Can Axolotls Survive On Land?

Many new fish enthusiasts look around in disbelief because axolotls are amphibians and they always ask one question, can axolotls survive on land?

When they have the answer they may be wondering what is the reason they can’t be able to live on the land.

While axolotls are amphibians, they are able to survive only in water because of their anatomy. While they are able to stay away from the water, it’s only for a brief period. Ideally, axolotls can go on land for less than one hour. If they don’t, it could cause fatal injury to the animals.

The issue is extremely confusing because it raises questions about the nature amphibious of Axolotls. However, in this article, I’ll provide some facts that will help clear your doubts.

Keep on reading!

Can Axolotls Survive On Land?

The answer is no! Axolotls can’t be able to survive on the land. Axolotls are aquatic creatures that live their entire life in the water. They are able to get out of the water since they are capable of breathing air but they won’t be able to survive for very long without water.

The axolotl is also known as the Mexican walking fish and it belongs to the amphibian class. A lake on the outside of Mexico City, called Lake Xochimilco is believed to be the home for axolotls out in the open.

Although they are amphibians, axolotls are not able to live on land as they are marine animals. In reality, they are aquatic animals. An axolotl is a marine animal that is a water animal throughout its life, just like fish.

But, they are able to stay in the water for less than an hour, based on conditions such as temperature and humidity. Keep in mind that regularly removing them from their tank is not advised.

Did You Even Know?

To test whether axolotls can adapt in the absence of water, scientists performed experiments.

There’s a research study carried out by the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (SEBM) that argues that axolotls are able to adjust to life on land.

In the experiment, Axolotls were given an Iodine chemical. When the axolotls went through a metamorphosis, they became capable of living on the earth.

It is important to note that professionals used to test their axolotls. However, using the same method for your own axolotls is not advised.

Surprisingly, the test was successful and the axolotl did well in its adaptation to its surroundings. This axolotl was a tiger salamander-like species.

Can Axolotls Breathe Air?

It is true that axolotls are able to breathe air. Similar to amphibians, axolotls make use of gills for breathing air because of the lack of lungs. For axolotls, however, their gills play an important role.

The axolotls’ external gills aid in the exchange of gas from their bodies. They also bring oxygen, which is healthy, too. Therefore, the exchange of gas in the axolotls is usually carried out in the water, where the gills function in three places:

  1. The left-hand side is the most prominent.
  2. The face’s right
  3. The upper part of the head

The gills only function for just a few minutes away from the water, allowing axolotls to breathe air. It is therefore not recommended to keep your pets’ smiles out of the water for a long period of time.

How Long Do Axolotls Last Free Of The Water?

Axolotls can survive in water for up to an hour if the area is dry and damp.

Axolotls are quite demanding in their proper habitat. They need cool temperatures as well as controlled water flow dim lighting and a stable water level in order to function effectively. If their needs are not fulfilled, axolotls go into stress and may die at any time.

Why Can’t Axolotls Be On The Land?

It is believed that the Mexican walking fish, like many other salamander species, begin their lives underwater as a tiny, transparent egg. They then develop into tadpoles with Gills and a flat fin-like tail. This is the stage that salamanders go through when they shed their features develop lungs and then crawl onto the ground.

But, the situation is different for Axolotls. They do not grow beyond their larval stage as adults.

The morphological traits of axolotls are built to be able to survive in water. Axolotls have gills with reddish-purple hues due to the presence of blood cells that remove oxygen from the water immediately. If axolotls breathe, they move their gills. However, if there’s not enough oxygen present in the waters, the axolotls have an alternate strategy.

Axolotls make use of their lungs to take in air from the surface, in the absence of oxygen dioxide dissolved inside the water. That’s the reason they are unique. The lungs of these animals are an excellent example of a mysterious metamorphosis that is, they have reached their next stage of development internally, but not outwardly.

So, these grin-worthy amphibians aren’t able to live on land but only thrive underwater.

Can Axolotls Breathe On Land?

It is true that axolotls have two respirators, Gills and Lungs, which makes some people think that axolotls are able to live and breathe on the land. However, this isn’t the case.

Axolotls are able to breathe without water, too, for a brief time. It’s not normal for the axolotl to be able to breathe and stay on the earth for long periods of time. It is possible to remove the axolotl out of water during emergency situations because they are easily stressed and suffer breathing issues.

How Do Axolotl Gills Work?

We now know that the axolotls are able to breathe, even into adulthood we can take a peek at the mechanism of the axolotl’s Gills.

Axolotls possess external gills but in order to breathe without water, they have also lungs.

The gills on the outside of axolotls appear like feathery branches on the right and left sides of their head. The gills are fluttering and move in the flow permitting axolotls to breathe oxygen dissolved under water. Your smiling friend can retract and contract their gills in a manual manner.

There are capillaries that are tiny on the gills’ feathers which exchange oxygen and other gases with the water. They take oxygen from water, which is vital for axolotl’s well-being. The oxygen then diffuses through the bloodstream. The blood that is diffused is transferred to organs and body parts of axolotls.

If you wish to examine the health of your axolotl for any illnesses or breathing problems, you must look at their gills.

The healthy gills must flap at a consistent and steady rate. If they’re flapping at a high rate and irregularly it’s an indication that they’re infected and affected.

A fascinating aspect of axolotls:

As opposed to other fish that are caught, axolotls will remain in one spot with their feathery gills flapping and pushing oxygen through the capillaries. But, they must move around to pump oxygen into their gills.

Remember it is important to remember that when the axolotl is healthy and comfortable the gills should be flapping at a consistent and slow rate, or they could be off. Gill flapping that is fast and inconsistent can indicate that the gills could be affected or the axolotl has difficulty breathing generally.

Can Axolotls Walk On Land?

Axolotls have legs. This could convince you that they are able to walk on the ground. But axolotls can’t walk on land.

In colder months, they often change into semi-aquatic animals and adjust to terrestrial surroundings.

Axolotls who are males, during the breeding season, attach their tails to their bodies and then use their legs to walk across the surface of the water. However, they’ve never been seen walking on land.

Here’s a video that includes some interesting facts and some frequently asked questions.

Can You Hold Axolotl Out Of Water?

I do not recommend using your axolotl inside or out of the water, for obvious reasons:

  1. Axolotls have bodies that are sensitive
  2. They have skin that is permeable.
  3. Axolotls’ body contains mucus coating to keep them well-hydrated and moist.

Thus it is important to be careful when handling your axolotl is extremely dangerous. If you have to relocate your pet’s axolotl to clean out the tank or transfer it to a new tank, I would suggest using the soft net to shield the animal from injuries.

What Happens When an Axolotl is Carried Out of Water?

We know that an axolotl can survive on water for up to an hour if it’s cool and moist. But what happens if you let it sit outside in the water too much? I’ll warn you It can be quite ugly!

The body of an axolotl is covered by a slime coat. If you aren’t in the water for a long period of time could dry out the slime coat. Axolotls also need to breathe in after having used all of the air in their lungs. This is why about half of the axolotls could die, whereas those with stronger immune systems survive.

The reason that slime coat is vital to the survival of axolotls is similar to the scales of fishes as well as the hard, spiky scales of crocodiles. The slime coat helps protect Axolotls from predators and provides an additional layer of protection for their extremely sensitive skin.

It also protects Axolotls against any type of virus, infection, or bacteria they may encounter.

So, taking an axolotl out of the water isn’t a good idea since there’s a reason in their natural environment, that axolotls thrive underwater for ALL TIMES.

Here are a few negative effects of the axolotls being on land for extended periods of time.

Damage to Axolotl Limbs and Organs

One of the main reasons not to take the axolotl off the shore is the risk to their legs and other organs in the body when they land.

Axolotls are amphibians that do not undergo metamorphosis like other salamanders. So, the limbs and legs of axolotls are not able to be able to support the weight of dry ground as their salamander counterparts do.

However, they utilize leg muscles to stroll through the water, using the natural buoyancy produced by waves in the water that support large portions of the weight of the axolotls. On land, the water buoyancy isn’t present which means that their legs aren’t able to hold the weight for a long time.

If you make the axolotl run on a flat surface and then it can cause stress to the animal. Additionally, its legs may be damaged due to an extreme loss of mucus ultimately leading to the demise of your adorable pet.

Additionally, the strenuous walk on the ground and the force from the body to bear the burden of axolotl could cause internal organs to be crushed which is not good for your pet’s smile.

Dehydration, Breathing Troubles, and Other Diseases

As we’ve mentioned before the skin on axolotls is covered in thick mucus that is slimy to keep the animal hydrated. When you remove the axolotl from the water the slimy layer may become extremely dry, and the skin will not be capable of absorbing oxygen from an un-hydrated surface. This slimy layer also shields the axolotl from possible dangers, which include parasites, bacteria, and extreme dehydration.

The absence of mucus-coated mucus can pose a significant risk to your axolotl and can lead to the development of diseases as well as infections caused by harmful viruses and bacteria.

A dehydrated axolotl is an unhealthy axolotl. Keeping your axolotl away from the water for too long will lead to dehydration which can expose your animal to various illnesses.

Dehydration can cause damage to organs due to excessive water loss without the protective layer of slime. As axolotls get dry they’re unable to breathe through their gills in a proper manner. In addition, in the lungs, the axolotls can’t be used for too long.

To prolong the longevity that you have with your axolotl ensure that they are in good condition and keep them submerged as long as possible.

Stress-Related Problems

If you keep your axolotl off of the water for a prolonged period it could become shy, leading to low appetite, as well as anxious behavior. These are all stress-related problems that could have adverse effects on the overall health and well-being of your axolotl which can lead to the growth of illnesses and diseases.


Can Axolotls Live Outside of Water?

They can’t survive without water! As amphibians with lungs, they are equipped with both gills to breathe. But they’ve never been observed out of the water for a long duration of time. It is not normal to live outside of water.

Can Axolotl Live on Land?

Axolotls like other salamanders live for the duration of their lives in the water. Certain animals have been reported to walk onto land after the time they reach full maturity, however, almost all their time is in the water with their gills used to breathe.

Do Axolotls Prefer Water or Land?

Axolotls spend their whole life in the water, never stepping onto the land. Axolotl’s needs for care are low and if the temperature and flow of water are properly managed, they are robust and easy to care for captives who breed easily in captivity.

Can Axolotls Evolve to Live on Land?

They are neotenic in the sense that they retain characteristics that are only found in juveniles of similar species. As other salamanders change into terrestrial animals Axolotls are able to hold onto their feathery gills, and remain in the water for the duration of their life. It’s like they don’t become adults.

What Happens if You Take an Axolotl Out of the Water?

Being away from water for long periods of time can dry out the slime coat. Axolotls also need to breathe after using the entire air they breathe. In this way, about half of axolotls might die, while the ones with more strength survive.

Can Axolotls Survive On Land? (Summary)

Can axolotls go on land? Axolotls are marine animals that are created to live completely underwater. An axolotl when kept out of water for too long, can develop a number of illnesses and diseases. So, they shouldn’t be on land, and is not recommended to keep them away from the water for long periods of time.

Axolotls unlike other salamanders are designed for life in the water. They have gills on their externals that permit them to breathe underwater.

In their role as exotic pets and captivating creatures, you could be interested in what they do in their tanks of water. However, the reality is that an axolotl isn’t able to survive without water.

An axolotl is not able to be on land or to land for an extended time. They are underwater for all of their lives as do fish. Being afloat in the water causes axolotls to be stressed.

Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.