Can You Have an Axolotl as a Pet?

The axolotl may not be a very common pet, but it is definitely a unique one. Axolotls are a type of salamander and can be found in a variety of colors, including black, gray, gold, and white. But unlike most salamanders, they do not undergo metamorphosis from larval to adult form where breathing changes from gills to lungs. Instead, they remain aquatic their entire life. Thus, they are not pets you handle, but they can be quite entertaining to watch. They are relatively easy to care for and hardy, which makes them suitable for beginner pet owners. Plus, their dietary needs are fairly straightforward. However, because they live their entire lives in water, you must be able to provide an adequate tank that is kept at the right temperature for this animal to thrive.

In fact, a dark hiding spot, such as a flower pot laid on its side or an aquarium castle, is often appreciated. Most owners find a filtered aquarium is easier to maintain because unfiltered water needs frequent changing to remove waste.

Consult your veterinarian regarding the amount of food to offer, as well as how often to feed your axolotl, as this varies depending on age and size. In the case of injuries that arent life-threatening, theyre able to regrow their limbs, tail, and even other body parts, such as heart and eye tissue. Unsanitary tank conditions can lead to viral or bacterial infections, the signs of which include lethargy and a lack of appetite.

If you notice abnormal changes to your animal’s body, such as it starting to grow larger, have a veterinarian who specializes in exotic pets examine it as soon as possible. Axolotls are native to Mexico and are considered a critically endangered species due to loss of habitat, declining water quality and urbanization. It’s best not to buy an axolotl through the internet or a classified ad unless you‘ve spoken directly with the seller, and they’re able to provide you with adequate information on the animal.

Can you legally own an axolotl?

Axolotls are illegal to own in some states, including California, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia. In New Mexico, they are legal to own but illegal to import from other states. Check your local exotic pet laws to verify that you may keep one.

Do axolotls make good pets?

Axolotls are large, adorable salamanders that are native to Mexico. Though not as common as snakes or large lizards, they have a growing fan base in the exotic pet community. … Hardy and easy to care for, axolotls are great pets for people who may not have a lot of experience with exotic animals.

How much does it cost to buy an axolotl?

An axolotl costs between $30 – $75 for a basic but healthy one. If you’re looking for something more exotic like a piebald axolotl variation, it will cost about $100. Some rare specimens can cost a few hundred, but these are generally extremely unique variations that only serious collectors tend to purchase.

Is it cruel to have a pet axolotl?

Trendy Pets Are Dangerous For EcoSystems. The axolotl is just one example of an exotic animal becoming a trendy pet, causing them to all but disappear from the wild. These trends can have a catastrophic impact on an animal’s native ecosystem, and in many cases results in irreparable damage.

Also known as the Mexican walking fish, axolotls are unique creatures that have been seeing a large spike in popularity as pets recently. Their ever-smiling expressions endear many to these aquatic salamanders, though thats far from the only unique feature the species sports. They come in a wide range of colors, including whites, reds, greens, browns, and blues, making them a colorful resident in any aquarium. But these amphibians arent big swimmers. Instead, they tend to walk around on the floor of the aquarium, so they do require ample space.

But axolotls are known for producing outrageous amounts of waste, so youll also have to replace 20% of the water every week to keep everything clean. Since axolotls spend their time on the floor of the tank and rarely wander to the upper levels, the substrate you choose will have a major impact.

While there are other feed options available such as feeder fish or even small mammals like mice, these are generally shied away from for pet axolotls. To feed your axolotl, simply use a long pair of forceps and place the food in close proximity to your pet. Image Credit: Tinwe_PixabayOne reason for the explosion in popularity of keeping axolotls as pets is that theyre very enjoyable to view.

A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand.

Axolotls are popular aquatic pets, famed for their ability to regenerate lost limbs and breed while still in juvenile form. Probably the inspiration for How to Train Your Dragons Toothless, Axolotls are actually Salamanders, Ambystoma mexicanum, but instead of metamorphosing into land-dwelling, lizard-like Salamanders, they stay in the aquatic, newt-like larval stage their entire lives, grow large, and can even reproduce.

Tap water can be used with a pH of 6-8, although Chlorine and Chloramine are damaging to Axolotls and filter bacteria, so a dechlorinator should always be used. Larger rocks and wood can be used as additional decor and Axolotls may perch or lie on them, and either artificial or live plants are fine to be used too.

Axolotls will eat sinking pellets, frozen cockles and mussels, chunks of fish, Earthworms and bloodworm.

Axolotl Behavior and Temperament

While axolotls are relatively hardy to slight fluctuations in their environment, they also have delicate, soft bodies with permeable skin. In fact, most of their body is made of cartilage rather than bone. That means they should not be handled unless absolutely necessary. And if you do have to move them out of their tank, do so with a fine mesh net that won’t entangle any of their body parts.Once you have their housing setup correct, you generally only have to spend a few hours per week on feeding and cleaning. The rest is simply enjoying them as a quiet, aquatic companion. Axolotls tend to be fairly bold and are perfectly content to move about their tank as they’re being watched by their humans. Some will come up to the side of their tank when a person is there observing them.However, they aren’t particularly social animals and don’t require any tank companions. They should not be kept with other species as axolotls might try to eat pet fish, and the fish sometimes nip at them, as well. You even should be cautious about housing them with other axolotls. Juvenile axolotls can be cannibalistic toward one another, so they are best raised in separate enclosures. Adults can potentially be housed together, but still, watch out for cannibalistic tendencies. If a body part gets bitten off by a tank mate, an axolotl actually can regenerate it over time. However, it’s still best to avoid this situation altogether.

Housing the Axolotl

At least a 15- to 20-gallon fish tank is recommended for axolotls. Make sure the tank has a secure lid, as it’s not uncommon for these animals to try to jump out of their enclosure. A land area is unnecessary in the tank for these fully aquatic animals. At a minimum, the water depth should be slightly more than the length of your axolotl. But adding extra depth will help with water quality and give your animal more room to move.Keep the tank in a cool room away from bright sunlight with the water temperature between 57 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit (14 and 20 degrees Celsius); don’t allow it to get above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). No special lighting is required for axolotls (unlike many reptiles). In fact, a dark hiding spot, such as a flower pot laid on its side or an aquarium castle, is often appreciated.Some owners opt to leave the bottom of the tank bare, though others believe this might stress the axolotl if it can‘t get a foothold on the smooth bottom. If gravel is used on the bottom, it must be coarse gravel that’s bigger than the axolotl‘s head. Fine gravel might be ingested and cause an obstruction.Tap water treated with an aquarium water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramines is fine for axolotls. Never use distilled water, and make sure the pH of the water remains between 6.5 and 7.5. (You can find a water test kit to check at most pet stores.) Most owners find a filtered aquarium is easier to maintain because unfiltered water needs frequent changing to remove waste. However, if you choose to have a filter on the tank, the filtration rate should be slow. Powerful filters that create strong currents can stress an axolotl.For a filtered tank, cleaning typically consists of a 20% water change each week, as well as siphoning waste from the bottom of the tank. If you‘re not using a filter, you likely will have to do a 20% water change daily or every other day. Never do a full water change, as this can alter the water chemistry too drastically and stress your animal.

Food and Water

In the wild, axolotls feed on snails, worms, crustaceans, small fish, and small amphibians. In captivity, they can be fed a variety of brine shrimp, small strips of beef or liver, earthworms, bloodworms, tubifex worms, other frozen fish foods, and commercial fish pellets. Do not feed any worms or fish you caught yourself, as they can carry parasites. In general, no vitamin or mineral supplements are necessary.Consult your veterinarian regarding the amount of food to offer, as well as how often to feed your axolotl, as this varies depending on age and size. In general, many adults take two to three feedings per week. One of the best methods to feed is by holding the food in round-nosed forceps in the tank near the animal. You also can simply drop the food in the water as close to the axolotl as possible. If your axolotl isn’t interested in eating much during the day, try feeding it in the evening when it’s typically more active. Remove any uneaten food from the tank every day to keep the water clean.

Common Health Problems

A notable characteristic of axolotls is their regenerative powers. In the case of injuries that aren’t life-threatening, they’re able to regrow their limbs, tail, and even other body parts, such as heart and eye tissue.But this remarkable ability doesn’t protect them from all health issues. Unsanitary tank conditions can lead to viral or bacterial infections, the signs of which include lethargy and a lack of appetite. Plus, ammonia buildup from waste in the tank can be toxic. If this occurs, it can interfere with the respiratory process causing damage to the gills as well as result in neurological damage.Moreover, axolotls with gravel in their tank that’s small enough to eat are prone to gastrointestinal obstructions. If your axolotl experiences an obstruction, it will likely be sluggish and not want to eat. And if it’s not promptly treated, death can occur quickly.Furthermore, axolotls rarely do undergo metamorphosis into a terrestrial form. The reasons for this are poorly understood, though it might have to do with hormones or water characteristics. The metamorphosis can be extremely stressful for an axolotl, and it can significantly shorten its lifespan. If you notice abnormal changes to your animal’s body, such as it starting to grow larger, have a veterinarian who specializes in exotic pets examine it as soon as possible.

Purchasing Your Axolotl

Always acquire an animal from a reputable breeder or rescue group. It’s best not to buy an axolotl through the internet or a classified ad unless you‘ve spoken directly with the seller, and they’re able to provide you with adequate information on the animal. If they can‘t give you thorough documentation on its origin and health history, that’s a red flag. It’s also ideal to speak with people who have acquired animals from that seller to uncover any concerns. Plus, a local exotic veterinarian often can direct you to a good breeder or rescue.Expect to pay between $20 and $70 on average. Animals with more rare coloring, such as copper, tend to cost more. A healthy axolotl will be active, and it might accept food if you offer it. Its skin shouldn’t be flaky, and its body should be somewhat plump (as opposed to underweight), though it shouldn’t have any abnormal swelling.

Space Requirements

Axolotls start life pretty small, and if you purchase a juvenile, you won’t need a very large aquarium to start with. Ten gallons should do it. However, these salamanders don’t remain small for long. By the time your axolotl is fully grown, it could be 12 inches long! Naturally, such a large specimen would be cramped in a 10-gallon tank, which is why 20 gallons is the minimum recommended tank size for an adult axolotl.

Tank Setup

Your axolotl will require a large tank with plenty of walking room on the bottom and ample filtration. Usually, filtering the water in an aquarium is easy, but axolotls prefer still water, so you’ll need a special filter to avoid creating a current in the tank. But axolotls are known for producing outrageous amounts of waste, so you’ll also have to replace 20% of the water every week to keep everything clean.Since axolotls spend their time on the floor of the tank and rarely wander to the upper levels, the substrate you choose will have a major impact. Sand is generally considered to be the best substrate. Avoid aquarium gravel as it can easily be swallowed and cause compaction.In addition to the substrate, you’ll need to provide plenty of hiding places for your axolotl. You can use plants, logs, rocks, and more. Just make sure that you leave lots of areas for your axolotl to feel hidden and safe.

Caring for an Axolotl

It’s not too difficult to care for an axolotl. Water conditions are the primary concerns. Aside from weekly water changes and sufficient filtration, you also have to consider the hardness of the water, its temperature, and even the pH level. If your conditions are off, your axolotl will suffer.The temperature should remain between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit since this is a cold-water species. Acidity should remain between a pH level of 6.5 and 7.5. Water hardness needs to remain between 7-8 dKH, which can be easily monitored using some water hardness testing strips.If you’re used to pets that require daily feeding, then feeding an axolotl will seem simple by comparison as they only need to eat two or three times each week. In the wild, these amphibians eat a diverse carnivorous diet that consists of fish, snails, insects, and other amphibians. For axolotls in captivity, brine shrimp, earthworms, and bloodworms tend to be the best feeders since they’re high in protein, readily available, and axolotls will eat them without hesitation.While there are other feed options available such as feeder fish or even small mammals like mice, these are generally shied away from for pet axolotls. They can introduce parasites to your pet’s tank, which could cause health problems. Your axolotl will definitely eat these foods, but it’s probably more risk than it’s worth.To feed your axolotl, simply use a long pair of forceps and place the food in close proximity to your pet. Once it spots the meal, your axolotl should take care of the rest.

Temperament and Personality

One reason for the explosion in popularity of keeping axolotls as pets is that they’re very enjoyable to view. These amphibians tend to notice when they’re being watched, and they like to put on a show, suddenly becoming even more active for the audience.These are considered to be rather docile pets. Your axolotl will rarely show aggression when left on its own. However, they’re unsuitable for cohabitation with anyone or anything. Even another axolotl in the same tank could spell dire consequences. They’re likely to fight, with loss of limbs or life as a likely result. Luckily, axolotls can regrow their limbs, but it’s still not a situation you should create. Other fish or aquatic creatures will likely be attacked, eaten, or killed as well. So, axolotls should always be kept in their own tank, away from other creatures.Even though they’re amphibians, you should never remove your axolotl from the water. In truth, you should never handle it at all. Instead of bone, an axolotl’s structure is made from cartilage, so they’re not the most durable creatures. Handling one can easily lead to damage. If you must remove an axolotl from its tank, then you should use a mesh net and immediately place it in another water tank.Getting an axolotl isn’t like purchasing a goldfish. Your axolotl will be around for quite some time. On average, they tend to live to about 10 years old in captivity. That said, some specimens manage to stick around for 20 years or better. Even though this is rare, it’s a possibility you should be prepared for if you’re going to purchase a pet axolotl.

How to set up for axolotls

Axolotls can reach a maximum length of 45cm, although 25-30cm is a more common adult size. That means that although available when just 10-15cm in length, these creatures will grow, and will need roomy accommodation to house them long term.A large glass terrarium with the bottom section filled with water could be used, but unusually for an amphibian, an aquarium is a better choice and they don’t need a land section to haul out onto. A 90-100cm aquarium could home up to four adult axolotls, with a 120cm, 240-litre aquarium being suitable for up to six, although they are often just kept in pairs.Because of their lives underwater, Axolotls don’t need UV lamps or basking lamps, hot or cool areas, and instead, the aquarium should be unheated, with the ideal temperature range being from 16-22C. Avoid temperatures above or below that as the animals can become sick. So no heater should be necessary, but these large carnivores will produce a lot of waste, so sufficient filtration and regular water changes are key, just like with a fish tank.Tap water can be used with a pH of 6-8, although Chlorine and Chloramine are damaging to Axolotls and filter bacteria, so a dechlorinator should always be used. Standard aquatic light is fine, and excessive bright light will only cause unwanted algae problems.

Decor choice

Decor, or lack of it, is very important for the Axolotl aquarium. They are known for ingesting grit and gravel while sucking in food from the bottom and this can cause them problems long term. So keepers either opt for very fine sand which can pass through the gut (and is soft on Axolotl skin,) large pebbles which are too large to be eaten, or no substrate at all, and just a glass bottom, which is also easy to keep clean.Larger rocks and wood can be used as additional decor and Axolotls may perch or lie on them, and either artificial or live plants are fine to be used too.Replicating the natural habitat of the Axolotl isn’t easy as Lake Xochimilco has changed so much due to draining, development and canal systems, that no one is really sure what the perfect Axolotl natural habitat is. Whatever it is, isn’t to their liking now as none were found in the lake in 2010, and only a few specimens were found in joining canals. But strong currents are probably to be avoided.

Tankmates

The best company for an Axolotl is other Axolotls, or they can even be kept on their own. If fish are added they will even be eaten by the Axolotl, or the fish will eat the delicate gill filaments as the Axolotl lie motionless on the bottom. Leave all other creatures out. Keep them only with other specimens that are their own size as larger ones could eat smaller ones, and underfed specimens may even try to eat limbs.

Feeding

Axolotls will eat sinking pellets, frozen cockles and mussels, chunks of fish, Earthworms and bloodworm. They have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell, so drop the food in and they will sniff it out, move up to it and inhale it. Remove any uneaten food and don’t overfeed.