Why Is My Axolotl Turning Red? Is Red Axolotl Skin A Concern?

Why Is My Axolotl Turning Red

Owners have to deal with a range of confusing problems and one of them is their axolotl turning red. That can include red axolotl skin, tail, and gills. The question is – is this ever normal or is it always a health concern?

This article will help you find the cause for red axolotl body parts and find the appropriate solution to the problem.

Healthy Axolotl Behavior

Let’s first take a look at what a healthy axolotl’s appearance and behavior should be. A healthy axolotl has the following characteristics:

  • Round belly that is roughly the same size as their head
  • Their skin should be clear of parasites and unusual markings. This is especially important for their tail
  • The axolotl gills should be fluffy, not curling forward or deteriorating
  • The axolotl should be moving normally and not lethargic or floating for extended periods of time

It’s important to observe your axolotl on daily basis and note any abnormal changes. One of the more commonly asked questions by owners in relation to changes in appearance is “why is my axolotl turning red”? Red axolotl body parts such as tail, gills and torso can be a health concern in some cases. Let’s take a look.

Red Axolotl – Causes

The main causes that can result in red axolotl body parts include:

  • Redness triggered by activity
  • “Red leg” bacterial infection
  • Ammonia Burn

Some of these causes are just part of axolotl’s normal behavior and nothing to worry about. However, some are a sign of a health problem. Let’s take a closer look.

Redness Triggered By Activity

axolotl turning red
Red Axolotl Gills

As already mentioned, there are some totally normal behaviors that can result in your axolotl turning red. One of those behaviors is your axolotl just being active. Axolotls tend to turn red when they are active.

As the axolotl’s skin is quite translucent and activity encourages blood circulation, it easily goes pink/red color during those active spells. And the opposite, when inactive – the axolotl will appear paler.

Some of the activities that can result in your axolotl turning red include:

  • Swimming. When some axolotls swim, their gills can turn a red-hot color whilst their tail turn more pink color
  • Feeding. During feeding time, you might observe the axolotl’s gills turn red
  • Hunting. When kept as a pet, hunting will consist of the axolotl focusing on prey such as live worm
  • Breeding. Courting their mate and the actual breeding is considered high activity for axolotls. Therefore, during that period, you are likely to have a red-er than usual axolotl on your hands
  • Change of environment. Naturally, with change of environment, your pet will be exploring their new habitat. During that period, they will be more active than usual which will then likely lead to your axolotl turning red

So, when to worry?

You should worry about your axolotl turning red if their tail isn’t pink but bright red. Another cause of concern is if their gills remain red for more than a few days.

Bacterial Infection

red axolotl

If your axolotl’s legs have turned red, it’s very likely to be a sign of a bacterial infection known as Aeromonas hydrophila or simply – “red leg”. Bacterial problems are common in axolotls, especially axolotls kept in captivity. This infection can turn the skin of your axolotl red and irritated.

The cause of red leg infection is normally poor husbandry. However, it can also be triggered by stress. If your axolotl is stressed, their immune system will be lower than usual which makes them more susceptible to illnesses.


Symptoms of red leg infection that can turn your axolotl red include:

  • Red swelling or red patches all over the skin. This can include legs, tails and torso. The reason for that is – this infection is carried by the blood and therefore is widespread in the axolotl’s body
  • Itching. You might observe your axolotl scratching the inflamed parts of their body

On the other hand, you should also look for symptoms of a stress. As already mentioned, if your axolotl is stressed, it will lower their immune system and make them more susceptible to illnesses. Therefore, this is something you want to catch early, determine the case and treat.

The main symptoms of stressed axolotl include:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

How To Fix It?

If your red axolotl is a result of bacterial infection, you should change the water and use 100% Holtfreter’s solution to reduce the bacteria in the water. This will also aid osmo-regulation in the effected axolotls.

If that doesn’t work, the axolotl might need an antibiotic injection by the vet.

Ammonia Burn

red axolotl ammonia burn
Ammonia Burn

Another common cause for red axolotl skin is ammonia burn from poor water quality. Ammonia is very dangerous for your axolotls as it can kill them within only a few days. A small spike in ammonia level of more than 0 ppm in the tank will result in ammonia burns and turn your axolotl’s skin red.


Symptoms of ammonia burns include:

  • Your axolotl’s skin turning red
  • Gasping for air
  • Lack of appetite
  • Floating more than usual
  • Gills falling off

If you’re worried about your axolotl’s gills, head over to the full guide where we discuss potential health problems and how to treat them Guide On Axolotl Gills Problems – What’s Healthy vs Unhealthy (with Pics)

How To Fix It?

If your axolotl turning red is the result of ammonia burn, follow these steps to treat your pet and the water:

  1. Quarantine. Place your axolotl into a new tank of one gallon tub
  2. The water in the new tank must be dechlorinated before you place the axolotl in there. You can use the product linked below
  3. You can use conditioner but avoid anything that contains aloe vera as that might cause further irritation
  4. Water temperature must be between 60°F – 64°F and kept consistent. Ideally, it should be on the lower spectrum as axolotl’s thrive in colder temperatures
  5. Place a cloth over the new tank. You want to provide your sick axolotl as much comfort as possible and that is one of the ways to do that
  6. Water should be changed daily 100% whilst the axolotl is sick
  7. Feed the sick axolotl with frozen axolotl food during this time
  8. To speed the healing process, you can give your axolotl Tea bath with Cattappa leaves aswell as adding this stress coat (purchase from link below)

It’s important to note that if the axolotl is having digestive issues, they should also be fridged.

For the old tank, follow these steps:

  1. Clean the old, infected tank
  2. Ensure the new tank water has 0 ammonia and the nitrates shouldn’t be more than 20 above your tap water
  3. Water temperature must be between 60°F – 64°F and kept consistent
  4. Once the old tank has been deep cleaned, the water has been tested multiple times and your axolotl’s skin has healed you can return them to their original home

Final Thoughts

In this article, we looked at all the possible answers to the frequently asked question – why is my axolotl turning red?

As discussed, your axolotl’s gills and tail changing color can be perfectly normal. Due to the axolotl’s translucent skin, you’ll be able to see their blood rushing during increased activity. Therefore, if your axolotl is feeding, hunting, breeding or just being active, you might see their gills turn bright red and their tail turn pink. Don’t panic! This is totally normal.

However, you should worry if your axolotl’s tail turns bright red instead of pink and their gills remain red for more than a few days. This might be a sign that something is wrong. Another cause of concern is red patched on the body. This can be a symptom of a bacterial infection or ammonia burn.

If none of the recommended treatments in this article have helped, you should contact a vet immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions Q&A

How To Fridge Axolotl?

To successfully fridge axolotl, follow these steps:

  1. Get a tub such as plastic shoebox
  2. Add cool, dechlorinated water with a good conditioner such as Prime (see link below to purchase)
  3. Get a back up tub with water
  4. Place your axolotl in the first tub
  5. Set your fridge temperature to the warmest setting possible
  6. Place the tub in the warmest part of the fridge
  7. Check on your axolotl daily
  8. Feed them & keep the tub clean
  9. Make sure to test the ammonia level daily to determine if a water change is required
  10. Keep the tub in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. After the 7th day, you should be able to see if the fridging is helping your axolotl and improving their condition
  11. Once the axolotl has improved, remove the tub from the fridge and let it reach room temperature before returning your pet to their tank

Is My Axolotl Constipated?

Axolotl’s can become constipated just like people. Some of the symptoms of a constipated or impacted axolotl include:

  • Floating
  • Rounded belly
  • Less active
  • No appetite
  • No poop

To learn more about what causes constipation in axolotls and how to treat it, head over to the full guide 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.

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