The axolotl is a urodel but also a new member of the Exotic Pets. This cousin of the salamander is more and more appreciated in aquariums for several reasons. It can remain in its larval state all its life, it regenerates its organs, is often albino (domestic variety of the axolotl), and it even inspired “Pokémon”! Since 2006, it is classified as critically endangered. Here is the essential to know about this amazing animal by many points.
Who is the axolotl?
The axolotl or “water monster” in Aztec, is a urodele. More precisely, it is an amphibian which keeps its tail once adult. It has long been assimilated to a tiger salamander but it is a separate species. It is native to Mexico where it is found naturally in lakes.
It has the particularity of being able to remain larva during all its life while being able to reproduce. If it remains in water, its life expectancy is 10 to 15 years while if it is transferred little by little in a vivarium, this life expectancy rarely exceeds five years.
Another amazing characteristic of the axolotl is its ability to regenerate organs that have been damaged or even destroyed. A bit like the tail of the lizard! But it goes much further in its “repair”. It has the ability to “grow back” a lost eye or damaged parts of its brain.
It takes him between 18 and 24 months to complete his growth. It reaches then a size which varies from 15 to 33 cm with an average of 25 cm. Its eyes are deprived of eyelid. It has six external gills on both sides of its head. They are generally compared to ferns. But the axolotl also has lungs and it can breathe through the skin. It has legs with four fingers in the front and five in the back.
Where to buy an axolotl and how much does it cost?
There are three types of axolotl. The common form is black, gray, brown or bluish. It is found in the wild. The leuctic form is the one most often found in aquariums. It is characterized by its white color and its black eyes. Finally, the albino axolotl is white but with red eyes. This is the species that is considered domestic. In aquarium, we can have gray, brown, white with black eyes, golden albino, white albino axolotls. The “Harlequins” have black spots and others can have two colors.
You can buy an axolotl in pet shops. The price varies depending on the size and color. It can range from 5 to 45 dollars.
What kind of aquarium does it need and how to arrange it?
You have to think that, once adult, the axolotl can reach almost 30 cm long. So it needs a big aquarium from the beginning. It will spend most of its time at the bottom of the aquarium. If it is too often on the surface, it is a sign of uneasiness. This stress is very frequent. This is why it must have many opportunities to hide.
The axolotl likes to live with other axolotls. It is therefore necessary to provide a larger aquarium if you buy two urodeles.
The axolotl needs a large floor area with very fine sand or a simple bare bottom. It needs at least 30 cm of water between 14 and 20° C maximum. Tap water, as hard as possible, is perfect. It is not necessary to install a water conditioner or bacteria. The axolotl does not like the current and it is necessary to renew 20% of the water every week.
Caves, floating plants and various hiding places are welcome and lighting is unnecessary since the axolotl lives at night.
It is not recommended to put other fish with the axolotl. They could eat its gills or be eaten themselves if they are small.
What does the axolotl eat?
The axolotl is a carnivore. Its favorite foods are worms, insects, small fish. In pet shops, you can find fish pellets but you can also give it earthworms, mud worms, small freshwater crustaceans… You can also give him chicken heart or freshwater fish meat. When it is less than 10 cm (it is not recommended to buy an axolotl of this size), it must be fed daily. From 10 to 12 cm, it needs five meals a week, then three meals when it measures 12 to 15 cm, two meals from 15 to 20 cm and only once a week when its size exceeds 20 cm. As a general rule, the axolotl must be fed until it is full. When it is not hungry, it simply turns away from the food.
Before buying an axolotl, remember that it needs a lot of space, that it does not handle itself, that it lives better with a fellow animal, that it does not like heat and that its life span is at least 10 years.