For the last nine months, I have had the pleasure of owning some of the cutest, toughest little animals I have ever seen.
These animals are a type of aquatic salamander that are native to Mexico. Well… one river in Mexico. They have a very small territory and are quickly becoming extinct in the wild due to climate change and humans affecting their living space.
They make fantastic pets as they’re just so damn cool to look at and are pretty hardy creatures. But at the same time, they have some pretty specific living conditions that need to be met in order for them to live comfortably.
So Number 1: Where do you keep them?
Axolotls are fully aquatic, so they need to live in a fish tank. It needs to be a minimum of 15 gallons for one axolotl and adding 10 gallons for every additional one. The easiest one to get is a 20 gallon long tank. Since they are bottom dwelling animals, the most space at the bottom, the better.
2: What do you need for the fish tank?
This is where having an axolotl starts getting a tad complicated. Or easier, depending on how you view it.
When axolotls eat, they suck water into their mouths. Because of this, you need to be very careful what you have at the bottom of the tank. Regular fish tank gravel is a no go, as they can consume it and become impacted (more on that later.) So you can go one of two ways. You can either leave the bottom of the tank bare (my preference) or get fine sand (which looks better). The thing I don’t like about sand is I found the axolotls I previously had liked to bury their food and waste, which soiled the water pretty quickly.
Other than that you can have pretty much most fish tank accessories. As long as it’s not small enough to fit into the axolotls mouth. But trust me, they have pretty big mouths, so go for something that’s twice as big as their heads at least.
You’ll definitely need a hide, as axolotls love having somewhere they can feel safe and also some plants. They tend to hang out on them a lot and just perch there. It’s super cute.
3. How much maintenance does their tank take?
I do a 30-40% water change every Friday on my tank. And also change the filter inserts as directed on the box. Again, Axolotls are extremely messy creatures (meaning they poop.. A LOT) so you’ll need to be on top of cleaning it up. If the ammonia spikes in the water it can cause anything from them not eating to getting burns on their sensitive little bodies.
You also have to make sure you stock up on water conditioner, because you are going to use this every single water change.
They biggest maintenance is making sure their water stays cool! This is not a pet you want to get if you live somewhere where it is hot most of the year and you do not have an extremely good air conditioner. Axolotls water needs to be kept between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher can cause heat stress. But you’re safe until about 74 degrees. That’s when it starts getting really dangerous.
4. What do they eat?
This is the fun part. And I hope you’re not squeamish. Axolotls are carnivorous. So they need plenty of protein for their little bodies to stay healthy. My favorite to feed them is Night Crawlers or Red Wigglers. It’s kind of fun to watch them eat as they’re so vicious when they eat. But then you remember that they don’t have teeth and it’s just adorable.
You can also feed them Carnivore Pellets, feeder fish, ghost shrimp, shrimp, salmon, but Night Crawlers are absolutely the best for them.
5: How big do they get/how long do they live?
Axolotls generally get between 8 and 13 inches long. This all depends on their food source, their habitat, and their gender. If one axolotl is alone in a 30 gallon tank and eating the best Earth worms around, they’re probably going to grow bigger than a tiny little axolotl living off of bad quality pellets in a too small tank. They’ll live longer too.
They can live anywhere’s from 15-20 years. These are a long term pet. So prepare for the commitment.
6: How do you know if they’re healthy?
Well… a few things come to mind. Axolotls have tells that will let you know when something is going wrong.
Their gill hairs will shrink or disappear. They’ll just end up going bald. At this point, you know there’s probably something going on with the water quality. Test their water, make sure everything is at the level it should be. I bet there will be something off.
Is there anything white and fluffy hanging off their gills/bodies? This is usually fungus and needs to be treated.
Look at their tail. Axolotls will (most of the time) lay with their tails completely straight. If their tail looks wavy, chances are your lotl is stressed and you have to change something. Check to make sure they have a place to hide. Make sure the water parameters are good. Make sure the water flow from their filter isn’t too strong and make sure their water isn’t too warm.
Are they eating and pooping? I swear… it’s only parents of human babies and animal babies that can talk about poop so openly and regularly. But it’s a legitimate thing and usually one of the first clues that something is wrong with your little friend.
Remember how I mentioned impaction? Well, not pooping is a sign of impaction. This means that nothing can get through their little bodies and everything is stuck. This is dangerous and needs to be rectified immediately.
7: What do I do if I notice any of these things?
I’m a relatively new owner. So I’m not going to give you specifics on how to treat your axolotl. I will just tell you a couple treatments that I have done on my lotls. If you’re concerned… contact the person you got the lotl from, join a Facebook group of experienced owners or contact a vet.
*this post is not to give treatment advice
When I first got Luna, she was recovering from a pretty nasty fungal infection. Poor girl had lost most of her gill hairs and the fungus ended up coming back on her toes. I gave her salt baths every day for 5 days while being tubbed with 100% water changes.
Chomper recently went through a pretty scary medical scare (well, he still is.) and he ended up having to be fridged. Fridging is one of the last resorts for axolotls. You want to make sure to monitor them closely during the fridging and keep an eye on the temperatures as well. The idea behind fridging is that when Axolotls body temperatures drop to a certain point, their body expels everything in their system to keep food from rotting in their intestinal tract. This is especially helpful for Axolotls who are constipated or impacted.
8: Just enjoy your pet.
Axolotls are such interesting creatures to watch. Here’s a salamander that never morphs. They always stay in their baby stage. People see them as a viewing pet, and I guess in a sense they are since you can’t pick them up and play with them… but they know who their parents are. They know who bring the noms. They’ll swim with you as you walk by, they’ll swim to the top to greet you and just overall be absolutely adorable.
Next post I do about axolotls will be about Chomper. I raised him since he was an egg, so I can post about how to do that too!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
Until next time,