Ah, worms for your pet axolotl.
Some people immediately feel squeamish and creeped out at the thought of dealing with worms.
But the benefits are numerous, so it can be worth getting over the initial response.
You'll also want to ensure you are feeding the right kind of worm to your lotl.
So let's jump into today's post!
Benefits of Feeding Worms
Pellets are nice, but they can be messy, and you will often not get the gill growth you want on your lotl if you feed them pellets exclusively.
Worms are one of the best ways to promote healthy gill filament growth.
They are also arguably less messy than other types of food...
... And, of course, are highly nutritious.
Assuming you feed the proper kind of worm, that is.
Which brings us to the next point:
What Types of Worms can Axolotls Eat?
What types of worms are best for axolotls?
- Microworms (for hatchlings)
- Blackworms (when the axolotl is quite young)
- Bloodworms (also when the axolotl is quite young)
- Nightcrawlers/Earthworms (European, Canadian)
Some worms that I do NOT personally recommend are red wigglers and mealworms.
Can Axolotls Eat Red Wiggler Worms?
Red wiggler worms may be accepted by some lotls, but may of them won't eat them because they excrete a bitter substance when handled as a defence mechanism.
This makes it taste bad to the axolotl.
Sometimes the axolotls may throw up the red wigglers because they upset their stomach.
Some people soak or lightly blanche the worms to try to get this chemical off the worms, but I have never had any luck with that.
That's not to say it doesn't work for all axolotls.
I have had experience with red wigglers being accepted, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Can Axolotls Eat Mealworms?
Another worm I recommend staying away from in most cases is the mealworm.
The mealworm has an indigestible exoskeleton that can lead to intestinal blockage.
They are not a nutritionally complete food, and can cause the axolotl to have calcium deficiency when fed exclusively on mealworms.
Their heads can also do damage to the inside of the axolotl's intestinal lining.
So if you want to remove the exoskeleton and head of the mealworm and feed it only as a treat, an axolotl technically can eat a mealworm.
However, I would caution against feeding this treat frequently.
How to Store Your Worms
Your storage method depends on the type of worm you are feeding.
Feeding & Storing Blackworms
Blackworms are more of a baby/juvenile food and are really thin, like tiny spaghetti noodles.
Worms like blackworms are easy to store.
Simply spread them in a thin layer in a food safe container with a wide bottom and fill it with approximately 1/4" of water.
The worms must be rinsed off daily in cold water (tap water is fine) or they will start to die from getting too dirty.
To feed blackworms, simply use a pair of feeding tongs and grab a clump of the blackworms to place in the tank.
You can also scatter them around in the water, which makes it easy for everyone to get some if you are raising babies.
Feeding & Storing Nightcrawlers
You can purchase nightcrawlers in the sporting goods section at Walmart (they keep usually them in a chiller.)
You can also find them on eBay.
If you live in an area with good soil, you can probably find some around your yard to use too (just be sure to avoid collecting from areas that have been contaminated with pesticides/fertilizers/road runoff).
From there, you can either try to culture them yourself or simply store them in the fridge.
Storing them in the fridge will make them last much longer and is very easy, easier than trying to culture them.
Depending on the time of year, these squirmy creatures may be larger or smaller in size.
Canadian nightcrawlers generally seem to be bigger, whereas European nightcrawlers aren't quite as large, but again, it can vary.
(Large worms may need to be cut up into fine pieces prior to feeding them with the tongs to your axolotls.)
If you want to culture worms to get them to reproduce, you can set up a composting bin.
How to Make a Worm Bin
Worm bins are great to feed earthworms to your juvenile and adult axies.
There are several advantages to keeping a worm bin for your axolotls:
- The worms can breed (assuming you don't go through them too fast), giving you a more economical food supply
- You can dispose of unwanted food scraps
- You get to make your own compost, which has various useful applications
You can buy a pre-made worm bin, or you can make them yourself using a couple of shoeboxes and a plastic lid.
Use a hot knife or needle that has been heated by an open flame to poke tiny holes in the bottom of the top shoebox.
(This is best done outdoors to avoid breathing the plastic fumes.)
Line the bottom of the bottom box with a thin layer of rocks for drainage and to prop up the second box.
Set the top box (the one that has the holes poked in the bottom) inside it on the rocks.
Now you can fill the top box with composting material.
For my worm bins, I usually use a mixture of dead leaves, top soil, and crushed eggshells (or a couple teaspoons of calcium carbonate powder) for buffering capacity.
You can also add many other things like non-glossy black and white newspaper and cardboard.
Then I mix in a handful of vegetable scraps like sweet potato peelings, steamed potatoes, old spinach/lettuce leaves, apple/pear cores or a banana peel. Steaming the vegetable scraps first will make them be broken down by the worms faster (source).
You don't want to overfeed the bin or it can start to smell.
The worms need to be able to consume the food as it rots or you will have a nasty mess on your hands.
You want the bin to be filled about an inch or two from the top with your composting material.
Once your bin is set up, it is time to pour some water on it to get it moist.
You don't want to saturate it, but just give it enough so it feels moderately damp.
Stir your worms into the compost bin and snap the lid on and you're done.
Every other day or so you will want to use a spoon or something to turn the soil up and keep everything properly mixed and aerated.
If you notice there is no more food, you can add more food scraps to feed your worms.
If conditions are right, the worms should not attempt to escape the worm bin, though sometimes you may have some runaways.
One tip you can try is to put a light on top of the bin to encourage the worms to go down into the soil.
Keeping your worm bin in a dark, cool place is best.
If it smells bad, you're feeding too much.
Keeping and feeding worms to your axolotls generally goes with the territory of being an axie owner.
But your lotls will thank you for them with better gills and good growth.
I hope this post helped you.