8 Things to Know Before Acquiring an Axolotl

The Mexican walking fish or axolotl is indeed a unique and exotic pet that can be acquired legally, especially from locally bred axolotls.

While they may not be as common or enjoy as much popularity as snakes and other reptiles, they are gradually finding a place center stage among sought-after aquarium pets.

Because the axolotl is not as well-known, it’s not unusual for pet parents to wonder if they are difficult to care for and if they are suitable as beginner pets. Here are a few things that merit some attention before you acquire an axolotl.

Things to Know Before Acquiring an Axolotl

1. Axolotls Make Great Pets

Apart from their appealing appearance, these little amphibians are calm and mild-mannered pets. They swim around their aquarium home, hide under plants and in caves, and eat.

They are not very social animals, so if you like the idea of a pet that you can observe and admire with very limited handling, the axolotl is it. Axolotls enjoy solitary life, so there is no need to even have a second one.

If you want a pet to cuddle, forget the axolotl. There are delicate amphibians that possess a skeletal structure formed from cartilage instead of bone making them extremely fragile.

This one of the primary reasons these amphibians should not be handled if possible. When moving an axolotl to clean the tank, fine mesh nets are recommended to avoid harming your pet. This mesh cover needs to be very fine to prevent limbs and gills from becoming caught in the net.

If you like the idea of owning a pair, you should consider a few things to guarantee their safety. The tank must be large enough to host two axolotls. Comfortable aquarium conditions translate into approximately 20 gallons of water per axolotl.

Axolotls are cannibalistic predators, so they should be of similar size. If one axolotl is smaller, it will inevitably be the larger axolotl’s next meal. Other fish should not be housed in the same aquarium as axolotls are they will attempt to eat anything that moves. 

Two axolotls should also preferably be of the same sex so that a female is not constantly pregnant which would be harmful to her health.

2. Axolotls Can Regenerate Body Parts!

Axolotls Can Regenerate Body Parts

Quite a few lizards and reptiles in general can detach tails when threatened or attacked by a predator. They will grow back their tail eventually.

Axolotls also have this capability, but it’s not limited to tails. They can regenerate body organs like the heart, grow new eye tissue, or regenerate limbs.

This doesn’t mean that they should be treated carelessly because limb damage is still harmful to general health even with regeneration. More than one axolotl in an aquarium should only be permitted if they get along.

3. Axolotls Should Be Acquired Legally

The simplest way to purchase an axolotl is likely from a local breeder. Axolotls are considered an endangered species in their natural habitat in Mexico.

Captive-bred axolotls are a simpler and better choice. This is because as amphibians bred in captivity, there are accustomed to aquarium living from birth including people staring at them and artificial lighting.

Breeders will also be able to furnish more information about your pet and its parents, and generally aid you if you are a new axolotl parent.

Keep in mind that axolotls are not legal in every state in the U.S. Check local regulations before you acquire one. It is illegal to keep axolotls in:

  • California
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • Virginia

and New Mexico requires a permit.

See also: Do Stores Sell Axolotl?

4. An Axolotl Needs a Good Aquarium

Axolotl aquarium


You need to purchase an appropriately sized glass aquarium and set it up before your pet arrives. A glass tank must be able to support the water’s weight.

This is because they do have specific environmental needs that must be met to guarantee their health. The aquarium tank should be set up and cycled before you introduce your pet into the tank.

While a 10-gallon tank will suffice for a single axolotl, 20 gallons will afford your pet more space to move around in and help with the management of elimination and excrement.

Keep in mind that these salamanders can grow as long as a foot and weigh as much as 10 ounces, so they do need room to swim comfortably. 

Axolotls also eliminate quite a bit of waste, so ammonia will build up more quickly in a smaller tank. The larger the tank, the easier it is to keep the water clean.

Good filtration systems will also help with waste management, but they should not produce strong water currents. Strong water movement stresses axolotls

Axolotls are aquatic amphibians, so they do not require dry land. Even so, your aquarium should have a mesh covering should they decide to jump out.

Decorating an axolotl tank should include a layer of aquarium tank sand and larger gravel. This gravel should be larger than your axolotl’s head so that they do not accidentally swallow it causing impaction.

Also, provide plants and caves so that your axolotl has several places to hide.

5. Environmental Temperature, Lighting, and Water Quality

Axolotls do not like or thrive in water temperatures that are too warm. The optimal temperature for these amphibians should measure between 57° and 68°F. Temperatures that rise to 75°F and above can be fatal.

Axolotls do not appreciate bright lighting so position your tank away from direct or bright light sources including windows or particularly bright indoor lamps.

Decorative tank lighting should be dim. This explains the importance of hiding places and caves. Your pet will need places that provide shade. Young pets tend to be shy, so hiding places in the shade become doubly important.

Water quality is equally important. You can use tap water if you treat it first with water conditioner for aquariums to remove chloramines and chlorine from the water. Avoid using distilled water because water pH should measure between 6.5 and 7.5. Use a water testing kit.

6. Feeding an Axolotl

Can You Feed Axolotls Ham

Axolotls are carnivores. They need a protein-based diet. You can feed them with worms for pet or bait stores. Frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms offer variety.

An axolotl’s diet in its natural habitat, these salamanders will eat tiny fish, snails, crustaceans, insect larvae, and mollusks.

Axolotls also eat tiny strips of liver and beef, fish pellets, frozen fish bits, as well as earthworms and tubifex worms. If the quality of the food is good, you will not need to integrate your pet’s diet with supplements of vitamins and minerals.

Generally speaking, an adult axolotl will need two to three feedings weekly. Young axolotls can do with smaller daily feedings. Plan on feeding your amphibian after sundown when they are more active.

Do not leave food bits or uneaten food in the tank to rot and breed bacteria. Make sure the tank stays as clean as possible.

See also: How Many Pellets Should Be Fed to an Axolotl per Meal?

7. Cleanliness Means Pet Health

Keeping the aquarium tank pristine is fundamental to ensuring your axolotl’s general health. A good filtration system is crucial to water cleanliness and preventing infection.

Remove leftover food and unshed skin. An axolotl will shed its skin and usually will eat it. If it does not take it out of the tank.

8. Looking After Your Axolotl’s Health

Like any living being, axolotls are susceptible to infections and health issues. Keeping the tank clean and the proper water temperature will aid in preventing infections. Ammonia buildup in tank water can be poisonous.

Axolotls are at risk for impaction or gastrointestinal obstructions. If they eat gravel and sand that they are unable to regurgitate, this is a problem.

They may lose their appetites and appear sluggish in movements. Having a good veterinarian specializing in aquatic creatures will be invaluable when keeping an axolotl.

Elizabeth Smith
Elizabeth Smith is an American Italian freelance writer living outside a small town on the island of Sicily in southern Italy. She resides on a country hillside with her husband, two cats, and six dogs. Both she and her husband dedicate a portion of their free time to studying their canine family. Elizabeth has completed courses as both a dog handler and dog trainer and in canine first-aid. She is also part of a local volunteer group in support of stray and abandoned dogs.

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