Jess has been obsessed with axolotls since childhood and has been caring for her own for years.
Axolotls are unique pets that are growing in popularity. Since they are not as popular as other aquatic pets, there are still a lot of questions about certain behaviors without easily available answers.
Axolotls are known to have funny personalities, and this can lead to some odd behaviors. Luckily for us, many of these weird behaviors are completely normal! Keep reading to find out which strange behaviors are normal, and when you should worry.
1. Looking Like They are Smiling After Eating
The adorable axolotl smile you see in pictures is actually what they look like after swallowing their food. When they go to eat something, they open their mouths wide, and then a bunch of water and food rush in. If they are eating something big like a worm, they may swallow a few times. It is common after they swallow their food for their mouth to be open in what looks like a smile for a few seconds.
Some axolotls have slightly upturned mouths which make it look like they are smiling all the time. This is normal too!
The only time an axolotl smile would not be normal is if their mouth was stuck open for an extended period of time.
2. Zooming Around the Tank
Sometimes, if you turn on a light in the room, your axolotl might zoom around their tank. This can also happen if there is a big shift in their water or you startle them some other way. This is normal and it just means that your axolotl was startled.
Young axolotls are a lot more energetic than adults and they swim around the tank much more frequently. It is normal to see your young axolotl spending time swimming around, and they may even swim up to you quickly to greet you.
When to Worry
If your axolotl seems agitated for more than a few seconds (which would be the case if they were just startled), they are frequently swimming up to the top of the tank to get air, or their skin is turning red, you should check your water parameters immediately.
3. Lifting Their Legs or Floating
Axolotls can exhibit these behaviors for a variety of reasons. If they are lifting up just their back legs, it may be because they need to have a bowel movement.
If they are lifting up just their front legs or balancing on something, they are just being playful. Sometimes axolotls will just swallow a little bit of air to float. You can test to make sure that they are not stuck by lightly nudging them or blowing on them to make them swim back down.
Axolotls also lift their back legs for mating behaviors. This probably wouldn't happen if you have two females in your tank, but it can happen with a male and a female, and even two males. Male axolotls will lift up their back legs slightly to leave a sperm cone. This is pretty common behavior even when there are only males in the tank.
4. Watching Their Food Fall in Front of Their Face (And Then Not Being Able to Find It)
This behavior is hilarious. It happens when you drop a piece of food, and they miss it, and then they can't figure out where it's gone, even though it is right in front of them. This happens to a lot of axolotls, and a lot of the time they will find the food.
A way to prevent this is to dangle the worm in front of them until they grab it. If you are feeding pellets, you can pick the pellet back up with a turkey baster and try again. After a few tries, your axolotl should catch it.
If they don't find the food, make sure you pick it up before it goes bad. Rotting food can throw off your aquarium's nitrates and ammonia.
5. Sitting on Top of Each Other
Sometimes if you have two axolotls in the same tank they just seem to hang out together. This is a little confusing because axolotls are not an animal that needs companionship, but I frequently find mine hanging out next to each other.
As long as your axolotls are pretty much the same size, are well-fed, are the same sex, and have plenty of room in their tank, there should be no need to worry about them being close together. The only time you want to make sure your axolotls are not too close is if you are feeding them, and that is just because you don't want there to be any accidents.
Since it can be hard to find answers to little questions on Google, it is a great idea to join some axolotl groups. Facebook has several groups that you can join; Instagram has many experienced axolotl keepers; there are several websites and message boards you can join to learn more about your pet.
Axolotls are still growing in popularity as pets, so sometimes if you can't find the answer you are looking for, asking an experienced keeper can help!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Jess H (author) from Oregon on December 10, 2020:
Thanks for commenting! I'm glad this article is helpful!
The Logician on December 10, 2020:
Great article! I would axolotl questions but you answered them all!