FYI: How to: Force feed an adult axolotl

HitmanSougo13

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I am posting this thread as one possible option to help an axolotl. ULTIMATELY, IT IS YOUR DECISION on what you feel is best for your axolotl as every axolotl behaves differently. People do not like the idea of force feeding an axolotl because one can crush an axolotl's jaw or squeeze its soft body. I want to let people know that there is a way to preform force feeding that does minimal harm to an axolotl. You don't need to crush their jaw or squeeze its body. This is a two person job.
NOTE: Your axolotl will be stressed and will be scared of you.

Force feeding is not good in general, but amphibians sometimes are force fed if they will not eat and may die of starvation. In some cases, force feeding encourages some amphibians to start eating again (Of course my research into it only talks about general amphibians.) The option of force feeding is for you if you are really worried about your axolotl who has not eaten for weeks and you fear you will lose it since nothing else seems to work and it's gotten awfully skinny. Or in some cases, if you have to give it medicine prescribed by the vet. My vet advised me to not fridge the axolotl if you are forcefeeding since fridging shuts the system down. Instead by letting the axolotl be in it's usual temperature, it's metabolism is not slowed down.


SUMMARY
This post shows you how to force feed an axolotl by wrapping it up in a soft towel and prying its mouth open with a rubber spatula. A syringe is used to administer wet food into the axolotl's mouth. The axolotl may rub it's gills against the towel it is wrapped in. But they will grow back.

NOTE: I DO NOT recommend this on a young axolotl because they are too soft! Force feeding a little one can seriously hurt them. I am sorry that I do not have a solution to force feed young axolotls. :(





You need:

  • A rubber spatula scrapper


  • A very soft cloth like Microfibre, make sure this towel is about the length of half your axolotl's head to half of the axolotl's tail. If not fold the towel to become that length
  • A small syringe - 2ml or 3 ml works great
  • A small tub to put your axolotl in make sure there is room for your axolotl and your hand
  • A small container to put powder food in
  • Powdered form of food or if you don't, use a pill crusher to crush some pellets. Buy a new pill crusher, don't use the one in your kitchen as it may have traces of other pills people have taken.
  • A partner to help you

DIRECTIONS - To feed an Adult axolotl

  1. Fill the tub with declorinated water enough to cover the axolotl.
  2. Put the powdered food into the small container
  3. Fill the syringe with declorinated water up to about the 1.5 ml line
  4. Empty the syringe into the small container and allow the powdered food to thicken
  5. Fill the syringe with the moist food up to about the 2ml line.
  6. Wet the cloth with declorinated water and squeeze it out, we just want it moist.
  7. Get your axolotl into the tub (best to do this in a bathroom)
  8. Quickly put your axolotl on the towel with belly down. Make sure more than half its head is not on the towel.
  9. Quickly wrap the towel around the axolotl firmly to lock it in place (it will look like a burrito or a baby wrapped up). If you wrap the towel too loosely, the axolotl will squirm and move out of it. If it does, put it back into the tub and prepare to preform step 7 again.
  10. Gently hold your axolotl upward but do not let the towel become loose. If your axolotl's neck is exposed or the axolotl's eyes are not exposed, then redo step 7. (If the axolotl's neck is exposed, the axolotl will squirm a lot, if the eyes are not exposed, the axolotl may rub their eyes against the towel)
    NOTE: DO NOT SQUEEZE YOUR AXOLOTL!
  11. Pry it's mouth open gently with the spatula. Turn your spatula clockwise or counterclockwise to get your axolotl's mouth to open a bit.
  12. Get your partner to place the syringe slightly into the axolotl's mouth and gently empty out about a quarter of the syringe. If the food paste is too thick, get your partner to hand scoop a bit of water from the tub and pour the water over the axolotl, a bit of the water will go into the axolotl's mouth.
  13. Remove the spatula and keep the axolotl upright until you notice it swallowing. During then feel free to scoop a handful of water from the tub over your axolotl's face.
  14. Repeat step 11 to 13 until the syringe is empty.
  15. Put the axolotl back into the tub and you can keep it upright for a bit just to make sure it swallowed and won't regurgitate or put the axolotl in the tub and lift it's chin up. The axolotl may still regurgitate in the tub.
  16. Put your axolotl back into the tank if you feel it won't regurgitate anymore.
And of course now your axolotl will look awful in color after being force fed and be stressed out...:( but it will calm down. I hope this thread gives some insight on saving some axies from emaciation.
 

Jennewt

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Thank you for posting this. We should put a permanent link to this somewhere.
 

sek

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Very helpful, I'm glad someone has posted this just in case. Thanks :)
 

sherrisixxx

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Thank you so much for this. I once tried to forcefeed my very sick axie (as recommended by a vet), but didn't succeed....
 

Biance

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Just to confirm - this is done out of the water? With a wet or a dry towel?

Me and my housemate did this to my axolotl once, but just holding him with our hands, and under water in a small tub. We did try a mixture in a syringe, but found that because the syringe holds his mouth open, it basically squirts straight back out, so we ended up just shoving tiny peices of soft food in his mouth. This worked pretty well for us, but I think we ended up just putting him in the fridge without food until he got better, so only did it about twice.

I see the rubber spatula would be less damaging than a finger nail like we used, but would you still recommend a towel over hands? I would think hands would be better because you don't have to touch their gills and you can see what you're doing a lot better, unless it's more damaging to their skin?

I'm asking because he has stopped eating yet again, but without any other visable signs of illness, and I think when my housemate comes home on the weekend I'll ask her to help force feeding him again.

But first - is there a list of highly appetising treats I could try to get him to eat?
 

Snailbait

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My axolotl has stopped eating too, but I don't feel confident enough to try this just yet. How long can an adult axolotl go without food before death?

Bianca, I don't think you take the axolotl completely out of the water, as step 1 says to fill the tub with enough water to cover it and then you feed it in the tub, but I could be wrong.

Thanks for posting this though, it will probably be helpful for many axolotls.
 

kuphie

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My axolotl has stopped eating too, but I don't feel confident enough to try this just yet. How long can an adult axolotl go without food before death?
If put in the fridge they can live longer without food. I once had an adult live 2 weeks without eating. (she just wouldn't eat) she was overweight to begin with and was skinny afterwards, but has since recovered from illness and regained all her weight back. :happy:
 

HitmanSougo13

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Just to confirm - this is done out of the water? With a wet or a dry towel?

Me and my housemate did this to my axolotl once, but just holding him with our hands, and under water in a small tub. We did try a mixture in a syringe, but found that because the syringe holds his mouth open, it basically squirts straight back out, so we ended up just shoving tiny peices of soft food in his mouth. This worked pretty well for us, but I think we ended up just putting him in the fridge without food until he got better, so only did it about twice.

I see the rubber spatula would be less damaging than a finger nail like we used, but would you still recommend a towel over hands? I would think hands would be better because you don't have to touch their gills and you can see what you're doing a lot better, unless it's more damaging to their skin?

I'm asking because he has stopped eating yet again, but without any other visable signs of illness, and I think when my housemate comes home on the weekend I'll ask her to help force feeding him again.

But first - is there a list of highly appetising treats I could try to get him to eat?

Hi sorry I never responded! Didn't think it would have become popular ever hehe. I just realized I never clarified that you would put the moist towel on the sink counter or surface and tranfer the axolotl from the tub of water to the towel.

I found that the towel gave an even restriction but less pressure on the axo. You cand hold the axolotl inyou hand as it is wrapped in the towel but in no way you would need to hold tightly. If you use your hand only, you can't hold the axo's mouth, body and hands at the same time. It is also alot easier for the axolotl to squirm.

Using the rubber spatula would be the item that keeps the axo's mouth open instead of the syringe.

I find my axo can be very picky sometimes and the foods that I end up feeding him when he won't eat his staples are raw tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallop, beef. They even like salmon roe.

I used to try to trick him by putting pellets under his chin and then waving something he likes which tricks him to eat the pellet and the other item. Unfortunately he learned really fast.

There is a lot of different experiences out there with how long an axo can live without food. But in my opinion if you don't eat for weeks it doesn't mean you are not hungry. (criticize me on That one if you want).
 

aviark

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1. Technology Transfer. Bird people (eg. me) have used the same techniques for raising hatchling birds. There are texts available on this, especially for parrots. My area, mainly Finches, requires more delicacy. I used the syringe technique, on finches. But used a soft latex tube to deliver the food directly to the chicks crop. (Older chicks, not nestlings, as these were too small.) Latex tube used to be found in bycycle repair kits and fits nicely over the end of syringe. I have not tried it with Axolotls, but I'm sure a decent volume of blended food could be delivered direct to a sick amphibian gut. Chicks, finches and parrots, initially reject the tube and close their beaks, similar I imagine, to an axolotl resisting forced feeding. But the tube can worm it's way in past obstinate jaws, if you persevere. The beauty of the latex is that you could, VERY GENTLY, get it past the gills. Advanced 'birdos' use Stacey Crop Needles, in various sizes/gauges, made of stainless steel. Teflon is also available.
Crop Needles and Feeding Tubes from Kimani

NB. In some locations it is awkward to obtain syringes. Pharmacists can supply to diabetics. Vet Suppliers and Sheep and Cattle Suppliers can also carry syringes for farm uses. (Syringes are great for getting accurate measures of small volumes of medicants too.)

A dove being tube fed :
Feeding Time For Our Baby Collared Dove - YouTube
 
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aviark

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2. The towell idea for constraining the axolotl and for getting past the slime factor and making it more manageable, is good. I wonder if it might be an improvement to put the axolotl into a thick sock, with a small head hole about where the midddle toe would go. (This works for bitey birds :happy:) So that once set up, the axolotl's head protrudes through the sock. I never bank on having a helper and come up with ways to do things, solo. Once you have the axolotl in the sock, it can be inserted into a plastic tube, to further constrain it. In this way, the axolotl can be left fully submerged, but constrained. This is where the latex tube can come handy. If you have a sufficient length of latex or tubing, it can be inserted while the axolotl remains totally sumerged, albeit, wrapped up and constrained. This may buy you extra time, while you develop the technique. I can gently tube-feed a bird in approx. 1 minute.
 

aviark

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3. Great article by Hitman. But there was no mention of what food to use in the syringe. From experience, it takes a bit of trial and error to get the correct consistency to pass down the syringe (more so if you also use the latex tube as in my bird examples). It is really important that there are no lumps or clots. These cause blockages and can sometimes erupt out of the syringe... not good. The consistency of soft margarine works best in a plastic syringe. For me, the simplest food would be lean meat, such as from a lambs heart or liver. I would prefer the liver. And then blend it up finely. It goes without saying that you need the same skill as you would use with preparing and using human food Ie. don't leave out in the warm air. Seal and refrigerate. Thaw properly before using. Think about how you would feed a human baby, the rules you would use for food preparation, storage etc and use that for your guide. The meat paste, properly prepared, should easily pass through the apparatus without blocking up.

I would probably feed once a day, until the axolotl is over its 'anorexia' and self-feeding, normally. Perhaps a week?
 
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BIGBODYBEAR

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ive tried this today with one of my axy's who hasnt eaten in three weeks & she is getting thin , i tried frozen blood worms but i think they were too solid for her & she just kept spitting them out , tomorrow im going to use a couple of frozen brine shrimp cubes in a medicine cup with a tiny bit of water to make it mushy , hope it works :(
 

kapooey

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I would love to force feed my axolotl RIGHT NOW because he/she is not eating at all for 2 weeks! But since he/she is only 3-4 inches, still a baby. I guess I shouldn't do this and should bring him/her to the vet=[
 

willowcat

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Has anyone seen a pattern on what types usually quit eating first? Like, maybe, albino..
 

auntiejude

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I haven't notice any pattern when mine get anorexic.

My male wildtype lost his appetite ths summer when I had a temperature spike, my female leucistic lost her appetite when she got fungus, my female wildtype wouldn't eat while she was laying eggs or just after, and my female albino had never refused food in the time I've had her - even through the hot summer and a bout of fungus.
 

PatchworkClocks

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Has anyone seen a pattern on what types usually quit eating first? Like, maybe, albino..
Surprisingly, my albino hasn't lost his appetite at all. Even when his tank got up to almost 22C he still seemed pretty happy and ate like a pig.

This is just an observation, but it actually seems like wild types tend to be more picky when it comes to eating. I'm not saying it actually holds true, it's just something I've noticed during my time here on the forums.
 

HitmanSougo13

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2. The towell idea for constraining the axolotl and for getting past the slime factor and making it more manageable, is good. I wonder if it might be an improvement to put the axolotl into a thick sock, with a small head hole about where the midddle toe would go. (This works for bitey birds :happy:) So that once set up, the axolotl's head protrudes through the sock. I never bank on having a helper and come up with ways to do things, solo. Once you have the axolotl in the sock, it can be inserted into a plastic tube, to further constrain it. In this way, the axolotl can be left fully submerged, but constrained. This is where the latex tube can come handy. If you have a sufficient length of latex or tubing, it can be inserted while the axolotl remains totally sumerged, albeit, wrapped up and constrained. This may buy you extra time, while you develop the technique. I can gently tube-feed a bird in approx. 1 minute.
Ahhhh the problem with this is the axolotl will squirm and twist so it may not be easy to slip them through a sock hole. Plus shoving the axolotl through the sock can rub against their gills and cause bleeding. Hence the burrito idea with the towel.
 

HitmanSougo13

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3. Great article by Hitman. But there was no mention of what food to use in the syringe. From experience, it takes a bit of trial and error to get the correct consistency to pass down the syringe (more so if you also use the latex tube as in my bird examples). It is really important that there are no lumps or clots. These cause blockages and can sometimes erupt out of the syringe... not good. The consistency of soft margarine works best in a plastic syringe. For me, the simplest food would be lean meat, such as from a lambs heart or liver. I would prefer the liver. And then blend it up finely. It goes without saying that you need the same skill as you would use with preparing and using human food Ie. don't leave out in the warm air. Seal and refrigerate. Thaw properly before using. Think about how you would feed a human baby, the rules you would use for food preparation, storage etc and use that for your guide. The meat paste, properly prepared, should easily pass through the apparatus without blocking up.

I would probably feed once a day, until the axolotl is over its 'anorexia' and self-feeding, normally. Perhaps a week?
Ahh food can be crushed up pellets mixed with water to form a paste. Basically your axolotl is likely going to refuse solid food so make it liquid, whatever it is you are comfortable feeding as long as you can mash it up into a thick liquid form.
 

EJgraydon

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As for food there's this nutrient enriched paste that's made with blood worms that I bought for mine at a point for when I'd run out of there food

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