Have you ever seen your axolotl swim quickly away from another after getting bitten?
Then you may just have witnessed a nip!
Why is this, and how can we stop it from happening again?
Today's post is going to look at just that.
Dangers of Nipping
Continual nipping should be prevented by the owner for several reasons. Sometimes accidents happen, but if it is a chronic issue measures of intervention should be taken.
- Bite injuries can lead to secondary infections (bacterial or fungal) which, if left untreated, can prove dangerous to the health and life of the animal
- Nipping can lead to loss of gill stalks, toes, hands, feet, arms and legs. While axolotls can regenerate them, successive nips may cause it to not be able to grow back.
- Keeping an animal in an environment where it is continually being harassed is stressful to them.
Causes for Nipping
Nipping is usually a combination of things.
The first is that the animals are juveniles under 6 inches long.
Under that size, they are still growing quite rapidly and are incredibly munchy.
That's because like babies, the young axolotls need lots of food to help them grow.
And babies do best when they are fed around the clock for that very reason.
If they only get one meal a day, they have nothing to eat the rest of the boring day and feel hungry.
What do they do?
Grab the gill or the foot of a sibling.
The second thing that can cause nipping is overcrowding.
Not spacing the animals out enough can cause them to always be stepping on each other and getting in each other's way.
Naturally this tends to make them more aggressive.
By spacing out your axolotls properly, you can help prevent this problem.
Keep in mind that even in a big tank, a couple of juveniles may still nip - overcrowding just seems to make it much worse.
3. Previous Habits
If the animals are adults and nipping it may be because they have had the taste of blood in the past from being a nipper, or even consuming another sibling (cannibal).
This can become a perpetual problem for that animal and it may never do well in community life due to always attacking the others.
4. Major difference in size
If one axolotl is much bigger than the other, sometimes (again, sometimes, not always) it can result in them nipping due to the bigger one being a bully.
That said, sometimes it is the smaller one biting on the bigger one, they might not be getting enough food!
The recommendation with housing axolotls is generally to make sure they are within an inch in length size difference.
What You can Do to Stop it
Obviously scolding and grounding will do no good.
We axolotl keepers must resort to other methods to curb this problem.
1. Provide Ample Food
Ensure the axolotls have plenty to eat throughout the entire day.
While they aren't foraging animals, they do like to constantly eat.
But we may have a problem...
... Leaving tons of food in the tank all day can result in the water quality deteriorating as it rots.
The best way to prevent this is to provide them with food that doesn't rot.
This can be done by providing them with live blackworms.
Live blackworms will not rot because they are (obviously) alive!
The axolotls can graze on them all day long.
Their wiggly movement makes them especially attractive.
Ensuring the young axolotls can always eat blackworms is a fantastic way to prevent nipping of each other and the damage that comes with it.
2. Separate with a Divider
If the animals are still under 6" they may need some time before they mellow out.
Keeping them separate for a while can give them some time to mature.
A tank divider with proper flow will allow the filter to continue operating for the entire system, without the risk of the axolotls coming into direct contact.
They are very easy to install as well.
3. Separate with a Breeding Box
If one little axolotl is much smaller than the rest, some owners like to use a floating breeder box to keep them from the others until they have grown enough to be added to the tank.
The good news is it shouldn't be for long, as axolotls typically grow an inch a month for the first 6-8 months.
It can also make it easier for the tiny one to find food.
4. Add More Hides
Adding more hides helps each animal feel like it has more personal space, and a place to get away from being bothered if it wants to.
It's recommended to have at least 1 hide per axolotl.
That way everyone has their own "room."
Caring for a Nipped Axolotl
If your axolotl has been slightly nipped and you do not see more than a missing finger or gill tip, if the injury is not major chances are they will recover just fine without intervention.
However if it is bad or looks red, the axolotl may need medical treatment.
The goal with caring for a nipped axolotl is to prevent secondary infection from taking hold.
The best way to do this is with treatments that are antibacterial and antifungal.
Some of these include Indian almond leaf, salt, tea baths or antiseptic medications such as methylene blue.
My first go-to would be the salt and Indian almond leaf, because these are gentle treatments.
I personally do not do salt baths because I find them too harsh.
I use a lower concentration of salt for a longer duration of time and find that works well paired with the Indian Almond Leaf.
3TB per 5 gallons of water of Himalayan pink salt is a great remedy for many things.
The tannins darken the water and have an anti-fungal effect which helps keep secondary fungus from setting in.
If you do notice fungus developing, stronger treatment may be needed with an oxidizing or antibacterial remedy.
Wrapping it All Up
Prevention is always easier than treatment, but the good news is most nips recover quickly and easily due to the axolotl's amazing regenerative capabilities that are so studied by scientists today.
By making sure your axolotls are treating each other nicely, you can reduce their stress - as well as your own.
I hope this article helped you, thanks for stopping by!