Even just thinking the word cockroach makes many people shudder. There is just something about these small, dark, darting insects that cause most of us to cringe or jump.
But to your axolotl, a cockroach isn’t something you see and then run to the phone to call the exterminator. In fact, there are many keepers who assert that cockroaches can be a good protein source for axolotls.
Of course, there are just as many axolotl keepers and breeders who advocate against feeding cockroaches to axolotls.
Who is right and who is wrong? In this article, we take a close and in-depth look at the issue of can axolotls eat cockroaches – yes or no? Learn what you need to know to plan your axolotl’s menu with confidence.
Watch An Adult Axolotl Eat a Whole Dubia Cockroach
In this short video made by an axolotl keeper, you can watch an axolotl adult eat a Dubia cockroach whole.
So clearly, axolotls can eat cockroaches and they will do so without any prompting, sometimes really surprising their keeper as this Reddit thread indicates.
But should axolotls eat cockroaches? This is the bigger question on the table for us to explore here.
Can Axolotls Eat Cockroaches? What Makes This Issue So Confusing
The main reason many keepers get so confused about whether or not axolotls can safely consume cockroaches is because of two factors:
- There are many different species of cockroaches.
- There is little information about the diet of axolotls in the wild.
Different species of cockroaches
Did you know there are an estimated 4,500 different species of cockroaches on Earth today?
For you, this might just sound like 4,500 species too many, but for your axolotl the bigger issue is the size and body type of the cockroach species.
Axolotls are soft-bodied aquatic salamanders. They are unique among salamanders in how they spend their whole life in the water. They don’t have real teeth, but instead of just tooth nubs that are designed only to grasp their prey so they can swallow it whole.
Axolotls also don’t have any way to digest chitin, the material that helps insects and crustaceans from their harder outer covering, or exoskeleton. Chitin is dangerous for axolotls.
When an axolotl tries to eat a prey source that has a hard outer shell or skeleton, the axolotl may choke or suffocate when trying to swallow the food.
Even if your axolotl does succeed in swallowing the prey whole, the hard material may still cause an intestinal blockage, perforation, or impaction.
But as the popular axolotl keeper forum thread on Caudata.org points out, some cockroaches don’t have a hard exoskeleton. They have soft bodies that are easy to grasp and swallow whole.
These roaches can make an excellent protein-rich food source for axolotls.
As well, some cockroaches have hard eco-skeletons only at certain stages in their life cycle.
Once you start to get familiar with different species of roaches and how they shed, molt, and grow, you can identify which ones may be safe to feed your axolotl at certain times.
Lack of information on wild axolotl diet
Even though axolotls are becoming more and more popular in captivity and more breeders and keepers are sharing information and observations, there is still very little information about axolotls in the wild.
This is because axolotls are found in only one lake in the world! As National Geographic explains, they live in a lake system called Xochimilco outside of Mexico City, Mexico.
There are a number of reasons why axolotls have become critically endangered in the wild, but certainly having a very limited natural range is the biggest reason.
Axolotls are sensitive animals and easily affected by the type of systemic draining, pollution, and competition that is going on in the Lake Xochimilco system today.
This also means that researchers lack the opportunity to study axolotls in the wild and learn more about what these animals eat, how much, how often, and during which seasons.
What Is the Axolotl Life Cycle Like?
The place to start answering all questions of this type is with a thorough grounding of the axolotl life cycle.
As Unusual Pet Vets explains, axolotls can take up to three years to reach their full adult size.
Axolotls start out their life as eggs, incubating until they are ready to hatch and become a larva. Most axolotl larvae will measure less than a one-half inch at birth.
As Axolotl.org goes on to explain, the young larvae will come out of the egg with enough protein to last a day or two. After that, the larvae will need pure animal protein daily to stay healthy.
From this point forward, your axolotl will need to eat lots of protein-rich meals to keep growing and develop properly.
It can take up to 24 months for an axolotl to become fully grown. However, by the age of six months the most important growth spurt will be over.
Which Cockroach Species Are Safe to Feed to Axolotls?
As we mentioned here earlier, there are more than 4,5000 known cockroach species in the world today.
The Smithsonian Magazine highlights four species that are particularly invasive and can become very problematic in homes and commercial buildings around the world: the American, German, Oriental, and Australian cockroaches.
The life cycle of the cockroach can differ a great deal depending on the species. For example, the average life cycle of the German cockroach lasts just 100 days.
But the life cycle of the American cockroach can easily last for 1,000 days.
This means that it is very important to research the exact species of cockroach you plan to feed your axolotl to find out when they are in the molting and shedding phase.
You can feed nearly any cockroach to your axolotl right after the roach has molted and their body is soft and defenseless.
Here are some of the soft-bodied cockroaches recommended by experienced axolotl keepers on the Caudata forum:
Pycnoscelus surinamensis (Suriname or greenhouse cockroach)
These are burrowing roaches that have a lot in common with earthworms, the number one prey choice for the adult axolotl.
Panchlora nivea (Cuban or green banana cockroach)
The green banana cockroach doesn’t look like what most people think of like a cockroach, with its bright green body and small size.
Most adults will measure only one-half to one-inch long. It stays soft-bodied throughout life and is good food for juvenile and adult axolotls.
Paratemnopteryx couloniana (Red Goblin roach)
Red Goblin roaches are not as common in the pet food trade but they tend to be quite fast and have soft bodies, making them a better choice for axolotl food. Their quick movements may help older juvenile axolotls more easily hunt live prey.
Blatta lateralis (Turkestan or rusty red or red runner roach)
The Turkestan cockroach usually measures about 1.18 inches in adulthood and is becoming more popular in the pet food trade, as they are close relatives of the already-popular food roach the Oriental cockroach.
Blaptica dubia (Dubia or Guayana or orange-spotted roach)
The Dubia roach is one of the most popular species for keepers and for breeding as feeder insects. They typically grow up to measure about 1.5 inches.
Now you have some ideas for the best cockroach species to feed to your axolotl. Roaches should be fed as a treat and only in supervised feeding.