Can Axolotls Go on Land? – All Questions Answered (With FAQs)

Axolotls go on land and stay out of water

As a salamander species, many aspiring owners wonder how long can axolotls be out of water. In the first place, can these cute smiling critters even go on land?

Even though axolotls are amphibians, they can only live in water due to their anatomy. Although they can also stay out of the water, it is only for a short period. Ideally, axolotls can go on land for no more than an hour. Otherwise, it can be fatal for them.

Continue reading to learn some axolotl facts, such as their best living conditions and how long can axolotl live outside of the water.

Can Axolotls Live on Land?

White axolotl lives on land

The axolotl, or the Mexican walking fish, belongs to the amphibia class. A lake near the outside of Mexico City, called Lake Xochimilco, is said to be the living nest of axolotls in the wild.

Despite being amphibians, axolotls cannot live on land since they are aquatic animals. In fact, an axolotl has gills and normally lives on the water for the rest of its life like a fish.

However, they can stay out of the water for no more than one hour, depending on factors such as humidity and temperature. Also, keep in mind that frequently removing them from the water tank is not recommended.

There is a scientific experiment conducted by the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (SEBM) that provides an argument that axolotls can adapt to live on land.

In the said experiment, axolotls were injected with an iodine chemical. As the axolotls underwent metamorphosis, they were able to live on land.

Take note that professional scientists handled these axolotls, and applying the same experiment to your axolotls at home is not recommended.

Here’s a video of some axolotls facts to get to know them better:

Axolotl: Some Fascinating Facts

Can Axolotls Breathe Air?

Axolotls can, in fact, breathe air. They have gills like fish that they use to release air away from their bodies and absorb oxygen. These gills would occasionally flare, which are very pleasing to the eyes.

Axolotls have three gills located in different areas on their heads. The first one is located on the left portion of their head. The second one is on the right, while the third one is on the top.

These gills can function outside of the water, but only for a short period of time. The amount of oxygen they have will also be significant in how long axolotl gills can work.

Aside from these gills, axolotls have an interesting way of accumulating oxygen outside. Axolotls breathe through their skin as well. They also have lungs, which aid in the breathing process.

Finally, axolotls have the ability to breathe through their cheeks. This cellular respiration is also known as buccal respiration

Despite these capabilities, remember that staying out of the water for an extended period of time is not recommended for axolotls.

Staying on land can cause distress to their gills. When they are stressed, you will see their gills flaring. Bring them back to the water immediately when this happens.

Why Can’t Axolotls Go on Land?

Axolotl cannot stay on land and returning to the water

An axolotl’s body is designed differently from other amphibians. They undergo a different metamorphosis cycle, and this is the same reason why axolotls cannot go nor live on land.

Normally, the metamorphosis phase of a Mexican walking fish and any other species of salamander would begin with an egg and grow into tadpoles that will eventually develop lungs and be able to live on land.

However, when it comes to axolotls, they do not grow into tadpoles. Instead, they remain in the egg or larval stage until they become adults. This is why they don’t develop body parts that can enable them to go on land.

This metamorphic process of axolotls explains why their bodies are made for aquatic living. They undergo a process called cryptic metamorphosis, which causes the internal development of bodies but not physical appearance.

This cryptic metamorphosis happens in the lungs of an axolotl. The lungs develop externally to adapt to terrestrial or land survival. However, this development does not occur in the metamorphosis of axolotls.

This explains their reliance on their gills in order to breathe in water. Their lungs don’t function similarly to other salamander species that dwell on land.

How Long Can Axolotls Go on Land?

Axolotls can only stay on land for up to an hour if the humidity and temperature are just right. It is important to note, however, that they are extremely sensitive to their surroundings.

Axolotls will normally survive at 59 to 66°F (15 to 19°C) water temperature. Also, they will only require a low output of UV in their tank for about 12 hours per day.

They may become stressed and even die if they experience a sudden and unnecessary change in their environment. As a result, it is not recommended to test how long they can stay out of the water on a regular basis.

You should also exercise caution when changing the water of your axolotl tank. Your axolotls will have to wait longer than it needs to before the tank is full, especially if your tank requires a large volume of water.

In this case, you can already fill a different tank with water and transfer your axolotl in a matter of seconds. Just make sure that the quality of water is still the same by using freshwater test kits.

Can Axolotls Walk on Land?

Despite the fact that axolotls are amphibians, their bodies are built to live in the water. Their legs, for example, are better suited for swimming in water than walking on land.

As a result, axolotls will struggle if they are placed on the land. They will try to move their limbs and muscles, but they will be unable to walk.

Making them walk on land will just cause stress and breathing problems for axolotls. Make sure to always keep them underwater, where their bodies are meant to function well.

Interestingly, male axolotls can tie their tails to their body in order to walk above the surface water during their breeding season. However, more studies are needed to prove that they can actually do this on land.

What Will Happen If an Axolotl Stays Out of the Water?

Little axolotl stays out of the water

A slime coat covers the body of an axolotl. And while it can last up to an hour outside of water, staying too long will dry out its coat.

This slime coat protects axolotls in many ways. Like fishes, this serves as their first layer of defense against predators. This coat also protects their very sensitive skin.

Aside from the one mentioned above, there are other possible scenarios that could happen when you let axolotl out of water. Here are they:

The axolotls’ limbs and organs will be damaged

Even though axolotls are amphibians, their body composition is conditioned for underwater living. Thus, letting them out, even for short periods, can cause extreme damage to their limbs and organs.

Unlike other salamanders, axolotls retain their larval form. They don’t develop limbs that can support their own weight if they walk on land, so they will really struggle.

Thus, forcing your axolotls to walk on land may also lead to injuries. Their organs might get crushed in the process and eventually lead to death.

It can lead to dehydration and respiratory problems

As mentioned above, when axolotls stay out of water for long periods, their slime coat will get dry. This will result in the dehydration of axolotls.

Dehydration opens your axolotls to various potential health risks. This includes difficulty breathing, weakening of their immune system, damage to their organs, and even death.

The axolotl will be stressed

Axolotls can easily be stressed out, and staying out of their water tank is one of their stress triggers.

There are many possible things that could happen when an axolotl gets stressed out. Their appetite can be affected, and they may behave fretfully. Stress can also cause lead to several diseases and illnesses.

Why Do Axolotls Need Water?

Axolotl in an aquarium with water

First, axolotls are aquatic animals. Hence, they stay underwater for their entire lives. Thus, unlike any other amphibians or salamanders, axolotls will struggle in desert and arid living conditions.

For pet axolotls to survive, they need constant and controlled water flow in their tanks.

They will also need a proper balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen to keep them in good health condition. Because their gills and lungs are designed for underwater living, they can only achieve this balance in the water.

How Does Axolotl Gills Work?

As mentioned above, an axolotl has three gills placed in different areas around its head — on the left side, right side, and top portion.

Obviously, this is how an axolotl can live and breathe underwater like other amphibians or salamanders. If you would look closer, these external gills look like branches with feathers.

Axolotls use these gills in order to swim underwater effectively. While flapping these gills, they can absorb the dissolved oxygen in the water. And yes, they have manual control of their gills.

There are small capillaries placed in the axolotls’ feathery gills. They facilitate the exchange of healthy gasses essential to the axolotls’ survival.

This absorbed oxygen will then be transported to the different parts of the axolotl’s body.

Just by observing an axolotl’s gills, you can already tell if they are unhealthy. If you see that their gills are unrelaxed and flapping too fast, there is a possibility that they are unwell.

Remember that their gills should be flapping in a relaxed, consistent motion.

Can You Hold an Axolotl Out Of Water?

The general rule is to let your pet axolotls live in their tanks as much as possible. Thus, holding them for too long, or even a few minutes, outside of the water may lead to problems.

There are numerous reasons why you shouldn’t hold your axolotl out of the water.

First, axolotls have very sensitive bodies. An axolotl is prone to stress and, when triggered, can cause damage to their organs and health. Worst, it may even lead to their death.

Second, the skin of an axolotl can easily be penetrated by foreign objects. You would not want your axolotl getting injured, do you?

Thirdly, the slimy coat of axolotls should always be hydrated. Keeping an axolotl out of the water will dry out this protective coating and may also lead to health issues.

Hence, you’re putting lots of risks just by holding your axolotl. If you want to move it to a different tank, a clean net can help you transfer it safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Axolotl in an aquarium underwater

Can You Hold Axolotls in Your Hand?

Holding axolotls in your hand is not recommended. There are three main reasons for this.

First, staying out of the water can cause extreme stress to the axolotl’s sensitive body. Second, its skin can easily be penetrated by dirt and foreign objects. Lastly, axolotls must always be moist and hydrated.

It is inevitable to get curious to hold an axolotl in your hand, but its health should always be your priority. You’re risking its life just by holding it out even for a few minutes.

Do Axolotls Breathe Underwater?

Yes, axolotls breathe underwater since they are aquatic pets. They thrive in the water rather than on land, unlike other salamanders.

An axolotl has a body designed for an aquatic environment. Axolotls breathe underwater using their gills, just like many fish.

Do Axolotls Have Lungs?

Yes, axolotls have lungs just like other salamanders do. However, their lungs can only hold very minimal oxygen compared to their gills.

Unlike other salamanders, an axolotl can only use these lungs for a short period of time outside of the water. Prolonged exposure outside their tanks can drain their lungs, which could lead to death.

Will My Axolotl Jump Out of the Tank?

Yes, axolotls can surprise you and jump out of their tank. Many aquarium keepers are putting a safety lid on top of their aquarium to prevent this from happening.

It is also important to ensure that the lid will not have water on its brim. This may cause contamination of the aquarium.

Final Thoughts

Axolotls, unlike other salamanders, are meant for aquatic life. They have external gills that allow them to breathe underwater.

As exotic pets and fascinating creatures, you might get curious about what they can do outside of their water tanks. But unfortunately, an axolotl can’t survive out of water.

An axolotl cannot live on land or go on land for a prolonged period. They live underwater for their entire life cycle like fish. Staying outside the water surface makes axolotls stressed out.

We hope this article has taught you a thing or two on how long can axolotl live on land. Let us know in the comment section about your favorite thing about an axolotl! 

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