Have you noticed that your axolotl’s skin is peeling? Perhaps you’ve noticed a white slime or gunk floating around your axolotl tank, or bits of mucous peeling off your pet’s body when it swims around. You might be asking yourself why is your axolotl’s skin peeling off or do axolotls shed skin. What is the slime in your axolotl tank? Is this shedding a cause for concern? And, most importantly, what can you do about it?
Many axolotl owners tend to panic at the sight of their axolotl shedding. They worry that their companion might be injured, sick, or even worse – about to die! If what I’ve described above sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place!
Here’s the key takeaway:
It’s not actually your axolotl’s skin that’s peeling off, but its slime coat. The slime coat is a mucous membrane on the surface of the axolotl’s skin. The slime coat keeps axolotls moist and comfortable, helps them regulate their temperature, and protects them against pathogens and irritants. A peeling slime coat generally indicates that something is wrong in the axolotl’s environment, and/or with its health.
Keep reading below to find out more!
Table of Contents
- Do Axolotls Shed Their Skin?
- Axolotl Skin vs. Axolotl Slime Coat – What’s The Difference?
- What Causes Axolotls To Shed Their Slime Coat?
- Can Axolotls Die Because Of Shedding?
- My Final Thoughts
Do Axolotls Shed Their Skin?
Axolotls do not shed their skin. Instead, the species will shed a thin layer of the mucous membrane, akin to slime, called a slime coat. The slime coat covers the entirety of its body. So, what you might think is axolotl peeling skin is in fact axolotl slime coat.
However, an axolotl will only tend to shed its slime coat when there is something wrong with its environment.
What Is the Slime in My Axolotl Tank?
The slime in your tank is, in fact, the axolotl’s slime coat. This slime will shed in strands and blobs from the axolotl’s body, floating around in your tank, stick to the walls of the tank, aquatic plants, or tank decorations and ultimately sink to the bottom.
The presence of slime in your tank can work as a good indicator that something is wrong with your axolotl. In most cases, the shedding process will be influenced by the parameters of the axolotl’s water, especially the temperature and chemical levels.
When an axolotl begins to shed its slime coat, this usually means that something needs to change in its tank; otherwise, you could risk further damage to your pet’s health and well-being.
For example, slime coat shedding could be the result of the temperature being too high, which can produce a stressful environment for your pet.
It could also be the result of too much ammonia in the water, which means you will need to improve the filtration system in your tank.
If you have chosen to home your axolotl in an already crowded tank, then stress and frustration may be influencing the shedding, as axolotls are solitary creatures that are known to thrive in isolated environments.
So if you want to know more about why your axolotl is shedding its slime coat, we have provided some more detailed information in the sections below.
Do Axolotls Moult?
Axolotls do not molt.
Technically, molting refers to the shedding of old feathers, hair, or skin to make way for new growth. As we’ve seen axolotls don’t actually shed their skin but instead shed their slime coat. Therefore, it cannot be said that axolotls molt.
Do Axolotls Shed Their Gills?
Axolotls do not normally shed their gills.
Axolotls use their gills for breathing underwater. As axolotls spend the vast majority of their life underwater, the good health of their gills is critical. If your axolotl’s gills become very droopy, shriveled, or curled, or if your axolotl is shedding its gills, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
As you will see below, the issue is possibly linked to its environment and may potentially be solved. If in any doubt, always consult a veterinarian.
Axolotl Skin vs. Axolotl Slime Coat – What’s The Difference?
Like most animals, axolotls have skin.
An axolotl’s skin and its mucous membranes form a physical barrier which is the first line of defense against the natural world and is a key component of the animal’s immune system.
An axolotl’s skin works to protect the animal from germs, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, for example. Also, the axolotl’s skin helps envelope and protect the animal’s internal organs, making sure that everything is contained and in place.
Axolotl Slime Coat
The slime coat is a mucous membrane that usually takes the form of a slippery substance found on the surface of the axolotl’s skin.
This coat forms a protective layer that is capable of regulating the salamander’s temperature. The slime coat also works to protect the axolotl from germs, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, for example, as well as harmful substances, while keeping them moist and comfortable.
In most cases, damage to the slime coat will indicate that something is wrong in the axolotl’s environment. When the slime coat begins to peel off, it will appear as a white sheen on the surface of your axolotl’s body – which can definitely look alarming.
If you ever notice your axolotl shedding its slime coat, you will need to investigate the common causes of slime coat shedding listed below in order to determine if they might be the source of the problem.
What Causes Axolotls To Shed Their Slime Coat?
There are countless reasons why your axolotl might shed its coat, although some are more common than others. So to help you understand the causes behind your axolotl slime coat peeling, we have outlined some common reasons in the section below.
1. Water Temperature
Axolotls are known to thrive in cold climates, which is why you will need to maintain the perfect water temperature when keeping one as a pet.
If the temperature in your tank is too high (or, in rare cases, too low) your axolotl will begin to show its discomfort by shedding its slime coat.
This means you will have to adjust the temperature until it is at the correct level for your salamander. The ideal water temperature for an axolotl tank usually ranges between 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit or 16-18 degrees Celsius.
If you are unable to naturally maintain the temperature of the water in your axolotl tank within this range, then you may need to purchase a water chiller for your axolotl tank.
Make sure that your axolotl tank isn’t placed on a window sill or next to a window, a heating appliance or an indirect source of heat such as a TV, for example.
As alluded to above, ensure that your axolotl’s tank is not placed in direct sunlight or strong artificial lighting, as these may contribute to elevating the water temperature above what’s optimal for your axolotl.
Also, axolotls are naturally predisposed to living in darker, murkier environments, such as the bottom of lakes or canals. Exposure to bright lights can stress them out and cause them to shed their slime coat.
Another common reason why your axolotl will shed its slime coat is high concentrations of ammonia in its water.
High levels of ammonia can be caused by:
- a build-up of fecal matter in the tank.
- the decomposition of uneaten food.
- the rotting of dead plants or animals.
The problem can be worsened by broken or misfunctioning water filters or the absence thereof. With that in mind, ammonia problems are more common in axolotl tanks without filtration systems, which means you should consider purchasing a water filter to ensure your salamander’s well-being.
If you prefer not to use water filters for your setup, then you will need to be super vigilant and change your water regularly to prevent ammonia from building up in your tank. It’s also worth understanding how to cycle your axolotl tank to regulate the nitrogen cycle and prevent ammonia build-up.
4. Chlorine / Chloramine
Elevated chlorine/chloramine levels are another common cause of axolotl shedding and are generally linked to the use of tap water in your tank.
Indeed, it’s common for water treatment companies that supply the water to your home to use chlorine during the water treatment process, mainly to disinfect the water. Unfortunately, axolotls are very sensitive to chlorine. Thankfully, chlorine tends to evaporate by itself over time.
It’s recommended that you pour the fresh tap water into a separate container for several hours or a day or two before you use it to change the water in your tank. This will allow the chlorine to dissipate naturally and chlorine levels to drop. This is probably as close as you will get to dechlorinated water without using additional chemicals and conditioners.
In certain cases, your water contains high levels of chloramine.
Chloramine is formed when chlorine binds with ammonia. As a result, chloramine does not evaporate as easily as chlorine and will remain in your tank water. Chloramine is harmful to aquatic life in general and to axolotls in particular. To remove chloramine from your water, you will like need to resort to chemical dechlorination.
As a rule of thumb, you should not use untreated/underchlorinated tap water in your axolotl tank.
5. Heavy Metals
The heavy metals most commonly found in tap water can include lead, copper, cadmium, manganese, arsenic, or chromium, for example. These metals make for sub-optimal water parameters and can be toxic for axolotls, even at relatively low levels. As a result, your axolotl may begin to shed if exposed to all or any of the above.
Thankfully, a number of water conditioners are available. These products help remove heavy metals, as well as other harmful chemicals and toxins found in tap water, to make it safe for use in your axolotl’s habitat.
Whilst it’s quite common to find different types of fungus in tanks, certain fungi can cause fungal infections and be harmful to axolotls. Quite often, fungal infections will look like a white fluffy cotton patch or ball growing on your axolotl’s body or even its gills.
As with the other water issues highlighted above, solutions exist.
First of all, you can treat your axolotls using either salt baths, antiseptics, antibiotics, or a combination of all three. A salt bath is known to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and is a relatively cheap, natural, and easy first response to treat axolotl fungus.
Always make sure to get professional veterinarian advice if you think your axolotl is sick in order to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Secondly, you can make adjustments to your axolotl’s habitat to ensure that the fungus and its spores are eliminated and don’t come back. This process will generally involve the following decontamination process:
- Safely placing your axolotl in a salt bath or a clean container with freshly treated water.
- Siphoning the old water out of your tank.
- Removing and washing gravel and sand.
- Removing and washing / disinfecting decorations and filters.
- Washing / disinfect all the surfaces inside your tank.
7. PH Levels
PH is used to describe how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. By definition, a substance is considered acidic if it has a pH below 7, and alkaline if it has a pH above 7.
Axolotls can survive in water with a pH that ranges from 6.5 to 8. However, the optimal pH level for an axolotl tank is between 7.4 and 7.6.
To check the pH levels of the water in your tank, you can use an electronic pH meter. Alternatively, you can buy tube pH test kits or paper strip pH tests to sample your water. Then, depending on the results you get, you can adjust the pH level in your water by doing all or some of the following:
- Change the water in your aquarium.
- Introduce driftwood or peat moss (to lower pH if too high).
- Use professional pH regulators such as pH tablets or water softeners.
8. Tank Mates
If you have chosen to house your axolotl in an aquarium with other tank mates, such as fish or even other axolotls, then the shedding could be a symptom of your salamander’s stress.
As a species, axolotls are known to like solitude and be very territorial. This means they prefer to thrive in isolated environments.
For this reason, your axolotl may get stressed in a crowded aquarium. This stress can result in your axolotl not eating and/or shedding its slime coat. To remedy your axolotl skin peeling, you will need to purchase a larger tank or even consider a solitary tank for your pet.
Of course, this may not be the reason for your axolotl’s stress. However, if your axolotl’s shedding problems begin to appear soon after mates are introduced into its tank, then there’s a chance that the two may be linked.
9. New Home
When axolotls shed soon after being brought home from the breeder or the pet shop, it’s possible your new companion is stressed out by the move! After all, we humans get stressed out by such events, so why not axolotls?
If you pay close attention to points 1 to 8 highlighted above, and you’ve ruled out those common reasons for axolotl shedding, then it’s likely that your new companion is just taking a while to adapt to its new habitat and to you.
Sometimes, things take time!
Give your axolotl a few days, and if the symptoms improve, then your axolotl is probably beginning to settle in. If not, it may be worth consulting with a veterinarian, especially if you’ve ruled out the most common causes of axolotl shedding.
Can Axolotls Die Because Of Shedding?
Although axolotls don’t tend to die from shedding, they can be killed by the underlying causes that made them shed their slime coat in the first place. Failure to address the root cause of the problem(s) could result in your axolotl’s poor health, which could ultimately lead to your salamander’s premature death.
Therefore, you will need to identify the root cause of your pet’s shedding and attempt to fix the underlying problem as quickly as possible.
My Final Thoughts
Axolotls don’t shed their skin, but they can shed their slime coats if injured, sick, or under stress due to sub-optimal environmental conditions. Shedding can be used as a useful indicator of your axolotl’s health – both physical and mental.
If you notice that your axolotl is shedding its slime coat, then you will need to check the 9 most common causes of axolotl shedding listed above, identify the root cause(s) of the problem and try to remedy them immediately. When it comes to your axolotl’s health, time is of the essence.
However, if the problem persists, then you may need to seek the help of an exotic pet expert or veterinarian for further investigations.