Axolotls are among the most adorably alien-looking pets around. They have become pop culture icons in recent years through memes and, most recently, the Minecraft video game. As a result, interest in them has increased exponentially. However, their care is extremely demanding and specific and any potential owners must be ready to meet their needs.
Although they are sometimes called “walking fish”, these little creatures are actually a fully aquatic species of salamander. In fact, all baby salamanders are often called “axolotls” in the same way that young dogs are called “puppies” but the true “pet” Axolotl is the Mexican Axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum. The natural Axolotl is dark brown but captive-breeding has led to other varieties like albino, leucistic, black or piebald variants. In addition to the pet trade, Axolotls are important research subject. They have the ability to regenerate lost limbs and organs, and have also been used to research genetic traits and neurobiology.
This species is native to two lakes near Mexico City - Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco - but due to habitat loss, pollution, over-collection and other factors, it is one of the most endangered amphibians in the world. It is though that more Axolotls exist as pets than in the wild.
Axolotls are fully aquatic and live in deep lakes with heavy vegetation and a muddy bottom.
Up to 15 years
Axolotls can typically be kept in groups in a sufficiently-sized aquarium but all of the Axolotls must be very close the same size. With significant size differences, smaller individuals may be attacked by larger animals, resulting in damage to limbs and gills. While they can regenerate these, constant and severe damage will result in death.
Setting up the Habitat
A single Axolotl should not be kept in a tank smaller than 20 gallons. By adulthood, a fully-grown Axolotl should be in at least a 40 gallon tank. For more than one individual, keep in 55-gallons or larger.
Decor for an Axolotl habitat can be fairly simple; a bare-bottom tank with simple decorations like smooth pipes or caves is sufficient. However, Axolotls can be kept in planted tanks and with fine gravel or sand. Any plants must be well-rooted or floating since Axolotls may disturb weaker-rooted plants. Avoid keeping with rocks or gravel that the Axolotl may swallow.
Salamanders like Axolotls absorb oxygen thought their gills and skin so maintaining water quality is essential. They will thrive best in soft water with a neutral to slightly basic pH (7.0-7.6). Since they are messy eaters, be sure to remove waste and monitor toxic Ammonia and Nitrite levels. Always use dechlorinated water.
Axolotls are not strong swimmers and come from fairly still environments so filtration should not have a strong water flow, but must be enough to remove waste. Canister filters are a good choice for their versatility and flow options.
Light and Heat
Lighting is fairly unimportant. Salamanders like these don’t need UVB light like reptiles, and dim or diffused light will best replicate their natural environment. LED lights are a good choice since they won’t add heat to the water.
Proper temperature is one of the most difficult and important parameters to meet. They must have cool water - about 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit - and a chiller is essential in most tank. They cannot be kept in warmer waters or tropical tanks.
Axolotls should be kept alone or in species-only tanks. Very few animals can live in the cold water they require, and other animals may nip at their delicate gills and limbs. They can be kept in pairs or small groups only in larger tanks - 55 gallons for a pair or trio is a good start - and all Axolotls should be the same size.
Avoid handling whenever possible. To transport your Axolotl, guide it into a clean, smooth container and move it in the water. They have very delicate skin, limb and gills that can be damaged by skin or net contact.
Axolotls are primarily bottom-feeding carnivores. They should be provided with a varied diet of meaty foods like earthworms, blackworms, frozen or freeze-dried clams, mussels or shrimp, and supplemented high-quality pellets. Target-feed if possible to minimize excess and waste and remove any uneaten food to avoid poor water quality. Some Axolotls may not recognize dead food items so having feeding tongs handy to be able to move the worm or other items around underwater may help “train” the Axolotl to recognize it as food. Though feeder fish can be used, it is generally not recommended and is far riskier due to the risk of parasites and other disease in the fish.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Check daily for abrasions and other injuries, as their skin is delicate and infection can set in quickly. Other daily tasks include checking the water temperature and filter, feeding, removing uneaten food, and cleaning the filter or performing a water change if necessary.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Fish Room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.