Axolotls are unique aquatic salamanders that have become increasingly popular as pets. With their cute smiles and alien-like features, it’s easy to become attached to these intriguing creatures. A common question for axolotl owners is whether these animals get lonely when kept alone.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: axolotls do not seem to get lonely or require companionship from other axolotls. As solitary creatures, they appear content being housed alone.

The Natural Behavior of Axolotls

Axolotls Are Primarily Solitary Creatures

In the wild, axolotls tend to be solitary animals that only come together to breed. They do not live in social groups or families. According to amphibian experts, there is no evidence that axolotls actively seek out the company of other axolotls outside of mating.

This may be because axolotls occupy a predator niche in their native habitat. As carnivores that feed on small fish, insects and worms, they do not need to work cooperatively in groups to hunt or forage.

Their solitary nature likely developed to avoid competing for the same food sources with other axolotls in their vicinity.

No Evidence Axolotls Suffer Without Social Contact

While some pet owners may worry that a single axolotl will get lonely, there is no scientific research showing axolotls experience stress, anxiety or negative health effects from being housed alone. As long as their basic needs for clean water, proper temperature and nutrition are met, axolotls appear to thrive just fine in individual tanks.

In fact, housing axolotls together can sometimes lead to nipping, fighting over food, and injuries from mating attempts. Axolotls may actually be more stressed by the presence of tankmates than being alone. Breeders house axolotls separately except when breeding.

For pet owners concerned their solitary axolotl is bored or unhappy, there are some enrichment options to explore. Adding live plants, rocks and hiding spots offers mental stimulation. Carefully supervised playtime outside the tank also provides activity.

But overall, an axolotl by itself in a properly cared for tank should lead a low-stress, contented life.

While axolotls are primarily solitary in nature, they can still capture the hearts of their human caretakers with their unique, cute appearance and playful personalities once accustomed to people. So even a “party of one” axolotl makes a delightful pet!

Signs of Stress in Axolotls

Changes in Gilling or Breathing

Axolotls breathe through external gills located on the sides of their heads behind their eyes. When axolotls experience stress or discomfort, changes in their gilling rate can be an early indicator. Stressed axolotls may gill excessively fast, gasping at the water’s surface every few seconds instead of their usual languid motion.

Conversely, severe stress can cause them to stop gilling entirely for periods of time.

Other gilling changes to watch for include:

  • Gills appearing red, inflamed or frayed at the ends
  • Strings of mucus hanging off the gills
  • Gills curling forward or clamped tightly to the body
  • If their gills alter dramatically for more than a day without explanation, an axolotl is likely under duress. Quickly test and optimize water parameters, reduce external stimuli, and monitor appetite to alleviate sources of anxiety.

    Loss of Appetite or Weight Changes

    Axolotls are voracious predators, so a disinterest in food usually signals an internal problem. Healthy axolotls eagerly snap up prey drifting nearby. When stressed, they may ignore food completely for days or weeks resulting in rapid weight loss.

    Sometimes stress manifests as weight gain instead, if an axolotl starts compulsively gorging when distressed.

    Appetite and weight fluctuations outside normal growth trends nearly always derive from husbandry issues like:

  • Improper water temperature – axolotls prefer 60-68°F
  • Toxic ammonia/nitrite levels
  • Bullying tankmates nipping their gills
  • Parasites irritating their skin
  • Sudden environmental changes
  • Never forcibly feed a stressed, anorexic axolotl. Analyze and correct the source of stress first. Weigh monthly to track trends.

    Changes in Movement or Activity

    Axolotls display individual activity levels and movement quirks reflecting unique personalities, so become familiar with each pet’s normal behavior. Dramatic changes in their typical activity patterns or lethargy spreading longer than 2-3 days usually implicates health issues.

    Specifically note:

  • How much time spent motionless
  • Swimming speed and stamina
  • How readily emerges from hiding
  • Social engagement with tankmates
  • Use of habitat elements like plants or tubes
  • If an once active axolotl turns reclusive, lies motionless on a bare tank bottom, or struggles floating midwater, confess environmental deficiencies and treat potential diseases immediately.

    Caring for a Single Axolotl

    Provide an Appropriately Sized Tank

    Axolotls may be small, but they need plenty of room to thrive. The minimum tank size for one axolotl is a 20-gallon long aquarium, but a 29-gallon tank would be even better. Axolotls have heavy bodies and weak legs, so height is less important than having a large floorspace.

    Aim for a tank that is at least 2-3 times the length of your fully grown axolotl.

    Make sure any tankmates are peaceful, like snails, shrimp or fish that won’t nip at axolotl gills. Axolotls may accidentally swallow small tankmates or sharp decorations, so choose tank decor wisely. Keep water clean with strong filtration and frequent water changes.

    Use a soft substrate like fine sand to prevent impaction if ingested.

    Offer Plenty of Hiding Spots and Plants

    Even a single axolotl likes having places to hide and explore. Add pygmy chain sword, anubias, java fern, amazon sword or other low-light plants for cover. Floating plants like hornwort also filter the water. Include caves, tunnels and logs from aquarium-safe materials like PVC pipe or resin.

    Plants and hiding spots help solitary axolotls feel secure. They also mimic the dense underwater vegetation where axolotls live in the wild. With lots of cover, a single axolotl can stake out its own little territory and feel less stressed.

    Give Them Things to Explore Like Tunnels

    Tunnels made from PVC pipe or other smooth, non-toxic materials allow axolotls to hide or peek out curiously. They encourage natural behaviors like exploring, especially for singly housed axolotls. Tunnels can also create bubbles and water flow, which axolotls find enriching.

    Position them horizontally along the tank bottom since axolotls rarely swim upwards.

    Other fun objects to spice up a solitary axolotl’s environment include:

    • Large stones and shells
    • Aquarium-safe resin ornaments
    • Driftwood with holes to swim through
    • Marbles or river rocks (too large to swallow)

    Rotate new objects periodically to keep things interesting. Even solitary axolotls are fairly intelligent, so they appreciate mental stimulation. A stimulating tank helps prevent boredom-related issues like excessive nipping at tails or fins.

    When Having Axolotl Tank Mates Can Be Beneficial

    Breeding Axolotls

    Breeding axolotls requires keeping a male and female together, which can be beneficial for both axolotls and their owner. The male will fertilize the female’s eggs, allowing her to reproduce. This satisfies the natural breeding instincts of both axolotls.

    Additionally, the owner can enjoy watching the fascinating breeding behaviors and may want to raise the larvae. However, the male and female should be removed after breeding to prevent stress or fighting over territory.

    Keeping Newly Hatched Axolotl Larvae Together

    After axolotl eggs hatch, the tiny larvae can be kept together safely for several weeks. Being raised together mimics their natural environment and reduces stress. The larvae may even synchronize their feeding and growth rates when housed together.

    However, once the larvae are 2-3 months old, they will need to be separated into individual homes. Axolotls become territorial as they mature and can bite or nip tank mates.

    Introducing Tank Mates Cautiously

    Some aquarists add tank mates like small fish or shrimp to liven up the axolotl tank. However, any tank mates must be chosen carefully to prevent injury. Good tank mates include fast, nimble fish that won’t nip axolotl gills. Small shrimp can work if given hiding spaces, as axolotls may eat shrimp.

    Never house axolotls with aggressive fish. Introduce any new tank mates slowly and watch for signs of stress in the axolotls. Have a backup tank ready to remove the axolotl or tank mate if needed.


    To conclude, axolotls are primarily solitary creatures that do not seem to require companionship from members of their own species. As long as their basic needs are met, most axolotls appear perfectly content being housed alone, showing no clear signs of loneliness or distress.

    While under certain circumstances having axolotl tank mates can be appropriate, they do not need social interaction in order to thrive.

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