Exploring The Axolotl Diet and Understanding What They Eat

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 6th October 2023

A pink axolotl on the search for food
A pink axolotl on the search for food / Argument via Istock

The diet of the axolotl is one of the many aspects of their life that will allow them to stay healthy, and enjoy a prolonged lifespan. 

Whether in the wild, or kept in captivity axolotls need fulfilling diets that will help them grow, and lead a healthy life.

Axolotls are carnivores similar to other salamanders, but being fully aquatic you may wonder if this changes their diet.

This article will cover everything an axolotl eats, and other things you should know about their dietary needs.

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Gage Beasley’s In-Demand Plush Toys

Knowing about what an axolotl eats is important since if you are keeping one as a pet you should know how often, and what to feed them throughout their life.

Being critically endangered, axolotls also need a stable food source, and clean waters in the wild to prevent them from going extinct. 

Let’s take a look at the axolotls diet, and other interesting things about these aquatic salamanders.

Dietary Needs of Axolotls

axolotl diet
Close-up view of an Axolotl | tane-mahuta via Getty Images

Axolotls are native to Lake Xochimilco around Mexico City, and are only found in the small water drainages, and passages around their region.

Axolotls have experienced a huge decline in the wild of as much as 90 percent within the last four years. 

Today it is estimated there are only around 50 to 1,000 axolotls left in the wild, and these salamanders are considered critically endangered by the IUCN.

Axolotls spend their entire lives in the water, which is unique for amphibians, and affects what foods they eat. 

Axolotl’s dietary needs will change as they age.

axolotl diet
Group of Axootls | bennymarty via Getty Images

Like all salamanders, axolotls are carnivores, but they do all their hunting in the water.

Axolotls have external gills which help them breathe, and while they also have lungs they can only survive outside of water for around an hour in a moist environment. 

Their limited movements on land, and inability to breath out of water long makes it nearly impossible for axolotls to hunt anywhere but the water. 

Axolotls feed on things like insects, worms, small fish, mollusks, and larva in the wild. 

Their diet depends on their age, but in captivity they can survive on pellets, and store food.

Diet in the Wild

axolotl diet
Grey axolotl in Mexican waters, showcasing its unique terrestrial features and vibrant fin | Juan Jose Alvarado Mendieta via Getty Images

In the wild axolotls are small predators that rely on their strong sense of smell to track prey, since they have poor eyesight. 

Axolotls have around 30 to 40 very tiny teeth in their mouths which they use to hold onto their prey.

This salamander uses its suction to suck prey into their mouths, and do lots of their hunting on the water floor. 

Some of the food that axolotls hunt in the wild include:

  • Small fish
  • Mollusks
  • Worms
  • Brine
  • Snails
  • Insects
  • Larva
  • Other Salamanders
  • Frogs
  • Slugs
  • Mosquitos
  • Aquatic Spiders
axolotl diet
What’s for lunch, axolotl? | Lapis2380 via Shutterstock

Axolotls are opportunistic feeders, and prey on anything small enough to fit into their mouths. 

In their aquatic environment axolotls are top predators, and, but may be eaten by large fish, and birds.

Cannabalsim may occur for axolotls, and it is typically the smaller larva, and their eggs that get eaten.

Axolotls can move quickly in the water at a speed around 15 kilometers per mile (10 mph.), which helps them catch prey.

Growing to a length of up to 45.72 cm. (18 in.), and having a weight of around 10.5 ounces (300 grams), axolotls are one of the larger predators that live in their waters.

In the wild axolotls have a tannish, brown, or olive color with golden specks on them.

Wild axolotls use these colorings to help them blend into the murky waters they live in, and this trait is used to hide from the prey they eat.

Wild vs. Captive Diet

axolotl diet
Axolotl in an aquarium eats meat | Argument via Getty Images

Axolotls are a very popular salamander species kept in captivity, and their ease of care makes it possible to repair their damaged population in the wild. 

There is a slight difference between the diet of axolotls in the wild, and in captivity.

In the wild axolotls must hunt for their prey, while in captivity their diet is closely monitored.

Captive axolotls can have a varied diet, and since they are popular pets you can find a myriad of food for them to eat at the pet store.

Axolotl food pellets, dried insects, and nightcrawlers are some of the most common food given to these salamanders in captivity. 

Wild axolotls eat whatever is available to them in the wild, and do most of their hunting in the night.

axolotl diet
Axolotl salamander, a paedomorphic salamander that may be found in several lakes in Mexico | williamhc via Getty Images

Unlike the food that the axolotls eat in the wild, many of the meals they eat are cubed, or dried.

In the wild or in captivity axolotls will feed on dead animals since they are also scavengers. 

Since captive axolotls have an abundance of food and less stress it makes them able to lead healthier lives.

Wild axolotls only live for around 5 to 6 years, while captive ones live up to 15 years. 

The highly nutritious diet that the axolotl receives in captivity is one aspect into why they live longer.

Feeding Axolotls in Captivity

Axolotls are one of the most popular pet salamanders, but before you even think about getting one you should make sure they are legal in the state, or region you reside in.

Across many pet stores where axolotls are legal you can buy food for them like pellets or live invertebrates.

Food available in pet stores for turtles, fish, and other aquatic life should not be fed to these salamanders since it may not be safe, or nutritious for them to eat.  

Axolotls need lots of protein in their diet, with adults being fed once or twice every couple days.

Younger axolotls may eat more, and require a different diet.

axolotl diet
Two axolotls eating in captivity | Argument via Getty Images

To keep their diets consistent pet axolotls should be kept on a feeding schedule. 

The night time is the best time to feed an axolotl, since this is when these nocturnal animals are typically active. 

You should give them around 2 to 3 pellets a day, or enough live food until they are full.

Some axolotls will have a preference for the type of food, with many preferring to eat only live prey.

After feeding your axolotl you should clean out the tank of any leftovers so it does not decompose and make their home dirty.

Variety in the Axolotl Diet

Enjoy the meal, axolotl! | Argument via Getty Images

Being a carnivorous scavenger the axolotl has a wide array of food choices to eat.

Pellets are one of the most commonly used foods for axolotls, and they are usually sealed in a plastic bag, and very long lasting, best kept at room temperature.

Dry and freeze dried food pellets are easier to store than live animals, and do not take the work that breeding worms may cause.

Live food like nightcrawlers are good since they have lots of protein for axolotls, and can be farmed with nutritious soil to make them even healthier. 

Red wigglers are another type of worm that is farmed and good to feed axolotls, but some may not like the taste.

The classic wigglers | kckate16 via Getty Images

Live prey like worms that can be farmed make it easy to have a supply of food for your axolotl for cheap, and are usually healthier than pellet foods.

Shrimp and brine can also be put in their tank for your axolotl to eat.

Some people may prefer frozen food since it can have lots of nutrients, and is easy to handle, but when feeding them this you should wait for their food to thaw. 

Overall you should make sure the food you are feeding your axolotl is nutritious, but the type you buy is up to you and your axolotls preferences.

Monitoring and Adjusting the Diet

Axolotl munching on worm | Metal Ravioli via Flickr

When feeding an axolotl in captivity you should keep an eye out to see if they are eating enough, or are getting sick from what they eat.

Avoid giving axolotls foods they cannot eat, which includes invertebrates with an exoskeleton, or bottom feeding fish.

When eating too much axolotls may throw up their food, or float, and this is when you should consider feeding them less.

Axolotls may choose to not eat if they are being picky, so try giving them a variety of food to try if you see them not biting. 

Not eating is also a sign that your axolotl may be sick.

You should look out for other symptoms of illness in your axolotl including:

  • Bloated
  • Jaundice
  • Deformed or tattered gills
  • Poor balance when moving
  • Visible injuries
  • Sickly look

Stress from having a dirty tank, too small of a tank, or water with the pH balance too high or low can affect the overall health of your axolotl.

Taking the right steps to maintain your pets tank like filtering water, doing regular cleanings, and keeping the area free from pests is the best way to keep your axolotl stress free.

Axolotls are very hardy, and even capable of regenerating their limbs back if injured. 

With the right diet and home a pet axolotl can live for several years. 

Special Dietary Considerations

Axolotl walking on a grass in aquarium. | Renata Tyburczy via Getty Images

Axolotls do not have many dietary considerations, but there are several things you should know about feeding one throughout your pet’s lifespan.

When young axolotls do better on small live prey like small worms, or crustaceans like daphnia.

Younger axolotls need to eat around two times a day, and live animals like crustaceans give them enough protein to grow.

Older axolotls eat less often, and may go 2 to 3 days without needing to eat. 

Adult axolotls can survive up to 2 weeks without eating when fully grown, but they should eat every few days.

After being born axolotl only take up to 2 years for them to become fully grown,

If you have multiple axolotls in a tank and notice they are fighting the tank may be too small, and this may cause them to eat each other. 

Keeping a healthy supply of food and having a large enough tank will make it less likely that your axolotls will attempt to eat each other. 

You should be aware that some live foods that axolotls eat can carry diseases or parasites.

 When buying axolotl food it is important to get it from a reputable source and that does not use possibly harmful chemicals like pesticides. 


Axolotls need a high protein diet with lots of nutrition in order to have a healthy life.

Caring for axolotls in captivity is easy, but requires you taking the time to learn the right foods to feed them, and giving them quality meals.

The majority of axolotls are found in captivity, and learning more about them will help push people to take the right steps to preserve their wild populations. 

Axolotls are native to North America, and in some regions they are banned to own since they can affect the native regions salamander population if released. 

The diet of the axolotl is one of the many interesting things to learn about this salamander, and they need to be protected in order to prevent it from going extinct in the near future.


Why are axolotls going extinct? 

Axolotls are considered critically endangered since in the wild they have a very small range that is being affected by pollution, and habitat loss. Axolotls are trying to be re-established in the wild, and breeding in captivity is one of the many attempts in increasing this salamander’s population. 

Can you feed axolotls cooked food?

Axolotls should not have any cooked, or human foods, and should only eat the food that is meant for them. 

Why do axolotls come in so many colors?

In the wild axolotls have colors that help them blend into their murky environments, but they are often bred in captivity to showcase various colors. These salamanders have three different color genes, which are used to create the different morphs. 


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