Why Is My Axolotl Floating? 4 Causes For Floating Axolotl

floating axolotl

As any other pet, axolotls suffer with certain health problems. Owners often ask the question why is my axolotl floating? This can be a concern as axolotls tend to stay on the bottom. Floating axolotl can be a sign of a health problem or issue with their day-to-day care routine.

This article will help you answer the question “why is my axolotl floating”, find the best way to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Is Axolotl Floating Normal? What Is Axolotl’s Normal Behavior?

If you notice your axolotl floating, the first question would be is this normal? The short answer is no but some causes for floating axolotl are more alarming than others. Before exploring the causes further, it’s important to understand what normal behavior for axolotl in the first place is.

A healthy axolotl will stick to the ground, walking around the bottom of the tank. Axolotls tend to stick to the ground instead of floating because they prefer the dark and in their natural environment the further down they stay, the darker it is. Another reason for staying on the ground is that it protects them from predators such as birds that can reach the surface.

So, when should you worry? If your axolotl is floating and not able to get back to the ground even when you interrupt it or scare it, it can be a cause of concern. Floating axolotl is considered unnatural behavior and often a sign that something is wrong.

In the next part of this article, we are looking at the most common causes for floating axolotl aswell as recommended steps on how to fix the problem.

Why Is My Axolotl Floating? – Possible Causes

why is my axolotl floating

The most common causes for axolotl floating include:

  • They have gas build up in their gut
  • They are impacted
  • Tank water high in ammonia
  • Playing dead

Some of the causes above are due to the axolotl’s behavior and some are to do with its environment and living conditions. Now, let’s take a closer look at each cause.

Gas Build Up

One common cause for floating axolotl is digestive issues such as gas build up and bloating. Gas build up and bloating in axolotl is normally caused by the following reasons:

  • Swallowed air bubbles. This can happen when your axolotl is eating and consumed air bubbles alongside their food. Not only that but they actually enjoy eating air bubbles! It’s important to note that if your axolotl is floating because of ingested air bubbles, they will be floating with their backs facing the surface of the water
  • Ingested too many food pellets that have absorbed too much water
  • Changes in water temperature can cause bloating which can result in your axolotl floating

To learn more about axolotl bloating, head over to this article Axolotl Bloated Belly? What Causes It And How To Treat it!

How To Fix It?

If your axolotl floating is caused by gas build up, you can try scaring them and they should swim back down to the bottom easily. However, if this doesn’t work, it means that the floating is caused by something else.      


To prevent axolotl floating as a result from gas build up, following these steps:

  • Soak the food pellets before feeding
  • Avoid overfeed your axolotl aswell as feeding them too often
  • Carefully monitor the water quality and avoid sudden water temperature changes


Another common cause for axolotl floating is impaction. Normally, impaction occurs when your axolotl consumes something that is too large and that they can’t digest. Axolotls tend to eat just about anything. Therefore, impaction is quite common for this pet.

Common items that can cause impaction in axolotls include:

  • Food items that are larger than their head
  • Tank decorations such as rocks or gravel

How To Fix It?

If your axolotl floating is the result of impaction, it can be treated by cooling the axolotl’s environment. This can be done by using the method of refrigerating. This process will allow them either to pass whatever is stuck or regurgitate it.

If the axolotl is not passing the mass, you will have to take them to the vet as they might need surgery.


As impaction in axolotls can be very serious and even result in death, acting quickly is paramount. What is even more important is taking measures to prevent it from happening in the first place.

As already mentioned, the most common items that end up being stuck in your axolotl’s gut tend to be rocks or gravel. Therefore, it’s recommended to only use sand, very fine gravel or rocks that are significantly larger than the axolotl’s head as tank decorations.

Tank Water High In Ammonia

why is my axolotl floating

Another common cause for axolotl floating is ingesting too much ammonia through the water. To determine if this is what’s causing your axolotl to float, you can simply test the water. This can be done with testing strips. (buy some from the link below)

The instructions on the testing kit should explain how to detect if high ammonia is present in the water.

How To Fix It?

If your axolotl floating is caused by high ammonia content in the water, the very first thing you need to do is lower the ammonia rate in your tank. To achieve that you will need to remove half of the water in the tank and prepare an equal amount of new water to replace it with.

It’s important to note that the new water must be as close as possible to the temperature of the water already in the tank. This is to avoid sudden temperature change in the tank which can have a negative effect on your axolotl’s health.

The 50% water change is the safest method to lower ammonia in the tank and it’s a quick fix.


Although, you can treat this condition easily, prevention is key. It’s essential to regularly test your aquarium water. If the water requires adjustments too often, especially for ammonia, it’s advised to go to an aquatic store for advice.

Playing Dead

Axolotls have the unusual habit of playing dead. They do this for two reasons:

  1. They enjoy being carried by the current
  2. When stressed and when their survival instincts kick in

Therefore, if you’re asking yourself the question why is my axolotl floating, this might be the exact reason! But how do you tell the difference between axolotl just playing around and when there is something really wrong with their health?

If your axolotl is just playing dead they will remain still for roughly 10 to 40 seconds but no more.

How To Fix It?

If your axolotl floating is them just playing dead, all you need to do is scare them and they will return to the bottom. However, if they remain floating after scaring them, it means something else is wrong.


Axolotls tend to play dead in the following situations:

  • Stress. Axolotls become stressed easily, even just from someone touching them
  • When their environment gets disturbed such as the tank being suddenly moved
  • If their tank mates, crash into them such as during feeding time
  • When their tank water gets changed incorrectly and the temperature gets disturbed
  • If you’re transferring them to a new tank

To prevent your axolotl floating and playing dead, you should avoid causing them any stress including sudden changes to their environment.

How To Treat A Floating Axolotl?

To help your floating axolotl return to the bottom of the tank, try these steps first:

  • Scare them. If your axolotl is just playing dead, they will swim back to the bottom
  • Test the ammonia contents in the water. Too much ammonia is very dangerous for your axolotl’s health and must be actioned immediately
  • Avoid feeding your axolotl for a few days in case there is gas build up in their digestive system. Not feeding them for 1-2 days won’t cause damage
  • Try the refrigeration method. If you’re not sure how to do that, read this article where it’s explained in detail
  • If none of the methods above are working, it’s time to speak to a specialised vet

Preventing Floating Axolotl

Although, it’s important to know how to fix the problem once present, it’s even more important to know how to prevent it in the first place. Follow these steps to prevent ending up with a floating axolotl:

  • Monitor closely the water quality and the tank parameters
  • Feed your axolotl regularly, not too much or too often
  • Ensure the tank decorations are safe and larger than the axolotl’s head to prevent impaction
  • Try to minimise stress for your pet such as sudden changes to their environment in terms of temperature and tank movements

Final Thoughts

Most cases of axolotl floating in their tank are easily resolved. Some of the more common reasons that we looked at in this article include the axolotl playing dead, gas build up or high ammonia content in the water.

Although, floating axolotl is an easily resolved problem in most cases, it’s important to remember that this is not natural behavior for this animal. A happy and healthy axolotl tends to stick to the bottom of the tank. Therefore, if your axolotl is floating, it’s essential to find out what’s causing it and quickly fix it.

In case none of the causes and resolutions suggested in this article work for your pet and they are still floating, you should immediately contact a vet for further advice.

Frequently Asked Questions Q&A

Why Is My Axolotl Not Eating?

There are quite a few reasons for axolotl not eating. Some of these include:

  • Your axolotl is not hungry
  • Water temperature change
  • Stress such as from poor water conditions
  • You’re not feeding them the right diet
  • Impaction
  • Sickness

Why Is My Axolotl Not Eating?

If your axolotl is not pooping, it means they are constipated. If they haven’t pooped for more than a week, it’s time to investigate the reason for it. There are a few causes for constipation in axolotls including:

  • Improper diet
  • Impaction
  • Gas build-up
  • Bloating

Read more about constipated axolotl symptoms and how to relieve them over here Constipated Axolotl? What Causes It and How To Treat





My name is Iliyana and I'm a passionate animal lover and pet owner. As there is significantly less information online about unusual and exotic pets, I decided to found this website and recruit expert writers to help pet owners.

You may also like...