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Not eating, weak suction

This is a discussion on Not eating, weak suction within the Sick Axolotl? forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; I'm new to Axolotls (and amfibians in general), I've had mine for about 2 weeks now and he's recently stopped ...

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

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Old 22nd July 2012   #1 (permalink)
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Default Not eating, weak suction

I'm new to Axolotls (and amfibians in general), I've had mine for about 2 weeks now and he's recently stopped eating. He used to eat 2-3 dried silkworms a day and half a cube of frozen bloodworms every other day, but for the last 3-4 days he hasn't swallowed a single silkworm and the bloodworms just don't seem to interest them. I can usually tempt him to try and eat a worm but it just seems that he can't suck it in.
While handfeeding him, he sucks so weakly that he hardly pulls it out between my fingers, while the first days they instantly disappeared into his mouth.
He was pretty thin when I got him and this surely doesn't help him gain weight. I have fine gravel covering the tank (about 1-3mm grains) but I thought handfeeding him would prevent him from swallowing any.
I haven't seen him in any special poses that would indicate intestinal obstructions, but then again, I'm not 100% of how it exactly looks, so I might miss it if he's quite subtle.
I'm starting to get a little worried but 99% of the Belgian vets don't know anything about axolotls since they all have a certain speciality and hardly any of them are specialized in amphibians, let alone neotenic amphibians.
Is this normal behaviour, is it because of the food or is it something else? I'm getting quite worried that this might harm his health.



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Old 23rd July 2012   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

Are the silkworms a food that was recommended by the breeder? I am not familiar with this type of food, but in most cases dried foods are not the best. Frozen bloodworms are good, but some people have reported that they can cause constipation (although I am somewhat skeptical of these claims). I would suggest trying pieces of earthworm, which are easily digested.

What is the temperature of the water? Are you vigilant about ammonia? Frozen bloodworms are sometimes associated with ammonia problems because it is difficult to clean out every single one after feeding.



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Old 24th July 2012   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

I'm not sure I would feed mine silkworms because of their mouth parts. They are quite strong & could bite or hurt your axie - thats unless your cutting or crushing the heads. As these are dried worms, they have lost most of their nutrition anyway.



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Old 26th July 2012   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

First of all, thank you for helping.

I didn't get them from the breeder himself, he was a gift from my aunt. There are very little shops that know anything specifically about Axies in my region (the shop she got him from is about 50 miles away and they said they gave them frozen bloodworms, which I used to give but he isn't really interested in them either. They said they should find the silk worms delicious and they are very nutricious for the little critters. They're 55% proteines and 30% fat according to the box.
He ate about 2 silkworms since my last post which doesn't seem a lot to me.

The water temperature has risen the last few days and I'm trying my best to keep it within limits without dropping it too fast. But the problems kind of started when the temperature was at 20 degrees.

The ammonia couldn't be an issue since I have a 300L/hour filter running and I changed the water daily for over 50% since the day that he stopped eating. I don't have a testing strip to completely confirm it though.

Could it be the chitin from the worms that causes problems for it's digestive system? I recall reading that they lack the enzymes to break it down. That would result in a slower digestion of the worms.

Or is it that I'm just panicky because I'm new to this and don't know when it's a problem and when it isn't?



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Old 27th July 2012   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

A few things:
1. Water changes- Probably 50% is upsetting it- there needs to be stability (and a BIT of poop!) in there to get your filter cycled so that the bacteria can deal with it. You'd be far better off with a 10% change twice a day, or a 20% once a day. Removing more that 1/3 at a time can really disrupt the biological media in your tank, which is NOT a good thing...

2. Food- Any chance you've got access to earthworms? You're correct about chintin sometimes being a major issue for axies, so that may be making him a bit more reluctant to eat them. If you can't find earthworms, there are some really good pellets out there (try and get the ones specifically for axolotls), or slugs, blackworms, OR if you're up to it, sacrificial guppies and shrimp- they get to "hunt", and the shrimp act like a cleaning crew before they get eaten The only thing is you need to quarantine them for a month before you release them into your tank :)

3. Testing- Always a good idea to have a test kit.

4. Temperature- Do you have a fan you can use? Have it so it's blowing at a 30-45 degree angle across the surface of your tank and it'll get it down and keep it consistient.

5. Tank itself-
-Do you have gravel as a substrate? If so, you need to go right now and take it ALL out. Better to have a bare bottom than gravel which will impact your poor axie... (And if not, I send you a hug!)
-Hides and visual barriers- are there places your axie can go which are hidden away, where he can't be seen, and are at least a bit darker than the rest of the tank? If not, the lack of these can be a bit uncomfortable for an axie.

Hope he picks up soon :)



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Old 28th July 2012   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

A few things:
1. Water changes- Probably 50% is upsetting it- there needs to be stability (and a BIT of poop!) in there to get your filter cycled so that the bacteria can deal with it. You'd be far better off with a 10% change twice a day, or a 20% once a day. Removing more that 1/3 at a time can really disrupt the biological media in your tank, which is NOT a good thing...

2. Food- Any chance you've got access to earthworms? You're correct about chintin sometimes being a major issue for axies, so that may be making him a bit more reluctant to eat them. If you can't find earthworms, there are some really good pellets out there (try and get the ones specifically for axolotls), or slugs, blackworms, OR if you're up to it, sacrificial guppies and shrimp- they get to "hunt", and the shrimp act like a cleaning crew before they get eaten The only thing is you need to quarantine them for a month before you release them into your tank :)

3. Testing- Always a good idea to have a test kit.

4. Temperature- Do you have a fan you can use? Have it so it's blowing at a 30-45 degree angle across the surface of your tank and it'll get it down and keep it consistient.

5. Tank itself-
-Do you have gravel as a substrate? If so, you need to go right now and take it ALL out. Better to have a bare bottom than gravel which will impact your poor axie... (And if not, I send you a hug!)
-Hides and visual barriers- are there places your axie can go which are hidden away, where he can't be seen, and are at least a bit darker than the rest of the tank? If not, the lack of these can be a bit uncomfortable for an axie.

Hope he picks up soon :)

Ok, he started eating a bit more regularly (might be the water that got warmer making him more active though).

I tried giving him earthworms before but they tend to be too big and I can't actually get myself to kill the things (which is quite stupid, I know, It's mainly that I'm afraid my veggy girlfriend is going to get mad at me ^^').
Are these pellets any good? Axolotl Pellets - Sinking food pellets for Axolotls
I'll have to order them online because there's no chance that they'll have a shop that sells them in Belgium.

My tank is standing pretty high off the ground and I don't have a fan that can reach it. I'm currently cooling it down by putting cold-packs between my tank and the wall and it seems to do the job, it's now stable at about 23 degrees. And if the forecast was correct, it should get a bit cooler over here the next days.

The substrate is something between fine gravel and coarse sand, it came from the same shop as the guy who sold it to my aunt confirming it couldn't harm him. I don't usually trust a shopkeeper on things like that but my nephew used to work for him and said he's a decent guy. But I still handfeed him so he doesn't swallow large amounts of it while eating. The plan is to cover the entire bottom with slate so he can't reach it while still having the beneficial bacterial properties of gravel. (Assuming that the cracks between the stones will suffice for that).

He's currently got 2 hiding spots. What I am lacking however are plants because I've been reading mixed things about them on the internet and the aquarium doesn't get a lot of light so I'm not really confident if the plants would survive or not.



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Old 28th July 2012   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

Ok never mind that website I linked, they don't ship to Belgium.



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Old 28th July 2012   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

I know the gravel you're talking about- it's just on the edge of risky- I've got it in the bottom of my shrimp tank which was going to temporarily house one of my axies when I set it up, but I ended up balking at the risk, and instead had a shrimp population explosion :). Sand (hopefully) isn't too expensive, and the risk of impaction would be greatly decreased on a sand base. And just so you know, axies don't just suck when they're eating- they suck to breathe, to play, to yawn, to forage for food, to get attention ("Feed meee!!")... so chances are he's eaten a bit of it.
And good that the temp's stable, but it really needs to be lower- if you can get it under 22c and staying stable, he'll be much happier, and under 20, excellent.
I'd keep looking for pellets, you never know what you may find, or check out Axolotls - Feeding for some really interesting foods, or, if you can get the raw ingredients: Home-made Axolotl/Newt Pellet Recipe.
Fingers crossed the odds are in your favour :)!



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Old 9th August 2012   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

Ok thank you for your help!

I did some serious aquarium-management last week (taking 5-10% out, slowly filling it up again, repeating that 10-15 times a day) to make sure the water is clean and cool enough for him. The temperature is now (thanks to the notoriously bad Belgian summers) at a steady 21.5 degrees. And he's been eating 2-3 times a day ever since. So I'm guessing it was either the sudden temperature change or the water-quality that threw him off. Before this he didn't actually ask for food, but now every time I pass and he's hungry, he'll wiggle out of his cave and look at me. I've tried to give him something to eat on other occasions but that usually resulted in a lack of interest.

I asked the shopkeeper where my aunt bought him why he advised the sandy-gravely hybrid thing instead of regular sand and he said that sand and every other substrate that is palpable can cause impaction and internal scarring. The only way to completely prevent it, is by using clay or silt or something that's just way too large to swallow (hence the slate).
An other reason why I'm hesitant to replace the gravel with sand is because I'll have to put him inside a much smaller container for a day which clearly stressed him out last time (when I put in the gravel). While I can just wash the slate outside and put it in a few pieces at a time, wait until he moves and just gradually cover it as he voluntarily moves out of the way.
So are there any downsides to slate that you guys know of?



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Old 9th August 2012   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Not eating, weak suction

It's true that sand can also cause impaction, but the particles of sand are much smaller and pass more easily through the gut, where gravel is much bigger and has a higher probability of getting stuck and causing deadly impaction. The best way to prevent impaction is to go with a bare-bottom or slate setup.

The biggest downside to slate is that waste can be trapped under it, so you'll have to lift it every time you clean the tank to remove debris.



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