If you have been on the internet at any point in the last few years (or your children have), you have seen an axolotl. The little smiles and bright pink gills make them the perfectly meme-able, sharable aquatic cutie. Their internet fame has made the axolotl a sought-after pet, and their wide availability have made it easy to find them. However, finding proper care is another story. Let’s fix that.
Axolotl are related to the tiger salamander. They are fully aquatic amphibians who keep their gills for their entire lives. Axolotls were originally found in two lakes in Mexico City, one lake which was drained and another that only exists in the form of canals. If not for their ability to regenerate their limbs and thus their value to science, the axolotl would not be in the pet trade due to their threatened status in the wild. Their native lakes are at a high elevation and the temperature rarely rises above 68 degrees F. It is important to remember this. The axolotl can live for over ten years and grow to be over a foot long. They are a commitment, so proper care and research are important to prepare for them.
If you decide to buy an axolotl, here is what you will need:
- 20-gallon long tank for a single adult, at least 10 additional gallons for each additional adult
- low flow filter
- a proper way to keep the temperate down (either a chiller or a cold room)
Setting up an axolotl tank is easier than most other aquatic pets. They cannot be on gravel as they tend to accidently ingest it, so the tank should be either have a bare bottom or sand as substrate. Their temperatures must stay below 70 degrees F, or their immune system will be suppressed and they will be prone to fungal infections and other illnesses. Axolotl are not fond of light, so a dim light is best for viewing. A low flow filter helps keep these rather messy amphibians clean. They do not like flow but need a decent amount of filtration due to their high waste production. Weekly partial water changes are also important to keep the water clean.
Axolotl eat high protein diets. There are many options for feeding. When young, thawed frozen bloodworms are a staple. As they reach adulthood, they may eat specially formulated axolotl pellets, live blackworms, or live reptile quality earthworms. Avoid using worms for fishing, as they are raised in an environment that increases the likelihood of parasites.
Axolotl are a friendly, interactive aquatic pet that will give you years of enjoyment if kept properly. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to care for once they are properly housed and fed. Then you can share your photos of your happy, meme-worthy salamander with the world.