. Follow these steps to successfully fridge your axolotl:
- Make sure that the temperature of the water lowers slowly with your axie submerged. This will help them become accustomed to the cooler temperatures without causing stress. You don’t have to use a fridge specifically as long as you are able to keep the temperature in the 5 to 8°C or 41 to 46.4°F range.
- This process requires you to change the water every day using already cooled dechlorinated water. Changing the water keeps it clean so that your axolotl has the best chance to recover. The water should be kept in the fridge so that temperature shock does not occur.
- Generally, you will not need to feed them during the process. They will have reduced appetite at these cooler temperatures if they did not already from the impaction.
- Leave your axolotl in the fridge for several days. Fridging for a few extra days won’t hurt your axolotl. When you take them out, gradually increase the temperature up to what they are used to
Fridging is beneficial because the cooler temperature slows their metabolism. Axolotls will have an easier time purging any waste when their metabolism slows. If the blockage is small enough to pass this should solve the issue.
If fridging does not solve the issue or if the blockage is too big to be passed, you need to take your constipated axolotl to a vet for surgery. You can find out the size of the blockage by going to a vet for an x-ray.
Not all vets will be trained to treat axolotls. Look for exotic vets or ask for a recommendation from a more general vets.
Another reason for a constipated axolotl is overfeeding. The frequency and amount of food that axolotls require are greatly dependent on their age.
As a general guideline, young axolotls should be fed once a day while fully grown axolotls should be fed two or three times a week. As for the quantity, it can vary, but you should not feed them more than they are able to eat in one to three minutes.
If you feed your axies more than this they can have a hard time digesting all that food. Adult axolotls have a slower digestion rate which is why they should be fed less often.
Overfeeding – Symptoms
If your constipated axolotl is the result of overfeeding, you should look out for the following symptoms:
- Bloating. This takes the form of a swollen belly. It can also cause a buildup of gasses in the axolotl’s gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, if only the throat is swollen, you should head over to this article to find out the possible causes Axolotl Swollen Throat? What’s The Cause And How To Treat
- Floating. Because of the bloat, your axolotl will be floating uncontrollably. Usually, their bottom half is elevated above their head. When looking for floating as a symptom of overfeeding, check to see if the axolotl can return to the bottom on its own. Additionally, watch to see if they have a hard time staying at the bottom
- Frequent pooping
Regardless, if your constipated axolotl is the result of overfeeding or impaction, the symptoms for both causes will be similar. However, the main difference will be that an impacted axolotl won’t be pooping, whereas an axolotl that is overweight and overfed will be pooping often.
Overfeeding – Treatment
Treatment for constipated axolotl as a result of overfeeding is a little simpler than treatment for impaction. The first thing you should do is to stop feeding them for a few days. If after this time they begin passing waste again, you can resume feeding with reduced frequency or amount.
If this does not solve the issue, fridging is a good treatment option. The fridging process is the exact same for this as it is for the previous cause.
Since the cause for constipation is backed up food and not something undigestible, waiting it out through fridging or otherwise should work well.
How to Prevent Constipation in Your Axolotl
After your axolotl is back to a healthy shape you need to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. You can do this by making some changes to their care.
Let’s look at a couple of ways to avoid overfeeding and impaction that can lead to a constipated axolotl.
Impaction – Prevention
Since impaction is caused by indigestible items, the best way to prevent it is to remove any problematic items such as:
- Gravel substrate is a problem. Small gravel can be alright for larger axolotls, but for younger ones, even the smallest gravel can cause issues. The best substrate is fine sand. Your axies will still swallow some on occasion, but they will be small enough to pass through without issue
- Additionally, remove any tank decorations should be larger than your axolotl’s head. They should also be durable enough that parts can’t break off. Plants will be fine since axolotls are carnivores, but it is best to err on the side of caution and get hardy plants
Overfeeding – Prevention
In terms of your axolotl’s diet, it’s recommended to feed them as much as they can eat in one to three minutes. However, you should tailor the feeding schedule, quantity, and substances to your individual axie and how they respond to the diet.
Besides quantity and type of foods, it’s also important to focus on the feeding conditions such as water temperature and water quality. These two conditions have large influences on your axolotl’s well-being. Imbalances in either can stress your pet and in turn, affect its diet which can result in constipation. Keep your water parameters within safe levels for axolotls to improve their comfort.
Water pH levels should be kept at 7.4 to 7.6 pH range and water temperature between 16 and 18°C or 60 and 64°F. As discussed above, lower temperatures can be beneficial, but you do not need to keep the axolotl at those lower temps. Finally, the nitrate levels should be kept below 10 ppm to prevent stress. To keep track of the water perimeters, you should purchase a test kit such as the one below
Most axolotls are self-regulating and will refuse food if they’ve had enough. Some are not so restrained. That’s why it’s important to know what does healthy long as you know the signs of a healthy axolotl you should be fine.
Axolotls aren’t the simplest pets to own, but they are worth it. The two main causes for constipated axolotl are impaction and overfeeding. In most cases, these problems can be easily treated and resolved at home.
The worst-case scenario of constipated axolotl is impaction that can’t pass and will require surgery to remove whatever is stuck in their digestive system.
If you have further concerns, reach out to veterinarians. There are also plenty of axolotl hobbyists out there who are very knowledgeable about the quirks of this animal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Common Axolotl Health Problems?
Beyond constipation, there are a few health problems common for axolotls. One of these is called “red leg” which is rather fittingly named. It appears as a reddening of the axolotl’s limbs and sometimes underbelly. It can be caused by a variety of bacteria.
Other common issues are caused by fungal infections. These can manifest in a couple of different ways. One example is Chondrococcus columnariswhich forms white patches on the skin of the axolotl.
What Are Signs Of A Stressed Axolotl?
There are two great ways to tell if your axie is stressed. You can tell when an axolotl is stressed by looking at its tail and gills. The tail indicates stress by curling at the end. The gills will indicate stress by curling forward.