Axolotls are a type of salamander that are native to Mexico. It’s scientific name is ambystoma mexicanum. The common pet axolotl refers exclusively to A. mexicanum, although in Mexico the term Axolotl is used in reference to several species of Ambystoma, and is considered an edible food source! We however only keep them as pets.
Never Grows up!
The Axolotl is neotenic, meaning that it doesn’t routinely undergo metamorphosis from the larval to adult form, as happens with most other salamanders. Instead, the larval form which we keep as pets, can become sexually mature and can reproduce, without ever having to change into the adult stage of it’s development. In other words, axolotls can grow, mature and reproduce without ever changing into their adult state, this would be like a caterpillar that never turns into a butterfly.
Can Metamorphose if forced
Under some circumstances however, the axolotl can undergo metamorphosis into a terrestrial from, although this can be stressful on the animal, and you would need a new set of knowledge and equipment regarding the care of a salamander. Axolotls can be forced to change into their adult state if induced to change, but it is not recommended.
The Axolotl has amazing regenerative abilities – if injured, even to the point of losing a body part, the Axolotl will heal readily and even regenerate lost bits like legs. They loose this ability if they metamorphosis into a salamander, keeping scientists baffled about their amazing regenerative abilities. They are fairly hardy creatures that can be expected to live up to 10-15 years with attention to proper husbandry and avoidance of environmental stress. Their skin and gills are very sensitive and quite soft, so handling is not recommended any more than is necessary. Because they can exchange air through moist skin, they do well outside of water for short periods, as long as their skin is not allowed to dry out. The colour of their gills is usually bright red as they are filled with blood. The colour can be a good indication of the animals health.
Change Water Daily
Most pets will be kept in filtered aquariums, although they will do fine in unfiltered water as long as it is changed daily or every other day. Tap water should have any chlorine, chloramines, and ammonia (added during the water treatment process) removed using commercially available solutions. Removing heavy metals is desirable as well. The water they are kept in should be hard, as soft or distilled water will disrupt the integrity of their delicate skin. The pH of the water should be 6.5-7.5.
Axolotls make a unique and fascinating pet. They are not hugely active and do not move around much except when feeding. Hence they should be avoided if you are looking for an active or interactive pet. When feeding they grab and snap at food quickly, normally swallowing it whole. This is interesting to watch.
Unfortunately, axolotls don’t mingle well with other fish species and generally need to be kept on their own. Most fish larger than the axolotl will suck or bite at their gills causing severe problems, while other fish that are smaller may be hunted down for lunch.
If you are about to get an axolotl, you need to make sure you have the basic requirements, before you even bring them home! Here is a list of the basic requirements for any axolotl.
- Filtration (under gravel, corner or power filter)
- Aeration (air pump & air stone)
- Lighting (or natural light)
- Substrait (gravel, pebbles etc.)
- Treated/Stabilized Water
- UV Lighting
- Plants (live or plastic)
- Test Kits (pH, ammonia etc)
- Aquarium Backing
Suitable For People Aged: 7 & over
Experience Required: None. Care sheet & info
Feeding Care Time Required: 10 Min a Day
Maintenance Time Required: 1/2 Hour a Week
Minimum Space Required: Aquarium
Cost of Upkeep: (approx) $4 Per Week
Life Span: (approx) Up to 15
Availability: All Year