Axolotls are fascinating animals, often being studied for their regeneration abilities. Thanks to the video game Minecraft, interest in Axies has rapidly grown in the last few years. With the rise in popularity of any animal, new owners begin to experience issues with their pets that they are unsure of the cause for.
It can be difficult to identify what is a problem and what’s a normal part of life for your Axolotl, especially if you’re new to caring for the species. Has your Axolotl been shedding lately? Here’s what that means.
Should Axolotls Shed?
No, shedding is not a normal thing for Axolotls. They have delicate skin that is not intended to shed and that is needed to keep them safe and healthy. They are amphibians, not reptiles, so shedding should never be considered a normal thing for your Axolotl.
Axolotl skin is coated with a protective coating called a slime coat. Slime coats help reduce drag, making them more efficient swimmers. It’s also an Axolotl’s first defense against injuries and illnesses, reducing the risk of injuries, protecting against bacterial and fungal infections, and soothing any wounds that do occur.
The 7 Reasons Why Axolotls Shed
Axies are cold water animals, often requiring special aquarium coolers to get their tank water cool enough to keep them healthy and happy. Keeping an Axolotl at a temperature that is too high for them can lead to a breakdown of the slime coat, giving them an appearance of shedding. The ideal temperature range for an Axolotl is 60–64°F.
2. Water Parameters
There are multiple water parameters that you should monitor when you have an Axolotl. The presence of ammonia or nitrites in your tank, which can indicate your tank is not cycled or the cycle has been damaged, can lead to damage to the slime coat of your Axolotl. A pH level of 7.0–7.4 is ideal for Axolotls, but they can generally do well within a range of 6.5–8.0.
Chlorine is used to make tap water safe and drinkable. For Axolotls, chlorine may cause damage to the slime coat, as well as lead to a host of other health issues. It’s important to dechlorinate tap water before adding it to your Axie’s tank. You can do this by using dechlorinating chemicals, but you can also fill a bucket with water and let it sit for a couple of days, allowing the chlorine to evaporate.
4. Heavy Metals
Heavy metals can find their way into your aquarium in a variety of ways. The most common ways are through old pipes and certain tank chemicals. Old pipes may leach heavy metals, like copper, into your water source. This is more common when using hot water, but it can occur in any old pipes.
Medications containing heavy metals, like Seachem Cupramine, can also deposit heavy metals into your tank. Once in your tank, heavy metals can be extremely difficult to fully eliminate.
5. Fungal Infections
Fungal infections may cause a similar appearance to shedding slime coats, but fungal infections tend to create a fluffier look than just the slime coat peeling. If your Axolotl develops a fungal infection, the fungal infection can lead to damage to the slime coat, leading to an extreme shedding appearance. Fungal infections are often related to poor water quality.
Stress can be caused by poor water quality and inappropriate tank setups, but it can also be caused by things like overstocking, bullying, an inappropriate diet, not being fed enough, and the tank being located in an overly noisy or interrupted space.
Like in people, chronic stress can deplete your Axolotl’s immune system, leading to an increased risk of becoming sick. Stress can also deplete the slime coat, allowing infections to take hold.
7. Becoming Dried Out
Axolotls are fully aquatic salamanders throughout their entire lives. There is no reason for your Axolotl to be out of the water at any given time unless it is a brief transfer from the tank to a transport tank for essential care or moving.
Holding your Axolotl should be strictly off-limits, especially outside of the water. Even a few minutes out of the water can allow your Axie’s skin to dry out enough to damage their slime coat. With prolonged time out of the water, your Axolotl’s skin can become permanently damaged, and they can even die.
Shedding in an Axolotl isn’t normal and should be cause for immediate concern. There may be an obvious cause for the shedding, but even if you think you know the cause of it, it’s good practice to verify that your water parameters are where they should be, the tank’s temperature is correct and stable, and there aren’t any behavioral or decorative issues within the tank.
If all else fails, you should get your Axolotl to a vet who specializes in the care of amphibians. This can be difficult to find, so make sure to check out the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians for guidance in finding an amphibian vet near you.
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