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My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

This is a discussion on My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why! within the Sick Axolotl? forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; Hi there everyone. I've been perusing this site for the last three months since deciding to get my axie. I ...

Sick Axolotl? Axolotl looking down in the gills? The doctors are in.

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Old 31st July 2015   #1 (permalink)
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Exclamation My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Hi there everyone.

I've been perusing this site for the last three months since deciding to get my axie.

I had hoped that I wouldn't be needing to post in the 'sick axie' section for a long time but it seems my axie might have an issue. I'm sorry this is long, but I am providing as much information as possible so as to best give Luxie what he needs if he is sick so he gets well again.

I've had him since the 28th of May and things have been going well thus far. Over the last week or two however i think I am noticing that his gills are changing. The look like they are either shrinking or disappearing.

For the life of me I cant figure out why.

Now before you say the obvious, let me stop you and tell you how the conditions are

He is in a cycled tank. The cycle has not crashed, and since I have become suspicious of something really being up the last 2-3 days I have been ensuring that the tank has not crashed it's cycle suddenly either with water testing twice daily over the said days.

The equipment was all new except the tank which was an old goldfish tank that was in dormant storage for about 10 years, however it was well washed before my axie went into the tank and spent about 5-6 weeks to get to full cycle. He didn't go in till the cycling was complete by the way. In the interim he was in a plastic temp tub with 30 litres of water which was changed 100% every 6 days, and the ammonia never got too high, only at trace amounts as I am fastidious with his waste. Never was any nitrite or nitrate in that one as it wasn't cycling and was changed often enough so as to remain ok for Lux.

Since going into the cycled permanent tank, as I said not had any issue with ammonia, nitrite- both being steady at 0 ppm. Nitrates get to 40ppm before I do a 50% water change bringing them down to 20ppm about every 2 weeks. GH and KH are in the 71-100ppm range which my testing kit says is suitable for most cold water aquariums fish and plant species (though I haven't been able to find any literature on what this should be for axolotls though would this be that different???)

The tank has 3 types of filter:

Filter 1 & 2 are an air-driven filter which splits from a single airline into a simple sponge filter (i think that's what they call them- forgive me it is close to 1am here as i write this) which I have modified to capture the output air to create a moving bed filter as well. On the other side of the airline is a separate moving bed filter. One thing to note is that the media is not actually not moving like I would like, but they are working regardless I think. Air output from these two are in a way that they don't cause must disturbance to the water. One being just below the water surface and the other on a timed intermittent release in the corner of the tank.

Filter 3 is a spout filter (i know not the proper name, can't recall right now) but basically its in the tank, sucking up water and making it come out a spout at the top. I did have zeolite chips in this filter till last Wednesday, when i did a water change and decided I didn't need them in it anymore as the biofilter by this point was established and I didn't need the extra help for my plants like at the beginning of the tank setup before the cycle was fully established. Right now it is just a simple sponge insert as it originally was from factory. I have modified the output of this as well so that the water comes out like an upsidedown shower head spray and hits the tank cover and splashes down like gentle rain so as to remove as much kinetic energy as possible.

The amount of water disturbance is minimal in the tank I believe, given the way I have set it up, upon close observation- the live plants in the tank do not move at all and only on the very surface of the water is there any observable movement.

Temperature has been in a stable range from about 8 to 18.5 degrees Celsius so I don't think there is a temp issue (though I do worry about our coming Aussie summer in a few months time).

I can't see anything visually wrong with him other than his gills. He was still eating when I last fed him yesterday. I have been fattening him up with some fresh live European Nightcrawlers which I now grow myself after buying a few packs from the lizard store near us, and he also gets the odd carnivore and axolotl pellet. He has been getting either 1 or two pellets a day or one big worm a day- though now he is at a good weight so I will start cutting back.

If his gills are having a problem it hasn't affected his eating-He has a voracious appetite still, though today I didn't feed him as yesterday he was scaring me. He was floating and I was wondering if this has to do with his gills or if he had some poorly timed gastric disturbance? I woke to find him on the floor of his tank today. I decided that today he wouldn't have had any food for upon reading the site I thought it best to withhold food just incase it was a tummy upset. In saying that on a side note- how the heck do I know if he is gassy and stressed???

At no point yesterday did he seem upset or struggling. To be honest, if it wasn't for what I think is his 'gill issue' and me being worried, I would have said he seemed to just want to spend yesterday floating in the one corner of the tank relaxing. He made the odd swim to the floor and even rested in his nest on the floor of the tank with no problem, but he spent about 90% of yesterday floating quite happily I think??? If I was nuts I would say he knew I was nervous about him checking him so often and he was playing games with me (my axie is trained in psychological warfare or what lol).

Anyhow, fortunately I have been keeping a visual record of Lux since day 1 and have collated pictures of him so as to show you here for opinion on Luxie's Gill health.

I am at a loss as to why the gills I think are thinning/shrinking. I asked my mum for her opinion as I am not sure if the pictures quite show what I mean but she thinks he is losing them from the insides of his gill stem too. The ones still there are quite shorter I think and less lustrous than what they were.

Could this be an aeration issue with too much Oxygen in the tank (or not enough???)
I have read both online over the last few days on various sites- conflicting with each other. Even though I know he has lungs and can go to get air from the surface (which he has been doing, though I am not sure if it is too excess), I am a bit hesitant to think of fridging him at this point as if it is for example a low oxygen issue and his gills are damaged, would putting him in a lower oxygen environment be risky?

Speaking of fridging -He also doesn't like the smaller tub I found out (though I might try with a clear tub next time instead of opaque), as when I have put him in a small transfer tub suitable for fridging, he gets pissed off and races around the tub trying to get out and needs a firm lid on it so as to stop wanting to jump- which boggles me as the water in the said tub was treated and fine. Perhaps he is claustrophobic??

I am not sure if the gills have shrunken as much in appearance today as I have left him resting in his hide for the most part and the tank is in night mode right now so I don't want to bug him, but I do wonder if the last 2-3 days it has become that much more obvious or if i'm just getting so worried i'm imagining them shrinking.

I did try to call a local vet for advice here in Melbourne whilst I was waiting for the administrators to allow me to make this first post -and I won't tell you the explicits of what he said other than to say that he said a $30 pet is disposable and that I shouldn't be so concerned if he dies... if it wasn't for the fact he is excellent with my dog I wouldn't be going back to him but I have heard that is how he is with what he deems 'cheaper' pets (he told a friend with a wonderful pet rabbit the same thing).

I would be so grateful for the opinions of those of you here with experience as the prolific members on this site seem to be better grounded than any advice local vets or aquariums selling axies have been.

Kind thanks,

Matt.
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My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!-lux-history.jpg   My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!-lux-29th-july.jpg   My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!-lux-tank.jpg  



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Old 1st August 2015   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

The axolotl appears healthy. The gills can appear less lustrous over time in a well oxygenated tank. There does not seem to be any outward sign of pathology.

Genetics play a part as well. I have a 6x2x2 tank with 12 axolotls. Despite being in the same environment, they have different extent of gill (fibriae) lustrousness.



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Old 1st August 2015   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

It may indicate well oxygenated water. Salamanders located in streams which are well oxygenated (mountain streams e.g.,) tend to have smaller gills. Is he still active? You say he is eating and I'm assuming he isn't acting lethargic. Just keep a close eye on him...and I can't believe the vet said that to you even a $30 pet is have intrinsic value!



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Old 1st August 2015   #4 (permalink)
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Red face Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

HI. Thanks Darkmaverick and Reptilesia for responding.

I really appreciate it :) HUGS!

I'll run with what both of you have said and hope for Luxies sake he is fine and the changes i'm noticing are nothing to be concerned about and just that it is him and how he is reacting to having more oxygen concentration in a smaller tank.

The tank he was in at the store was at least 3 times as big but normally houses like 5 axies in it for sale. I forgot to give measurements of his permanent tank, but the tank is probably just a wee bit shy of being as big as it should be for one axie I think. I the tank is 47 w cm x 35 h cm x 34 l cm.

I am hoping to save up for a bigger tank. The way Lux swims he would love it...just need to save up for the materials and talk my dad into helping make the custom tank like he did the current one (the only thing he has ever done DIY that has worked and lasted the test of time LOL). Hopefully the equipment I have will upscale ok, its an adjustable flow airfilter and something I will need to look at and research well when the time comes to ensure things stay good for Lux.

I have been keeping a close eye on him still, and my mother actually said she wonders if that is why he was acting so oddly yesterday with the floating a bit too... perhaps he was enjoying all the extra attention.

Today he has been just resting and being a more normal slothful axie. Didn't see him float once at all today. He greeted me in the morning and came up from the bottom of the tank and did his normal 'im leaning on the tank with my two hands to get attention' thingy. I wasn't planning on feeding him again today but he looked hungry, and was following me back and foward so I gave him one of the tiny axie pellets I had (he actually got 2 tiny ones, as he missed catching the first one and then went back for it before I could grab my suction wand to suck it out of the tank). I guess he was hungry.

Im going to check his water again shortly but the tank's stats have been the same yesterday thankfully.

Reptilesia, yes I was appalled but not surprised to be honest especially at that particular vet, though I have found a lot of people in general seem to think aquarium animals aren't somehow worth the same value as a dog or cat. He is a very old vet, in his 60s and very old school. I don't think his comments were appropriate, to be honest and like I said given I knew what he said to my friend about her rabbit I was half expecting it. He did make a suggestion as to what to do with Lux if he died that was really below the belt but I will ignore it for the sake of my dog. She doesn't particularly like him herself lol, but his ability and skill with her and the surguries he has had to do on her, has been extremely good.

But it's good to have a forum like this where people do appreciate the more exotic pet and i do appreciate both of you getting back to me.

Thanks guys. Will keep you posted

Matt



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Old 2nd August 2015   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

No problem! Happy to help.



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Old 3rd August 2015   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

My axie is the same. He's never had big gills but he lost them when he was very sick and they never fully recovered. However I installed a sponge filter with a good air pump so probably doesn't need big gills. If your water quality is good I wouldn't worry too much. I've stopped worrying about mine, he looks healthy despite not so fluffy gills.



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Old 4th August 2015   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Quote:
Originally Posted by snuggly time View Post
My axie is the same. He's never had big gills but he lost them when he was very sick and they never fully recovered. However I installed a sponge filter with a good air pump so probably doesn't need big gills. If your water quality is good I wouldn't worry too much. I've stopped worrying about mine, he looks healthy despite not so fluffy gills.
Hi Snugglytime.

Saw your post so decided to have a look and see if you had pictures of your axie as I was curious if there was any similarity between the two.

You are right that yours look very short too, but I couldn't see a good closeup of them like your earlier pictures. Hmm, I do wonder if it is the sponge filter and the filtration. I really hope so as I am definite that have changed now as it is really obvious and worried they are still shrinking. He was up on the surface again today for some time, after he came up when I fed him. I have taken a few images, but decided photos were not working so well and that it is far easier to see what I mean with video so I filmed a short 20 secs or so going around Luxie's gills.

They look like they are stumpy with little baubles on the end of the gill filaments and that the problem is expanding to his outer ones now...still part of me is a little worried that something it wrong to be honest, possibly something uncommon?

The link for the video is:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ld8zjj9j1g..._1415.MOV?dl=0

Dropbox is being a nuisance though and compressing the video when viewed in-browser. It's alright if it's downloaded though.

Cheers

PS- Snugglytime...I love the Axie/Wooper cake...pokemon fan I'm gathering hehe. The cake looked great- did you do that yourself?
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Old 4th August 2015   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Oops...video is having issues, dropbox is being a pain.

Here it is now on youtube.

http://youtu.be/YR0A-2pMQBs



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Old 6th August 2015   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

No input on the gills as I'm a new owner, sorry.

But I think you should find a new vet. The below the belt comment that you won't post here must be pretty bad not to say what it is.

It's one thing to feel an animal isn't worth the price of taking it to a vet - but that's all arbitrary. He should have just told you he doesn't treat small animals and moved on. How insensitive and horrible can you be to say anything like that to a person about their pet?

When I was a child I had a hamster... like a $13 one. He managed to pop his eye out while using his wheel and I took him to the vet and I was so upset. He treated him. Was the pet even "worth" the cost of the medicine for anti-infection and pain? Absolutely not in a monetary sense.

He may be good with your dog, but that's only until your dog runs into a problem that he deems is worth more than the dog is. I would personally no longer trust his advice or opinions about any of my pets well being. Best of luck.



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Old 9th August 2015   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelMR2 View Post
He may be good with your dog, but that's only until your dog runs into a problem that he deems is worth more than the dog is. I would personally no longer trust his advice or opinions about any of my pets well being. Best of luck.
Hmm, it's something I will consider, so thank you for your feedback :)

As for Lux, well, I decided to really look into water oxygen levels (theory) 2 days ago. Found a really good site incase anyone is wondering:

plecoplanet: Aeration and dissolved oxygen in the aquarium


I am not sure to be honest if his gills are improving or if I am imagining things and they are still in the same/similar condition. I actually hope they are improving. I'd post pics but its hard to tell right now. Might do that in a few days when it might become more apparent either way (I hope) that there has been some change.

He has still been floating quite often and is still going to the surface for air gulps. Part of me wondered if perhaps he did need more air instead especially after reading the article above. I decided to turn the pump to max 2 days ago to see if it actually helps. He has still kept up with the 'floating' behaviour (he is doing it now again as I type) and is still taking the odd gulp since. The pump was on about 60% before i set it to 100% capacity -it's a 100/litre and hour pump and he is in about 65 litres of water I think from memory.

I do think I can rule out gas/tummy issues though now for the 'floats' as he doesn't seem to have his tail in the air and has been eating/pooing fine still- tail tip isn't curved by the way and he still seems as normal in behavior otherwise. I just hope he isn't morphing, I don't want really want that at all. I have a proclivity for getting ultra rare dubious medical accolades myself and hope for his sake he isn't going to take after me lol and be the rare axie who naturally decides to morph.



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Old 9th August 2015   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Quote:
Originally Posted by AussieLux View Post

They look like they are stumpy with little baubles on the end of the gill filaments and that the problem is expanding to his outer ones now...still part of me is a little worried that something it wrong to be honest, possibly something uncommon?
I've experienced the bulbous tips of gill filaments with high nitrate levels present. Ideally, I would prefer nitrate levels not to exceed 40ppm with 20ppm signaling a water change. I've not yet seen any explanation to the physiology behind the bulging gill tips, but hopefully Darkmaverick could lend some input. My theory is that it is a response to certain toxicants.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AussieLux View Post
Here it is now on youtube.

http://youtu.be/YR0A-2pMQBs
If that is your typical water flow then I would expect the gill filaments to recede completely. I've had success with lustrous gills by keeping very low levels of dissolved oxygen and very low current. Even though there is ample circulation, my axolotls appear to be in standing water.



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Old 10th August 2015   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Hi Elise, you said some interesting things.

Nitrate levels at last check were 10ppm. I've not seen 40ppm readings since that period at the initial posting. Last 3 checks the levels have not been above 20ppm which is good.

As for the water agitation you see on the youtube video, it is only on the surface of the tank. The water appears virtually still once you go about 2 cm from the surface, No movement of any plants or sand. I took that vid cause it was perfect to clearly see the changes to his gills not really to show the tank's water movement. Perhaps I should put one up showing that???

As per your suggestion I have turned that spraybar off now so I guess it will be interesting to see if it changes his behaviour or the gills. It would be wonderful if that is all it is. Right now he is floating at the top of the tank again so I guess he ain't floating for the reasons of wanting to feel a spa, like mewsy's axie- Axie prefers to be at top of tank?.

It's the other thing you did say that worries me- as I have been thinking about it since this started:Biological/toxic contaminant.

I've wondered that myself, given it is something I can't test for. Everything in his tank is new other than the tank itself and everything was cleaned to normal methods before he went in. I would have thought though that something like that would have shown up in other ways not just his gills??? I don't know, I'm no veterinarian and my only experience hearing about pollutants in water affecting aquatic animals is things in the news where a whole school of fish wash up dead on the beach after an industrial accident. I've tried searching the forum for bulging gill filaments and didn't find anything so it would be interesting to see if anyone knows more about this symptom.

Hmm. Elise is that morphed leucistic axie in your pictures one of yours? I couldn't find any references to it other then the pics when trying to search.

Anyhow am stumped as to what to do next other than turning the spraybar off and keeping an eye on water quality :|



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Old 13th August 2015   #13 (permalink)
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Exclamation Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

My immediate thought when I viewed the pictures showing the "bulbous tips", was anchorworm. It's not typical for gill shrinkage due to water parameters/contaminants, to terminate in round nodules - I say this from my own experience and viewing countless photos of waning gills.

Photos of Sick Axolotls

Scroll down to the anchorworm photo and compare it to Lux's gills. If they are indeed similar you would need an amphibian safe treatment for parasites. I have heard that salt baths can also be effective against parasites, but I have no experience in treating for them. Hope the 2 cents on diagnosis helps though.

Best of luck



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Old 13th August 2015   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Addendum - upon further reading I think the anchorworms themselves are usually externally visible as dark "Y" shaped filaments, and nodules on the gills alone are probably not indicative of this. I probably jumped the gun having recalled your tank originally housed a goldfish. If your water parameters are in check, maybe excessive temperature swings are the culprit. 8-18C should be a safe range but it may be stressful if often fluctuating.
Infection(fungal/bacterial/parasitic)/Temperature/co2 saturation/dissolved o2/Water hardness/Water Chemistry/Excessive flow/Contaminants - Process of elimination, with some already having been eliminated I guess.



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Old 14th August 2015   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Hi Fimbrae,

Thx for your views.

I had a look at those pics...i always thought anchorworm was visible externally too. The tank was cleaned before it was used, and had been siting empty, dry and dormant for almost 10 years before it was used so I would have thought the likelihood remote it would be a live parasite from the tank. If it is a goldfish parasite, more likely he would have caught it at the petshop as they were feeding their axies goldfish... I don't see anything on him remotely resembling an anchorworm however and his gills don't look any worse then my last report.

Last two days however he has been a bugger with food. I had to kill his nightcrawler for him on Wednesday as he spent 30 minutes repeatedly trying to chew/swollow/kill the darn thing. It was like Superworm or something

Yesterday he tried to catch his worm a few times and then he gave up... I spent about 45 min coaxing him and in the end I gave up so he went hungry even though he wanted to pick at it then spit it out- It was like he couldn't be bothered. Today I thought I try some bloodworms and give him a break from live feed. He spent 30 min investigating the cup holding them but his snapping made them all float away and I didn't think he got any (argh). Made a mess of his tank more then anything. Bloodworms everywhere... so then I pulled the rest in the cup out and figured what the heck, he must be hungry if he is trying to eat the bloodworms so I tried to feed him a nightcrawler again and it was the same as yesterday. Some snapping at it, in his mouth for a sec and then he let lost interest.

Im hoping that he just isn't all that hungry and its not to do with his gill issue (that, or his chase with the worm on Wednesday traumatised him lol). He still seems ok, even been doing less of the floaty thing I think.

In regards to your comments on the temp, that was just the general range. On most days during our current season-the temp is only fluctuating 2-3 degrees up or down within that range at the most and I figure no more than what would be happening if in his natural habitat or is that too much fluctuation still???

Ok people. Cheers for now



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Old 14th August 2015   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

I would think a 2-3C fluctuation wouldn't be a problem, as these changes are probably caused by a rise and fall in ambient air temperature -thus wouldn't be sudden. My own tank has temps in the range of 16.5-19C and the swings happen very gradually. This summer has been exceptionally warm and my little TEC chiller can't keep up with 20g of water. If he's in cool clean still water, I'm sure Lux will snap out of it.



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Old 15th August 2015   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Hi people.

Just a very quick update.

Lux ate a worm yesterday after a 50% water change, which was good :) I didn't feed him another worm today, though did try dropping a little pellet in, but given he always seems to miss them I won't count that as another show of a 'lack of appetite'.

He was floating alot again today, and I noticed something with his gills again. I'm not sure if it's just how gills regrow but at the moment they look like in various locations, that the gill feathers are merged/joined together and look more like thin transparent skin. He has been having some minor shedding I think around his gills, the odd spot here or there on his body but nothing major and it's almost unnoticeable (i don't think its fungus from pics I've seen here and I remember what other infections common infections like 'white spot' in goldfish looked like). I know that all sounds odd- and I will try to take a picture tomorrow as its too late in the evening/early morning now to do it.

Anyhow after doing some more searching I came across a forum post on here by that mentions branchitis and the deformities it can cause. I am wondering if that is what I am seeing with what I'm assuming is merging and the bulbous ends of his gills? I've tried googling but keep getting 'bronchitis' hits instead

Does anyone have any info/pics of how this affects gill structures? I'm betting this would be in some obscure biology/vet textbook somewhere not so readily accessible or that I'm looking in all the wrong places.

Cheers everyone



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Old 16th August 2015   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

I know if the gills recede or suffer trauma they may not always grow back to their normal condition. My axie Gamma got the tip of one of her stalks chomped during feeding, and when it grew back it had a sharp crook at the site of the new tissue. I have seen pictures of forked and even trident shaped gill stalks, some regeneration and some birth defect. Sometimes blood vessels in the stalks will become herniated and protrude from the surface, each fimbriae/filament may also appear to be enveloped by a capillary loop. These conditions seem fairly common, and don't appear to bother the axolotl any. I have heard other members on this site say that axolotls don't shed, but they may produce excess slime coat on an affected/irritated area. Gamma had something like this too, I thought at first it might have been fungus but it didn't fit the description. It was a clear slime almost that hung off her gills. I kept an eye on it and it eventually sloughed off with the aid of turning a q-tip on it [the slime, not gills]. The main thing is that it isn't a fuzzy opaque white-off white growth, as far as identifying fungus goes. If Lux is eating, his condition is probably not severe. Axolotls are hardy, but for those that worry excessively they may seem fickle (I include myself in this bracket) Haha



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Old 16th August 2015   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Just had a look after feeding him another worm and I think it was shedding/slime coat around the gills yesterday. Most of it is gone. Fungus wouldn't go by itself and not in a day- phew.

Im waiting for some more natural light to come into my room so I get some better images to post those pics showing the 'merging' on his gills



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Old 17th August 2015   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: My Axie's gills are shrinking and I can't figure out why!

Will be awaiting pics to have a look!



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