Axolotls are popular exotic pets amongst aquarium owners. Unlike other salamanders, they spend their entire life in the water.
They’re small in size, come in a wide variety of colors, and retain their larval traits throughout their lives.
Axolotls look so unique that aquarists around the world love them.
Let’s learn about these exotic pets in more detail.
Axolotl Species Overview
Axolotls are also known as Mexican walking fish, but they’re amphibians and not fish.
Axolotls are freshwater species since they come from Mexico’s freshwater mountain lakes.
Axolotls are no longer found in their original habitat. They now live in three different locations in the southern part of Mexico City.
These include the canals at Xochimilco, Lake Chalco, and Lake Chapultepec.
Axolotls are relatively inactive and prefer to stay at the bottom of their tanks or take shelter in reed structures or rock formations.
This typical behavior gives them the nickname the “walking fish.”
Axolotls are neotenic salamanders, which means adults have characteristics usually found in babies of other species.
Most amphibians lose their gills as they grow older.
However, axolotls live their entire adult life underwater retaining their gills and using them for breathing.
In the wild, axolotls are most commonly brown or black with specks of gold or olive.
Like other salamanders, they can also adjust their color to better camouflage with their surroundings.
Axolotls have small eyes with a cylindrical-shaped body. They also have a long tail, equivalent to the head and the body combined.
Names of Species
The Mexican axolotl doesn’t have any subspecies.
However, the variety in axolotl colors makes it difficult to believe that they’re one species.
There are over 20 different colored axolotls bred as pets.
Given below is the list of axolotls classified based on their body coloration.
- Black Melanoid,
- Golden Albino,
- Green Fluorescent Protein,
- Heavily-Marked Melanoid,
- Speckled Leucistic,
- White Albino, and
Axolotls in captivity typically outlive axolotls living in the wild.
It’s primarily due to the threats faced by axolotls in the wild, like predators, loss of natural habitat, and illness.
The lifespan of axolotls in the wild is between 5 to 10 years compared to 10 to 15 years in captivity.
However, you must also note that captive life isn’t always easy.
Like most exotic pets, axolotls frequently receive substandard care from their owners.
The main reason for this is the lack of knowledge in handling these exotic pets.
Most axolotl owners fail to provide satisfactory conditions that can keep the axolotls stress-free and happy.
By providing a well-balanced diet and healthy environment, you can improve their overall health and increase their lifespan up to 20 years in captivity.
Axolotls can vary from six to eighteen inches but usually have an average size between seven and nine inches long.
However, axolotls can grow much larger than the normal average, depending on where they live.
They usually reach their full adult size after 18 to 24 months following hatching.
Females tend to be slightly heavier but are usually shorter in size than males.
Males have a larger vent than females and deeper vertical grooves along their bodies.
Axolotls grow slowly and gain the most weight during their first two years of life.
They continue to grow for their whole life but at a much slower pace.
Axolotl Tank Setup
Axolotls have permeable skin, making them far more sensitive to environmental changes than other creatures.
So it’s necessary to provide them with an environment that mimics their natural habitat.
Let’s understand how to set up an axolotl tank.
Axolotl tank size must be at least 10 gallons.
However, it’s recommended to use a larger tank between 20 to 30 gallons, depending on the space available in your house.
Unlike fish, axolotls produce a lot of waste.
As a result, the possibility of ammonia build-up increases in a smaller 10-gallon tank.
So you will have to change the water daily to ensure water parameters stay stable.
In contrast, ammonia and nitrate levels will remain low in a large 20 to 30-gallon tank.
These tanks will also provide more space for the axolotl to move around the tank.
Tank Equipment And Decorations
Axolotls need tanks that have more horizontal space. Therefore, a long fish tank is better than a taller one.
A well-maintained aquarium with dense vegetation, rocks, and caves will provide axolotls with the required hiding spots throughout the tank.
Axolotls prefer cold water conditions. So their tanks shouldn’t be kept in direct sunlight.
Also, water cooling systems can maintain a constant temperature when ambient temperatures are too high.
Sand substrate is the most suitable option for keeping axolotls.
The sand particles are tiny and don’t cause any serious problems if ingested by the axolotl.
Given below are the items required in an axolotl tank:
- Fine sand as substrate,
- Live plants,
- Water Conditioner,
- Dim Lights, and
- Decorations like artificial rocks, caves, terracotta pots, etc.
Axolotls can get stressed easily.
So it’s essential to create a habitat that replicates their natural environment and makes them feel happy and relaxed.
Axolotls are sensitive to changes in their environment. So it’s vital to maintain stable conditions.
Besides, they perceive tankmates as a meal and will devour anything within their reach.
So you need to give them a proper and adequate diet.
Axolotls are carnivores and will typically eat worms, crustaceans, small fish, mollusks, insects, and insect larvae in the wild.
They use their mouth to create suction to draw the prey into their mouth.
Axolotls aren’t picky eaters and are usually fed a diet consisting of blackworms, bloodworms, white worms, salmon pellets, and daphnia to ensure they get enough nutrition.
Given below are some of the live food that you must feed your axolotl:
- Brine Shrimp,
- Mysis Shrimp,
- Red Wigglers, etc.
After feeding your axolotl, remove the leftover to maintain suitable water quality.
Axolotls have specific water requirements to stay healthy and thrive.
Failure to maintain adequate water quality is risky to the health and longevity of axolotls.
Water temperature, pH level, and water hardness are critical parameters.
The ideal water parameters to keep axolotls healthy are:
|Water Temperature||60°F to 64°F (16°C to 18°C)|
|Water pH||7.4 to 7.6|
|Water Hardness (dGH)||7 to 14|
Axolotls are sensitive to changes in water quality. At the same time, they produce a lot of waste compared to fish.
This significantly increases the toxin levels of the aquarium water.
Axolotl waste is like a fine powder, which floats and mixes well with the tank water.
This waste dust can spike the ammonia level of the tank water more than in a standard fish tank.
Axolotls also grow much larger than most aquarium fish.
So it’s recommended to replace the aquarium water at least once per week to maintain adequate water quality.
You can easily maintain the required water quality of your axolotl tank with periodic maintenance.
However, it’s essential to test the pH level after every water change.
Axolotls are susceptible to stress and diseases.
In many cases, they fall sick due to stress resulting from poor water conditions and unsuitable tankmates.
The lack of knowledge in pet owners is the prime cause of health issues for axolotls.
Some of the significant axolotl diseases are:
- New Tank Syndrome,
- Old Tank Syndrome,
- Gastric Foreign Body,
- Bacteria / Parasites,
- Neoplasia, and
To prevent these diseases, ensure that the water parameters remain stable.
You should also select tankmates that can cohabitate peacefully with axolotls. In case of doubt, it’s best to keep them alone.
Axolotl Behavior And Temperament
Axolotls are docile, slow-moving bottom-dwellers that spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank.
They live a sedentary lifestyle and are primarily active at night.
Axolotls aren’t social and usually live alone. Axolotl nipping each other is common among young axolotls.
However, keeping adults and young ones together isn’t recommended as adults can devour the young ones.
Males and females will seek out each other to mate during the mating season. Otherwise, they don’t interact with each other.
Axolotls are exotic species that can live alone in a tank.
There aren’t many fish that you can keep in the same tank with an axolotl without creating a problem for your pet.
So it’s essential to choose docile, peaceful tankmates that don’t stress the axolotls.
Some of the popular tankmates for axolotls are:
- White Cloud Mountain Minnows,
- Zebra Danios,
- Apple Snails, and
Axolotls aren’t compatible with most fish species. They need cold water conditions, so you can’t keep tropical fish with axolotls.
Here’s a list of some bottom-dwelling fish that you should avoid keeping with axolotls as they will intrude in their territory, causing stress and aggression:
- Black-lined loach,
- Horseface loach,
- Kansu loach,
- Moose-faced loach,
- Panda loach,
- Peacock loach,
- Ring loach, and
- Zebra Loach.
Axolotls do best when kept alone because they can then live a stress-free life. This improves their chances of survival.
Axolotls usually reach reproduction maturity between 6 months to a year.
Females often take longer to mature than males. But it’s not recommended to breed them at an early age.
To facilitate breeding, you must keep live plants so that female axolotls can attach their eggs to them.
Male axolotls should also be provided with rough pieces of stone or slate to deposit their spermatophores.
Males usually start spawning by depositing around 5 to 25 spermatophores on rocks and other surfaces inside the tank.
They typically raise their tails during mating sessions, making vigorous writhing movements at the female as they lead her around the tank toward their spermatophores.
Female axolotls lay between 100 and 1000 eggs during spawning.
They will lay their eggs individually on plant leaves and rocks or randomly scatter them around the aquarium.
Depending on the temperature, the eggs hatch after two to three weeks.
Like fish fry, feed them small live foods like daphina and brine shrimp in their early days.