Axolotl

Care

The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, looks really unique when it seems to be smiling at you. It has a soft body with external gills. It can reach up to 12 inches and living for up to 15 years. Axolotls stays at the larval stage of a salamander that dont go through metamorphosis and therefore retain juvenile features, remaining purely aquatic with external gills. They are actually neotenic salamanders. They are still able to reproduce.

The axoloty in stock are extremely common in captivity and they are bred in the UK. Axolotls are relatively fast growing, reaching sexual maturity in approximately 18-24 months. They are capable of reproduction and breed readily in captivity when conditions are met.

Axolotls make great first time amphibians, as they are very hardy and quite forgiving of the kinds of mistakes that beginners can make. Despite that, we have to try our best to cater for their needs so that they don’t only survive but thrive in our care. Axolotls are generally considered to be communal but care should be taken when housing specimens together different in size. Cannibalism is not unheard of in this species (in fact it is quite common when large individuals are houses with youngsters).

Housing

Axolotls are solely aquatic and will require an aquarium to live in. They are quite an active species so the bigger the aquarium you can provide the better. It should be fitted with a tight fitting lid, as they are prone to escape from their enclosures. They are not adapted to live on land, so will dehydrate and die quickly if they escape and are not placed back in the water in time. Axolotls like relatively cool water. The ideal water temperature for your Axolotl is a temperature gradient of 10-20°C (50-68°F). This is generally around room temperature with no additional heating required. Exposure to temperatures above 23c for a long period of time can cause major problems with axolotls so care should be taken to keep an eye on the temperature during the warmer months of the year.

The entire aquarium should be dedicated to providing adequate water for your Axolotl. The water should be at a depth of approximately 25- 30cm (10 -12 inches). Axolotls need fresh water. De-chlorinated or bottled spring water should always be used as Axolotl are really sensitive to various chemicals and cannot handle water with chlorine and chloramines in. Daily water change is preferred to avoid the build up of bacteria, unless a filter can be provided to keep the water clean. A low flow filter is preferred, and with a filter it should only be necessary to change one third of the water every week. Water should be kept at a PH level of around 7. It should be checked after each major water change to ensure that a similar PH is always maintained.

Pebbles is ideal as a substrate due to the fact that axolotls feed via a process of suction drawing prey in to their mouths meaning smaller substrate particles can get sucked in causing impaction. An alternative some hobbyist suggest is to use sand with the logic that the particles are too small to cause impaction. The safest is not to use any substrate, however this can be a little unsightly. Decors like bogwood, large stones and logs are highly welcomed. Moving things around from time to time to change the layout of the tank give the axolotls something new to explore. Live plants can be used in your aquarium, but Axolotls are known to sometimes get their gills entangled in some plants so care should be taken when choosing plants for the aquarium.

Feeding

Axolotls are carnivorous and should be fed every 3-4 days on a diverse diet of prey items. Foods like lean meat cut in to small chunks (offal), earthworms, crickets, bloodworm, daphnia, shrimps, mosquito larvae and even trout pellets can be offered. Feed just as much as they can comfortably eat within 10 minutes.

Being quite inquisitive animals, axolotls will soon take to hand feeding if you should decide to attempt it. Pinkies and pieces of offal are great for encouraging hand feeding as they are particularly relished by them.

Breeding

Axolotls are neotenic and they can breed without changing to a typical adult salamander form through metamorphosis. They should not be bred until they reach the age of 18 months to ensure they are the appropriate size and maturity. They can produce some 300-600 spawn per breeding which are attached to objects such as plants and bits of driftwood in the aquarium. These eggs should be separated from the adults soon after spawning to avoid the possibility that the eggs will be eaten. Axolotls can breed approximately every 6 months in captivity. This is not necessarily healthy though, so it is advised to only breed your females once a year.

Axolotls can sometimes be encouraged to breed by reducing the daylight hours they are exposed to for a few weeks beforehand. The eggs need to be kept at 20°C (68°F) in aerated water, so a pump and air stone will be necessary. A collection of live plants is useful to allow for the proper water oxygenation required for successful hatching. Larvae will hatch within 2- 3 weeks. They will require their first feed around 24 hours after they hatch. Feed the larvae daily on daphnia, white worms and bloodworm. There should be a constant supply of food, hides and space when rearing the young as they tend to be rather cannibalistic. As the larvae become juveniles you can increase the variety of food substances that may be fed to your Axolotls. Chopped up earthworms and bloodworm are a good choice to begin their transition onto larger prey items.