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The Basics of Axolotl Care

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Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.

leucistic axolotl

leucistic axolotl

What is an axolotl?

It is important to know exactly what kind of animal an axolotl is to ensure proper care. Although they are commonly known as ¨walking fish,¨ they are amphibians. They are a type of salamander closely related to tiger salamanders, and they are native to Mexico. The reason axolotls do not look more like other types of salamanders is that they never go through a metamorphosis, and they keep their juvenile features throughout their whole lives. This means that they keep their external gills and their tadpole-like tails even when they are technically an adult.

Since they never metamorphosize they never need to go on to land, and they spend their lives fully underwater. There are occasions where an axolotl will go through metamorphosis, but this is very rare. Usually, if an axolotl morphs, it has tiger salamander genes, so as long as you find a reputable breeder, this should not be a concern.

Axolotls are critically endangered in the wild. They are only found in the wild from the lake complex of Xochimilco, and they have become endangered because of pollution and large fish being introduced to their environment. There are around 1,000 axolotls left in the wild, but there are much more than that in captivity. Axolotls generally lay about 150-450 eggs at a time, but they can lay up to 1,000 eggs! They also have amazing healing abilities, and they are able to regenerate entire limbs. Scientists are studying their healing powers in hopes to better understand regeneration. To summarize, axolotls are amazing animals. They are adorable, fascinating, and incredibly unique.

Basic axolotl setup

Axolotl tank setups can be as simple or intricate as you want them to be, but there are still specific things that they must have.

  • It is recommended to have a 20-gallon tank for an axolotl. Some sources say that a 10-gallon tank is enough, but it is important to remember that they can grow up to a foot in length. A good rule of thumb is to have 20 gallons for one axolotl, and then add 10 gallons for each additional axolotl in the tank. It never hurts to have a bigger tank though.
  • It is important to have a good filter. Axolotls make quite a bit of waste, and it is important to not let it build up. If waste builds up it could cause an ammonia spike, which could be fatal for your axolotl. Most types of filters will work as long as they don't cause too much movement in the water. Sponge filters are great for this.
  • Axolotls cannot be on gravel when they eat they will ingest it, which can cause their stomachs to become impacted. Most axolotl keepers choose to either go with sand or a bare bottom tank, but there are a few other options. Slate, ceramic tiles, and artificial aquarium grass are all popular options. It is important to make sure that the slate is not sharp, the tiles don't have anything they can leech into the water, and the grass is not too rough or pointy. Axolotls are very sensitive animals.
  • The ideal temperature for an axolotl tank is 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures lower than 60 degrees can cause their metabolism to slow down and they can become sluggish. Temperatures higher than 75 degrees can cause a lot of stress. Just a few days of high temperatures can be deadly to an axolotl. Some good ways to keep their water cool are keeping your house cool, buying an aquarium chiller, or buying a fan to put over the top of their tank.
  • Axolotls love to have a lot of hides, and they don't like very much light. Artificial plants, plant pots, real plants, and other aquarium ornaments work perfectly to give them places to hide and feel secure.
wild type axolotl

wild type axolotl

What do axolotls eat?

A good staple food for adult axolotls is live earthworms. Earthworms offer the most complete nutrition, and they are readily available in many stores. You can even get live worms online. You may have to cut the worm into pieces for smaller axolotls. Another good option is sinking pellets, and there are many options online. Juvenile axolotls need smaller food, they can eat blackworms and bloodworms.

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Helpful tips for keeping axolotls

  • Pay attention to water quality. It's good to have a high quality liquid test kit. If you test regularly it will be much easier to keep ammonia and nitrite under control. The ammonia levels should be 0 ppm (parts per million), the nitrites should also be 0 ppm, nitrates can be anywhere from 20-40 ppm, and the pH should be anywhere from 6.8-7.8.
  • It might sound gross, but using a turkey baster to take out excess waste daily can make a huge difference in water quality.
  • If you are housing two axolotls together, make sure that the smaller one can not fit in the larger one's mouth. Axolotls will eat anything they can fit in their mouth, including other axolotls.
  • Make sure any artificial plants are soft. Rough plants can tear up axolotls tails. Silk plants work perfectly.
  • Pay attention to your axolotl's demeanor. If they start acting strange or moving their gills more than usual, check the water quality.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Jess H (author) from Oregon on June 29, 2019:

Hi Chloe, thank you so much! I am happy to hear your axolotls are doing well, they really are awsome pets!

Jess H (author) from Oregon on June 29, 2019:

Hi Linda, thank you for checking out my article! I hope that if you decide to get an axolotl in the future this will be helpful for you!

Chloe on June 29, 2019:

Great article with important information for axolotl owners! I’m happy to read that I am following everything for mine and they are happy and healthy 1-year-old axolotls!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 26, 2019:

Thanks for sharing the pet care information. Axolotls are interesting animals. I enjoy learning more about them. I don't have one as a pet at the moment, but it's possible that I will in the future.

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