The Axolotl is a rare, unique pet. They are fully aquatic amphibians.
Axolotls are a form of salamander that do not undergo metamorphosis and remain in the larval stage, even in adulthood. It has external gills, four thin, underdeveloped legs, broad head and eyes without eyelids – now isn’t that cool? Do you know that they are even called the Mexican Walking Fish?
They come in a variety of colors, most of them as a result of genetic engineering. It makes them one of the most sought after pets. We will see how to care for the pet axolotls to keep their cute smile intact!
Caring for your pet Axolotl
Axolotls grow to a size of about 30 cms. Some of them become even as big as 45cms. They need ample space to grow healthy and live happily. Axolotls approximately need 10 gallons of water, and it is always, more the merrier! So if you own two axolotls, make space for 20 gallons of water. They love their space!
Axolotls should not be housed with other aquatic species. It is preferable to keep them alone in a tank. They cannot be even kept with another axolotl as they tend to nibble each other’s gills and feet! The other species like fishes, if smaller, get eaten by the Axolotl. If bigger fishes are kept in the tank with the axolotl, they also tend to eat the axolotl gills when they get a chance. So it’s best to keep them alone, they are happy that way.
Substrate and decorations
The tank where the axolotls are kept should have an appropriate substrate. Axolotls tend to consume particles of a substrate accidentally. It could be dangerous for their health. Keeping the tank bare could also be a problem as axolotls need some grip in the tank to walk. It is better to have a substrate like fine sand in the tank. As this does not cause much damage even if ingested. Also, axolotls love to dig and play in the sand. Plants and hiding spaces also could be added to keep them from getting distressed.
Axolotls love to spend time digging the sand at the bottom of the tank. They love to hide around plants like mosses, hornworts, and anubias. They also love little caves in water to swim and play around. So add these little things to the tank to keep your axolotl happy. Axolotls are also very sensitive to water quality. It is recommended to change the water weekly. Also be aware that Axolotls like still water, the filtration system used should not disturb the tank’s water flow. It is recommended to use an external filter with a spray bar that will keep the water clean without excess flow. Plants can also help to reduce the flow and current of water.
Lighting and Temperature
Axolotls do not prefer bright, harsh lights. They get stressed under the lights as they do not have any eyelids for protection. The decorative lights we use to enhance the beauty of the tank can be quite unpleasant for the axolotls. You can often find them hiding in such conditions. Over time they do get used to the lights, but axolotls generally prefer to stay out limelight!
The water temperature is another essential factor to be looked into. The temperature should ideally be maintained at 15-23 degrees Celsius. Temperatures higher than the ideal may cause loss of appetite, fungal infections and may even cause death. Low temperatures can slow down the metabolism and lead to your axolotl being very sluggish which could affect their health. So remember to look into the temperature of the water too.
Maintaining proper water conditions is essential for the health of the axolotl. You do not want your axolotl to die because of its poo, do you? Axolotl’s waste releases ammonia into the water. The nitrogen cycle helps prevent this. The good bacteria is established in the tank and filtration system and converts ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate, which is a non – toxic form. Regular water changes can prevent an increase in nitrate levels.
The toxicity of the water or the PH levels are also significant. The ideal level is a range between 7.40 – 7.60. PH changing kits are available at most aquatic stores, and they can do the trick. Chlorine water is also harmful to the axolotl. De chlorination is very important, and the chlorine levels should also be kept under check.
Axolotls are known to eat small fishes, worms, and insects. In the aquarium tank, you can feed them earthworms, blackworms, bloodworms. They also enjoy feeding on frozen shrimp, mealworms, tuna, lean chicken, or beef. Axolotls need to be fed in 2-3 days. Young growing axolotls would feed daily. Healthy axolotl adults can even remain without food for 2 weeks.
Handling and Common Illness
Axolotls have no bones, and their skeleton is made of cartilage. They should be handled very carefully, and the nets used should be soft and one with a fine mesh.
Loss of appetite, curling of tail, and gills turning forward are signs that the axolotl is unwell. Axolotls often fall ill due to stress. The common causes of stress are inappropriate water conditions, high/low water temperature, housing with other axolotls/fishes. Eating of the substrate can also cause impaction, where the function of the digestive system is affected. Bacterial or fungal infections can be caused by injuries sustained, though they can regenerate. Heat also can cause them to develop infections. Keeping them at low temperatures can slow down infections. Axolotls can be refrigerated and given salt baths as per the advice of the medical practitioner to treat infections.
The axolotls are inexpensive. You can get one in the range of $20-$35. However, when buying the axolotl, one must also take into account the additional ancillary expenses that will be incurred in taking care of an axolotl. They need a big tank, sound filtration system, pH kit, substrate, and other accessories. These could cost you anywhere between $150 – $200.
Let the above not dissuade you from getting one of the exotic axolotls as a pet. They are relatively easy to manage if the basic set up of the tank and filtration system is excellent. So make sure to pay proper attention to the basic needs of the axolotl, and they can be a lovely companion for as long as 10-15 years!