Are Axolotls Nocturnal?

Axolotls are fascinating animals that look like a mix between a salamander and a fish. They are aquatic and can be kept in a tank or aquarium as a pet. In fact, they are becoming quite popular as pets, as more and more people are falling in love with their cute and otherworldly appearance! 

But if you have an axolotl, you might notice that they shy away from the light and that they hide within any available shelter all throughout the day, not really doing much. So you might wonder if it is because axolotls are nocturnal.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Axolotls are nocturnal animals – active during the night when it is dark and dormant during the day when it is bright. This is also why they shy away from the bright light and why it is so important to make sure they have shelter in their tank, in which they can hide! 

Since axolotls are nocturnal, does this mean that they have night vision? And do they sleep during the day? How do they sleep exactly? And should you leave some sort of light on at night for them? 

All of these are common questions, and if you keep on reading, we will give you all of the answers, and more! After all, it’s important information, especially if you’re thinking of owning an axolotl yourself. Let’s get right into it! 

Table of Contents

Are Axolotls Nocturnal Featured Image

Do Axolotls Have Night Vision?

Most nocturnal animals have night vision, in order to be able to see in the dark. And it makes sense because if they are active during the night, then their eyesight has to adapt to night-time conditions so that they can eat, and go about their lives. 

And seeing as how axolotls are nocturnal, you would assume that they, therefore, have night vision, right? Well surprisingly, you would be wrong.

Axolotls do not have night vision at all! In fact, they can’t really see in the dark and they have really bad eyesight in general. Instead, they rely on their sense of smell and touch in order to get around and go about their life. This is because, in their natural habitat, the light axolotls are accustomed to is very dim, and sometimes practically non-existent. They, therefore, have no use for good eyesight and have developed their other senses instead.

This also means that they are very sensitive to light, which is why it is important to make sure your axolotl has plenty of covers to hide away from the bright light. 

Now, between their sense of smell and their sense of touch, the sense the axolotl uses most is touch. They primarily navigate their surroundings and search for food by sensing vibrations in the water, as they have very sensitive skin! 

All this being said, axolotls still need some light to survive, as they don’t thrive in complete and utter darkness. Just remember to keep the lighting dim and to provide shelter for them during the day, especially if the room or the tank itself gets bright! 

How Do Axolotls Sleep?

Axolotls are fascinating creatures, and if you look closely, you will notice that they don’t actually have eyelids. This means that they can’t close their eyes so it can be pretty hard to tell whether they are sleeping or not!

This is why a lot of people believe that axolotls don’t sleep but we’re here to tell you that they do. You just can’t tell because their eyes are still open. So…how do axolotls sleep and how can you tell if your axolotl is sleeping?

Well, the major signs are that it will stop moving and it will be in resting mode. Most likely the axolotl will retreat to a hiding place where it is sheltered from any light so it won’t be swimming around. It will also stay still while it sleeps. Therefore, this is the best thing to look out for. 

Other signs that indicate that your axolotl is sleeping, include a paler color over their entire body (due to their inactivity), less movement in the gills, and it being daytime (since axolotls tend to be quite active during the night). 

If your axolotl is floating upside down or on its side, or it is resting at the bottom of the tank and does not move for long periods of time, these might be signs of disease and illness, so you should check whether there is something wrong!

Especially because axolotls can become stressed very easily, which then leads to illness and disease in an increased chance. So keep an eye on their health! 

But back to sleeping. How long do axolotls tend to sleep? The truth is that we don’t have a clear answer. The scientific assumption based on their natural habits is that they sleep for a few hours every day, mostly during the daytime.

But the best thing you can do is to observe your axolotl, figure out how and when it sleeps, and how many naps it is taking throughout the day, in order to establish a sleeping pattern!

That way you will know if the pattern changes and this can help you identify when something is wrong. 

Do Axolotls Need Artificial Light?

Usually, when you set up an aquarium or tank for a pet, you have to consider the type of lighting necessary. Some animals prefer bright and vibrant lights whereas others prefer dim and darker environments. 

We have already talked about how axolotls are very sensitive to bright lights, as they are accustomed to dim lighting. And we have also talked about how they don’t really have great eyesight, and how they mostly rely on other senses such as smell and touch. 

So do axolotls even need artificial light in their setup? 

Axolotls don’t need artificial lighting. That being said axolotls shouldn’t be kept in complete darkness either. But it’s unlikely that without artificial light your tank will be in complete darkness anyway, as there will be light in the room. So, when it comes to installing artificial light specifically for your axolotl tank, it really isn’t needed.

In fact, axolotls will thank you for leaving them in a darker and dimmer environment, as they are very sensitive to light and shy away from it. That being said, you might have to have artificial light in the tank if there are plants or other animals.

In this case, make sure that you provide hiding places and shelter in which the axolotl can get away from the light when needed, and make sure that the light itself is not too bright. 


Okay, let’s sum all of this up! 

Axolotls are indeed nocturnal creatures as they tend to be more active during the nighttime. This is when they will do their hunting and eating. During the day, they will rest and sleep, and overall, be a lot more inactive. So if you want to see them in action, nighttime is the best period! 

As for having night vision (which is something you would expect), axolotls actually can’t see in the dark. They also can’t see very well in the light because they simply don’t have great eyesight. Instead, they rely on their sense of smell, and primarily their sense of touch (feeling the vibrations of the water around them). 

They don’t have eyelids so you can’t tell when they are sleeping. But they need to sleep a few hours every day and will do so by going inactive and resting. Make sure that there are no bright lights to disturb them, as they are very sensitive to light, and that they have plenty of shelters in which to hide! 


Hello and welcome to Pets From Afar. I'm Glen. My daughter Siri and I are mad about axolotls. I created this website to document our findings and experiences, as we learn more about these amazing amphibians. Follow along and enjoy the fun!

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