5 Causes For Axolotl Twitching and How To Fix It!

Axolotl Twitching

A common issue that owners deal with is axolotl twitching or body spasms. Normally, this is the result of skin irritation or parasites. In most cases, axolotl twitching can be easily fixed.

This article will help you establish the cause of your axolotl twitching and recommend the best solution possible.

What To Check First?

As most axolotl health problems come from issues with the water parameters, the first thing to do is test the water.

The optimal water conditions for your axolotl and what you want the test results to show is as follows:

  • pH levels for axolotls are 7.4-7.6.
  • Ammonia should be 0
  • Nitrate should be 0ppm
  • Temperature should be 59-65 °F
  • Salinity should be 0% but axolotls can tolerate up to 15%
  • Water hardness needs to be 7-14deg (125-250ppm)
  • Water should be dechlorinated

To learn all about the ideal axolotl water conditions, read the full guide here The Perfect Axolotl Water Parameters For A Healthy Axolotl

Other things that can make your axolotl twitching and become sick is using the incorrect substrate.

Axolotl Twitching – Symptoms

Alongside the axolotl twitching, owners often report other symptoms such as flicking of the gills, scratching on one side, and even sometimes taking off sporadically around the tank immediately following.

Axolotl Twitching – Causes

Possible causes for your axolotl twitching include:

  1. Parasites
  2. Skin irritation from chemicals
  3. Chlorine
  4. Incorrect diet
  5. Injury

1. Parasites

The most common cause for your axolotl twitching is parasites. As parasite infection presents with certain symptoms, many owners would straight away eliminate this as the cause of the twitching due to lack of those exact symptoms.

However, there are different types of parasites that can affect your axolotl. There are internal and external parasites.

The type of parasites that results in your axolotl twitching are either plantara or copepods.

These parasites will appear as many very small, almost invisible white, clear as glass worms on the surfaces of the tank and filter.

Both of these parasites look similar, so they might be hard to tell apart at a first glance.

Copepods vs Palanaria

axolotl twitching
Fully developed copepod and planaria organisms

The copepods start off small and clear in color. That’s why they are often mistaken for planaria as palanaria is also small and clear in color. Only once the parasite matures, you’d be able to tell if it’s palanaria or copepod.

Although, the perfect conditions for the copepods are warmer temperatures such as 78-82°F and saltwater, they can still live perfectly fine in a tank with cooler temperatures and freshwater.

Usually, the way copepods enter the tank is through the sand. They will appear as strange stringy clumps in the sand. Therefore, if you’re using sand as substrate, it’s very likely to be the source of your copepod infestation.

On the other hand, palanaria is not exactly a parasite and every tank will have some to a degree. Planaria are very small. They measure around 0.1 to 0.6 inches, so they are easy to miss.

Although, both planaria and copepod are harmless, palanaria can get into the axolotl’s fimbriae. This can be very itchy and result in your axolotl twitching.


If your axolotl twitching is caused by parasites, follow the steps below. If step 1 doesn’t work, go to step 2 and so on.

  1. Do a water change of 30%, wipe the surfaces and vacuum the sand if that’s what you have
  2. Place your axolotl in the fridge for 24 hours and do a tank cycle overnight. Wipe all the surfaces and vacuum the sand
  3. Give you axolotl a salt bath and tub them whilst you do 100% water change, wipe all the surfaces, and vacuum the sand

2. Skin Irritation From Chemicals

Another cause for an axolotl twitching can be skin irritation from chemicals in the tank. If you observe your axolotl twitching aswell as flicking his gill on its own, so it touches where he twists his body might be the pain from the skin irritation.

Chemicals that can cause irritation and body spasms include:

  • Pretty much all fish products can be irritating and stressful for axolotls
  • Certain dechlorinators such as Terta Aqua: AquaSafe with BioExtract can cause irritation to the axolotl’s gills. Safer option is Prime by SeaChem

3. Chlorine In Water

Another possible cause for your axolotl twitching is that there is still chlorine in the tank water. Leaving the water overnight to remove the chlorine doesn’t always remove it.

This is because some water companies use chloramines that don’t evaporate. In addition, there might be metals present in the water system that only a dechlorinator will remove.


To be certain that you’ve removed the chlorine and any other metals, you need to use a dechlorinator such as Prime by SeaChem. If you’re set on leaving the water overnight instead, at least contact your water company to verify what chloramines they use.

4. Incorrect Diet

Not as common but also a possible cause for your axolotl twitching is feeding them incorrect diet. For instance, feeding your axolotl pellets overtime can result in weight and other health issues.


To have a healthy axolotl, make sure you’re feeding them a balanced and nutritious diet. What is the optimal diet for your axolotl depends on their age.

To read all about the best feeding schedule and diet for your axolotl, head over here What Do Axolotl Eat? – The Perfect Axolotl Feeding Schedule [2022]

5. Injury

If your axolotl has sustained an injury, you will see them twitching and swimming around in panic. To eliminate this cause as a possibility, you need to inspect your axolotl’s body and gills.

Ideally, you need to do this without picking them up to avoid causing them any additional distress.


If your axolotl is injured, you need to find out what’s caused the injury and remove it from their environment. Secondly, you need to treat the injury by providing optimal water conditions. Axolotls have the amazing ability to regenerate and heal as long as they have a healthy environment.

Final Thoughts

If you have noticed your axolotl twitching and this is a new behavior that has happened out of nowhere, it usually means either skin irritation or parasites present in the tank.

In most cases, this is easily fixed by wiping the surfaces in the tank and doing a 30% water change. However, if that doesn’t do the trick, you might have to fridge your axolotl and cycle the tank overnight.

There are also other possible causes for twitching which include chemicals that are present or the tank water having chlorine present still.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Why Are My Axolotls’ Gills Twitching?

Axolotl gills twitching can a sign of a health problem. If the cause is a health problem, you need to look for other accompanying symptoms.

On the other hand, axolotl gills twitching or flicking happens when the axolotl removes the carbon dioxide from the gills which is totally normal behavior.

Why Is My Axolotl Thrashing?

Normally, axolotl thrashing or swimming frantically is  a sign of irritation. This could be gills irritation, injury, digestive issues or constipation and more.

To read the full guide on this topic, head over here Axolotl Thrashing And Frantic Swimming? When To Worry



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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