How To Raise The Axolotl, The Bizarre Mexican Walking Fish

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Have you heard of the mysterious axolotl? No? You might want to consider raising one of these unique creatures in your paludarium or aquarium. These aren’t common species to raise, but they’re definitely unique!

That being said, axolotls do require some work. They require very specific attention and you need to know what you are doing in order to raise one of these amphibians.

We’ve got you covered – here’s everything you need to know in order to raise an axolotl.

Axolotl

Axolotl Background

Axolotl 1
Photo by Php Denken

Axolotls, also known scientifically as Ambystoma mexicanum, are large salamanders that are native to the lakes Xochimilco and Chalco in Mexico City, Mexico. These salamanders spend their entire lives in the water and never live on land. While they are relatively easy to care for, as long as you have good temperature and adequate water flow, they need specific settings that don’t match those that are typical of amphibians and reptiles.

These creatures are also known as Mexican walking fish. They are commonly considered endangered species because the canals that lead to the lake where they are found are being rapidly depleted. Today, this rare species is bred frequently in captivity, meaning you can find it easily online. Plus, these creatures are a popular research subject because they can regenerate their entire limbs.

That being said, these hardy species breed easily in captivity. They are unusual to have on display in your home, making them a great choice for someone who wants to raise a show stopping species. In addition, these creatures are interactive, tame, and bold, making them fun to interact with.

You can purchase an axolotl from a private breeder on the internet. They aren’t usually found at reptile shows or aquarium stores because they are not compatible with the typical conditions in which you would raise a reptile or amphibian. You might be able to special order one, but generally, it’s best to purchase a healthy axolotl from an established breeder online.

Axolotl Appearance And Behavior

Axolotl 2
Photo by Nyaeru

Axolotls can grow quite large, with many reaching over 10 inches in length when measured from the end of the tail to the end of the nose. While some will surpass 12 inches, this is rare. In the wild, they can grow to 17 inches or more in length, but this is exceedingly rare and virtually impossible to see in a captive aquarium.

These creatures reach sexual maturity when they are about eight inches long. This usually only takes about six months of growth, but sometimes can take up to a year.

Axolotls are unique in that they have no true bones in herbodies. This is especially true when they are young, when much of their skeleton is composed of cartilage. These delicate,and soft-bodied amphibians have permeable skin,s o you should avoid handling them whenever possible. Not only are they exceedingly difficult to catch in a net, but they can easily become damaged by your hands. The mesh of nets can also damage an axolotl’s fingers or skin, so you should only use a soft, fine-mesh net.

Axolotls are a type of salamander, but are unlike salamanders in that they do not regularly undergo metamorphosis to put them into an adult form – instead, they remain in an aquatic environment for their entire life. You can find them in a variety of colors, including albino, golden, grey, black, and even white with black eyes. The black axolotl is the most commonly found species of axolotl in the wild.

These creatures are hardy and tame, and are often thought of as display pets because it is difficult – nearly impossible – to interact with these pets outside of the tank. They are delicate and soft bodied and are not particular social creatures.

Axolotl Tank Requirements

Axolotl 3
Photo by Mei-Li M

You should keep your axolotl in a tank that is about 10 gallons. A reptile aquarium will work just fine. While ten gallons is the minimum size recommended, tanks that are 20 gallons or more are a safer bet because these creatures like a bit of space – they produce quite a bit of messy waste.

You can keep an axolotl in an auburn, as mentioned, or you can raise it in a paludarium. Keep in mind that any of the terrestrial space in a paludarium will go unused, as these creatures spend their entire lives underwater.

If you decide to use an aquarium, fill it to the depth of your choice – remember that it will be easier to maintain appropriate water meters when the aquarium is filled almost all the way to the top, just as it would be with other aquarium fish. You might want to also invest in an aquarium hood or lid, as axolotls can not only crawl but can also jump out of their environments

Make sure you invest n a good, high-quality filter, too. This will help make sure your tank is filtered so that all toxins are removed for your axolotls. An external canister filter will likely work best, but you will need to make sure the water outlet is fitted with a spray bar Because axolotls cannot handle distinct water flow, they need to have this limited.

In fact, axolotls who are exposed to too much water flow will begin to exhibit serious problems. They might stop eating and develop diseases that are related to this stress. You might even notice that their gills begin to curl forward.

Despite this, axolotls do not require much in the way of lighting, like most amphibians. If you have your tank too brightly lit, your axolotls will actually get quite shy. That being said, if you are forced to keep your axolotl tank lit, whether for convenience purposes in regards to the placement of the tank or because your other tank inhabitants of plants require it, don’t worry. You can combat the effects of too much light by giving your amphibians places to hide.

You might want to consider aquarium decorations like wood, caves, and plants. Lighting won’t necessarily help your axolotl, but if you use a plant-friendly bulb, you should be okay. Remember that some lighting fixtures generate a ton of excess heat, which can harm your axolotl.

These creates don’t like super warm temperatures. Ideally, you should keep them within a temperature range that is in the low to mid 60s, as temperatures higher than 74 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a ton of health problems for your axolotl. You may notice that they stop eating or have heat stress. They can even die. If you struggle to maintain temperatures lower than this, then the axolotl might not be for you.

That being said, if your heart is set on an axolotl, you do have choices. Just as you can buy an aquarium heater to keep your tank warmer, you can also buy an aquarium chiller to cool it down during the warmer months of the year.

You should choose the perfect substrate for your axolotl. The best choice will be aquarium-safe sand. This is because axolotls have a tendency to try to eat gravel and other objects that they can fit in their mouths if they have the chance. This is incredibly dangerous as it can leta to digestive impactions and other problems – sometimes even killing your axolotl.

If you absolutely have to use gravel, make sure that you choose large pebbles – anything that is the size of the axolotl’s head or smaller will be eaten. You do not have to use salamander substrate for axolotls. In fact, many people don’t use a substrate at all, but it will look better if you have one in your tank. Plus, a good substrate can keep the water parameters level and stable by giving a surface area for helpful aquatic bacteria.

You can generally use regular tap water for your axolotls. You will want to treat it with aquarium water conform to remove chlorine and toxins. While axolotls are hardier than aquarium fish when it comes to the quality of your water you still need to make sure that you are doing your best to nurture a welcoming environment for your amphibians.

Make sure you invest in a good filter and conduct regular water changes. You should let your new aquarium and its filter cycle for a few weeks before you introduce your axolotls – this will allow the water conditions to Seattle and for filter bacteria to develop. Make sure you test your water frequently for pH and temperature.

What Do Axolotl Eat?

Axolotl 4
Photo by Crestie Crazy

You will want to take great care to provide your axolotl with the perfect diet. These creatures are carnivores and eat a wide variety of foods in the wild.

You might want to consider live reptile food for your axolotl. Good options include large nightcrawlers or frozen bloodworm cubes. You can also feed frozen shrimp as long as you cook it or small pieces of chicken and beef. Avoid overly fatty foods, like fatty land meats or pinkie mice, as these can make your axolotl sick. You can feed them as occasional treats, however.

You should also avoid live food like feeder fish. These can transmit parasites and other disease to your tank. That being said, you do not need to do much to supplement your axolotls diet with vitamins or minerals. These can be hard to administer to your axolotl, and if you feed your axolotl only meat products (like worms) it will rarely show any kind of mineral or vitamin deficiencies.

Axolotl Tank Mates

Axolotls are generally well-mannered, but you will need to keep watch of the young ones. They have a tendency to nip and bite at the legs of their tank mates, meaning young axolotls should only be housed together if they are given plenty of space and fed an ample, nutritious diet. Axolotls that are larger than five inches can be safely housed together, as adults rarely have any altercations – if at all.

Remember, juvenile axolotls can be cannibalistic toward each other. If you have multiple juvenile axolotls, whether through breeding or by happenstance, you should keep them in separate enclosures. While you can safely house adults together, there is a possibility that they may behave in a cannibalistic way. If a body part happens to be chewed off by a tankmate, know that an axolotl can regenerate it over time, but you should not encourage this behavior, as it will stress your axolotl and reduce its lifespan.

These creatures are not social by nature, so it won’t be helpful to keep them with other companions. Inf act, keeping more than one axolotl will really only be for your own benefit and won’t do much to make your axolotl feel more at home.

You can safely house axolotls with just about any other kind of aquarium fish. However you need to be careful about keeping axolotls with fish that are aggressive or have a tendency to nip. Because your axolotl has such a delicate skin, it can easily become damaged by a territorial or mean fish.

In most cases, it is safest to just keep an axolotl-only tank. This will reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior – plus, in most cases, it is interesting just to have a tank full of axolotls on their own anyway.

Common Axolotl Diseases

The axolotl can undergo metamorphosis into a terrestrial form in some very specific circumstances it is not recommended that you encourage this to happen, and it’s not something that is frequently seen. There have not been a lot of studies as to what causes an axolotl to undergo metamorphosis but often it has to do with induced changes by adjusting the water or supplementing with certain amounts of a thyroid hormone. This is not recommended and it can seriously stress your axolotl to the point where it will shorten its lifespan.

Otherwise, you need to watch out for issues related to axolotls eating the gravel or other pieces of the substrate. While these amphibians aren’t prone to many diseases, they often suffer from injury as a result of gastrointestinal obstruction from eating foreign bodies.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Axolotl

Axolotls are quite long-lived, so fi you are looking for a longtime companion, you should look no further than this dynamic species. While some have been known to live longer than twenty years, ten is the most common for these creatures.

You can breed axolotls in captivity. In fact, axolotl larvae are much more hardy and easy to care for compared to other types of salamander and newt larvae. Keep in mind that while there will always be some casualties when you are raising large numbers of larvae – most due to invisible genetic problems or even just stress – it is always worth giving breeding a try as it’s relatively easy to do.

It is difficult to predict when a female axolotl will spawn. You can keep an eye out for old spermatophores in the tank, which will give you an idea that eggs are nearby. When you find an egg, you should either remove the eggs or remove the parents. The eggs are quite tough so that they can easily be moved from one tank to another without worrying about damaging them. You can even remove them from rocks if need be. Each egg will be surrounded by layers of jelly so that as long as you are careful and avoid direct hand contact, you can easily move them to a new spot.

Make sure you have the proper conditions in your new tank for the eggs to hatch. They should be large enough to keep your eggs nourished, and you will always want to use dechlorinated water. Make sure it doesn’t get too soft but know that you can always add dissolved salts if it is not ideal.

The water should be kept at a warm temperature of around 77 degrees Fahrenheit This will cause the eggs to hatch in about fourteen days. Lower temperatures will still enable them to hatch, but those that are severely low (around 64 degrees) may take longer to hatch – sometimes as long as 20 days.

You will need to make sure you have specific foods for your young axolotl larvae, too. While they won’t need food within the first 24 to 72 hours after hatching, these tiny creatures will need some specific foods that will change once they reach about an inch in size. You can only feed the larvae live items of a very tiny size when your axolotls are at this age.

Once your axolotls get bigger, you can move away from live foods and consider feeding them some dead foods, too. However, until they are older, young larvae will only respond to the movement of their prey and won’t be able to use their sense of smell to detect food until they are much older. If you do not feed your larvae live food, they will starve to death and will sometimes eat each other, too. You can feed them foods like newly hatched brine shrimp, also known as Artemia, or even daphnia, moina, or microworms.

After they hatch, your young axolotl will be about half an inch in length. You might want to lower the water level by about an inch and a half at this time, which will allow the food sources to be concentrated more closely near the larvae to give them easy access. Once they first hatch, the larvae may not each much as they will still be absorbing yolk from their eggs.

Is An Axolotl Right For You?

Axolotls are not legal in all places. You cannot own them in California, New Jersey, Maine, or Virginia. In New Mexico, you can own an axolotl, but it must have been bred within the state. Therefore, you might want to consult with a representative from your state wildlife or customs agency to make sure you aren’t breaking the law before you bring an axolotl home. You will also want to make sure that your email in contact with a veterinarian near your home that will be aware of the unique situations that this pet can face.

It might not be a common pet, but it’s definitely unique. The axolotl is a great potential choice as an aquarium species because it has a hardy, easygoing nature that makes it easy to care for. As long as you provide the proper temperatures and foods for your axolotls, you will have a companion that will live for many years in your tank.

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