Axolotls are carnivores. They will eat almost anything small enough to fit into their mouths. That’s also what makes feeding time so much fun!
In the wild, an axolotl’s diet is mainly composed of small crustaceans, mollusks, insect larvae, insects, fish eggs, small fish fry, and worms. If you keep an axolotl as a pet, you should aim to replicate this diet to promote optimal health.
However, sourcing crustaceans, mollusks, or fish eggs is quite a challenge! This is why a majority of axolotl owners choose worms as the primary feed for their axolotl. But, there are tons of different worms so which ones to choose?
In this post, I will explain:
- What are the best (and worst) worms to feed axolotls?
- How to feed these worms to your pet axolotl.
- Why worms are a good nutritional choice for axolotls.
Table of Contents
- What Are The Best Worms To Feed Pet Axolotls?
- What Are The Worst Worms To Feed Pet Axolotls?
- How to Feed Worms to Pet Axolotls?
- Benefits of Feeding Worms to Axolotls
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Best Worms To Feed Pet Axolotls?
Earthworms, also known as nightcrawlers, are the most popular and commonly sold type of worm.
They are also the largest and longest worms on this list. Therefore, you may need to cut your earthworms worms up into smaller sections before feeding them to your axolotl.
Bloodworms are commonly found at the bottom of streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. They would naturally form part of an axolotl’s diet in the wild.
Their small size, vivid color, and the fact that they wriggle energetically (so are easy to spot) make them a viable alternative to the bigger earthworms and a very good choice of staple food for axolotls.
Blackworms, sometimes referred to as California blackworms, make a fantastic choice of feed for axolotl owners. They’re also very popular with fish keepers.
In the wild, blackworms live in shallow waters such as wetlands, swamps, ponds, or slow-moving streams. and can reach lengths of up to 10 cm. It’s likely axolotls would also eat blackworms as part of their natural diet.
Due to their dark color, blackworms stand out against light-colored substrates or bare-bottom tanks. This makes it easier for axolotls to spot them.
This advantage is often underrated. Axolotls have poor eyesight, so lots of their food goes unnoticed – and uneaten – at the bottom of their tanks. If left to decay, rotting worms can harm water quality, and ultimately: your axolotl’s health.
Waxworms (or wax worms) are a popular food for pet amphibians and reptiles or birds. They are very easy to find and relatively cheap to buy.
Wax worms are in fact wax moth larvae. They’re short and small and are naturally a white/pale-yellow color. However, you may also see red-dyed wax worms for sale.
What Are The Worst Worms To Feed Pet Axolotls?
Whilst the worms I’ve highlighted below are certainly not the worst thing you could feed your axolotl, I would avoid them if at all possible.
Mealworms are the larval form of the yellow mealworm beetle. The average mealworm will measure 3/4″ in length.
Unlike any of the recommended worms listed above, mealworms have a hard exoskeleton. This exoskeleton makes them a relatively poor choice of food for axolotls for the same reason crickets or fish do.
Indeed, the hard exoskeleton will be much harder to swallow and indeed digest. This increases the risk of choking and impaction (constipation).
Red Wriggler Worms
Red wrigglers are known under many different names (manure worm, redworm, trout worm, tiger worm, etc.). They’re a species of earthworm commonly spotted in compost, and manure.
The issue with red wriggle worms is their taste. Indeed, they secrete a bitter substance that may cause your axolotl to spit them back out or regurgitate them.
For this reason, and considering the plethora of better alternatives, I would also avoid feeding red wriggle worms to your axolotl.
How to Feed Worms to Pet Axolotls?
How to Feed Live Worms to Axolotls?
Regardless of the type of live worm, you give your axolotl, the process below may be useful.
Step 1: Gather Utensils
You will need the following utensils to prepare your worms and feed them to your axolotl.
- Your choice of worms.
- Separate container (such as a small Tupperware or jar).
- Paper towel.
- Feeding tongs.
Step 2: Rinse Off The Dirt with Cold Water
Generally, the worms will be sold in some sort of substrate, generally soil. You don’t want your axolotl to eat this substrate, nor do you want it to get into your tank and make your water dirty. So, you should always rinse your worms before feeding them to your axie.
To do this, grab two or three worms (quantity will vary depending on the type of worm and the age/size of your axolotl). Then, rinse them under cold water to wash off the dirt.
Don’t use warm or hot water, and certainly don’t use any detergents or soaps.
Once your worms are dirt-free, place them in your separate container lined with a damp paper towel to help keep them moist.
Step 3: Cut Up Worms
Larger worms such as earthworms should be cut into smaller sections. This will make it easier for the axolotl to fit the pieces into its mouth, and also help reduce the risks of choking or impaction.
This step is not always necessary, especially with smaller worms (such as bloodworms or waxworms for example).
To cut the worms, grab them with the feeding tongs in one hand, lift them, and then cut them with the scissors over your container. Ideally, you should aim for sections that are no longer than the width of the axolotl’s mouth.
Step 4: Feed Your Axolotl
The final step is to actually feed the worms to your axolotl. The most effective and fun way to do this is to use the feeding tongs to dangle the worm sections in front of your axolotl’s snout and mouth.
Feeding live worms has the advantage of triggering the axolotl’s natural predator instinct. Axolotls should of course see the worm you dangling right in front of its face – albeit not very well. However, the wriggly motion of the worm is also likely to be detected by the axolotl’s lateral line system.
How to Feed Frozen Worms to Axolotls?
Feeding frozen worms to your axolotl is somewhat easier than feeding it live worms. Indeed, you don’t need to rinse them. They’re already clean and ready to go!
I’d also like to point out that bloodworms are the most common type of frozen worms with axolotl owners. Therefore, the guide below is focused on frozen bloodworms.
However, you get the general idea! So, if you’re using frozen earthworms, for example, you may need to also cut them up (step not included below). Be creative!
Step 1: Gather Utensils
You will need the following utensils to prepare your frozen bloodworms and feed them to your axolotl.
- Your choice of worms (frozen bloodworms are the most common frozen worm).
- Separate container (such as a small Tupperware or jar).
- Food bowl (for inside your tank).
- Turkey baster.
Step 2: Thaw Worms
A portion of frozen bloodworms looks like a red ice cube or a cube of cooking stock.
Place one individual portion of frozen bloodworms in your container and add about an inch of water. Then, let the container sit for 10-15 minutes. During this time, the frozen bloodworms will thaw.
You will know the bloodworms are thawed when the frozen block of worms has broken down into a mound of bloodworms which will easily scatter if you agitate the water.
Step 3: Suck Up Worms With Baster
Squeeze the nipple at the top of the turkey baster and insert the tip into the container, right next to or just above the bloodworms.
Release the nipple to suck the bloodworms up into the baster.
Step 4: Place Bloodworms in Feeding Bowl
If you don’t already have a feeding bowl in your axolotl tank, now is the time to put one in there. Once your feeding bowl is in place, insert the turkey baster into your tank and position the tip into the feeding bowl.
Gentle squeeze the nipple to squirt the bloodworms out into the feeding bowl. Hopefully, your axolotl will be alerted by all the commotion and check his bowl for worms.
Once you’ve fed your axolotl this way a couple of times, it will begin to recognize the pattern. It should automatically come to check its bowl for food.
Benefits of Feeding Worms to Axolotls
Nutritional Benefits of Worms
Axolotls are carnivores.
The lion’s share of their diet comes from meat and fish. Axolotls require a diet rich in protein and fat, and poor in carbohydrates (starches and sugars). They also extract from this diet all the vitamins, salts, and minerals their bodies need to function properly.
Worms tick all the nutritional boxes above and make the perfect staple food for pet axolotls.
- High in animal protein.
- Healthy fat content.
- Rich in vitamins & minerals (especially if gut loaded or dusted).
- Low in carbohydrates.
Finally, worms have high nutritional value because most of their body is made of flesh. This means that the ratio of calories to weight is pretty high. Much higher for example than that of a cricket, which has a large and heavy exoskeleton that offers little to no nutritional value.
This means that you can feed your axolotl a smaller quantity of worms than you would crickets, and it would still be getting the same amount of calories.
Digestive Benefits of Worms
Moreover, most worms are soft.
Indeed, for the most part, worms don’t have:
- Rigid exoskeletons, like crickets or beetles.
- Hard shells, like shrimp or snails.
- Bones or cartilage, like fish.
This makes them much easier to chew, swallow and digest.
The risk of your axolotl choking or suffering from impaction is lower with worms than with insects, mollusks, crustaceans, or fish.
Convenience of Worms
The third benefit of feeding worms to your axolotl is convenience, for three reasons.
Easy To Find
Worms are quite easy to buy.
As a matter of fact, they’re probably the most commonly available food staple for axolotls in particular, and pet amphibians and reptiles in general – only rivaled perhaps by crickets. Most pet shops will stock a variety of worms for sale, in different quantities, at different prices.
If your local pet shop is out of worms, you can also try your local fishing tackle shop as they’re popular bait.
Worms are also relatively affordable.
Owning a pet can be costly. This holds true for axolotls as they have healthy appetites. And, you can’t feed them leftovers either.
As a result, worms stand out as a great option. Their high nutritional content married to their affordable price makes them great value.
Finally, as highlighted below, they’re low-maintenance live prey. They don’t need to be fed lots – if at all – while you wait to feed them to your axolotl.
Easy To Store
Worms are also very easy to store.
Whilst they can be kept in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life, live worms can also be kept in a worm bin.
Worms present many advantages over other live prey:
- Don’t make any noise.
- Don’t try to run or fly away when their container is opened.
- Don’t smell (or at least not that much).
- Don’t require much in the way of food or water.
Then, there’s also the option of buying frozen worms.
If you’re going to store your worms in the refrigerator, make sure to check the vendor’s recommended temperature settings. If your refrigerator is too cold it could cause frostbite or kill your worms.
Frozen worms are even easier to store!
Indeed, you don’t have to worry about keeping them alive (they’re already dead!). Also, they have a longer shelf life than live worms, and can be kept in the freezer for months!
Finally, frozen worms are generally sold in trays with individual portions, that you can simply snap or cut off as you need them. This makes dosing each feed of worms super simple and consistent.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Worms Should I Feed To My Axolotl?
How many worms you feed to your axolotl should be adapted to its needs at that point in time. An axolotl’s needs can depend on a number of factors, such as (but not limited to):
- The age and size of the axolotl.
- The axolotl’s health.
- The type of worm you are feeding it.
- The frequency at which you feed it.
As a rule of thumb, juvenile and adult axolotls can be fed between 1 to 3 earthworms (or the equivalent weight in another type of worm), once every two to three days. That’s how much and how often I feed my own axolotls, but it may not be adequate for yours.
Can You Feed Axolotls Live Worms?
Axolotls can be fed live worms. As a matter of fact, they seem to prefer live worms over frozen worms. Live worms are more easily seen by the axolotl and the wriggling motions of live worms are more easily detected by its lateral line system.
Can an Axolotl Choke on Worms?
An axolotl can choke on large worms, such as earthworms. It’s advised that larger worms be cut into smaller pieces no larger than the width of the axolotl’s mouth, in order to facilitate swallowing and digestion.