Axolotls are extraordinary creatures that can sometimes exhibit odd behaviors. Behaviors we do not recognize…One such behavior is when they gulp air and blow air bubbles. The first time our axolotl blew bubbles, I was both surprised and concerned. I immediately asked myself “Why is my axolotl blowing bubbles?”.
Initially, I wondered if he was bored. Or upset? Was he simply entertaining himself? Maybe trying to communicate with me? Or, perhaps just seeking attention? Then, I feared that there might be something wrong with our amphibian friend. What if it was something more serious..?
If you’re reading this article, you might have seen your buddy blowing bubbles and are probably faced with similar questions. In the article below I’m going to tell you about some of the unusual axolotl behaviors I’ve observed over the years, from blowing bubbles to floating motionlessly below the surface of the water.
Let’s jump right in!
Table of Contents
- Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles?
- Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles And Floating?
- Other Odd (But Normal) Axolotl Behaviors
- Final Thoughts
Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles?
If you ever see your axolotl floating to the top of the tank and staying suspended just under the surface of the water, or even sit below the surface on a plant or a decoration, you might also notice they occasionally gulp air and blow bubbles.
This behavior, although quite unusual, is perfectly normal and I don’t want you to think that your axolotl is struggling to breathe.
Though it might look like your axolotl is trying to get a gasp of air by poking his head out from underneath the surface, before ultimately dropping back into his tank to blow bubbles, this is usually not a sign of a breathing problem and it’s likely not as scary as you think.
This type of axolotl behavior is known as buccal pumping.
A mucous membrane tissue lines the inside of your axolotl’s mouth, and this is designed to give way to gaseous exchange. It also allows them to get rid of metabolic waste.
This means when they surface to the top of the water and start to gulp down air, producing lots of bubbles, this is normal and you do not need to worry.
Surfacing is also beneficial to your axolotl’s health as it can allow them to expel gases that could have got trapped in their alimentary tract. In humans, this is like burping or belching, and we know how good we feel after letting one go. If this is why your axolotl has surfaced, they should sink back down to the bottom of their tank after doing their business.
The only time you might need to worry is when your axolotl seems to float the majority of the time and they are struggling to emerge from the water.
Moreover, if it’s not buccal pumping, there are several other reasons your axolotl might be blowing bubbles, and once again, they usually aren’t any cause for concern.
You might even find your axolotl blows bubbles when they are excited. If they love their keeper and get excited when they approach, they might start blowing bubbles in the tank when they see them coming.
Axolotls will also blow bubbles whilst at mating rituals or whilst playing. Bubbles are great fun to watch and can create some simple entertainment for such fascinating creatures.
Finally, it might be a sign you need to clean the tank more often…
We don’t always realize it, but hair, dust, and other particles can drop into the water tank and this can result in your trying to blow bubbles to expel whatever may have gotten trapped in his mouth or digestive tract.
You could install a filter system to try and remove the particles getting into the water.
Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles And Floating?
Though axolotls will blow bubbles without floating, you sometimes might find they are hanging around by the surface of the water for a very long time, whilst also continuing to blow bubbles.
Again, you need to keep in mind that a floating axolotl is generally no reason to panic and if there is a deeper health concern or reason for this behavior it will likely last longer than a few minutes or hours…in which case you may want to discuss this with a professional or a veterinarian.
The majority of the time, axolotls don’t enjoy floating too much. It might still happen naturally, yet sometimes, something underlying could be the cause, and if they are blowing bubbles at the same time, it’s usually a result of buccal pumping.
If you do notice they are floating and blowing bubbles a lot and you’re becoming a little concerned, you can use a similar method to when a friend has hiccups.
You could try gently “scaring” them. I know it sounds cruel or silly, but sometimes a little scare should cause them to hide at the bottom of the tank and if they do this, you know they are respondent, alert and mobile and everything is likely ok.
What If It’s Not Buccal Pumping?
Apart from buccal pumping, there are many other reasons your axolotl might be floating. These include:
Excessive Air Swallowed When Eating
Your axolotl might have swallowed too much air when you were feeding them. This is the second most common reason for floating and if you give them a little scare again, they should sink to the bottom. You can usually tell it’s excess air if your axolotl is floating, but they have not turned upside down.
Floating can also be a result of impaction. Since they love their food and will eat anything in sight, they might end up consuming some gravel from the tank. This will mean they become bloated as they can’t get it out of their system. If you are using a substrate, try to give them something they won’t accidentally eat.
Furthermore, it could be a result of an ammonia spike. If you have ammonia in your axolotl tank, this could be causing them to float. You can buy test kits to test ammonia levels if you notice your axolotl is floating.
Finally, it could be a result of gas buildup. If this is the reason, they will seem bloated and it is usually a side effect of a temperature fluctuation. Whilst you fix their water, ensure you put them in a safe environment. Remember, axolotls are cold-blooded creatures and need to maintain a certain temperature, simply to survive.
They like it when it stays at around 15-18 degrees Celsius or 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also adjust the temperature of the tank by removing or adding more logs and rocks, and installing a water chiller if your average ambient air temperature tends to be above the axolotl’s optimal comfort zone or a heater if air temperature is below.
Other Odd (But Normal) Axolotl Behaviors
Apart from your axolotl blowing bubbles, there is a range of different behaviors your pet might display and in most cases, these are perfectly normal.
We love them for their quirkiness, so let’s explore a few more of their weird behaviors.
If you turn on a light, startle your axolotl or change their water, you might notice they start zooming around their axolotl tank at dazzling speeds.
This behavior is sometimes referred to as “doing zoomies”.
Younger axolotls are much more energetic than older ones. If you have a babies or young axolotls in your tank, they might seem to do more zoomies than the more mature axolotls.
Sitting On Top Of Another Axolotl (Stacking)
When axolotls sit on top of each other, it’s probably not for the reasons you think…
This behavior is also known as “stacking”. If you see two or more axolotls sitting or stacked on top of one another, it’s generally because they’re all competing for the best spot in the tank.
It could be because it’s where the water is the coolest, the light the dimmest, the current from the filter/bubbler is most pleasing or because it offers the best place to hide. If only we could ask the little critters and find out exactly why?!
Just like dogs, axolotls like to lift their legs.
Axolotls can lift their legs at a range of different angles. Genrally, if it’s just the back legs, it might be to pass a stool or due to mating behaviors.
If it’s the front legs, however, this could be playful or that they are trying to balance. Some people think that the axolotls are trying to stretch their limbs. Other joke about them posing or even dancing.
If they have swallowed their food, your axolotl might appear to be smiling.
When they eat, a lot of food and water rushes into their mouth as they open. When they eat something like a worm, they might swallow a couple of times and they can then smile after eating.
We hope by reading this article you have learned a little more about axolotl behavior, especially what it means when they are blowing bubbles or blowing bubbles whilst floating.
As any axolotl owner will tell you axolotls are weird and wonderful creatures, and it’s likely you also love them for their quirks.
As a result of their quirkiness though, they can display a range of weird behaviors, which alongside blowing bubbles, are in most cases, completely normal for them.
Remember, if you are concerned about their floating, give them a little scare and if they swim right back down to the bottom, there is probably nothing to worry about.
Now go and give your axolotl a wave and show them how much you love them, if they’re blowing bubbles back, they love you too!