Why Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills

Why Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills? 11 Insane Secrets

If you just got an axolotl as a pet and want to know why it flaps its gills and what it means, this post is for you.

Petting an axolotl is a great thing to do. The unique member of the amphibian family spends its whole life in water, and it’s fun to watch its gills flip and flap.

But many people who just got an axolotl as a pet wonder why it flaps its gills and what it means.

Axolotl Gills Anatomy

Axolotls don’t have flat gills that are flush with their bodies like other animals that live in water. Instead, their gills stick out like a half-mane around their heads. They look like feathers and are often a bright and noticeable shade of red.

There are two parts to the stalks and filaments of an axolotl’s gills.

  • Gill stalks are the three parts that stick out of your axolotl’s body and are the same colour as the rest of its body. Filaments are the feathery, wispy parts of the gills that are easy to spot.
  • Most filaments are red or reddish brown in colour.

Axolotls, like people, will have different looks. The gills of each axolotl are different. Some have longer, more obvious gills, while others have shorter gills that are harder to see.

Why Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills

An axolotl’s gills are on the back of its head, where its ears would be. They have three stalks with gills on both sides of each stalk. A healthy axolotl’s gill stalks are shorter than the length of its head.

The gills of naturally coloured axolotls are a darker reddish-brown, while the gills of pink leucitic axolotls kept as pets are a brighter red.

Surprisingly, the gills of an axolotl can also change colour! When they are not moving around much, they are taking in less oxygen, so their gills will be whiter.

When they are moving around more, their gills will be darker. When there isn’t enough oxygen, their gills may also get darker or redder because they have to work harder to get enough oxygen.

Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills?

Yes, many axolotl owners have seen their pets’ gills moving in the tank. This is how they get more oxygen. Most of the time, there is nothing to worry about.

Why Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills?

Flapping your gills is a normal thing for an axolotl to do. It helps you get more oxygen. When an axolotl flaps its gills too much, it could be a sign of stress or it could be trying to breathe harder. In that case, you should put in an air pump and call a vet.

Axolotls make excellent pets. They are cute, tough, and easy to take care of. Axolotls are fun to watch in the water, which makes them a unique pet for people of all ages.

And even though axolotls are becoming more and more popular as pets, many people who just got one as a pet want to know why its gills flap and what it means.

If you just got an axolotl as a pet and want to know why it flaps its gills, you should know that it does this to get more oxygen. Axolotls get fresh water and the oxygen they need by flapping their gills.

Remember that there is nothing to worry about when you see your axolotls flapping their gills. Axolotls often flap their gills when they need to get more oxygen from their surroundings.

Why Is My Axolotl Excessively Flapping the Gills?

Most of the time, gill flapping is a normal thing for axolotls to do because it helps them get more oxygen from the water.

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What does it mean when your axolotl flaps its gills too much, though? If your pet’s gills are flapping a lot, it might not be getting enough oxygen. Even though axolotls do this naturally, a lot of flapping could mean that there is a big problem with the tank.

In that case, make sure you give the tank clean, fresh water every so often and that the air pump is working.

If you don’t already have a battery-powered air pump in your tank, now is a great time to buy one so that your axolotls have enough oxygen.

In addition to giving your pet enough oxygen, you should watch how it moves. If the axolotl is flapping its wings a lot but its body looks fine and relaxed, there is no need to worry.

But if you see your axolotl struggling in the water or getting tense, make sure it has enough oxygen. If the behaviour keeps happening, you should take your axolotl to a vet.

How Do I Know If My Axolotl Is Stressed?

When an axolotl is stressed, it acts lethargic, doesn’t move much, doesn’t eat, and its gills fold forward. The owner should try to figure out why their pet is stressed and then do something about it.

Understanding the Axolotl’s Gills Flapping Movement

Axolotls flap their gills to get more oxygen from their bodies. When they move their gills, they make the water and air in the tank move, which changes the water and air in the tank. Axolotls can get more oxygen from the water without moving their whole bodies because of how they move in the water.

So, even though it might look like a cute move, it’s actually a lazy habit that almost all axolotls have to get more oxygen into their bodies.

Why Is My Axolotl Thrashing Around?

Thrashing is a sign of pain, which could come from the digestive system, an injury, the gills, or other places.

Because every axolotl is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the owner should figure out what is wrong with their pet and go to a vet based on that.

Why Do Axolotls Gills Curl Forward?

When your axolotls’ gills curl forward, it’s a clear sign that their bodies are upset. The pet may be stressed for a number of different reasons, but all of these reasons are unique to where your pet lives.

As soon as you notice that your axolotl’s gills look stressed, check the tank water, air pump, tank population, tank plants, and temperature and make any changes that are needed.

If your axolotl’s gills keep curling forward, you should make an appointment with your doctor. This could be a sign of a bigger health problem.

Do Axolotls Gills Grow Back?

It will depend on how healthy the axolotl is. On average, axolotls can repair their gills after axolotl gill degeneration. However, if an axolotl is sick and doesn’t get enough food, it may not be able to fix its gills.

How To Keep Them Healthy and Prevent Health Issues?

Axolotls are delicate creatures with feathery gills that need to live in a certain way to stay healthy.

For axolotl gills to be at their best, you need to keep the water at the right temperature, make sure the water is clean, and feed them the right food.

  • Water Temperature. Axolotls prefer cooler water, so their tanks should be kept between 60 to 65°F. If their tank is too warm, they can become sluggish or even ill
  • Water Quality. As with all cycled tanks, your axolotl’s tank should have no ammonia and no nitrites. They can tolerate some nitrates, but never let them creep above 50 mg/L. They also prefer a PH between 6.5 and 8. A quality water testing kit should show you all of these levels, so invest in one if you plan on owning an axolotl
  • Diet. Axolotls need a varied diet to be healthy, and sometimes supplements are necessary. They can be fed bloodworms, shrimp, beef hearts, tubifex worms, and specially formulated axolotl pellets. 

Common Owner Questions

Axolotl Gills Turning Red?

As was already said, the gills of an axolotl can change colour a little bit. It’s not a big deal if your axolotl’s gills turn red when it eats, swims, poos, talks, or does anything else. But what if they get much redder than usual?

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If an axolotl’s gills are red, it could be because of stress or an ammonia burn.


When an axolotl doesn’t get enough oxygen, it gets stressed, and its gills turn bright red.

This is a good sign that the water flow or level in your axolotl’s tank is too high or that the water doesn’t have enough oxygen because of something else.

Ammonia Burn

If your axolotl’s gills are turning bright red because of ammonia, the redness will look more like a burn, which is what it is.

Excess ammonia can burn the axolotl’s skin, and because their gills are the most sensitive parts of their body, the burns can start here and spread to other parts of their body.

If there is too much ammonia in the tank, it means that the nitrogen cycle has not been completed or that something has messed up your cycle, causing ammonia to build up.

Too much ammonia in a tank can kill the animals in it, which is why the water in the tank should be tested often.

Axolotl Gills Turning White?

The gills of an axolotl can be any colour, even red. Their gills, which are normally brightly colored, can occasionally turn white.If an axolotl’s gills turn white, it’s probably because it hasn’t been moving around much or because fungus has grown on them.


Gills that turn white from being inactive are not dangerous. When an axolotl is still, less blood flows to its gills, and less blood flow means the gills are less red.

When your axolotl first starts to move, it’s normal for its gills to be white, and you shouldn’t worry about it.

Fungal Growth

If your axolotl’s gills are white and fuzzy, like a cotton ball, it probably has a fungal infection of the gills, which can kill the animal.

The fungus can show up for many different reasons, but it usually happens when the skin or gills are hurt, which lets the fungus grow.
How To Fix It?

Fungal infections should be treated as soon as possible with the right kind of medicine.

Why Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills

Axolotl Gills Deteriorating And Falling Off?

When an axolotl’s gills fall off, this is always a cause for concern and must be taken care of right away. Color changes, on the other hand, could be caused by something harmless.

There are many things that can cause an axolotl’s gills to fall off, but the most common ones are trauma, infection, bad water quality, and too much ammonia.


Trauma is any physical damage to the skin or gills of an axolotl. This can happen if an axolotl hurts itself on something in the tank, is handled too roughly, or fights with another axolotl.

When the tissue in the gills gets hurt, it dies and falls off. To keep axolotls’ gills from getting hurt, give them a lot of space so they can avoid each other and fights, handle them with a fine mesh net, and don’t put anything sharp or jagged in their tank.


When infections like this destroy the tissue, the gill filaments of an axolotl can fall off. If an axolotl is sick, its gills will have trouble getting oxygen from the water. These diseases can spread to other parts of the body, so they should be treated as soon as possible.

Poor Water Quality and Ammonia Burn

Before an axolotl can use a tank, it must be cycled. A tank that hasn’t been cycled will have a lot of ammonia and nitrites, which are both bad for axolotls. Even if your tank has cycled, if the nitrates are too high, it could cause problems with the fish’s gills.

If you think your axolotl’s gills are falling off because of bad water quality, test the water and change 25% of the water in its tank once a week to lower the levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite.

Ammonia and nitrites should be very low or nonexistent in a healthy aquarium.

Axolotl Gills Shrinking?

Most problems with an axolotl’s gills, like gill shrinkage, are caused by the water quality or by going through metamorphosis.

If your water quality is bad, your tank isn’t cycling, or there are metals in your water, their gills will shrink and die.

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Poor Water Quality

Axolotls can’t handle metals like copper that are in many aquatic plant fertilizers. Before using them, check the ingredients and look into any water additives.

Axolotl Metamorphosis

Because an axolotl is changing into an adult salamander, its gills may sometimes shrink and look like they are being taken back into its body.

Axolotls stay young their whole lives. Changing into an adult is very rare and can be fatal when it does happen.

Metamorphosis happens when an axolotl’s living conditions are very bad or when it has a genetic defect that makes it change on its own.

Axolotl Gills Not Feathery?

Because axolotls get oxygen through their gills, their gills tend to be longer and have more feathers when there isn’t enough oxygen.

This means that if you buy an axolotl with gills that look like feathers and put it in a tank with a lot of oxygen, its gills will get smaller.

This is totally normal and nothing to worry about!

Other things, like illness and bad water quality, can also cause females to shrink and lose feathers, but these problems need to be fixed.

If the fish is sick, its gills will shrink and look short instead of feathery.

How To Get My Axolotl Gills Fluffy?

To make your axolotl’s gills fluffier and fuller, make sure there is little to no current, the water temperature is no higher than 56°F, the water chemistry is right, and the amount of oxygen in the water is low.

If your axolotl lives in the best conditions, its gills will look fuller and healthier.

Axolotl Gills Curling Forward?

Some axolotls have curved front gills by nature, but it can be hard for an axolotl with straight gills to get them to curl.

When the gills of an axolotl curl, it means that it is nervous.

Why Do Axolotls Flap Their Gills

Stress can be caused by many things, like when axolotls fight, when fish bite, or when the water quality is bad.

If you find and get rid of the source of the tension, your axolotl’s gills should go back to normal.

Axolotl Gills Flicking?

Even when the axolotl is at rest, it is fine for its gills to flip back and forth. They do this because, when they are underwater, axolotls take in oxygen from the water around them. By moving their gills, they bring fresh, oxygen-rich water to their gills, where they can absorb it.

When there is enough oxygen in the air, an axolotl will flick its gills every 3 to 9 seconds.

If there isn’t much oxygen in their water, they may flick their gills more often or swim through it instead of moving their gills.

Final Thoughts

Axolotls are unusual aquatic pets that can’t be found anywhere else. We all like the way an axolotl’s feathery gills look, but these bumps aren’t just there for looks. The gills of an axolotl can tell us if it is sick, if the water quality is changing, and even if it is happy or stressed in its tank.

If we take care of and feed our axolotls well, they will keep us busy for years to come. Just keep an eye on those gills to see if they show any early signs of illness or bad care.

Princy Hoang
See more articles in this category: Geckos

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