Axolotls are a salamander native to eastern Mexico that can be kept in an aquarium.
The axolotl has a long and exciting history, dating back to the Aztec culture in Mexico. These tiny amphibians were called after Xolotl, the God of death, and claimed to have transformed into an axolotl to avoid being murdered.
They were first introduced to Europe in 1863, where they became an instant hit with scientists and pet lovers alike!
A batch of 34 Axolotls was transferred from Mexico’s Lake Xochimilco to France for scientific tests on limb growth. They immediately became popular as pets in Europe, and most captive-bred axolotls sold worldwide had at least some ancestry from that first study group.
If you have an interest in this cute little aquatic pet, keep reading this axolotls care guide!
Axolotls As A Pet
Axolotls are often sedentary and prefer to rest at the bottom of their aquarium. This activity has earned them the moniker “walking fish.” If at least six inches of water to swim in, a single individual can be housed in a 15-gallon long fish tank.
Many fish and amphibian enthusiasts keep axolotls as pets because of their unique biology, cute looks, and big size. On the other hand, Axolotls can grow over a foot long. They also have a 15-year lifespan. They will provide a fascinating glimpse into ancient Salamanders to any lucky keeper. They are, without a doubt, one of the most unusual pets.
These salamanders are carnivores to the core. They will try to consume anything smaller than themselves in the wild. They should not be kept with other fish or amphibians due to this. Earthworms, bloodworms, and blackworms are all live prey for axolotls. However, bits of beef heart, raw fish, frozen-thawed Mysis shrimp, and brine shrimp have all been known to be accepted by pets.
Know More About Axolotls:
- What Do Axolotls Eat In The Wild And Captivity As Pets?
- Do Axolotls Lay Eggs – Fascinating Facts About Axolotl Breeding!
- What Do Baby Axolotls Eat – A Comprehensive Guide On Baby Axolotl Feeding
- Do Axolotls Sleep? It’s Not As Simple As You Would Assume
- Do Axolotls Get Lonely? Should You Keep Them Alone?
- Do Axolotls Have Teeth – Do They Bite?
- Where Do Axolotls Live | Why Are Axolotls Endangered
- Can Axolotls Live With Fish? A Comprehensive Guide On Axolotl Tank Mates
- How To Set Up An Axolotl Tank – The Ultimate Guide
Axolotl Behavior And Temperament
Axolotls have delicate, soft bodies with permeable skin, making them relatively resistant to minor changes in their environment. In fact, cartilage rather than bone makes up most of their anatomy.
Once you’ve got their home set up correctly, feeding and cleaning them should only take a few hours every week. After that, the rest are content to have them as peaceful, aquatic friends.
Axolotls are confident creatures who are entirely comfortable walking around their tank while being observed by their humans. When a person is watching them, some will come up to the side of their tank.
They aren’t highly gregarious animals and don’t need tank buddies. Axolotls should not be maintained alongside other species since they may try to consume pet fish, and the fish may nip at them.
You should also avoid putting them in the same cage as other axolotls. Because juvenile axolotls can be cannibalistic, they should be raised in separate enclosures. Adults may be housed together, but keep an eye out for cannibalistic inclinations.
Axolotls are fascinating creatures that can recover body parts bitten off by other tank members over time. If you absolutely have to remove them from their home,
That is to say, Axolotls should only be handled if absolutely essential. If you absolutely have to remove these pets from their home, use a small mesh net to avoid entangling their body parts.
Axolotl Morphs And Appearance
Axolotls have external fillings and a caudal fin extending from behind its head to the vent you’d expect to see on a salamander larval.
On the other hand, Axolotls are neotenic salamanders, which means they retain characteristics from childhood into adulthood. For example, unlike most salamanders, the axolotl does not lose its gills as it ages.
Three pairs of gill stalks (rami) with filaments (fimbriae) for breathing are located behind the skull of a fully grown adult axolotl. Their heads will grow vast and wide, giving them the axolotl’s famed smile.
Their eyes are lidless, and their limbs are long, slender, and undeveloped, with thin digits. The enlarged cloacae bordered with papillae distinguishes males (the area where he poops). Females have substantially broader bodies than males.
At 18-24 months, a sexually mature adult axolotl (male and female) would be developed entirely and range from 6 to 18 inches, with 9 inches being the most frequent. They can be up to 10.5 ounces in weight (300 grams).
A wild axolotl’s coloration would consist of mottled browns, greens, and golds with purple gills. However, breeding has resulted in more colorful variants since their introduction into the aquarium industry:
Albino: Pale pink/white body with clear/pink eyes and red gills.
Melanoid: Black/dark grey melanoid with dark gills and black eyes.
Leucistic: White/pink with dark eyes and vivid red gills.
Golden Albino: Golden with bright red/pink gills and pink/orange eyes.
Copper: Black eyes and vibrant red/pink gills.
Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP): A recessive gene termed Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) may be present in some axolotls, allowing them to glow green when exposed to dark light.
Other versions include Piebald, Golden Non-Albino, and Chimaerism, some of the less prevalent morphs.
Housing The Axolotl
Axolotls were first discovered in many lakes in central Mexico’s highlands. Water runoff from mountain streams feeds these lakes. As a result, they must keep their water cool and clear.
Ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites are all toxic to this species.
Axolotl Tank Size
You can get away with a 10-gallon aquarium for your axolotl, but it will be more challenging to care correctly and clean. A 20-gallon tank is recommended, giving you plenty of space and making handling easier when necessary!
Axolotls are neat animals, but they can be a bit messy. If you want yours to live as long and happy as possible, their tank must have enough space for both water depth (to maintain stable parameters) AND floor area, so the axolotl doesn’t have too much trouble navigating its way around! So you want a 20-gallon tank with that required capacity.
Substrate For Axolotl Tank
When keeping axolotls as pets, the best and safest substrate is sand; sand particles are minute and will not cause any severe difficulties if your axolotl ingests them. In addition, axolotls enjoy digging and playing in the sand, significantly improving their health and preventing them from being disturbed.
Cleaning and maintaining your axolotl tank is easier with a bare bottom tank, but it may become anxious if your pet cannot grip the surface.
Gravel substrate should be avoided because they feed by drawing water into their mouths, so if you have a gravel substrate in your tank, they might end up feeding on it. This could cause severe gastrointestinal issues like impaction – which would be tragic for the animal since its digestive tract isn’t as developed or equipped to handle gravel.
Filtration In An Axolotl Tank
Axolotls, as previously said, can produce a lot of trash. So you’ll need a potent filter, but one that doesn’t make a lot of water flow.
One of the most important factors for maintaining an axolotl aquarium is ensuring that your water quality and clarity stay at their best. A good pump with a spray bar will help you do just that!
It also helps if we change 30% of the tank water each week for optimal health and happiness in your axolotl.
So for axolotls, prepare low-flow or still water. Then, use a spray bar to spread the flow and reduce the effects. You might also utilize plants to minimize water pressure by placing them near the outlet.
Plants With Axolotl
You can then adorn your Axolotl tank with various plants (Java moss, Anubias, and Howard are excellent choices) and caves and other hiding places (can use PVC piping or plant pots).
Axolotl Tank Lighting
Axolotls do not require special lighting, although they may become stressed if the light is too bright. It’s recommended to use a plant-friendly LED light because you can adjust the brightness and maintain your plants healthy.
Ideal Temperature For Axolotl
Axolotls are lovely creatures that can survive in different environments but prefer cold temperatures.
The ideal water temperature for axolotl ranges from 60°F to 64°F (16-18°C), but they have a lower limit of 50°F/10°C and an upper level which is 72°F/22°C.
As you can see, these species prefer the cold to the warmth; it’s critical to keep an axolotl tank cool to ensure their health.
Diet & Feeding Axolotl
Axolotls eat snails, worms, crustaceans, small fish, and small amphibians in the wild.
Brine shrimp, small slices of beef or liver, earthworms, bloodworms, tubifex worms, other frozen fish feeds, and commercial fish pellets can all be fed to them in captivity.
Axolotls have a specific feeding frequency that varies depending on their age and size. Many individuals eat two to three feedings per week. However, you can feed them by holding food with round-nosed forceps in the tank near them so they can easily take up all meats at once.
You can also simply drop the food into the water as close to the axolotl. If your axolotl isn’t eating much throughout the day, feed it in the evening when it’s more active.
An adult axolotl may endure up to two weeks without feeding if it is in good health.
In most circumstances, vitamin and mineral supplements aren’t necessary.
To keep the water clean, remove any uneaten food from the tank every day.
Axolotl Common Problems
Axolotls are one of the most incredible animals in existence!
The ability to regenerate is a distinguishing feature of axolotls. If their injuries aren’t life-threatening, they can regrow their limbs, tails, and other body components like heart and eye tissue.
However, this extraordinary aptitude does not prevent individuals from all health problems.
Unfortunately, this species is easily stressed; by handling bright lights, warm temperatures, poor water quality, and powerful currents. So, proper caring is required.
When you have a stressed axolotl, they may refuse food, or their appetite can decrease; they also show signs of being ill such as having dull colors on the body with hues that appear grayish-brown in coloration and drought-worthy.
Axolotls can repair injured tissue; thus, a missing leg shouldn’t cause concern. On the other hand, infection is a risk you want to avoid.
Exposed wounds can quickly become infected, so keep an eye on the water parameters and make sure they’re steady at this time.
The digestive system becomes dysfunctional, refusing to eat with bloating and low waste production for multiple days.
This is frequently caused by them ingesting gravel or small stones, so you must provide your axolotl with a sand-based substrate.
Fridging can speed up healing and help them eliminate anything unpleasant from their digestive system if they have an impaction.
Overfeeding can cause impaction and constipation, so adults should only be fed every 2-3 days at most.
Axolotls can freely float around their aquariums, while excessive floating could indicate air bubbles in the gut.
Only if your axolotl cannot return to the bottom of the tank and floats up against their will should you be concerned.
It should also be considered if they float frequently or appear distressed while floating.
Infections Caused By Bacteria Or Fungi
Heat-stressed axolotls can become infected with hazardous bacteria and fungi, so you should check your water temperature regularly.
‘Red leg’ bacteria, which causes red spots on the limbs; Columnaris, which causes sluggishness and white grey patches; and Saprolegnia, which causes white patches on the skin and gills, are all common ailments.
A salt bath or fridging can be used to treat all of these.
Salt Bath with Axolotls:
Salt baths can treat axolotls with skin infections, and they’re most successful when combined with fridging.
Salt baths will help axolotls with fungal infections. Because the salt kills any illness, allowing axolotls to be nursed back to health in just a few days.
Salt baths should be taken twice a day for 10 minutes each time during infection.
- In a mixing bowl, combine 1-2 liters of dechlorinated water and sea, rock, or aquarium salt. Table salt should be avoided.
- Refrigerate the water you’ll be using for fridging to the same temperature.
- Once the container has cooled, remove it from the refrigerator and shake it.
- Fill your salt bathtub halfway with water and add your axolotl.
- Allow for a maximum of 10-15 minutes.
- Return to the fridging container after removing it from the tub.
- Repeat every 12 hours until the infection is gone, then every 2-3 days for the remaining fungus to be killed.
Axolotls are cold-water creatures. As a result, cooler temperatures can help to decrease disease and infection.
It can also help with impaction:
Undigested food is expelled to prevent spoiling in cold conditions.
To keep an axolotl cool, do the following:
- Make sure your refrigerator is set at 5-8 degrees Celsius.
- Prepare a container of dechlorinated water that is long enough for your axolotl to stretch to its maximum length (not chilled). The container should have an airtight lid and enough room at the top for the axolotl to jump up for fresh air.
- To prevent light disruption, place the infected axolotl in the container and cover it with a cloth.
- Once in the fridge, replace old water with dechlorinated, chilled water daily.
- Refrigerate the axolotl till it recovers.
- Before returning your axolotl, gradually reintroduce it to the tank water.
Axolotls are easy to breed, but there are still things you should do to make sure they can mate.
When axolotls reach sexual maturity, it can be from 5 months to a few years. So when it comes to axolotls, you shouldn’t try to breed them until they’re at least 18 months old.
Female axolotls can make more than 1,000 eggs, which is a lot! The body gives more priority to making eggs than to other things like growing.
But this can be very stressful and hurtful to a young axolotl, so it’s not a good idea to breed them before they’re 18 months old.
Breeding Techniques for Axolotls
Axolotls can be bred at any time of year, though some sources suggest that the best time to do it is from December to June.
Axolotls should breed once a year under ideal settings with plenty of natural light. However, be aware that they are known for reproducing at inconvenient and unpredictable periods.
Here’s what the research shows:
To induce spawning, researchers at the Indiana University Axolotl Colony exposed males and females to shorter durations of daylight. The end result was quite effective.
You can try to recreate these settings, but before you go to all that trouble, keep in mind that any room in your house exposed to seasonal fluctuations (even partial ones) usually provides enough breeding conditions.
Creating A Breeding Tank For Axolotls
To give females a location to attach their eggs, fill your tank with several silk/live plants.
Males will be able to deposit spermatophores if rough pieces of stone/slate are placed at the bottom of your aquarium.
Courtship And Spawning Of Axolotls
Males are the ones who start the spawning process. First, they lay 5 to 25 spermatophores on top of stones and other objects in their environment.
Male axolotls will elevate their tails and make aggressive writhing motions at the female as they lead her around the tank to their already placed spermatophores during a typical breeding session.
After that, she’ll pick them up and fertilize them internally.
She’ll lay her eggs singly atop plant leaves, pebbles, and strewn around the tank between a few hours and two days afterward.
She could spawn 100-1,000 eggs in a single spawning session.
Axolotl Eggs Hatching
Regular eggs will be dark brown, but albino morph eggs will be brilliant white after a few hours.
These eggs will hatch after 2-3 weeks, and axolotl larvae will emerge.
Maintain proper aeration of the eggs with the use of an air pump.
Eggs can take up to 2 weeks before they hatch, but it depends on the temperature. For example, if you keep your eggs at 20 degrees Celsius, eggs should hatch in 14 to 17 days.
Is It Legal To Keep An Axolotl As A Pet?
Like California, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia, some states make it unlawful to own axolotls. They are lawful to possess in New Mexico but illegal to import from other states. Check your local exotic pet laws to ensure you’re allowed to keep one.
Axolotls are a species native to Mexico that is critically endangered owing to habitat loss, diminishing water quality, and urbanization. As a result, they should never be taken from the wild to be sold as pets. The great majority of pet axolotls are descended from captive-bred animals used in scientific studies.