How to Take Care of an Axolotl [complete guide on what you need to know]
The Axolotl is a unique pet that is a rare type of salamander. Axolotls come from Mexico and as a pet, they have specific care requirements that need to be followed. Axolotls are not considered easy pets to take care of.
In this article, I am going to lay out everything you need to know to properly care for your Axolotl. This will include proper housing, water conditions, and much more.
So keep reading to learn all your need to know about the joys of owning an Axolotl!
What is an Axolotl?
The Axolotl is a paedomorphic salamander. This means that they are in a constant state of neoteny (juvenilization.)
While they may remain in their juvenile form their entire lives, they do reach a point of adulthood without going through any sort of metamorphosis.
Unlike most salamanders who go through a phase of having gills and a tail and then obtaining legs and lungs, Axolotls do not go through this process but remain living in water their entire lives.
Axolotls are highly prized in the scientific community due to their amazing ability to regenerate practically any part of their bodies, even including parts of their brain.
Axolotls are unique in appearance and are best known for their feathery gills. They can range in color from albino to brown.
They are generally very social animals and need to have proper care to thrive.
They are closely related to the Tiger salamander and have wide heads in relation to their relatively thin bodies. Axolotls have also been known to have a cute “smile” at times.
The Axolotl is originally from Mexico City and was originally found in the time of the Aztecs.
They have a very rich history that involves many of the Aztecs believing that these creatures had the spirit of the gods living within them.
Where Does the Axolotl Come From?
They naturally inhabited two lakes, Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco.
As a result of the Spanish conquest, the lakes were drained, which resulted in the Axolotl losing most of its natural habitat.
Some say there are only between 100 and 1000 Axolotls left in nature at any given time.
Wild Axolotls are among some of the most endangered animals on the planet but they are widely bred and kept in captivity.
Where Can I Buy an Axolotl?
While Axolotls are not generally sold in pet stores there may be one in your area so call around and ask.
The best route of action may be to find a reputable breeder. Online websites can be found that sell them.
Some people have had good luck finding breeders on Craigslist, but a better route would be to check a local pet and reptile show. You could also call some veterinarians and ask.
Many pet stores may also be able to connect you with a breeder, but they usually won’t keep them in stores due to their temperature needs.
Most reptiles require high temperatures, whereas the Axolotl will get sick if they get too warm.
How Much do Axolotls Cost?
Adult Axolotls can vary from $30 all the way up to $150 depending on the morph of the animal. Juvenile Axolotls are generally around $30 to $50.
Axolotl Health Issues
Due to their thin skin and mucous membrane covering, they can be prone to bacterial and fungal infections.
Axolotls require constant water changes to protect them and keep them healthy.
Besides these health issues, Axolotls are capable of regenerating almost any part of their body, so minor injuries do not typically affect them.
It is advised to make sure there are no sharp objects in the tank to protect their permeable skin. With the right care, a healthy Axolotl can live a long and healthy life of many years.
How to Care for an Axolotl
As mentioned above, an Axolotl is an exotic animal that requires proper care. Failure to provide this care may result in an unhealthy pet or even cause its death.
A substantial amount of knowledge is required so I encourage you to learn as much as you can about Axolotls and its care requirements.
See if you can find some online Axolotl owners groups to join and reach out to your local pet store and ask questions.
The last thing you want to happen is for your pet to die simply because you didn’t know how to care for them.
How to Properly House Your Axolotl
Axolotls tanks are generally between 15 and 40 gallons. You should give your Axolotls at least 15 gallons or even 20 gallons so that they have room to swim and have places to hide.
The Axolotl likes to spend most of its time swimming around or hiding.
They prefer to have a tank that is fairly bland and can even be kept with no material or substrate at the bottom of their tanks.
It is a good idea to put artificial water plants or other toys in to keep them entertained.
What Size Tank do I Need for My Axolotl?
Each Axolotl does best with 15 or 20 gallons of water. Another reason for this is the Axolotls are inherently very, very messy and are prone to walking in their own excrement.
This will quickly create a cloud of poop dust in the water of their tanks which can cause bacterial infections very quickly.
Axolotls also do best in a long tank which will encourage your Axolotl to move around freely so make sure you have the proper water level.
In general, you will want the water level to be at least a little higher than your Axolotl is long.
Can I Put More Than One Axolotl in the Same Tank?
Yes, you can put more than one Axolotl in one tank. However, if you do plan on housing multiple Axolotls together, you need to make sure that they have enough space.
With each new Axolotl, make sure you introduce them into the tank appropriately.
Choosing the right tank for an Axolotl does not have to be hard but you still need to think it out and plan accordingly based on your individual situation.
How to Clean an Axolotl Tank
Axolotls are not the cleanest of pets so their tank will need regular cleaning. It is recommended that cleaning your Axolotls tank become a weekly routine.
Having a clean tank with good water is an important aspect of keeping your Axolotl healthy.
If you are using a filter on your tank you will basically just change at least 20 to 30 percent of the tank water each week. This helps keep the water fresh and clear of contaminants.
You may also have to remove some of the waste that might have built up on the bottom of your pet’s tank. We recommend removing your Axolotls poop as soon as you see it in the tank.
How to Remove Axolotl Poop From Their Tank?
There are a few simple ways to remove poop from your Axolotls tank.
However, it is important to know that Axolotl poop is not solid and will easily dissipate into the water if not removed properly.
- Net. Use a small net and lift it out. This can sometimes be difficult because of the size of the net and items that may be in the way such as plants.
Be sure to clean the net thoroughly after each use.
- Turkey Baster. This may be something you never thought of but it works great once you learn the technique! Simply suck up the poop!
- Gravel Vacuum. Gravel vacuums are made to clean up the bottom of an aquarium and are not really designed for Axolotl poop removal but with a little testing, it can work well.
What Type of Water Filters Are Safe and Effective for an Axolotl?
You will want to ensure that you are using safe equipment for your Axolotl. This includes everything in and out of the tank.
They are great at regenerating parts of their bodies, but you want to make sure you are taking the best care of them possible.
Filter Types for Axolotl Tanks
- Sponge filter
- HOB or filters that hang on the back of the tank.
- Canister filter
You want to make sure that you are using a filter that does not generate a lot of vibrations or noise. This may upset your Axolotl.
Ideal Water Conditions for an Axolotl
Technically speaking, you don’t need to have a filter for your Axolotl, but it is highly advised to have one.
If you choose to not use filters, the water must be changed constantly to keep the water safe for your Axolotl. Ammonia can build up in the water, causing stress and disease.
The temperature of the water should be kept between 60 to 68 degrees. Axolotls are cold, freshwater creatures. Keep the tank away from direct sunlight or in hot areas of your house.
The water pH you want to aim for is generally between 7.4 to 7.6.
While some people do use tap water for these aquatic animals, you need to treat it with an aquarium water conditioner.
Many suggest letting it stand for at least 24 hours before introducing the water to your Axolotl.
An aquarium water conditioner will help to negate the effects of any chlorine that may be in the tap water as well as neutralize other potentially harmful substances.
Does an Axolotl Tank Need a Light?
Surprisingly to some, no, an Axolotl tank does not need any type of light. Axolotls love to be in dark cool places.
Aquarium Decorations and Habitat
While you can use different substrates for your Axolotl tank, it is a good idea to stick with a bare bottom tank or fine sand.
Recreating their natural habitat will leave you with a happy Axolotl. Axolotls tend to hang out at the bottom of the tank and also have a tendency to eat gravel or other objects in their tank.
When thinking about preparing your Axolotl tank, providing little hiding areas for your aquatic creatures is essential.
You will also want to keep the Axolotl tank fairly dark as they are sensitive to light.
When decorating the Axolotl tank, it is probably easier to avoid using live plants. But, if you do choose to use plants, you can use java fern or java moss.
How to Feed an Axolotl?
Axolotls are carnivorous and will eat both live food and scavenged food. You may want to hand feed your Axolotl live food to help stimulate them to eat.
Axolotls are social creatures, and hand feeding may further their social activity.
How often you feed your Axolotl will depend on their age. Full-grown Axolotls may need to be fed twice per day, whereas juveniles may only eat once a day.
This is a debated topic as some owners will choose to feed their juvenile Axolotls twice daily and continue to do so until they reach full maturity.
Food Adult Axolotls Enjoy
- Salmon pellets
- Brine shrimp
If you are feeding a larval Axolotl, the best food choice is daphnia, while juvenile Axolotls enjoy white worms and Grindal worms.
It is also highly advisable to feed your Axolotl in a separate tank to avoid uneaten food sitting at the bottom of the tank and contaminating the water.
Axolotls produce a lot of waste and can have a tendency to also leave quite a bit of uneaten food.
Making sure that they have a separate feeding area is the best way to keep their tank clean and minimize maintenance.
What Other Animals Can I Keep With My Axolotl?
Unfortunately, Axolotls are best kept in single specimen tanks or with one or two other Axolotls at most.
Young Axolotls are known to be cannibalistic and actually eat the limbs, external gills, or tails of other Axolotls kept in the same tank.
You should not keep any other fish species in the tank with your Axolotl. Either the fish will try to eat the Axolotl, or the Axolotl will eat the fish.
It is important to note that while you are able to keep multiple Axolotls together, keeping Axolotls of different sizes together can increase the risk of potential cannibalism.
You will want to keep Axolotls of different sizes in different fish tanks until they are all around the same size.
It is possible to keep males with males and females with females to reduce the risk of accidental breeding if you do not plan to breed your Axolotls.
How to Breed an Axolotl?
Axolotls generally reach sexual maturity around 5 months to a few years of age.
There are multiple factors that come into play, from food quality, frequency of feedings, water temperature, and size.
Sexual maturity will begin once they have reached around 7 inches in length. The female Axolotl will usually take longer to reach maturity than the male Axolotl.
Methods of Breeding Axolotls
Axolotls don’t always adhere to a breeding schedule and can breed at any point in the year. However, most people have the most success in the early parts of the year.
It has been noted that the amount of light they get can trigger breeding habits. When you increase the length of daylight, this may trigger spawning.
NOTE: Sudden changes in the temperature of your tank may also induce mating rituals.
Suggested Breeding Tank Setup
- Use lots of plants. Generally, plastic plants are the best choice since they won’t rot and can withhold the weight of the Axolotl. A female will also lay her legs on the plants.
- Rough stones can be used at the bottom of the tank to aid the male in laying down his pockets of sperm.
Please be advised that these deposits of sperm will not stick to a bare tank or plastic. This is a key aspect of breeding Axolotls.
The sperm must remain in one place while the mating process happens.
- Make sure that the tank is placed in an area that will not disrupt the pair; otherwise, the mating may be unsuccessful.
Egg Hatching Process
The eggs can be of various colors, but they will usually be a similar color to the mother. In general, most eggs will be a dark brown color.
Most eggs will take between two to three weeks to hatch but may take a little longer. The best development occurs when the eggs are actually attached to plants within the tank.
The reason the plants are so important is due to the water circulation that happens. This will help the exchange of gasses surrounding the eggs.
If the eggs are fertile, they will hatch around the 17-day mark. Most of the eggs will hatch if the water is circulating properly and well-aired.
Using an air pump or an air stone may also help with keeping the water circulated. You want to avoid any vibrations or water flow that could disturb the eggs.
Related Axolotl Questions
How Long do Axolotls Live?
Axolotls have the ability to live very long lives. They can live up to 10 or even 15 years in captivity with appropriate and careful care.
How Long Do Axolotls Live in the Wild?
According to many experts on the matter, an Axolotl in the wild can still live 10 to 15 years but it could vary greatly based on their environment.
Poor water conditions can dramatically reduce the lifespan of an Axolotl as well as human activity in certain scenarios.
Are Axolotls an Endangered Species?
Wild Axolotls are indeed an endangered species as their natural habit is getting smaller and smaller each year as well as becoming more polluted.
In some areas of Mexico, wild populations of Axolotls are also being reduced in numbers due to overfishing.
What are Other Nicknames for Axolotls?
Axolotls have many different names. Their scientific name is Ambystoma Mexicanum, but they are often referred to as river monsters, the Mexican walking fish, or the Mexican salamander.
Axolotls can make great pets for many people, but they do require a commitment of time and cleanliness.
Some people may find this commitment too large, but if they fit in with your lifestyle, they are enjoyable creatures to keep.