For many years, the Mexican tailed-amphibian (Ambystoma mexicanum), called Axolotl, belonging to the transverse-toothed newts, has had a steadily growing interest in keeping as a pet in the aquarium. Its friendly appearance and the many different colorations make this amphibian an attraction in the own household.
In response to this growing interest, I have created an informational page to provide a wealth of helpful general information about the Axolotls and how to keep them as pets.
Shortcut To Useful Tips
- 1 Description of the Axolotl
- 2 Keeping Axolotls as Pets
- 3 Axolot Tank Size and Setup
- 4 Axolotl Care
- 5 Axolotl Food
- 6 Axolotl Socialization
- 7 Life Span & Health Issues of the Axolotl
- 8 Legal Aspects of Keeping Axolotls as Pets
- 9 Summary
Axolotl – Fact Sheet
|Size||9 -11 inches|
|Life span||1-5 years|
|Food||worms, mosquito larvae, special pellets|
|Acquisition costs||~ 20 $ per animal / Initial equipment: 300-500 $|
|Water:||Nitrite: 0 ppm /, pH 6.5-8.0/ 7-14 GH|
|Features||cylindrical bodies, short legs, long tail, feathery external gills|
At first glance, the Axolotl looks quite strange and unusual. In aquaristics, this Mexican caudate is probably the most exotic inhabitant you can imagine.
Its history and appearance speak for him because this creature spends its entire life in the gill-breathing larval stage underwater, without going through a metamorphosis and going ashore as a newt.
Since their arrival in Paris in 1864, axolotls have captivated the public’s attention, leading to the commencement of a flourishing pet industry in the creatures throughout Europe, particularly due to their ease of captive breeding. Captive-bred axolotl as a pet have also gained popularity in China and Japan.
Read also: Did you know the 10 Most Popular Exotic Pet Species?
Description of the Axolotl
The axolotl is a salamander species and is from the cross-toothed newt family. The Axolotl is found in the wild only in one habitat near Mexico City. This newt does not become an adult throughout its life. Instead, it remains in the dauer larval stage, described as neoteny (juvenile maturity), and reproduces as such.
Axolotls are fascinating and beautiful animals that attract eye-catchers in aquariums and garden ponds. These Mexican salamander is very popular nowadays as a pet
At about one to two years old, the male animal reaches sexual maturity, whereas the female animal is usually already sexually mature after one year.
The axolotl reaches an age of up to 16 years in captivity. Occasionally, however, it has also reached 25 years of age.
Interesting Facts about the Axolotl:
The Neoteny of the Axolotl is due to hypothyroidism. However, this is one of many reasons why this animal interests scientists, mainly because of its ability to renew body parts and internal organs.
In 1805, Alexander von Humboldt brought two specimens from a research trip to Mexico. He wanted to research them. In 1863, French researchers brought the first large group of this new species to Europe to research them.
These research results were sensational and still amaze scientists today. If a limb is lost, it can regenerate completely. The Axolotl is capable of restoring entire organs or parts of the brain. Intensive research is being conducted on these regenerative properties to apply these accumulated findings to human medicine.
The cross-toothed newt owes its permanent larval stage to a congenital thyroid defect, which makes metamorphosis impossible and allows the amphibian to remain in the water as a larva for its entire life.
Where does the Name of Axolotl come from?
The Term “Axolotl” has its origins in the Náhuatl language of the Aztecs – It is a combination of two words: “Atl,” which translates to water, and “Xolotl,” the name of a deity.
In this way – the name “Axolotl” is attributed to the water deity “Xolotl” and the “Element of Water”.
Due to the association of Xolotl with canines, “axolotl” has been interpreted as “water dog” in certain contexts.
Keeping Axolotls as Pets
Axolotls are very exotic aquarium inhabitants. In recent years, Axolotls are becoming increasingly popular as pets among aquarists. Keeping this amphibian is easy, but some rules must be followed.
Caring for Axolotls in Captivity demands maintaining the water temperature, choosing the right filter or bottom substrate, and the proper nutrition of the newt. These are some things to consider for successful keeping.
To feel comfortable in your living room, your Axolotl should recreate its natural habitat as closely as possible.
What do you need for species-appropriate Axolotl keeping:
- For Keeping Axolotls as pets a large aquarium is best!
- Provide relatively cool, oxygen-rich water
- A decent amount live food is the best choice
- Provide sufficient hiding places for axolotls
As permanent larvae, axolotls usually spend their entire life in the water.
Even though axolotls are basically very easy to keep as aquarium inhabitants, appropriate aquaristic equipment is required, and one has to consider some most important prerequisites.
Axolot Tank Size and Setup
The appropriate size of an axolotl tank is dependent on the number of Axolotls you plan to house within it as pets.
For one axolotl, the minimum tank dimensions are 31.5 x 13.8 x 15.7 inches, equivalent to a capacity of 26.4 US gallons. For two to three axolotls, the minimum tank dimensions are 39.4 x 19.7 x 15.7 inches, equivalent to a capacity of 42.3-52.8 US gallons. Each adult axolotl requires an additional 13.2-21.1 US gallons of tank capacity.
As this species prefers to stay at the bottom of the tank, the base area of the tank is the most important consideration for their welfare:
Axolotls often ingest and partially swallow parts of the substrate when feeding. Therefore, suitable substrate for axolotls should preferably not be larger than 3mm in grain diameter and ideally completely free of edges.
It is crucial to choose an appropriate location when housing an axolotl. You also should keep the Tank in a cool place that is shielded from direct sunlight. Under no circumstances should the tank be placed near a heater.
Use river pebbles or fine sand to avoid injuries and obstructions in the digestive tract. Avoid aquarium gravel larger than 3 mm and substrates with iron, zinc or copper.
Colored or plastic-coated substrates are also not recommended. The Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand is the most suitable, with a spherical structure, a grain size of 1-3 mm, and mostly calcium.
Caribsea Super Naturals Substrate comes in various colors, allowing you to personalize your Axolotl aquarium. Axolotls remain in their larval stage and never mature into adults.
When setting up an Axolotl aquarium, it is crucial to provide enough hiding places to ensure the creatures feel secure. Suitable hiding places can include clay pots, tubes, and caves. There should be at least one hiding place per animal to allow them to retreat when necessary.
As amphibians, axolotls enjoy shaded areas, so it is recommended to incorporate lush vegetation into the aquarium. Besides enhancing the appearance of the tank, densely planted areas and floating plants serve as additional sources of shade and are greatly appreciated by axolotls.
Furthermore, live plants can provide an additional benefit by aiding in the maintenance of water quality by absorbing excess nutrients and waste.
It’s important to choose plants that are compatible with axolotl habitat requirements and are not toxic to them. Providing a balanced environment that caters to the physical and psychological needs of axolotls is vital for their health and wellbeing.
When keeping Axolotls in captivity, it is crucial to maintain a constant cool water temperature of 57-64 degrees Fahrenheit to promote the health of your aquarium inhabitant.
A temperature above 72 degrees Fahrenheit for several days can cause an increased metabolism, stress, and a higher susceptibility to disease.
If you are unable to maintain cool temperatures in the aquarium, cooling can be achieved with a cooling unit or a specialized cooling fan. The use of an accurate thermometer is vital for measuring and controlling the temperature values.
In Axolotl care, the water must be not only cool but also clean and well-oxygenated. A robust filter with a secured inlet is necessary to achieve this. Selecting an appropriately sized filter is crucial as Axolotls are sensitive to bacteria.
The filter should not create a strong current, especially at the bottom, as the creatures require a firm hold on the substrate for their wellbeing. A water pump can also help to ensure sufficient oxygen content in the water.
Since the Axolotl is crepuscular and nocturnal, lighting is not a necessary requirement. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that most aquarium plants require a certain amount of UV light to thrive. Depending on the plant life, choose the lighting duration. Hornwort, Java moss, and Vallisneria are popular plants in Axolotl aquariums as they can tolerate cooler water temperatures.
Axolotl – Water Values:
Maintaining the water temperature and water values, such as pH, nitrite, and total hardness, is essential in keeping Axolotls.
To replicate the natural environment of the Axolotl, the following water values should be maintained in the tank:
- The pH should range from 6.0-8.0, with 7.0-7.5 being optimal. Softer water may lead to color changes in the animal. Harder pH can be achieved by adding potassium, calcium, and sodium.
- Nitrite levels should not exceed 0.5 mg/L, while nitrate levels up to 25 mg/L are acceptable but should not surpass 40 mg/L.
- Ammonia levels should not exceed 0.2 mg/L. The total water hardness should range between 7 -14° (125.3-250.6 ppm). Carbonate hardness (KH): 3-8° (53.7-143.2 ppm)
- Copper levels must not exceed 0.5 ppm (be cautious with old copper pipes).
Regularly testing your water values with reliable tests from stores is crucial in ensuring the health of your Axolotls.
Keeping axolotls as pets requires careful attention to tank size and setup, substrate selection, plant life, aquarium technology, and water values.
Providing an environment that caters to the physical and psychological needs of these obligate pedomorphic amphibians is vital for their health and wellbeing.
The Axolotl reacts sensitively to a high germ load in the water. Therefore, you should perform a partial water change of at least 25% weekly to avoid diseases.
The water for your aquarium should be adequately tempered and stagnant. After the water change, please do not use any water conditioners available in stores. It is also advisable to vacuum the substrate regularly.
The most helpful tool for reducing water pollution is, of course, the filter. This should be checked daily for functionality and cleaned at regular intervals.
Live food represents the Axolotl food in the natural environment. It is pleasing for the caudate if the keeper also resorts to it. For example, earthworms, red mosquito larvae and small insects can be on the menu.
Earthworms are an inexpensive way to feed your Axolotl. You can dig up the worms yourself in the garden or get them in an angler’s store. Mosquito larvae can also be bought frozen in pet stores. For adult animals, you need a large amount of them. Moths, crickets and isopods are an excellent addition to the diet of your caudate.
Alternatively, you can also use so-called pellets, which are available in stores, especially for the Axolotl. It is essential to pay close attention to the ingredients. The Axolotl is a pure carnivore; vegetable parts have nothing to look for in the pellets in large quantities because they can not be completely digested.
Axolotl – Feeding Interval
The feeding interval depends on the age and size of your Axolotl:
|Axolotl Pet Size||Feeding Interval|
|up to a length of 4.7 inches||daily|
|a length of 4.7-6.3 inches||every two days|
|a length up to 7 inches||every three to four days|
|a length of 7 inches or more||once or twice a week|
Axolotl Feeding Time
The Mexican caudate tends to get fat, so you should keep an eye on the stature and extend the time between meals if necessary.
The feeding time should be in the evening to accommodate the natural life rhythm of the Axolotl.
You can keep the Mexican caudate alone in an aquarium because it is not very social. The Axolotl socialization with conspecifics, i.e., a pair or group keeping, is just as possible.
However, if there is a food shortage, the amphibians may scuffle – but this problem can be easily avoided. If you keep several axolotls in one aquarium, you should ensure that all animals have approximately the same body size.
Keeping Axolotls with Other Fish:
Keeping Axolotls with fish or other aquarium inhabitants as pets is not recommended, as all animals, even conspecifics, are considered food.
Also, fish or crustaceans can injure the sensitive external gills of the amphibian. Your aquarium should therefore be a pure Axolotl home.
Life Span & Health Issues of the Axolotl
The Axolotl is a hardy animal that generally has a long lifespan. An Axolotl can live for up to 10-15 years, and some Axolotls kept in Aquariums have even been known to live for up to 25 years.
Axolotls are generally healthy animals, but proper care is essential to keep them that way. Here you will find some important considerations regarding the health of Axolotls:
- Axolotls can be sensitive to changes in water quality and temperature, so it is essential to maintain consistent and appropriate conditions in the tank.
- The most common health issue in Axolotls is fungal infections, which can be caused by poor water quality, low temperatures, or injuries to the skin.
- Poor nutrition can also lead to health problems in Axolotls. Inadequate food or a lack of variety in the diet can cause malnutrition and weakness.
- Another health issue that Axolotls may face is impaction, which occurs when they ingest substrate or other objects that cause blockages in the digestive system.
- Parasites such as anchor worms and fish lice can also infect Axolotls, causing irritation and potential health problems.
To ensure the health and longevity of your Axolotl, it is crucial to maintain consistent water quality, provide a varied and balanced diet, and monitor for any signs of illness or injury.
Legal Aspects of Keeping Axolotls as Pets
Unfortunately, the native waters, Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco, are heavily polluted by the Mexico City metropolitan area, and the axolotl is thus acutely threatened with extinction.
Furthermore, in two other lakes, the Axolotl Population has already disappeared. Therefore, the axolotl is under species protection.
Axolotls are legal to own as Pets in most of the “US States” but illegal in a few: For example, it is illegal for you to own in California, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia.
In New Mexico, it is legal to purchase an Axolot as a Pet but illegal to import from other states. Therefore, it is essential to check your local exotic pet laws to verify whether you can legally keep an Axolotl as a pet.
Keeping Axolotls in a species-appropriate manner as pets is a comparatively low-maintenance affair, even for beginners in the world of aquarists, if one has dealt with the required keeping conditions, such as water temperature and values and is willing to implement them.
Furthermore, these remarkable animals look exotic and have their very own character. The owner gets a lot of pleasure from observing this animal, which has sprung from prehistoric times.
If the Axolotl is not the right pet for you, please look at our other articles on this page. You may be interested in keeping Datnioines because these animals also have their unique character, and the fun of watching them is excellent.