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Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum)>New axolotl lethargic
AGammer 04:46 31st January 2020
I have had my first axolotl, whoís a male, about 5 inches, for a week and a half. He seemed fine at first, but we ended up over feeding him, not realizing the other was feeding. He was loving the worms, but then I realized he was getting too much and didnít feed him for a couple of days. He then floated for a couple of days, but didnít seem exactly unable to go down, and the tank temp was 19c. He went back to the bottom and I added ice bottles while I waited for the tank fan to be delivered. The tank is now 14.4c and heís just hanging out on the bottom. Itís been days since he ate, so I cut up an earthworm and he didnít touch it. I put sinking pellets in but he didnít touch those either. He seems pale and definitely lethargic where he was very active before. His water chemistry is good. What should I be doing for him? Any advice is appreciated.

Kitan 14:52 31st January 2020
Hmm. So the big question is, is he pooping? Could be impaction, maybe? It COULD be stress due to water-flow, depending on what you are working with. Honestly, if his Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, pH, chlorine and temperature are all in check and you have a clear bottom, it rules out a LOT of possibilities. These symptoms can be heat stress, so it COULD have been caused by fluctuating temperatures while you were stabilizing the temp; even though it never went into the temperature danger zone, the back and forth caused by the ice bottles may have caused stress. Does he look bloated\round?

Get back to me on all of this, but as long as he is pooping, everything is stabilized, and there are no other symptoms, I might just keep a eye on him for a couple days. If he doesnt improve, I would fridge. It should help clear up unknown illnesses by boosting his immune system. Not the BEST solution I am sure, but it is still something that should help.

Also, just a heads up, at 5 months he is far too young to sex, so he could still be a she

AGammer 16:15 31st January 2020
Kitan, thank you. The girl at the pet store said she could easily tell he was a boy with the ďbumpĒ under his tail. Hmmm... glad I didnít get two ďboysĒ based on that!
As for the pooping, there was some, but I havenít seen any in the past few days. His water temp is now 13.8c and I considered turning off one of the fans but was thinking that having the water temp this low might simulate fridging without the trauma of being moved and put in a small container. ďHeĒ has sat in the same place by his rocks for more than a day now and he was so active before. Is it normal for axies to go sort of dormant? Is that because the water is so cold now? I have a lot of fish keeping experience, but this little guy is a whole new ball game! TIA

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AGammer 00:23 1st February 2020
Axel has moved out of the other corner and I put some thawed carnivore food and a mealworm in the tank. The mealworm is still there, but I can’t tell if he ate anything else. He just seems so still. His legs are also out flat, which is different from before. His gills seem healthy, flicking every so often and not curled forwards. What should axie poo look like? I’m not sure if I should be worried, but he seems off.

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AGammer 00:33 1st February 2020
He swam around just fine a moment ago. Hereís a close-up photo.

AGammer 00:35 1st February 2020
Hereís the photo. (Iím still figuring out how to use this forum!)

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Kitan 18:20 7th February 2020
Damn. I have been on a lot, not sure why it wasnt showing you had replied Sorry about the huge delay!

So, I'm super sorry to say I think at the least you may have impaction. You said you left a mealworm in his tank; that is something axies should never have. Mealworms have a chitin and that causes impaction Poop looks like a decently-sized dark colored packet. It is also often referred to as the poop pinata as if they step on it, it pops and the contents go everywhere. I'll include a pic so you know what you are looking for. So the reason that I am thinking impaction is because of the meal worms combined with the reduced appetite and lack of noticable waste. He's also looking a bit on the thin side.

A slight second concern that I have is the red lines around his tail (red veins): could be first signs of hemorrhagic septicemia OR (hopefully) stress. Apparently Leucistic Axies CAN get prominent veins when they are being crazy active...but yours isnt.

13 degrees is likely NOT going to be cold enough. Fridging tends to happen around 5 degrees. The cold boots their immune and also makes them more likely to poop. I know it's scary, but I really think that is your best course of action, aside from a vet. I would also switch to ONLY Canadian nightcrawlers, cut into small pieces. The super carnivore can really make your ammonia jump and meal worms are going to cause more issues.

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AGammer 01:39 8th February 2020
Thanks for the reply, Kitan. So, as for the mealworm, he showed no interest, so I took it out. There is so much conflicting information on what to feed them. He has rejected the thawed food, the cut up nightcrawler and the live red wigglers. He loved the black worms I had, but can't find anyone around me who sells them. The store I got him and the black worms from is an hour away.
I think the issue is actually nitrates. From the readings I'm getting, it's between 80-120 ppm, with daily 30% water changes. I just tested my tap water and it has about 30 ppm, so got pre-conditioned aquarium water and retested the water (replaced about 4 gallons ~20%) and the nitrates are a little better, but still about 80 ppm. How can I bring them down more quickly? I can fridge him, but feel like he has to have good water for that as I won't want to put him in the fridge with nitrate rich water with no filtration. I can use the pre-conditioned aquarium water, but would the change shock him? Little guy looks so pathetic, I feel terrible for him, but he is flicking his gills more than before I did this most recent water change. He does seem to be having trouble using his legs.

WordsOfFate 05:01 12th February 2020
Hello! I'm so sorry to hear your little guy isn't doing too well.

First, did you fully cycle the tank before you got him? Because if not, that is most likely why the nitrates are so high. Axolotls produce a lot of waste, way more than most other aquatic creatures, so uncycled tanks typically can't handle axolotls and the waste they produce.

Until the issue with the nitrates are under control and he eats, I highly recommend fridging him. He should be fine in the fridge with the current water as long as you do a 100% water change daily with fresh dechlorinated water.

As for getting him to eat, if he won't eat anything else, try offering him frozen or live bloodworms. Most pet stores sell frozen bloodworms so they're very easy to find. Typically you don't want to feed your axolotl bloodworms as it's main diet, only as a treat, since it isn't very nutritious, but since he won't eat anything else it's worth a shot to see. Bloodworms are irresistible to most axolotls so there's a good chance he might find interest in them.

Lastly, what brand of dechlorinator are you using? I personally recommend Seachem Prime as a dechlorinator because not only does it do that, but it also detoxifies any ammonia, nitrite, or nitrites that may be present in the tank so that it won't harm your little guy. I also recommend Seachem Stability since it will quickly establish beneficial bacteria which will help to remove ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. You will still need to do a 20-30% water change every other day, but it will help speed up the progress by a lot.

I know I'm late to the post, but I really hope this helps and that your little guy will start feeling better soon!

Murk 14:46 12th February 2020
The easiest way to get rid of nitrates is by putting some plants in the aquarium and giving those a little light.
Plants are amazing anyway. Axolotls love 'em, bacteria love 'em, visitors love 'em.
Just plunk in a fast-growing cold water plant (Elodea or "water weed" is a great starter) and watch it suck up the nitrates.
Axolotls have a habit of destroying plants, but that's fun for you to watch and it keeps them active.

As for food, depends on if you plan to fridge the axolotl. If you do, I wouldn't try to feed him too much right now.
If not, earthworms are amazing, since you can get them at every fishing-store (or your own garden), and axolotls tend to like them. I put all my green waste in a compost bin I stocked with earthworms once, and about half the food I've given my four axolotls the past year is earthworm from that same bin - so that's a nice, sustainable and cheap option.

I'm a big fan of offering them varied food, though, if only to keep them active and interested. If you're trying to pique his appetite, try some things out! My axolotls go wild over shrimp, beef or whatever fish I have laying around in the fridge. It's not a good staple food at all, but as a treat every now and then it's fine.
It's also worth asking at the store what they fed him. Young axolotls can be a bit nostalgic.

AGammer 02:50 13th February 2020
Thank you for the replies. I have gotten the nitrates well under control with water changes. I fridged him for about 8 hours, but the temps in my fridge tend not to be very consistent and it got too cold, so I removed him. He didn't poop, but he hadn't eaten in a while and didn't look impacted, so with the water cleared, I put him back in the tank.
I found a shop that stocks his favorite black worms, so put some of those in the tank. He seemed pretty unsettled after the trip to the fridge, so he understandably didn't eat right away, but I'm hopeful he has, or will soon.
I'd planned to get plants at the pet store, but the guy there told me the plants would increase the nitrates, but also said I should just buy distilled water at the store to put in the tank. I'm pretty sure that's not a good idea, so left with only the aquarium water, and no plants. I will go to an aquarium store where the knowledge level is better, and try to get some appropriate plants.
The tank had been cycled from my other long-established fish tank, so should have been fine, but it wasn't. I use the Tetra Aquasafe Plus water conditioner/dechlorinator, but maybe I'll give the Seachem a try. I also read about a stone that can eat nitrates, so may get one of those. I'll report back on his progress. Thanks for the replies!

Kitan 19:53 19th February 2020
Oh lord, pet stores do love to treat axolotls like fish, dont they?

Okay so the BIG thing about black worms (and also why they are hard to find) is that they can sometimes have LEACHES in them (eww), which are obviously quite dangerous for your axolotl. They can look a LOT like the black worms too. Just make sure you keep an eye out.

So, the person who told you that live plants will increase your nitrates? Never ask them for advice again. Maybe also talk to the store owner. That person has no place in a fish store. SMH. So the way the cycle works, as I believe someone mentioned, is axies make ammonia, which beneficial bacteria convert into nitrites. Both ammonia and nitrites are hella toxic. Well...kinda. There are two types of ammonia and both your pH and temp affect it, but...that's more complicated than we need to be right now. The last stage is nitrates which are not as toxic but will continue to build up until removed. Removal can be done by water changes or by plants; for plants, Nitrates are a fertilizer and they LOVE them. Try some java fern, marimo moss balls, or duckweed...note that last one can be problematic as it was cover everything that touches the surface of your water. Given that your TAP WATER comes out at 30 need live plants. Also, on a side note, that has me concerned for YOU. Drinking that much nitrates is not good. It also means you are getting fertilizer\sewage into your water, which I assume\hope is a well? You might want to look into that for your own health:

"A nitrate level of up to 3 ppm in well water is generally believed to be naturally-occurring and safe for drinking. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has set the primary drinking water standard (from public water supplies) for nitrate at 10 ppm."

So...even with a Nitrate from the tap at 30 PPM...for it to be getting to 120 ppm with 30% water changes every other day? That is an increase of 90 ppm PLUS the 30% you are removing. That means your ammonia is being built at a shocking rate., yes it is being converted, but it is still really problematic. When you are feeding frozen especially, are you removing the uneaten bit? Frozen needs to be fed very carefully, into a dish with a turkey baster so it doesnt go everywhere and then the uneaten has to be removed. You also arent seeing either he isnt producing it, or he is exploding it before you remove it...which STILL wouldnt account for that huge a spike I would expect. You need to resolve why your nitrates are climbing so much. SOMETHING is causing it. I would REALLY suggest an 90% water change, removing all those rocks for just long enough to make sure there isnt anything stuck under\between them. Dont clean your filter media so you keep your beneficial bacteria. You will need to float it while you clean if it will take a while, to make sure it doesnt dry out.

To help you resolve this, can you please give me a full breakdown of your setup? I really would like to know tank size, ammonia, nitrites and current nitrates. You seem to be getting the temp of his tank to drop, but what we want is something stable. Lets try getting him to around 16 degrees and getting it to stay there. As it gets colder, their metabolism slows, so perhaps not ideal since you dont feel it is impaction.

You said your fridge temp fluctuates...what are we talking here?

AGammer 03:37 4 Weeks Ago
Kitan, I somehow missed your message. Thank you for all the detailed info! I will do a full test of the water tomorrow and post it. it is getting a little cloudy, even with 20% water changes about every other day. When I went to the real aquarium store (Not the pet store with the guy who suggested I put distilled water in the tank and shouldn’t get plants) to buy black worms, I asked them to test the water and they said it was perfect, and the readings have been consistently good, but something‘s bothering him. I had them test the water because of the weird reading I got from my tap water, but I tested it again and it was zero, so either we had a gross storm water event (city water), or maybe my test tube was contaminated.
I added a biostone, plants and moss balls to the tank. I haven’t seen him eat since before I put him in the fridge and have offered him everything. There were some black worms that burrowed into the sand and I was hoping he’d find them as he hunted, but I really don’t think he’s hunted at all. I’m now a bit freaked about the leach thing. I now don’t have black worms to feed him because I’m not good at keeping those things alive. When I clean the sand, I’ll see how many worms I find. He’s very skinny. Is this a fridging situation? The tank water is now consistently 16 degrees with the fan I put on the tank.
For my fridge fluctuation, it tends to bounce around, probably because I have kids who think it’s okay to leave the fridge door open. I will see what I can figure out if I need to fridge him again, but when I had him in there before, the fridge thermometer said it was 4-5 degrees, but his water got to 2.5 while I was at work. That seems like it was way too cold for him- is that right?
I really can’t figure out what’s bothering him, but I’m afraid he’s going to starve to death right in front of me!

Tags:axolotl, lethargic, over feeding, pale
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