Axolotl: Ambystoma mexicanum, a fascinating creature in your aquarium
The Axolotl is a remarkable, charming creature, and It looks like a mix between a fish and a salamander. But it is not a fish but a salamander (amphibian) that does not go out of the water.
The Axolotl is a popular exotic animal to keep in an aquarium partly because they are relatively easy to care for. What should you know about keeping Axolotl in an aquarium?
What is essential to Axolotls?
We are going to talk about many topics in this blog; first things first. If you want to know where to start, it’s with proper aquarium setup and feeding.
Mexican amphibian in your aquarium
This creature lives in parts of Mexico, and its unusual name comes from the name the Aztecs gave the fish. The Axolotl is an amphibian with tiny legs, a large, laterally flattened tail, and prominent red-colored gills.
Axolotl can grow up to 30 centimeters long, including the tail, so it is quite a large animal. It is brown to gray, but the white species is mainly kept in aquariums.m
Length: Up to about 30 centimeters long
Aquarium size: 1 Axolotl: a 100-liter aquarium. 2 to 3 axolotls: 160 to 200 liters. With a bottom surface of 50 to 80 liters
Water temperature: 12°C and 20°C
Lifespan: In aquarium: 10 to 15 years
pH value water: 7 to 7.5
Particularities: amphibian. It is a nocturnal animal, so make sure there are enough dark spots at the bottom of your aquarium.
Typically, amphibians undergo a metamorphosis from egg to larva and an adult form. Not the Axolotl. This animal remains in its larval form (neotenia) but does become sexually mature.
The Axolotl retains its fins and gills but does not develop protruding eyes or eyelids like the salamander. The Axolotl grows more extensive than the average salamander larva and does develop sexual maturity.
The Axolotl represents a step back in evolution, as it descends from an earlier evolutionary form of the salamander.
The Axolotl also has in common with the salamander: the regeneration property allows fallen body parts to regrow.
The habitat of the Axolotl in Mexico has been severely depleted in recent years. CITES considers this fish an endangered species, with an estimated number of no more than 1,200 living in the wild in 2009.
It lives on in aquariums. This species of fish always stays in the water, preferably in deep lakes.
What does an Axolotl prefer to eat for food?
Axolotls are carnivores, so they eat meat. They have relatively undeveloped teeth, which are used to grasp other animals and objects. Their teeth are not used for biting or chewing, and food is swallowed whole.
This means that the Axolotl’s food must fit in its mouth. Large food is a problem for the Axolotl because the teeth are not very developed. When food is too large to swallow, the Axolotl will eventually give up and allow the animal to escape from the mouth.
Axolotl Teeth cannot pierce human skin if you let Axolotl suck on your finger.
Axolotls have a large, wide-mouth, a kind of mouth cup. When they want to eat something, they open their mouths, and water, food, and everything around it are sucked in.
Axolotls eat high-quality food with a low fat and oil content. If they eat a lot of food with high oil content, they can develop liver problems. Choose a diet with a balanced protein and vitamin content.
Axolotls eat both live and dead food. The movement of live food encourages the Axolotl to strike, especially young Axolotls.
Earthworms are therefore good food for adult Axolotls. Make sure the food does not contain chemicals, such as agricultural poisons. You can, therefore, also grow worms yourself if you have the space to do so.
Caution: live fish food can contain parasites and diseases that are then passed on to the Axolotl; this is especially true with live food that comes from water.
Based on the above characteristics, you can feed the following to your Axolotls:
- Tubifex worms: Alive, they can contain parasites and dangerous bacteria. Frozen Tubifex is safer than live but less nutritious.
- Bloodworms: These are mosquito larvae, not worms. This is a very nutritious food for a balanced diet. Remove them from water without fish or frozen in cubes; it’s suitable for young Axolotls.
- Brittle slipworm: (Genus Lumbriculus) is a type of earthworm, but thinner and smaller with a dark brown color. This type of worm has similar nutritional values to the earthworm. Remove them from fish-free water to prevent disease, or purchase them from your fish store.
- White worms: is a good food source but with relatively high fat and oil contents.
- Daphnia: is a balanced and nutrient-rich food for Axolotls, and you can grow them at home. (This is a small type of crayfish).
Most common diseases in the Axolotl
A striking feature of the Axolotls, they have in common with the salamander. Lost body parts can grow back due to their regenerative properties. As a result, the Axolotl can withstand numerous injuries.
Still, some diseases are common in Axolotls. Mainly because of stress, This applies to all kinds of animals. Too much stress can make an animal sick.
Stress can be prevented by making the animal as comfortable as possible. It would be best if you mimicked its natural environment in Mexico.
What does the Axolotl not like? For convenience, I’ve listed them here:
- Powerful water flow; make sure the water in the tank does not flow too vigorously.
- Water temperature too high; keep the temperature between 12°C and 20°C. At high temperatures above 24°C, the Axolotl is very stressed.
- Dirty water; change the water regularly.
- Keep the temperature stable; Sudden temperature changes make the Axolotls stressed.
- Untreated tap water can cause illness.
- Parasites and other companions in the aquarium; Axolotls do not like other fish in the aquarium. Parasites enter the water through (live) food of poor quality.
- Poor water quality; such as wrong water temperature and wrong pH values.
- Nitrite and ammonia deposition; due to insufficient biological filtration.
- The aquarium’s bad decor: The Axolotl often stays at the bottom of the aquarium and likes to hide in dark places. So make sure that these dark spots are present at the bottom of the aquarium.
Furthermore, the Axolotl is an easy animal to keep in an aquarium. Some additions to the aquarium can be toxic to the Axolotl. The Axolotl is an amphibian and can absorb chemicals through the skin. You can easily poison Axolotls with drugs.
For example, Sterazin and Protozin are toxic to Axolotls; Additions containing metals should also be avoided. Malachite green is a common ingredient in aquarium medicines but is highly toxic to the Axolotl. Methylene blue is safe but with a minimal dose.
How do you best set up an Axolotl aquarium?
The Axolotl lives in the wild in lakes in Mexico. It is therefore advisable to mimic this as much as possible in an aquarium for Axolotls. The Axolotl likes to live in cool, oxygenated freshwater.
It is an amphibian, and therefore sensitive to low or high temperatures and temperature changes. What to do? Don’t worry; I’ve made a top 9 tips:
1. The right temperature
The water temperature is ideally between 12°C and 20°C. At temperatures above 24°C, Axolotls will swim frantically through the water and are prone to disease and death. Low temperatures are less of a problem for the animals, but they don’t like them.
2. Suitable bottom of the aquarium
Cover the bottom of the aquarium with fine sand, ideally sand between 1 and 3 millimeters in size. The Axolotl can swallow large stones because they are sucked in with food, with severe consequences for the animal.
3. Filter and water pump
A water filter and water pump are essential for an Axolot aquarium. These ensure that oxygen is continuously pumped into the water. An external filter is the best option. Ensure there is not too much movement in the water, as this can also cause stress for the Axolotl.
4. Use soft water
The quality of the water is also essential. The Axolotllels thrive in water with a pH value of 7 to 7.5. Water that is too soft can cause the animals to lose their color for a while, This is not so much dangerous, but it does cause stress.
When you get soft water from the tap, you can supplement it with salts such as potassium, sodium, and calcium. Provide a maximum of 0.5 grams of nitrates per liter of water.
5. Keep the aquarium dark
They love a dark aquarium; provide sufficient hiding places at the bottom of the aquarium.
Axolotls are nocturnal animals, and This means that the light should be dimmed when you feed them and in the evenings. Also, make sure there are enough dark spots on the bottom where the Axolotl likes to stay.
6. Use a large aquarium
I recommend the following rule of thumb regarding aquarium size for Axolotls.
- 1 Axolotl: a 100-liter aquarium.
- 2 to 3 Axolotls: An aquarium of 160 to 200 liters.
Axolotl likes to live on the bottom of the aquarium. The height is less important, but the size of the base is more important. Therefore, choose an aquarium with a large enough surface, with about 50 to 80 liters of water at the bottom.
7. Create hiding opportunities
In addition, the aquarium should be large enough for both the animals and objects. Axolotls like to retreat to dark places. You can create these. For example, cavities, roots, etc. The lighting should also be dim.
8. Good plants in the aquarium
Ferns in the aquarium provide shade. An Axolotl likes that. You can undoubtedly keep plants together with Axolotls. Choose robust species, such as waterweed, Java fern, and mosses. Floating plants are also delightful for Axolotls because they provide the desired shade.
9. The right aquarium inhabitants
You can keep an Axolotl alone or in pairs. The more adult animals, the larger the aquarium should be, and the larger the ground surface because they mainly reside here. So keep this in mind carefully.
Amphibians rarely live well with other animal species. Therefore, different types of fish are not suitable for accompanying. There is also a chance that other animal species will be seen as food. The presence of other fish species in the aquarium can also cause stress for the Axolotl.
Design of Axolotl aquarium in summary
Temperature: 12°C and 20°C, never above 24°C
Soil: Sand from 1 – 3 mm, many dark spots
Filter and water pump: Not too much movement in the water
PH value: 7 to 7.5
dark aquarium: Axolotl is a nocturnal animal
Aquarium size: At least 100 liters, with a large bottom surface
Objects: Axolotls like to retreat to dark places
Plants: Robust species, such as waterweed, Java fern, and mosses
Number of Axolotls in one aquarium: Alone or in pairs. Take into account the size of the aquarium with several Axolotls.
Are they living with other animals?: No, other animals appreciate them less and prefer to eat them.
How old and big does an Axolotl get?
An Axolotl can live to be about five to six years old in the wild but much older in an aquarium, perhaps 10 to 15 years old. The better the conditions, and the less stress, the older this animal will get in your aquarium.
The Axolotl can grow up to about 30 centimeters long, including the tail, and is, therefore, quite a large amphibian in an aquarium.
It is so essential that you adjust your aquarium to the animal. With a good ground surface and dark spots, the animal is satisfied in your aquarium.
The reproduction of the Axolotl
The Axolotl resembles a larva but matures and can reproduce between 5 months and several years of age.
The woman lays eggs, and the breeding season is from December to June, but Axolotls can be grown when the right conditions are given at any time of the year.
Do you want to grow your own Axolotls? This is a fun and exciting process. The Axolotls are pretty unpredictable. They usually breed once a year, but this can also be done differently.
Step 1: The breeding season is from December to June, but you can simulate the season in an aquarium. Important factors are light (in summer, there is more daylight) and temperature. Put a male and female together.
Tip: you can encourage mating. Put the pair separately for a few weeks in an aquarium with a water temperature of 20 to 22°C. Then place them both in a tank with a water temperature of at least 5°C lower; this stimulates courtship behavior.
Step 2: Provide a quiet aquarium in a quiet room so that the couple is not disturbed.
Step 3: In courtship, the male dances to get the attention of the female. It looks a bit like a waltz because of the circular movements that the male makes. The male secretes odorants from his glands and fans his tail at the female.
Step 4: Salamanders have external fertilization. The male makes a seed packet and deposits it for the female. The male deposits these on rough pieces of rock at the bottom of the aquarium.
He deposits about 5 to 25 of these packages in the aquarium and leads the female over them.
Step 5: The female then takes this up in her cloaca. Sometime later, fertilization occurs internally.
Step 6: Provide enough plants in the aquarium. Plastic plants are delicate, but Java ferns are also good.
Step 7: After a few hours to 2 days, the female starts spawning. Each egg is laid separately. The female hangs the eggs on plants or lays them on the ground.
She lays between 100 and more than 1000 eggs. The amount of eggs depends on the size of the female and her physical condition.
Step 8: After laying the eggs, it is best to remove the male and female from the aquarium.
Step 9: Do the eggs lack pigment? Then the mother is an albino. Regular eggs are dark brown. Pigment may appear during the embryo’s development, indicating that no albino is growing in the egg.
The result is optimal when the eggs are attached to plants, and it seems that continuous water circulates the eggs; the eggs hatch after 2 to 3 weeks.
Step 10: When the eggs are fertile, most eggs will hatch when well aerated with water. Therefore, an air pump is undoubtedly useful, ensuring that the water flow is not too strong. The eggs will hatch after about 17 days, at a water temperature of 20°C.
Step 11: After the larvae have crawled out of their eggs, they eat small animals so that they can grow quickly. In winter, the larvae hibernate. They usually mature the following year.
What Types of Axolotls Are There?
Axolotls are distinguished by the colors they have. There is a wide variety, from primary species to rare species of Axolotls.
The Wild Axolotl
The type of Axolotl that lives in the wild has a combination of green, brown, and black with specks of shiny golden iridophore pigments. Some are lighter, others a little darker.
This is the natural color of the Axolotls that live in the wild. That is why this is the wild variant. As this type ages, the colors darken, to almost black.
This wild species of Axolotl is distinguished from the melantoid species by the iridophore, shiny pigments, and shiny rings in the eyes.
The Leucistic Axolotl
The Leucistic Axolotl is white or pink, with black eyes and sometimes black spots on the face and upper back; this is not an albino as they have black eyes and black freckles.
The white albino axolotl
A white albino Axolotl is entirely white, with pale pink/red eyes. Their entire body lacks color pigment. The gills may appear pink but are clear, and blood flow is visible. In inactive albino Axolotls, the gills appear white.
There are two types of albino Axolotls:
- White albino Axolotls have iridophores, which is the shiny pigment in their eyes and gills.
- Axanthic albino Axolotl has no melanophores (black pigment), xanthophores (yellow and reddish pigment), and iridophores (shiny pigment).
Usually, the difference between these two types of albino Axolotls lies purely in the genetics of the animals and is almost invisible to the eye.
The golden albino Axolotl
The golden albino Axolotl lacks melanophores, and this gives them a golden appearance. They do not have black eyes but pale, yellow, or red eyes because they have a form of albinism. When young, they are still bright yellow, and this fades as they get older.
The melanoid Axolotl
It is very similar to the wild Axolotl but has some important differences. This melanoid Axolotl has more melanophores (the dark pigment) and no shiny pigments.
So they have no gold flecks on their bodies and no gold ring in their eyes, making them appear darker.
The copper-colored Axolotl
The genetic details of the copper color are unknown and, therefore, difficult to breed. It is a variant of the albino Axolotl, as they have red-tinged eyes and lay white eggs.
The above typesAxolotls are common. There are also some rare species of Axolotls.
The Spotted Axolotl
It is a spotted Axolotl when the pigmentation runs down the body and sides, not just the head and top, as with the leucistic Axolotl. The spots are a genetic flaw that arises during the development of the animal.
The chimera axolotl
Chimerism is the phenomenon where two eggs fuse in development. Each side of the Axolotl grows according to the genetics of the egg it hatches from. This results in a split appearance.
One side may grow more slowly than the other; this is also a mistake in the development of the beast, and therefore not the manipulation.
The silver dalmatian Axolotl
Little is known about this type of Axolotl, but this is probably a light melanoid Axolotl.
The mosaic Axolotl arises when the Axolotl in development shows the characteristics of two cells. Indicates the characteristics of two types of Axolotls, which is also a genetic flaw in development. Often the mosaic Axolotl is barren.
Where can you buy Axolotls?
You mainly buy them in the aquarium shop. The price so various and depends on the rarity of the type. For a wild Axolotl, you usually pay between $35 and $40.