Many people are interested in having axolotls for pets. They’re cute, for starters, and are fun pets to watch swim in your aquarium.
However, it’s important to know how to care for this species before you make the big choice to buy them for your aquarium.
Here we break down all the nitty-gritty as well as fun facts so you can make the right decision.
Axolotl Appearance & Personality
Axolotl are definitely interesting pets, and people everywhere know them as the odd-looking species that can regenerate limbs. Though that’s usually where most knowledge of Axolotl end.
Size and Effort
Axolotls are a medium-sized pet; it’s rare for them to grow over 12 inches (30 cm), and most of them stay around 9 inches (23 cm). They have very wide heads, and are wider than they are tall.
Though they are often colloquially known as the “Mexican walking fish,” they actually aren’t fish! Axolotls are amphibians, but, unlike other amphibians such as frogs, they live their whole lives underwater, though they may take breaths of oxygen from above the surface.
Axolotls are generally pretty hardy fish, and need pretty minimal effort on the whole. However, they do need a lot of space.
When it comes to axolotls, bigger tanks are generally better, and you should likely try for the biggest aquarium you can fit into your home.
Axolotls typically thrive in 30-gallon tanks and above, though a single axolotl can live in a tank as small as 10 gallons if necessary.
In general, axolotls live for around ten years. If you’re planning on getting an axolotl, make sure you’re willing to make a long commitment!
Your axolotl will also live longer and be happier if you make sure to provide it with ideal living situations, including very low amounts of stress.
Axolotl are carnivorous, which means it’s a very bad idea for them to be kept along with other fish. As they’re very colourful and attention-grabbing, many fish, even peaceful ones, may try to nip them. In response, axolotl can respond very aggressively, killing the other fish in the aquarium.
They are also cannibalistic, mostly if they are stressed or in too small of a cage. Cannibalism is especially prominent when young axolotl are in the same cage as mature axolotl, so axolotl that have not yet reached maturity should be kept in a separate tank from those that have.
Axolotl also breed readily in captivity, so unless you’re interested in axolotl eggs, you should only keep one sex.
If you keep male and female axolotls together, you’ll almost definitely have to handle the occasional batch of eggs, as axolotls breed readily in captivity.
Eggs are very easy to see; they are small, jelly-like spheres, which will have dark brown dots in the centre or lack pigmentation if the mother is albino.
If you’re not ready to take care of axolotl babies, you can cull the eggs or sell them; there are many people on forums who will readily accept them.
An axolotl mother can lay between 100 and 1,000 eggs at a time, so unless you’re an experienced breeder, you’ll likely want to sell at least some of them.
If you’re looking to raise axolotl larvae, you will have to do significant research, as well as have another aquarium to hatch them in. Make sure you’re properly educated before you decide to raise more axolotls!
The aquarium conditions for axolotl are very important. Though they are, as a whole, pretty hardy, they can become stressed easily by inappropriate aquarium conditions, leading to sickness and death. Here are the most ideal ways to keep an axolotl tank.
When setting up an aquarium for axolotls, you’ll need to make sure it’s arranged correctly and runs for at least two weeks before introducing a group of axolotls.
Whatever filter you use for your aquarium, make sure to get one that’s appropriately gauged for your aquarium size, as using one made for a larger tank can create too much water flow and stress your axolotls.
Adding one smaller axolotl a few days after setting up the filter can aid in creating the bacteria necessary for a greater number.
Heat is the most important thing for axolotls; they can live in a fairly wide range of temperatures, but if the aquarium gets too warm, they will quickly become stressed and sick.
The ideal temperature for axolotls is between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10-20 degrees Celsius). If the temperature becomes lower than that, the axolotls’ metabolism will slow down and they will become sluggish.
If the heat is any higher than about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius), the axolotl will become stressed, and the high temperature will quickly lead to disease.
Room temperature tends to be acceptable, but if you live in a particularly warm or cool area, you may need to invest in an aquarium chiller or heater.
The water in your aquarium should be treated similarly to the way it’s treated for freshwater fish. The ideal axolotl pH is 7.4 to 7.8, though anywhere between 6.5 and about 8.0 is acceptable.
You will also need to dechlorinate your water before adding it to the aquarium; you can find dechlorinator kits at your local aquarium store.
Ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels are not incredibly important; they should be tested for occasionally, but regular water changes will usually keep the levels at a safe range.
Lastly, water hardness can make a difference in axolotl behaviour, as soft water can cause temporary anemia. Though not dangerous, you may want to test the water hardness if you notice your axolotls becoming pale and sluggish.
Decorations are also important for axolotls! They like to hide and explore their habitat, and plants and caves can help with that.
Axolotls have lidless eyes and are nocturnal, so be sure to keep harsh lighting to a minimum.
They also need substrate at the bottom of their tanks. Small gravel, the most frequently-used fish substrate, is dangerous to axolotl; they tend to eat the rocks, which will often get stuck in their intestinal tracts and kill them.
If you are using pebbles, make sure they are each at least twice as big as the axolotl’s head.
The most ideal substrate for axolotls, however, is fine-grain sand, as it is not only small enough to pass through them if ingested, but also lets them play on the bottom of the tank.
Here’s a video showing a tank set-up for axolotl.
The most important thing to keep a tank safe for axolotls is to keep the temperature stable.
Temperature may change between seasons, but rapid fluctuations will cause significant stress. Make sure you have a tank thermometer at all times so you can pay close attention to the temperature.
You should also make sure to change the water frequently. Frequent water changes will keep nitrate and nitrite levels low, and make sickness less likely for your axolotls.
You should change at least 20% of the water every week, though some people suggest changing up to 50%.
Lastly, make sure you keep the aquarium covered. Though axolotls stay in the water their whole lives, they often dart up to the surface to take little breaths of oxygen and can jump out of the tank if it’s not covered.
Keeping Your Axolotls
Now that you know how to set up the aquarium, you need to know how to keep them at the healthiest possible! Here are some tips to making sure your axolotls live a long, happy life in their aquarium.
Introducing the Axolotls to the Aquarium
Because axolotls have such intense reactions to being stressed, it’s important to make sure the transfer from their old aquarium to yours is gentle.
The container your axolotl was in should have water from its old tank; float it gently in your tank, then slowly add water from the tank into the container until the water is about 25% old, 75% new.
Add the axolotl gently to your tank, then give it some space for at least a few hours until it has a chance to adjust.
Feeding Your Axolotls
As mentioned earlier, axolotls are carnivores. However, fresh or frozen meat should be from a fish-free breeder, as wild worms and larvae (or ones that were raised around fish) can have parasites with the potential to fatally injure your axolotls.
The best foods, if you can get them from fish-free waters, are bloodworms (which are nutritious and well-balanced) and black-worms (which are readily available in aquarium shops).
Daphnia are also a good staple for young axolotl up to 7 inches (18cm) long, but larger axolotl will not notice them.
Live food are best for axolotl, because their movement will catch the axolotl’s attention, and newly hatched axolotls are only able to eat moving food.
However, if you only have adult axolotls and you’re not able to get live food, soft salmon or trout pellets are a good choice. To provide the most nutrition, your pellets should be around 45% protein, 20% fat.
As long as you care for your axolotl properly, it’s unlikely to get sick. However, illnesses can still occur with even the best care.
The most common problem that will lead to illness in axolotl is significant stress, caused by high temperature, frequent temperature fluctuation, other tank animals, unclean water, and having too powerful a filter in the aquarium.
If the axolotl begins refusing food, has a curled tail, or starts becoming sluggish, check all tank conditions and make changes as needed.
The most common disease for axolotls is “red leg” bacteria, which is easily identifiable by red patches on limbs and other places on the body.
100% Holtfreter’s solution, a salt mixture, can be used to treat many bacterial problems. However, genetic issues and some significant bacterial problems may need an expert’s help.
Axolotls are an exciting aquarium pet. They’re very cute and interesting to look at, and they attract a lot of attention from people who have never seen one before.
As long as you have some time to devote to them, like any other pet, you’ll get years of fun with your axolotl.
What are your tips for owning Axolotl?