Whether you are an aquarist or not, I am sure you’ll agree with me on this: An Axolotl is one of the most unique yet adorable pets ever. They are unbelievably cute and charismatic, with an almost magical ability to regenerate their body parts.
Yes, Axolotl makes great pets, but they require intensive commitment. Caring for them is complex and demands much maintenance – you’ll need to provide the perfect environment regarding temperature, husbandry requirements, and water quality for them to survive.
If you are among the beginner pet owners who want to keep adult or baby Axolotls, this post is for you. In it, you’ll learn everything about Axolotls, including what they are, what they look like, and how to take care of them.
Let’s dive right in!
What is an Axolotl?
Also known as a Mexican walking fish, an axolotl is a type of salamander found in various colors, including gray, black, white, and gold. These creatures also have a condition known as ‘neoteny’ that makes them carry most of their larval form into adulthood.
These neotenic salamanders originate from several freshwater lakes, including Lake Chalcon and Kale Xochimilco – both in Mexico City.
Axolotls are aquatic creatures who have been on top of the food chain for years, but invasive species like tilapia and perch threaten them today. The adult Axolotls feed on insects, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and other fish species, meaning they are carnivores.
Unlike many other amphibians, Axolotls spend their entire lives in water. These unique creatures can live for up to 10-15 years and grow up to 15-25 centimeters long if well cared for or in their natural habitat.
And despite their popularity, the Axolotls are critically endangered species and could go extinct soon. And this makes it imperative to take good care of the remaining few creatures, so we can live to enjoy their presence.
What does Axolotl look like?
People worldwide seek after the Axolotls for their unique looks. These creatures’ shape looks like a cross breed of tadpole and fully-formed salamander.
They have a long thin body, four legs, and a tail that’s effective for swimming. Also, adult Axolotls have wide heads and tiny black eyes that differ from other salamanders because they don’t have eyelids.
Male Axolotls can be identified using their swollen cloacae lined with papillae, while female Axolotls have wider bodies.
Axolotls’ gills are found in the crown-like appendages branching out from their heads. You can find the creatures in varying colors, including shades of gray, green, and brown.
And as mentioned, the Axolotl’s size range from 10 to 12 inches when fully grown. They get much larger in their natural habitat or in the wild than in captivity.
How do I take care of an Axolotl?
Here comes one of the most important questions regarding Axolotl: how do I take care of them? Taking care of these beautiful and adorable creatures is easy – all you need is to get the right aquatic environment for their survival.
Here are the conditions that make up the perfect environment for Axolotl survival and reproduction:
Axolotl tank requirement and setup
You should meet the recommended tank size and requirements for your Axolotls’ survival.
The first thing should be to pick the right tank for your Axolotl. The recommended tank size is at least 10 gallons, but it’s much easier to manage them in a 20-gallon tank. So, pick a larger tank if you have the room.
Axolotls produce a lot of waste, meaning a larger tank will help maintain the ideal water parameters. You should emphasize the floor space over the tank’s height.
Yes, Axolotls can stay healthy in smaller 10-gallon tanks, but you should change the water regularly to keep them healthy. A 20 or 30-gallon tank means that nitrate ammonia levels won’t get out of control quickly.
When choosing a substrate, you have two options: a bare bottom or sand. The bare bottom makes cleaning and maintenance easy but is stressful to your Axolotl pet if it can’t grip the surface.
Avoid gravel substrate at all costs. Since Axolotls eat by sucking water into their mouth, gravel could get ingested by mistake and lead to serious gut issues, including impaction.
Fine sand is the best and safest substrate for Axolotl pets; sand particles are very small and will not lead to any health issues if ingested. Plus, Axolotls love to dig and play in the sand, which may help improve their well-being and reduce stress levels.
You can add live plants to your tank to give your pet a more home-like feeling and decorate it. The recommended plants include Anubis, java moss, and horword – they are beautiful and have plenty of hiding spots.
Axolotls have no specific lighting requirements but will become stressed if the light is too much, so avoid direct sunlight. A plant-friendly LED light should suffice – you can control the brightness and keep your plants healthy.
As aforementioned, Axolotls produce a lot of waste, so you’ll need a strong filter for it. However, ensure the filter doesn’t create a strong or pressurized water flow. A spray bar or plants around the outflow can help minimize the water pressure.
You can watch this video for inspiration on setting up your Axolotl tank. It shows how people set up their tanks.
Among the most important part of Axolotl care is maintaining the ideal water conditions. It’s critical for their well-being, health, and longevity.
Axolotls’ skin is permeable, making them far more sensitive to extreme changes in water conditions. If you can’t maintain these water conditions, your lovely pets will become susceptible to health issues.
The good news is that achieving the ideal water parameters is relatively easy. You only need to replicate the parameters in their natural habitat as closely as possible.
Here are the water parameters you should maintain:
- The temperature should range from 60 to 70 degrees F (15-23 degrees C)
- The pH should range between 6.5 and 8.0
- Chloramines and chlorine should be 0ppm
- Nitrite should be 0 ppm
- Nitrate range 0-10 ppm
- Ammonia should be 0 ppm
- Carbonated Hardness should range between 3 and 8 KH
- General Hardness should range from 7 to 14 GH
Experts recommend that you perform regular water tests to meet the core parameters. This keeps you informed of the current tank’s state and allows you to make the right adjustments.
Axolotl tank maintenance
You need a few things to ensure that the Axolotl tank is well maintained and that the water parameters are as recommended, including:
- Water testing kits
- Gravel vacuum
- Algae scraper
- Water conditioner
You should clean the Axolotl tank once a week, then perform a 20-30% water change. Check your water parameters, scrape off the unwanted algae, and vacuum the substrate to remove debris or leftover food.
Axolotls’ food and diet
You need to know four things regarding Axolotls’ diet: what the pets eat, how much to feed them, how often to feed them, and how long they can stay without eating.
Axolotls are carnivores and will feed on fish, snails, and other amphibians. As a pet, you can feed your Axolotls various foods, including:
- Axolotl pellets
- White worms
- Repashy Grub Pies
- Frozen brine shrimp
You should avoid foods like mice or feeder fish. While your pet will warmly accept these snacks, they could introduce unwanted parasites into the tank, pausing health risks to your Axolotl.
Remember: Always remember to remove the uneaten food from the Axolotl tank. Failure to do so can lead to health problems for your pet.
Experts recommend keeping the adult and young Axolotls alone in the tank. This means that you shouldn’t place them with other Axolotls or fish.
Some pet owners have successfully kept Axolotls with tank mates – mostly other Axolotls. However, if you do this, you must keep an eye on their behavior; they have cannibalistic behavior and often fight with one another.
And although the Axolotls can regenerate their limbs after an injury, you should avoid the problem altogether. Unlike many social animals, Axolotls are solitary creatures and will survive well on their own.
You should take your Axolotl to an experienced veterinarian to perform a health check after buying it. From then on, regular examinations should be performed – at least once or twice yearly.
During the health checks, the vet aims to do several things, including:
- Conducting a thorough physical examination
- Weight check
- Dietary assessment
- Discussion of husbandry
- Planning and discussing further assessments
Axolotls lifespan and health problems
If you offer optimal care to your Axolotl, it can live for up to 15 years. Keep checking your pet’s health status and address any health issues to help keep them alive for long.
Here are a few signs of a healthy Axolotl:
- Gills back
- Round belly with the same size as the head
- Fluffy gills
- No skin damage
However, your Axolotl can sustain several injuries and diseases, including stress, impaction, fungal infections, etc.
Here is a brief description of these health concerns:
Axolotls suffer stress for various reasons, including foul water, high temperatures, strong water flow, and aggressive tank mates. You may know that your pet is stressed if they lose their appetite or fail to eat normally.
Yes, Axolotls can regenerate damaged tissues, but you should watch out for infections. Exposed wounds can become infected quickly and could kill your lovely pet. So, monitor the water parameters when your Axolotl is injured.
This is a condition in Axolotls that results from a dysfunctional digestive system. Symptoms of this condition include bloating, low waste production, and lost appetite.
Impaction is often caused by ingesting small stones or gravel, so you should use a sand-based substrate. Axolotl fridging can help your pet recover faster in case of impaction.
Heat-stressed Axolotls can develop dangerous fungal and bacterial infections. For instance, your pet can develop red leg bacteria, Columanris, and Saprolegnia if left wounded in a tank with poor water quality.
These illnesses can be treated using a salt bath or by fridging.
If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind aquatic animal to keep as a pet, look no further than the smiling Axolotl. Also known as the Mexican salamander, the creature resembles a legged small fish and has unique characteristics, including fancy colors.
This post provides you with the best ways to care for your Axolotl.