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Why Is My Axolotl Shedding? 7 Reasons Why & What to Do!

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By Lindsey Stanton

axolotl in sand with plants

You may have noticed that your axolotl looks like it is shedding its skin. Yes, axolotls are known to shed from time to time, but that said, this is definitely not something that should happen often.

So, Why is my axolotl shedding? The common 7 reasons are: 

  • Chlorine.
  • Heavy metals present.
  • Stress.
  • Ammonia levels.
  • Water Temp & pH.
  • Fungi.
  • Axolotl is dried out.

Let’s keep in mind that it’s actually the slime coat which is shedding, usually not the skin. Make no mistake, this is not very natural. These are not reptiles that shed their skin.

Axolotl shedding is due to poor water conditions and specific water parameters not being met. In other words, if you axolotl is shedding, it’s not good.

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The 7 Reasons Why Your Axolotl Is Shedding

cute pink axolotl
Image Credit: Arm001, Shutterstock

There are a variety of reasons as to why your axolotl may be shedding. However, it is very important to note that axolotls do not shed their skin naturally or regularly.

If the axolotl is shedding its skin, it means there is something wrong. It is a sign that something is not right.

The following reasons are all viable in terms of axolotl shedding causes;

1. Chlorine

One of the reasons why your axolotl may be shedding its skin is because there is chlorine or chloramine in the water.

If you use tap water for your axolotl tank, if your water treatment plant uses chlorine, you need to let that water sit for about a full day to let the chlorine dissipate.

If there is chloramine in the water, a harsher version of chlorine (which does not naturally dissipate), you will need to use a dechlorinating agent to get rid of the chloramine.

Whether chlorine or chloramine, both will literally burn the slime coat and skin of the axolotl, thus causing it to shed. Strictly speaking, you should never use untreated tap water for any aquarium.

2. Heavy Metals

If there are various heavy metals present in the water, these will also cause your axolotl to shed its slime coat and potentially its skin too.

Various heavy metals will not only cause the axolotl to shed, but they can also cause organ failure and death.

It is important to use a water conditioner which can remove heavy metals for axolotl tanks. Just like with chlorine, no matter the animal in the aquarium, there should not be any heavy metals present in the water.

3. Bad Tank Mates – Stress

Stress is another cause which may lead to an axolotl shedding its slime coat and potentially the skin.

Stress can be caused by a number of factors including excessive handling, improper feeding, bad tank mates, and bad water conditions.

One of the leading causes of stress in axolotls is if they are kept with the wrong tank mates. Any very quick swimming, large, aggressive, and territorial fish should not be kept with axolotls.

These are very shy and peaceful creatures that don’t do too well with many other tank mates.

4. Ammonia Levels

ph testing
Image Credit: M-Production, Shutterstock

Another leading cause of axolotl shedding is ammonia in the water. Ammonia is released by rotting plants, uneaten food, and fish waste. Even low ammonia levels can cause axolotls to shed, and low ammonia levels can indeed kill axolotls, as well as any and every other fish too.

You need to perform weekly water changes and ensure that you clean the tank weekly to prevent ammonia buildups (more on lowering ammonia levels on this article).

At the same time, a filter that engages in effective mechanical and biological filtration is required too (we have covered our top 5 here). If your filter is not up to the task or is not working properly, ammonia will build up in the aquarium.

5. Water Temperature & pH

Axolotls are also very sensitive to general water parameters. They require the water to be between 60 and 64 degrees, which means that you may need a cooler for your tank.

If the water temperature exceeds 64 degrees, especially for a prolonged period, or if there are multiple drastic temperature shifts, it may cause the axolotl to shed.

The same thing is true if the pH level of the water is not ideal for axolotls. These are both very important factors to keep in mind here.

6. Fungi

Although this is fairly rare, there are certain fungi which can latch themselves to axolotls and grow on them.

These will definitely cause an axolotl to shed, and if left untreated, can and will eventually cause death. If you notice something that looks like a fungus, treating it immediately is essential to the survival of the axolotl.

7. Dried Out

The other thing which will cause an axolotl to shed if it gets dried out. For this reason, it is not recommended to keep an axolotl out of water for any amount of time.

Sure, they can survive for a couple hours out of water, but it is not good for them. It will cause them to shed, to become dehydrated, and it will cause death in extreme circumstances. These are amphibians and they need to be in the water.

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Do Axolotls Have A Slime Coat?

axolotl in tank
Image: Jeffrey Lagmay, Shutterstock

Yes, axolotls do have a slime coat, and yes, they have skin too. This slime coat is a layer of mucus which helps to protect axolotls.

This mucus layer keeps them moist, it wards off parasites, and it prevents bacteria from permeating their skin too. This slime coat also helps to regulate temperature.

If this slime coat dries out, your axolotl is in trouble. If the slime coat is shedding, there is trouble afoot.

How Often Do Axolotls Shed?

Strictly speaking, a healthy axolotl does not and should not shed. Only if something is wrong will they shed.

Will Axolotls Die From Shedding?

No, axolotls will not die from the shedding itself, but they will die if the underlying cause of the shedding is not found and rectified.

Although, eventually, if the axolotl keeps shedding and no new slime coat develops, it will become susceptible to infections and parasites, which can then kill the axolotl.

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Final Thoughts

We really cannot stress enough that axolotl shedding is not normal. Whether the cause is chlorine, ammonia, stress, or anything in between, you need to figure it out right away, or chances are huge that the axolotl will die sooner rather than later.

Featured Image Credit: Tinwe, Pixabay

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