View Full Version : Question: Is this normal? Gagging, trying to breathe?

26th February 2011, 00:41
I recently purchased two juvenile axolotls from a highly reputable breeder, I tried to feed them pellets but they did not eat. The pellets began to break and dirty the water, as well as the water having sat with live plants in it for a week beforehand. I took them out, rinsed the tank and the rocks (They were separated in smaller containers) and refilled with tap water that was conditioned with a solution to dechlorinate it.

One is leucistic and the other is melanoid. They are both about 3.5 inches long. The tank has both live and fake plants with gravel substrate, the pH is about 8.0 (Bad?) and the ammonium level is "safe" at 0.02 ppm. They are separated as they are young still. They both started to open and close their mouths, and shake their heads (entire upper torso). It looks like they are gagging, but they haven't eaten. I don't think they ate a rock, because the rocks are too large. Both of them are doing this. They also seem to be stressed and will not eat their pellets. I am going to purchase live food for them soon.

Click for video. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy8wCav3FLA)

Here is a video of the melanoid doing this. I only turned the light on to shoot this video... I'm just curious and worried. Have I done something wrong? Are they breathing okay? I thought the water would be fine for them. The temperature is 65 fahrenheit. I just want to know if this is normal. Thanks!

26th February 2011, 00:53
Hmm I don't know what that could be they're doing on the video.
But about the rocks. They could eat rocks the size of their heads (look here: http://www.ambystoma.de/html/axolotl/images/x-ray_Stein.jpg ) and also the rocks in your tank. It's better to get them out and put sand in there or keep them on a bare bottom tank.
Maybe there IS a rock inside them and it's irritating them trying to get it out by doing that thing on the vid. I'm not sure what it could be. Can you see if there's anything stuck in their mouth? I think something is inside them that causes them doing that and also not want to eat.

(And the best ammonia level is 0, so even 0.02 can be on the high side)

26th February 2011, 02:13
I think he has eaten something he shouldn't have.

I would remove the pebbles asap and keep them on a bare bottom tank.

26th February 2011, 03:25
i agree, those rocks are small enough to be ingested. I'd get those rocks out of there asap and get them into the fridge to help them purge the rocks out. Hopefully they'll come out and you won't need a vet visit.

26th February 2011, 11:40

Oh dear, poor things! They could well have swallowed those rocks, particularly if you are feeding stuff that breaks up... They tend to snuffle round if they can smell food, and try and eat from between the rocks.

Whether both of them would have swallowed a big rock at the same time, though..?

Unlikely but could happen. The rocks need to go in any case. And, be wary that when you remove them, you're gonna flush out all sorts of **** from between them that could well send your water into a terrible state. Rocks are awful for getting stuff trapped between them.

In the meantime, not sure we should discount further troubleshooting!

In addition to the ammonia reading, did you measure for nitrite and nitrate? How big is the tank, and how tall? The axie in the video is terribly skinny, and I remember when I got one of mine he was like that and wasn't strong enough to swim to the top to take a gulp of air, so I lowered the tank water... But... Lowering the water means it would spoil faster. Have you got an airstone? An air stone on a very low flow might help increase the oxygen in the water, should that be the problem (which it might not, I've never seen this happen). 65 seems ok temp-wise, btw. Thats about 19, yes?

Can you post a picture of the entire set up?

How long have you had them? You say the tanks were set up with plants before, have any other critters been in those tanks then?

Sorry I can't help any more, I've never seen this happen.

26th February 2011, 18:14
Hi, Thanks for all the help, guys! I am going to take the rocks out very soon, though it turns out they didn't eat any of the rocks. As you said mewsie, I also agree that it is highly unlikely that it was rocks because they both started doing it at the same time, about ten minutes after being put into the fresh water.

They have both stopped doing this, and seem to be fine now. Even eating! I am going to purchase a better water testing kit, just in case. I have had them for three or four days now, they are quite young, and they are in a 10 gallon tank, separated, with water about 3/4 of the way full along with the rocks about 1 1/2 inch from the bottom. The tank was bought new specifically for them, so no critters before.

Front view of the tank (http://i52.tinypic.com/okora1.jpg)
Side view of the tank (http://i55.tinypic.com/swuwm0.jpg)

Thanks for your help! I hope they don't do this again.

26th February 2011, 18:18
Good news indeed :)

Glad to hear that! I wonder what it was about. You definitely decholorinated the water correctly? It was the same temp as the water they started with? How much did you change?

The rocks defo need to go though, or you'll be back posting in this forum again for sure :(

Very glad they are better and eating, but you are right, best to figure out what it was so it doesn't happen again, that'd have really upset me!


26th February 2011, 21:41
Glad to read they're doing better :)

26th February 2011, 22:42
HI there,

Glad your axies are doing better what a relief!

Just wanted to repeat what Mewsie and Morrison have said about getting rid of the gravel asap as that really is a danger to your axies but also with the feeding you will find your axies would benefit far more from some lovely earthworms or bloodworms which are a lot more nutricious for them :D

Your axies will certainly thank you for the earthworms but with the bloodworms you will certainly again see another reason why gravel is such a bad idea as the amount of food it traps is a nightmare! Pellets are also another good food so still use those just try and keep earthworms as the staple food!

Only other thing I wanted to mention was your axies would really thank you for some hides, it is so important for your axie to be able to feel safe and that means somewhere to hide if he/she wants to. Does not have to be expensive a jug/pot/plastic tube etc will suffice or you can go down more natural routes of hollow logs/rock caves etc.

Hope this helps! Zoe

27th February 2011, 07:57
Gagging is exactly what that is. Trying to vomit.

I have first-hand experience with this, as mine did the same thing when I gave them a salt bath right after feeding them. They do that gagging, whatever is in there that shouldn't be comes out, and all is well. If they keep doing it, whatever is in there that shouldn't be can't come out. That is when you have a problem.

27th February 2011, 08:37
Your axie is trying to get somthing either up or down. The stones in the tank are big enough to swallow, my first axie was passing stones that size when I first got him because the pet shop used stones. Try putting them in the fridge for a while and see if anything passes. It is possible that they both swallowed stones at a similar time if they have been fed at the same time, as its easy for them to pick up stones instead of food, I have seen it before.