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The Axolotl as a Pet: Care, Feeding, and Tank Setup
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The Axolotl as a Pet: Care, Feeding, and Tank Setup

Critter Culture Staff

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The axolotl, with its perpetual smile and otherworldly presence, has captured the hearts of many as a fascinating pet. Native to the freshwater canals of Mexico, these creatures are known for their remarkable ability to regenerate lost body parts, making them a subject of scientific curiosity and a delightful addition to home aquariums. Caring for axolotls goes beyond the basics of pet ownership, requiring a dedicated understanding of their habitat, diet, and overall needs to ensure they lead a fulfilling life in captivity. From setting up the perfect tank to maintaining optimal health, here’s everything you need to know about axolotl care.

1

Choosing the right tank

Axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum walking on a grass in aquarium. Amphibian or salamander in a fish tank

A spacious environment is crucial for the well-being of your axolotl. A 20-gallon tank is the bare minimum for one, but if you have the space, opting for something larger is always better. Axolotls appreciate the room to roam, and a larger tank helps keep the water conditions stable. Remember, these creatures spend their entire lives underwater, so the length and width of the tank are more important than its height.

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2

Water conditions and filtration

GFP Axolotl in Freshwater Aquarium

Axolotls aren't fans of warm water or strong currents. They thrive in cool temperatures between 57 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH level ranging from 6.5 to 7.5. A filtration system that provides a gentle flow is essential, as strong currents can stress them out. Sponge filters are ideal as they clean the water without creating an uncomfortable environment for your pet.

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3

Substrate and decoration

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), also known as the Mexican walking fish, is a neotenic salamander related to the tiger salamander. The species was originally found in several lakes, near Mexico City

The tank's bottom should mimic the natural riverbeds axolotls are accustomed to. Fine sand is preferred over gravel to prevent accidental ingestion, which can lead to health issues. Decorate their space with axolotl-safe plants and caves for hiding. These additions not only make the tank more visually appealing but also provide a more stimulating environment for your axolotl.

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4

Lighting needs

Axolotl

Bright lights aren't necessary for axolotls and can actually cause them discomfort due to their lack of eyelids. Ambient room lighting or dimmable LED aquarium lights set to a low brightness ensure they aren't stressed by their environment. This setup will also support any live plants in the tank, contributing to a balanced ecosystem.

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5

Feeding your axolotl

Ambystoma mexicanum (axolotl, albino variant) eating a fish

A carnivorous diet is essential for your axolotl's health. They're not picky eaters and will happily consume earthworms, bloodworms, and specially formulated axolotl pellets. Juveniles require daily feeding, while adults can be fed every two to three days. Watch their girth; a healthy axolotl's stomach isn't wider than its head.

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6

Tank mates: yes or no?

Axolotl Mexican salamander Aquarium aquatic

Axolotls are solitary creatures and don't necessarily benefit from having tank mates. In fact, smaller fish might end up as snacks and larger ones could stress or harm your axolotl. If you're considering adding anyone else to the tank, proceed with caution and always prioritize the well-being of your axolotl.

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7

Handling and interaction

Axolotl is a domestic freshwater reptile in an aquarium.

Despite their curious nature, axolotls aren't meant to be handled regularly. Their skin is delicate and susceptible to damage. Interaction should be minimal, and reserved, only for necessary moments such as tank cleaning or health checks. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after to prevent transferring any harmful substances.

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8

Health monitoring and common issues

Veterinarians swabbing the skin of a white axolotl to look for bacteria

Staying vigilant about your axolotl's health is key. Signs of stress or illness include lethargy, loss of appetite, and unusual floating. Regularly check the water quality, as poor conditions are often the culprit behind health issues. If you notice anything concerning, consult with a vet experienced in exotic pets for advice.

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9

Breeding considerations

two axolotls in an aquarium close up

Breeding axolotls is a complex process that should only be undertaken by those with a deep understanding of their care and genetic needs. It requires a commitment to raising potentially hundreds of offspring and ensuring they all find suitable homes. It's not a venture for the faint-hearted or inexperienced.

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10

Ongoing care and maintenance

beautiful axolotl in an aquarium

Consistent care routines are the backbone of a healthy axolotl habitat. Weekly water changes, tank cleanings, and water parameter checks will keep your axolotl's environment clean and stable. A little effort goes a long way in preventing stress and disease, ensuring your aquatic friend enjoys a long, happy life.

Caring for an axolotl offers a unique opportunity to observe one of nature's most fascinating creatures up close. Their care isn't overly complicated, but it does require attention to detail and a commitment to providing a stable, healthy environment. In return, axolotls bring a touch of the wild into your home, serving as a living reminder of the wonders of the natural world. Whether you're drawn to their mysterious allure or inspired by their resilience, an axolotl can make a captivating, if somewhat unconventional, pet.

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11

Interactive elements for your axolotl’s tank

Amphibian Axolotl in german zoo

Creating a stimulating environment for your axolotl not only makes the tank more visually appealing but also supports the well-being of your aquatic pet. Incorporating live plants, like Anubias or Java Fern, and adding caves or hiding spots can mimic their natural habitat, providing them with areas to explore and rest. Ensure any decorations are smooth and free of sharp edges to prevent harm to your axolotl’s delicate skin. Such additions can turn a simple tank into a thriving ecosystem, making your axolotl's home a focal point of fascination.

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12

Ethical considerations in axolotl care

Ambystoma mexicanum, axolotl and red mosquito larvae.

The charm of owning an axolotl comes with a responsibility to ethical pet ownership. As critically endangered creatures, it's vital to source axolotls from ethical breeders who prioritize the well-being of these animals over profit. Avoiding the temptation to release them into the wild is crucial, as domesticated axolotls can disrupt local ecosystems. Educating oneself on the proper care, including the environmental impact and the ethical treatment of axolotls, underscores the commitment to preserving these fascinating creatures for future generations.

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13

The axolotl’s status as an endangered species

axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) in an animal rescue center

Axolotls face a precarious future in their native habitat, grappling with challenges like pollution, habitat destruction, and competition from invasive species. As enthusiasts of these unique pets, we play a part in their conservation by raising awareness and supporting habitat restoration efforts. Understanding the plight of wild axolotls can deepen our appreciation for our aquatic companions and inspire action towards preserving the biodiversity of our planet.

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14

Legal considerations for keeping axolotls

baby​ axolotl​ under water

Before welcoming an axolotl into your home, familiarize yourself with the legal landscape. Various states and countries have regulations concerning the ownership of axolotls, ranging from outright bans to requiring permits. These laws aim to prevent ecological imbalances should non-native species be inadvertently introduced into local habitats. A quick consultation with local wildlife authorities or a bit of research can ensure your axolotl enthusiasm complies with legal standards.

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15

Selecting the right axolotl

 Pair of Axolotl relaxing together in the bottom of Xochimilco lake in Mexico City, endangered neotenic salamanders registered in IUCN red list, flagship species of Mexico

Choosing an axolotl is the first step in a unique journey of companionship. When selecting your new friend, look for signs of health, such as clear eyes, a well-proportioned body, and active movement. Color variations range from wild type to leucistic, each with its own charm. Opting for axolotls from reputable breeders not only supports ethical breeding practices but also ensures you're bringing home a healthy, genetically diverse pet ready for a long and happy life under your care.

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