Are Axolotls Fish? [5 Main Reasons Why They Aren’t Fish]

Image of an axolotl in a tank

Axolotls aren’t fish; they’re fully aquatic salamanders. Axolotls are amphibians that don’t undergo metamorphosis. Instead, they continue to stay in their juvenile form and live in water for their entire lives. Despite having lungs, axolotls continue to breathe oxygen through their gills and skins.

Let’s now understand why axolotls aren’t considered fish in more detail.

5 Reasons Why Axolotls Aren’t Fish

Like fish, axolotls are vertebrates, cold-blooded, and hatch from eggs.

However, they aren’t fish because of the unique characteristics that make them different from fish.

Given below are a few characteristics due to which axolotls can’t be considered fish.

1. Ability To Live On Land

Axolotls are vertebrates that live in their juvenile form their entire lives.

However, their ability to morph into salamanders makes them different from fish.

Although it’s rare, there have been instances when axolotls have transformed into salamanders.

As a result, like all adult amphibians, they can live in water and land.

2. Absence Of Scales

Fish have scales, small rigid parts that grow out of their skin. Axolotls don’t have scales on their bodies like amphibians.

Instead, axolotls have a slimy coating that keeps their skin moist and is used for respiration.

It’s known as cutaneous respiration, which allows axolotls to breathe oxygen through their skin.

3. Modes Of Respiration

Fish breathe by taking water through their mouth and forcing it out through the gill passage.

The dissolved oxygen gets into the blood and travels to the fish cells.

In contrast, like amphibians, axolotls breathe through their skin, also called “cutaneous respiration” and buccal pumping with the help of the lungs.

Axolotls also remain juveniles and retain gills for respiration.

4. Life Cycle And Metamorphosis

The life cycle of a fish starts in an egg that hatches into a larva.

It continues to develop into fry, grows into a juvenile fish, and finally becomes an adult fish.

However, during the length of its development or progression, it continues to remain in the water.

After becoming an adult, the fish starts to reproduce and continue to live in the aquatic environment.

An axolotl also hatches from an egg and enters the larval stage.

It progresses into a juvenile stage and ceases there to remain in this stage for the rest of its life.

However, there are instances when an axolotl has moved from the juvenile stage and morphed into a salamander.

When this happens, it leaves the aquatic life and moves on to the land.

However, salamanders mostly live in or near the water body.

5. Presence Of Limbs

Axolotl with limbs

Axolotls have limbs for locomotion. If they lose a limb, the appendage grows back to the correct size and orientation.

Within weeks the seam between the old and new disappears.

In contrast, fish don’t have any limbs. Most fish swim by moving their bodies and fins.

Fish mainly use the fins to balance themselves.

However, the tail fin is primarily used to propel the fish through the water, helping it swim faster.

Risks Of Keeping Axolotls With Fish

Axolotls can cohabitate with freshwater creatures, but it will not be a smooth co-existence.

Moreover, there will be challenges and risks involved. So, it’s better to evaluate if it’s worth taking the risk.

Given below are some of the risks of keeping axolotls with fish.

1. Bites And Infections

Fish can bully axolotls by nipping their fins and gills.

Although axolotl can regenerate their body parts, the fungal infections caused by injuries can allow parasites inside the water, which can be fatal for axolotls.

2. Parasites

Many axolotl owners use live fish as feeder fish for their pet axolotl. Live fish can introduce harmful parasites in the tank.

These harmful parasites can stress the axolotl and eventually make it weak and ill.

So it’s necessary to quarantine the fish before adding them into the axolotl tank.

3. Choking Or Congestion

Axolotls can swallow bigger prey, which can lead to choking.

Eating prey with sharp exoskeletons can also damage the gut and prove fatal to the axolotls.

4. Stress

Axolotls prefer stagnant water and calm conditions inside the tank.

Rapid movements inside the water and direct competition for food will stress the axolotls and prove fatal.

So it’s best to keep an axolotl without any companion to reduce the risk of infections, maintain water quality, and improve its overall health and longevity.

Can You Keep Axolotls With Other Fish?

Axolotl can live with freshwater fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates.

However, either the axolotl will devour the small fish or choke while trying to swallow a big fish.

So there are risks in keeping fish and axolotls together.

Given below are a few fish that you can safely keep with axolotls as tankmates:

  1. Axolotls,
  2. White Cloud Mountain Minnows,
  3. Guppies,
  4. Zebra Danios,
  5. Apple Snails, and
  6. Shrimp.

Fish That You Can’t Keep With Axolotls

Many fish species aren’t suitable tankmates for axolotls.

Axolotls prefer cold water conditions, and fish that prefer warm water can’t be kept with axolotls.

Given below is a list of a few bottom-dwelling fish that will intrude into axolotl’s territory resulting in stress and aggressive behavior:

  • Badis,
  • Black-lined loach,
  • Horseface loach,
  • Kansu loach,
  • Moose-faced loach,
  • Panda loach,
  • Peacock loach,
  • Ring loach, and
  • Zebra Loach.

And below is the list of aggressive fish that can easily stress the slow-moving axolotls:

  • Florida flagfish,
  • Mekong tiger perch,
  • New Guinea tiger perch,
  • Round-tailed paradise fish, and
  • Sharphead eartheater.

We haven’t listed all unsuitable fish for an axolotl tank as the list is very long.

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