SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: THE AXOLOTL

Species Spotlight: The Axolotl
Updated
If you are looking for a unique species around which to center your next tank, consider the axolotl.
If you are thinking about starting up a new aquarium, you have probably already considered a variety of options for stocking your tank. You could go with the large, brightly colored discus fish or, if you prefer something a little more low-maintenance, a community tank full of colorful platies and swordtails. But if you really want something unique and you are amenable to taking on a new challenge, you should consider something entirely different – the axolotl.

What is an Axolotl?

The Axolotl is not a type of aquarium fish but it is an aquatic animal. Technically, it is a type of neotenic salamander that goes by the scientific name, Ambystoma mexicanum. This beautiful creature is native to the Lakes Chalco and Xochimilco in Mexico where their natural habitat is rapidly shrinking due to urbanization. The good news is that these creatures reproduce easily in captivity and their unique regenerative abilities makes them scientifically valuable. The Axolotl has been the subject of a great deal of research and selective breeding has led to the development of a wide variety of color morphs. These creatures can reach a length of 12 inches or more and they have the typical salamander-like body with a dorsal crest that extends into the tail.

Things to Think About

While the Axolotl is an amazing and beautiful creature, it is not the best choice for all aquarium hobbyists. The captive care for these creatures is relatively simply, but there are certain considerations you need to make for their long-term wellness. For example, axolotls are cool-water animals so they can become stressed if the temperature in their tank gets too high. Being native to Mexico, you may think that axolotls are used to warm water but they actually live in lakes that can be found at higher altitudes which makes them cooler than low-altitude lakes.
 

The ideal temperature range for the axolotl is below 70°F – anything in the 70°F to 75°F can be mildly problematic and temperatures over 75°F can be extremely stressful and even deadly. The reason for this is that the higher the water temperature, the less oxygen it can hold – axolotls require a great deal of oxygenation in their water in order to thrive. Aeration is also very important for an axolotl tank, especially if the tank temperature is teetering on the edge of 70°F. If you have trouble controlling the temperature in your tank, at least install an air stone to help prevent the warmer temperature from robbing your tank water of vital oxygen.

Another important consideration to make when thinking about keeping axolotls is their need for special substrate. Axolotls walk along the bottom of the tank rather than swimming, so the size and texture of your substrate becomes very important. Sand is the best substrate for axolotls because it is gentle on their feet and it can pass through their systems if they accidentally ingest it, unlike gravel. A bare-bottomed tank is not recommended for these creatures because it will not give them anything to grip when they are walking about.

Tank Set-Up and Feeding

When it comes to setting up your axolotl tank, you have the freedom to choose whatever arrangement you like as long as you meet a few basic requirements. You have already learned that sand is the best substrate for an axolotl tank but you also need to consider the size of the tank and the decorations. A 10-gallon tank may be sufficient for very young and small axolotls but adults need to be kept in a 20-long for a single or a pair – add an extra 10 gallons for each additional axolotl. You will need to equip your tank with a high-quality filtration system to keep the oxygen levels in your tank water high but you need to be careful not to create too much flow. Axolotls prefer slow-moving water so a sponge filter might be your best option – they act as mechanical filters and biological filters while also increasing aeration without creating too much flow.


As for lighting, the axolotl is a nocturnal creature so you need to avoid bright lighting during the day. Lunar LED lighting is a good choice if you want to see your axolotl while he is active without stressing him with bright lighting. Axolotls also require plenty of hiding places in their tank, so use things like PVC pipes, shallow rock formations, pieces of driftwood and even ceramic pots in your tank. Just be sure to avoid any rough or pointed edges that could injure your axolotl. You can also choose to incorporate live plants (or synthetic) plants into your tank which could provide additional hiding places while also helping to keep the oxygen levels high. To keep the water quality in your tank high, plan to change about 20% of your tank water on a weekly basis.

In terms of feeding your axolotl, keep in mind that these are carnivorous animals so they need plenty of meat-rich foods. These animals are not picky eaters as long as the food is presented in bite-sized pieces. You can use high-quality carnivore pellets as your axolotl’s staple diet and supplement it with chopped earthworms, strips of fresh meat and fish, frozen foods, and other live foods. When feeding your axolotl, only offer as much as he can consume within 2 to 3 minutes. Similar to feeding aquarium fish, any uneaten food will simply break down and produce ammonia which could stress your axolotl. If you use sinking wafers or pellets, remove any uneaten portion of these foods after 1 hour in the tank.

Choosing an Axolotl

Once you are sure that your tank is set up properly and you are ready to care for an axolotl, you can start thinking about what kind you want. Because these animals are extensively bred in captivity there are a number of different color morphs to choose from. Wild axolotls typically exhibit a gray or olive-colored base with black or dark gray spots – they may also be solid gray or black in color. In contrast to these dark-colored morphs, there are two forms of albino axolotl available – white and gold. The white albino axolotl is white all over with pink eyes while the gold is similar in color but with gold or yellow blotches all over the body. There is also a leucistic morph which looks very similar to the albino white but has black eyes. If you want a more colorful axolotl, they come in a variety of fluorescent colors and there is also an attractive piebald form which has a white base covered with black blotches.

The axolotl is a unique and beautiful aquatic creature, but it is not the right choice for all aquarium hobbyists. These animals require a special tank set-up and a meat-rich diet in order to thrive. If you think that the axolotl might be the right choice for you, take the time to do some of your own research and make sure your tank is set up properly before you bring your new pet home. 
comments powered by Disqus

Most Recent Forum Discussions

  • Replacing substrate - By duskyangel, (0 replies)

    How can I replace the substrate in my aquarium while still maintaining the cycle? Won't this really disrupt the cycle because all the bacteria is ...

  • How many nerite snails for 10 gal tank? - By kate_kuhli, (1 replies)

    Does anyone know how many nerite snails would be good for a 10 gallon tank? Would my tank have enough algae to sustain a few ...

  • Aquaclear 50 power filter - By billy_corycat, (1 replies)

    Is this too powerful for a 20 gallon? I'm thinking about switching my filter over to this, but I'm not really sure if it's meant ...

MOST RECENT ARTICLES

Balloon mollies make great additions to the brackish tank.
HOW TO START A BRACKISH TANK
If you are looking for a new challenge as an aquarium hobbyist, try cultivating a brackish tank.
Cichlid Compatibility: February Week 2 Aquarium Trends
CICHLID COMPATIBILITY: FEBRUARY WEEK 2 AQUARIUM TRENDS
In the second week of February 2017, one of the highest trending topics in aquarium-related social media is in regard to cichlid compatibility.
Creative “Hacks” to Keep Your Aquarium Clean
CREATIVE “HACKS” TO KEEP YOUR AQUARIUM CLEAN
Keeping your aquarium clean doesn't have to be a chore with these simple aquarium cleaning "hacks".

AQUARIUM NEWS AND TRENDS

How Has Technology Changed the Aquarium Hobby?
HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY CHANGED THE AQUARIUM HOBBY?
Advances in modern technology have changed the world we live in, but how has it affected the aquarium hobby?
The Bright and Colorful Discus Fish: Spring 2017 Aquarium Trends
THE BRIGHT AND COLORFUL DISCUS FISH: SPRING 2017 AQUARIUM TRENDS
Discus fish are some of the most brightly colored fish in the animal kingdom.
Shrimp in the Home Aquarium: Spring 2017 Aquarium Trends
SHRIMP IN THE HOME AQUARIUM: SPRING 2017 AQUARIUM TRENDS
If you're looking for a unique way to stock your new tank, give freshwater shrimp a try.
Aquarium News: Five New Species of Dwarfgobies Discovered
AQUARIUM NEWS: FIVE NEW SPECIES OF DWARFGOBIES DISCOVERED
Gobies are some of the smallest fish in the world and dwarfgobies are the smallest of those.
Aquascaping the Aquarium: March 2017 Aquarium Trends
AQUASCAPING THE AQUARIUM: MARCH 2017 AQUARIUM TRENDS
The art of decorating a home aquarium is called "aquascaping" and it is a trending topic in aquarium social media this month.
Cichlid Compatibility: February Week 2 Aquarium Trends
CICHLID COMPATIBILITY: FEBRUARY WEEK 2 AQUARIUM TRENDS
In the second week of February 2017, one of the highest trending topics in aquarium-related social media is in regard to cichlid compatibility.
Betta Fish Trending Topics for January 2017
BETTA FISH TRENDING TOPICS FOR JANUARY 2017
The betta fish is and will forever be one of the most popular types of aquarium fish.
Species Spotlight: The Axolotl
SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: THE AXOLOTL
If you are looking for a unique species around which to center your next tank, consider the axolotl.
Species Spotlight: New Corydoras Catfish Discovered
SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: NEW CORYDORAS CATFISH DISCOVERED
A species of Corydoras catfish that was discovered in the 1990s has finally been officially described and named.
Trending: Adding LED Moonlights to the Aquarium
TRENDING: ADDING LED MOONLIGHTS TO THE AQUARIUM
With advances in aquarium lighting technology, you now have the option to add specialized nighttime lighting to your aquarium.
Trending: Jellyfish in the Home Aquarium
TRENDING: JELLYFISH IN THE HOME AQUARIUM
You have probably seen your fair share of jellyfish in zoo aquariums, but did you know that it is possible to keep these creatures as pets?
Newly Discovered Fish Species of 2013
NEWLY DISCOVERED FISH SPECIES OF 2013
New species of plants and animals are being discovered every year.
The Top New Coral Species of 2013
THE TOP NEW CORAL SPECIES OF 2013
The saltwater aquarium hobby is ever-changing -- trends and even species come and go.
New Discovery Key to Keeping Pinnatus Batfish
NEW DISCOVERY KEY TO KEEPING PINNATUS BATFISH
The Pinnatus Batfish is one of the most striking species of saltwater aquarium fish, but notoriously difficult to keep in the home aquarium.
Study Reveals that Fish May Have Individual Personalities
STUDY REVEALS THAT FISH MAY HAVE INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITIES
While some species like Oscars are known for exhibiting dog-like behaviors, a recent study shows that many fish are capable of developing individual personalities.
Self-Poisoning: A Damaging Defense Mechanism
SELF-POISONING: A DAMAGING DEFENSE MECHANISM
If you have ever brought a group of corydoras catfish home from the store to find that they all died in transport, this article will be incredibly enlightening.
Wireless Aquarium Lighting Solutions
WIRELESS AQUARIUM LIGHTING SOLUTIONS
One of the latest developments in aquarium lighting is wireless control of LED systems.
Media Reactors - An Innovative Approach to Aquarium Filtration
MEDIA REACTORS - AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO AQUARIUM FILTRATION
When it comes to aquarium filtration there are many options to choose from.
Innovations in Marine Disease Treatments
INNOVATIONS IN MARINE DISEASE TREATMENTS
Treating marine aquarium diseases is easier than ever with innovations like medicated frozen fish food.
News: Unique Species to Hit the Market
NEWS: UNIQUE SPECIES TO HIT THE MARKET
The new year brings a new wave of unique species to add to your home aquarium.
Your Aquarium Might Not Be as Peaceful as You Think
YOUR AQUARIUM MIGHT NOT BE AS PEACEFUL AS YOU THINK
For many aquarium hobbyists, the aquarium is a source of relaxation and serenity.
Trending: Colorful Species for the Marine Tank
TRENDING: COLORFUL SPECIES FOR THE MARINE TANK
Color has always been a main component of the marine tank but these species are keeping the bar high.
News: Trade Continues Despite Threatened Conservation Status
NEWS: TRADE CONTINUES DESPITE THREATENED CONSERVATION STATUS
A recent paper published by the Conservation Research Group and the IUCN shows that more than 30 threatened species endemic to India are still being regularly exported, despite their conservation status.
News: Lionfish Invasion in the Atlantic
NEWS: LIONFISH INVASION IN THE ATLANTIC
Lionfish are a very popular species in the marine aquarium hobby but they have begun to threaten native populations in the Atlantic as they spread from their native habitat in the Indo-Pacific.
North American Aquariums Go Green
NORTH AMERICAN AQUARIUMS GO GREEN
From recycling and organic farming, sustainability and conservation are two hot trending topics.
How Aquarium Trends Affect the World
HOW AQUARIUM TRENDS AFFECT THE WORLD
Trends in the aquarium trade have an effect on more than just aquarium hobbyists -- they can affect the whole world.
Changes in Marine Aquarium Design
CHANGES IN MARINE AQUARIUM DESIGN
The only thing that doesn't change in the world is the fact that things change.
Trending:  Sophisticated Water Quality Monitoring Devices
TRENDING: SOPHISTICATED WATER QUALITY MONITORING DEVICES
Testing your aquarium water is a chore that no aquarium hobbyist likes.
Trending:  Nano Tanks More Popular Than Ever
TRENDING: NANO TANKS MORE POPULAR THAN EVER
A nano tank is more than just a small fish tank -- it is a compact, self-contained ecosystem.
Trending: Compact Aquarium Equipment
TRENDING: COMPACT AQUARIUM EQUIPMENT
One of the latest trends in aquarium equipment is compact upgrades.
Cleaning Your Tank Can Make You Sick
CLEANING YOUR TANK CAN MAKE YOU SICK
Cleaning your aquarium is a necessity in order to keep your fish healthy.
The Science Behind Behavior: Fish Jumping Out of Tanks
THE SCIENCE BEHIND BEHAVIOR: FISH JUMPING OUT OF TANKS
Guppies are known, in particular, for jumping out of the tank.
Cramped, Boring Environments Lead to Anger in Fish
CRAMPED, BORING ENVIRONMENTS LEAD TO ANGER IN FISH
A recent study conducted by a biology professor at Case Western Reserve University reveals that environment size and complexity has a direct impact on aggressive behavior in aquarium fish.
Trending: Glow in the Dark Fish
TRENDING: GLOW IN THE DARK FISH
Glow in the dark fish may not be a new trend but new additions to the market have recently been made -- glow in the dark convict cichlids and angelfish.
Read more articles (34)