Axolotl Eating Sand? Is It Dangerous? Best vs Worst Sand Substrates

Axolotl Eating Sand

Picking the right substrate for your axolotl is essential for their health and well-being. For instance, axolotl eating sand is a common issue that owners have to deal with. Therefore, not all sand substrates are suitable and there are better substrate options all together.

Axolotl eating sand can cause constipation or even worse impaction.

In this article we are looking at how dangerous axolotl eating sand is, how to treat and prevent it by picking the correct axolotl substrate. We are also going to recommend to you the best vs worst axolotl substrate options.

Is Axolotl Eating Sand Dangerous?

Let’s get right to the important question – is axolotl eating sand dangerous? It can become dangerous if your axolotl east sand in large quantities and often. This can result in serious constipation or impaction.

Axolotls are known for putting anything they can in their mouth and sand is no exception. However, some axolotls don’t just stop at tasting it and then spitting it out, they will fill up their bellies with sand. This will then result in them not eating and not pooping.

To find out more about different causes for your axolotl not eating, head over here Full Guide On Axolotl Not Eating? 10 Causes and Fixes

Axolotl eating sand can be especially dangerous if you’re using incorrect sand. Yes, there is safe and unsafe sand to use for your axolotl’s substrate. This is because some sands contain toxic properties or even parasites. We look at this in more detail later on in the section “axolotl types of sand to avoid”.

Can Axolotls Pass Sand?

If your axolotl eating sand results in constipation, don’t worry too much as your axolotl should be able to pass the sand. However, if this is a repeat behavior, you might want to consider changing the substrate with some large slabs of slate. The axolotls love it and is easy to clean.

Axolotl Sand Impaction Symptoms

If your axolotl becomes constipated or impacted from eating large amounts of sand, you should notice the following symptoms:

What Type Of Sand Is Safe For Axolotls?

If you have decided to use sand substrate, it’s essential to only use safe axolotl sand substrates such as:

  • Estes Stoney river
  • Silica sand
  • Washed playsand
  • Pure aquarium sand without dyes
  • Aquarium filter sand

The best and most safe sand for your adult axolotl is washed fine natural sand. The fine sand prevents your axolotl suffering from skin damage and/or impaction. Make sure to rinse the sand before adding to the tank.

However, it’s important to note that even the safest sand substrate is not suitable for baby axolotls as if they become impacted by it, their little digestive tracks won’t be able to pass it and it can be fatal.

What Happens If You Don’t Wash Aquarium Sand?

If you don’t wash the sand beforehand all the dirt and dust will make the tank cloudy and not a nice environment for your axolotl. It would also prevent you to from observing your axolotl’s behavior and you might not see a sign if something is wrong.

Axolotl Sand Substrate Types To Avoid

Axolotl sand substrates to avoid include:

  • Colored sand – might make water cloudy, and can even be toxic
  • Sharp sand, such as construction sand
  • Calcium carbonate sand or argonite sand as both can elevate the pH levels in the tank
  • Sparkly sand or crushed rock
  • Marine sand (high calcium carbonate)
  • Reptile tank sand (made from calcium carbonate)
  • Quartz sand
  • Sand containing magnetite

Is Black Sand Good For Axolotls?

No. Black sand is not safe for axolotls. It’s likely to contain toxic dyes. Also, axolotls thrive in fine sand and the black sand is more like chopped up rocks or coal slag.

Can I Use The Sand From The Beach For My Axolotl Tank?

No. Beach sand is not suitable for axolotl substrate in the tank. The beach sand contains crushed (calcium) shells which can elevate the water’s PH and it can contain parasites.

Axolotl Sand Substrate – Pro’s

axolotl eating sand

As most things axolotl sand substrate has its positives and negatives. The positives of having axolotl sand as substrate are the following:

  • Axolotl sand substrate promotes growth of useful plants in the axolotl tank
  • Sand substrate promotes the proliferation of useful bacteria in the tank
  • The sand provides comfortable surface for the axolotl to move on when chilling at the bottom of the tank
  • The sand would give your axolotl tank a natural look and feel which mimics your pet’s natural habitat in Mexico’s shallow lakes and canals

Axolotl Sand Substrate – Con’s

Given that you’ve selected a safe type of sand, the two main negatives of having axolotl sand substrate include:

  • The risk of your axolotl eating sand in large amounts and becoming impacted
  • It’s harder to clean than having bare surface and large slate of rock

How To Add Sand To My Axolotl’s Tank?

To add sand substrate to your axolotl’s tank, follow these simple steps:

  • Pick a safe sand substrate such as fine playground sand which is free of dyes and other potential toxins
  • Clean it by placing the sand in a bottle filled with dechlorinated water
  • Place the water bottle with the sand without the lid in the tank. The sand will naturally come out of the bottle slowly and settle on the bottom of the tank
  • Once the sand is in the tank, you need to make sure that you clean and maintain the sand regularly

Axolotl Sand Substrate Maintenance and Cleaning

axolotl eating sand
Axolotl Sand Substrate – Cleaning Using The Pinch Technique

Once you have added the washed, fine sand as your axolotl substrate, it’s important to know how to maintain and clean it.

Is Sand Hard To Clean In An Aquarium?

Cleaning the sand substrate is not any harder than cleaning gravel. However, the maintenance is not as easy as bare bottom tanks or tanks with large slabs of rock as substrate.

How Do I Clean The Sand In My Axolotl Tank?

To clean the axolotl sand substrate use:

  • Siphon with good suction or a turkey baster to spot clean the poops you can see
  • Use a gravel vacuum to clean the sand. Use the pinch and let go trick where you pinch the long tube as shown on the picture above. This will avoid taking out too much water from the tank
  • Stir up the sand once in a while to help the air pockets develop inside the sand layer. This prevents the build-up of gases and bacteria

Final Thoughts

Axolotl On A Hard Surface As Substrate

Although, washed fine sand free of dyes and toxins is a suitable substrate for your axolotl’s tank, if your axolotl eating sand is a common behavior, you should start thinking about using a different substrate or bare bottom.

Your axolotl eating sand in large amounts and often can result in constipation. Although, most adult axolotls pass sand just fine, this is unnecessary stress for your pet as they will not be eating or pooping whilst constipated.

When it comes to baby axolotl substrate choice, sand is to be avoided. This is because if the baby eats it and becomes impacted, they won’t be able to pass it.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

How Often Should I Clean My Axolotl Tank?

If your axolotl’s tank is filtered, the cleaning consists of 20% water change once a week aswell as spot cleaning the poop using a siphon.

Whereas, if the tank is not filtered, you would need to perform 20% water change every day.

Can Algae Grow On Sand?

Yes. Algae can grow on sand, grave, the walls and tank decorations. However, algae thrive on light. So, less light in the tank, less algae growth.

Is Algae Bad For Axolotl?

No. Algae is not bad for your axolotl. The algae absorb nutrients out of the water including bad ones such as nitrogen. Completely removing algae from the tank can be difficult but you have the best chance of doing so by providing minimal light, keeping the feeding to minimal, and manually removing the algae before you do the water change.



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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