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Sick Axolotl?

Discussion in 'Salamanders & Newts' started by AjaMichelle, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    Hi Guys,

    I posted this on Caudata too but figured I would see if anyone here can help me.

    The Problem:
    My male axolotl has been acting strangely. Yesterday he was floating and seemed to have something coming out of his mouth. I tapped on the tank, and he didn't respond. I agitated the water with my feeding tongs, and he didn't respond. Either of these actions typically get his attention. Then I poked him. He didn't seem to be breathing. He didn't respond. I rolled him onto his back... no response. He just buoyed onto his side. I thought he was dead for like ten minutes. I had seen him swimming before he started floating. I went to take him out of the tank and before I even touched him, he coughed releasing a number of large and very obvious air bubbles. Then he swam back down to the bottom of the tank.

    I was shocked.

    He's been acting a bit lethargic since this occurred. He's very personable and interacts with me all the time, and he's basically ignoring me. I fed him last night; he wasn't as excited about it as he normally is, but he ate anyway. His meal consisted of three trout worms and two night crawlers. I found the night crawlers in the tank this morning, so he regurgitated them. He's spent most of the day in his hiding spot, which is also strange.

    The female axolotl I have seems to be completely fine. She's active, eating with zeal, and behaving normally.

    The male is an adult and almost 11 inches, total length. The female is a sub-adult (toe tips are black) and about 5 inches. Both are leucistic. They share the same water but are contained in different tanks. The tanks are connected via an overflow siphon. The system has two filters. One is an AquaClear "hang on back" filter intended for use with a 30 gallon tank. The other filter is is a Fluval 205 canister filter rated for 180 gallons. I use the HOB to oxygenate the water in the male's tank, and I rely on the Fluval to actually filter the water. The fluval media consists of carbon and biological media.

    The male's tank is about 30 gallons. The female's tank is 5 gallons. The filter holds about 3 gallons. So the system is about 40 gallons.

    Each tank contains some washed play sand as a substrate. I also have some aquatic plants in the male's tank. I use tap water and a water conditioner (Prime). The pH is typically 7.4 to 7.8. I don't test for nitrites or ammonia. Nitrates are always high. I've replaced about 15 gallons of water in the last 24 hours. I did 5 gallons yesterday at 1pm, tested the water at 4:30pm, did another 5 gallons. I tested last night at about 11pm, then did another water change today (5 gallons) at 2:30pm. I'll test again soon. The water temperature NEVER goes above 72 degrees Fahrenheit and never fluctuates rapidly. It's usually 66 to 68*F and then gently rises to about 70*F in the afternoon, where it stays for about 3 hours then it drops back down to the 60's.

    I got some Salvinia about a month ago and put it in the tank. The HOB filter makes a mess of it so I turned it off. I have a feeling that the male has been acting strangely because the water isn't being agitated, and therefore may not be as oxygenated as he requires. However, his gills don't seem to be getting any longer.

    He is fed abut every other day. His diet consists of night crawlers, trout worms, snails, beef heart (occasional), blood worms (live and frozen), and the San Francisco Bay brand freshwater multi-pack (brine shrimp, water, cyclops, daphnia, watercress, sodium alginate, spirulina algae, astaxanthin, yucca, wheat flour, brine shrimp, mysis, krill, plankton, spinach, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, spirulina algae, menhaden oil, sodium alginate, etc.). However, night crawlers make up the bulk of his diet.

    Any ideas as to what else this could be?

    The Set Up:

    Leucy (Female)

    Buddy (Male)

    Attached Files:

  2. DwarvenChef

    DwarvenChef Elite Member

    All I can help with is my own experience with mine (years ago).

    This is going off two asumptions, one Did he gulp the air Or did he eat something that is giving him intestinal distress. Both could be linked also causing one or the other.

    The picture of Buddy's seems to show his gills diminished compared to Leucy's shot, are they normally that small and washed out? or is it just a poor pic of his gills? Onece these guys seem to go in shock or conditions waver for what ever reason they can morph. I'm not very up on these guys, sorry just a few of them for a couple years.
  3. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Whenever aquatic organisms start acting funny the first thing to do is test for ammonia and nitrates. Both are deadly in sufficient quantity.
  4. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    It's just a poor pic of his gills. :) They look like Leucy's but a touch shorter.
    I don't think he's going to morph, as far as I can tell, because he looks the same.

    Thanks for your reply! :)
  5. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    I'm going to keep doing water changes because the levels aren't dropping. :(
  6. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    Update: Buddy seems to be returning to normal. He's beginning to interact with me once again, and is hiding less. I fed him one night crawler last night and he did not regurgitate.

    I've continued to do water changes and the nitrate levels are FINALLY starting to change. They're still high but improving.

    I think I need to buy ammonia and nitrite tests. I'm going to add some Fluval nitrate reducer to my filter today to see if I can drop the levels more quickly.

    I also realized that the salvinia I had in the tank may have caused some of the strange behavior. I think he may have accidentally ingested it when it was being pushed around by the HOB.
  7. DwarvenChef

    DwarvenChef Elite Member

    Testing for ammonia and nitrites is more important than nitrates from what I remember of my fish keeping years ago... so many years ago lol. Live plants can also reduce nitrates, it's fertalizer after all :p

    Ya anything small enough to fit in his mouth and wiggles (like getting in the current of the filter) can trigger a feed responce.

    Glad to see he's on the mend :)
  8. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    True. Those are the ones that you really worry about. The nitrates are not nearly as toxic as the other two.
    The way the nitrogen cycle works is that ammonia, which burns gills and skin, is metabolized by nitrifying bacteria into nitrites, which is then metabolized by a different bacteria into nitrates. Which your live plants will use as food.
    Attempting to control nitrates without addressing the first two parts of the cycle is chasing your tail.
    Just take a water sample into Petsmart and they will test it for you.
  9. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    That's a good idea! I'm going to take a water sample in today. :)
  10. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    So I took a water sample in on Thursday and the ammonia and nitrites were virtually zero. That's no surprise of course because I had been changing the water. I added a poly filter to Buddy's HOB filter which has brought the nitrates down but they're still upwards of 80ppm.

    Buddy has come out of hiding and is acting normally again. :) And Leucy looks like she's about to have another growth spurt. She's beginning to look like an adult axolotl.
  11. ReptileGuy10

    ReptileGuy10 Banned User

    I've never had one but I don't think the water should be that dirty? It might be the camera.
  12. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    How is the water dirty?
  13. DwarvenChef

    DwarvenChef Elite Member

    How is he doing by the way?
  14. AjaMichelle

    AjaMichelle Elite Member

    He's great! :) I made him a better hide and he peeks out of it all the time now. It's where he hangs out when strangers are around lol :)

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