Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles?

The first time I saw my axolotl blowing bubbles, I was fascinated. I thought to myself, “what more can these lovely creatures do?” Not many people know that axolotls have lungs and that they can breathe through their lungs. 

The mouth of axolotls is lined with mucous membrane tissue that is designed to allow gaseous exchange and metabolic waste excretion. When they swim to the water surface to gulp for air, they blow bubbles as they sink back down. This kind of breathing is called buccal pumping/respiration. 

It’s something they do occasionally and it’s normal. However, it becomes abnormal and also a thing of concern if they surface to breathe more frequently. When it becomes too frequent it’s a pointer that the tank is lacking in oxygen and should be aerated as soon as possible.

Keep reading to learn everything about axolotls blowing bubbles and what you can do to prevent insufficient oxygen in their tank.

Cute Reptiles as Pets
Cute Reptiles as Pets

Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles?

Why Is My Axolotl Blowing Bubbles
axolotl can blow bubbles

An axolotl bubble blowing isn’t usually a sign of a breathing problem. Although if it’s happening quite frequently, you should be concerned. Your axies blow bubbles while gulping for air (called buccal pumping). Sometimes they also blow bubbles because they are excited. 

Buccal pumping once in a while does not mean insufficient oxygen, but frequent swimming to the surface to breathe is a sign of lack of oxygen in the tank. 

Below are some of the reasons axolotls will blow bubbles.

Buccal Pumping As a Way to Gaseous Exchange

axolotl blow bubbles
Credit: D M / YouTube.

Buccal pumping is a type of breathing that involves the expansion and contraction of the mouth cavity, which facilitates the flow of water or air into the lungs. 

Axolotls have mucous membrane tissue lining their mouths, which is meant to enable gaseous exchange and metabolic waste disposal. 

Normally axolotls don’t breathe with their lungs (mouth), but sometimes when they need some oxygen, they swim to the surface of the tank to take a gulp of air. As they sink back to the bottom of the tank, they blow bubbles. 

If this happens once in a while, you wouldn’t need to worry. However, if it’s a recurring incidence then it’s a pointer to something issues with the water quality and deficient in oxygen.

You can tell that your axolotl is struggling to breathe if you notice other signs such as floating or fighting to get out of the water at all costs. 

At this point, you should immediately check the water parameters. You can improve the tank’s oxygenation by aerating it, checking the filters, and adding air stones.

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To Expel Something Out

Sometimes your axolotl can blow bubbles because it’s trying to expel something that has gotten trapped in its mouth or digestive tract. They could have swallowed hair, a chunk of dust, or other particles that dropped into the water. 

When they do this, they don’t necessarily have to swim to the surface of the water, they just blow the bubbles at the bottom of the tank. If after a few days your axolotl is still doing this, you may need some medical help. 

Preventing this from happening is better than trying to fix it when it happens – Install a filtration system to keep particulates out of the water, use a wire lid on the tank, and pay attention to that behavior. 

They Are Excited

Yeah, axolotls also blow bubbles when they are excited. They do this resting or exploring at the bottom of the tank. One of the ways axolotls show their excitement and love for their keeper is to blow bubbles whenever their keepers approach the tank. 

This is not something they do often, so you should consider yourself lucky to see yours always get excited to see you. Dancing is a major mating behavior among axolotls. But they sometimes blow bubbles when mating or playing. The thing is, you’ll need a pair of axolotls to see this.

Do You Worry If Axolotl Blows Air Bubbles?

Yes, axolotl blowing air bubbles is not a behavior they exhibit quite often. When your axolotl blows out some bubbles, you don’t necessarily have to panic, just watch out for other signs such as floating, struggling to breathe, or trying to get out of the water/tank. 

If the bubbles come with any of the aforementioned signs, then you should check your water parameters because this only means that there isn’t sufficient oxygen in the tank. 

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However, if your axolotl appears relaxed at the bottom of the tank while blowing out air bubbles, you don’t have anything to worry about. Your pet is just having fun.

Axolotl and Odd Behavior

an axolotl in a tank
Credit: Kazakovmaksim / Canva.com

Younger axolotls tend to bounce when bitting or getting a grip on their food. They bounce because they don’t weigh much. Although you’ll hardly see adult axolotls bounce while eating, axolotl bouncing is nothing to worry about, unless your axolotl appears frantic.

  • axolotl yawn

Axolotls yawn when trying to keep down a rowdy live food they have eaten and when they appear tired or bored. They yawn with their mouths wide open just like humans. It’s not a common behavior so you shouldn’t be worried.

If burrowing is not part of axolotls’ behavior, why is my axie digging her substrate? There isn’t sufficient information about axolotl digging behavior in the wild, however, they do hide in aquatic vegetation and mud to escape being eaten. Thus, captive axolotls dig for fun and this is normal. Nonetheless, you should be concerned if the digging lasts longer than it should.

How much swimming is too much for axolotls? Axolotls are not good/fast swimmers. They swim with an average speed of 10mph (16kph). But they love swimming around the tank in search of food and to explore their environment. Younger axies are more energetic and swim more frequently than adults.

FAQs

Why is there foam in my axolotl tank?

Foam in an axolotl tank is called protein foam. It is caused by high levels of organic waste such as feces and uneaten food, which causes froth and foam to accumulate on the water surface. 
Frequent water changes, filtering, and waste siphoning will all help to solve this problem.

Do axolotls need bubblers?

Yes, axolotls need bubblers in their tank to help with aeration, especially if there aren’t live plants in the tank.

Why is my axolotl thrashing?

Thrashing in axolotls can indicate a variety of problems, including gill irritation, inflammation following an injury, digestive pain, or constipation. If you can rule out possible injury or fungus, it could be intestinal problems. When thrashing, they also tend to stand with their tummy high off the ground.

What does a stressed axolotl look like?

One noticeably sign of a stressed axolotl is that its gills will curl or curve backward. Other stressed signs include lethargy, lack of an appetite for food, and may appear to float on water.

Why is my axolotl’s tail wavy?

This usually occurs after a water change – their way of saying “yeah! we love it here”. Their tails will also appear wavy when they are active/swimming. As long as their tails and body aren’t curled into a U shape, they are fine.

Conclusion

Your axolotl is blowing bubbles and that got you startled. You thought, “what it is doing?” The good thing about bubbles is that they are a sign of life! The bubbles are actually an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, so your axolotl is doing very well! 

Since it is primarily a water-dwelling creature breathing with gills, sometimes they swim to the water surface to take some air with their lungs. As they sink back to the bottom of the tank, they blow bubbles. 

The bubbles are caused by a gaseous exchange. So rest easy, your axolotl is doing great! Sometimes they don’t swim to the surface of their tank, they would stay at the bottom to blow the bubbles. This too is completely normal. 

You should only worry when the frequency at which they go to the water surface to take a gulp of air gets too much and if they exhibit other worrisome symptoms such as struggling to breathe and floating.

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