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The Axolotl

Xenon Junkie

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So, after much debate you have decided to own one of these magnificent creatures.
Not only are these animals interesting to watch, but they're full of character and a pure joy to own.
Here below is a guide to keeping these animals happy and healthy.
So Enjoy!


Cloud the Axolotl, Owned by Xenon Junkie

Scientific Name: Ambystoma mexicanum

Life Span: Axolotls can live for anywhere between 10 -15 years.

Potential Size: The average Axolotl grows to usually between 9-10 inches. Although there are reports of some Axolotls growing past 14 inches!

Origin: Mexico, Lake Xochimilco, and Lake Chalco. Lake Chalco no-longer exists and Lake Xochimilo only remains in sparse areas as canals.

General information:

The Axolotl is an astounding animal, one unlike many creatures seen in the world today.
Its beautiful contrast between water and land has given it the nick name "The Mexican walking fish".
The Axolotl though is in no way a fish, it's an amphibian, specifically a type of salamander.

Now many of you may be wondering "What are those pink fluffy things on the side of its head", those are the Axolotls gills.
Gills? But you've just told us an Axolotl wasn’t a fish? Of course it isn’t a fish; gills are quite common amongst salamanders, just not adult ones. If you’re finding that hard to understand then I’ll explain: As with all amphibians salamanders hatch in water and go from being a fully aquatic animal to maturing to being a semi-aquatic terrestrial animal. This means that the Axolotl itself is an Abnormality amongst salamanders, given the fact that it can live and breed in its larval form. This is called neotenous.
Axolotls have been known to change into their terrestrial states and not remain in neotonic conditions in which case a paladarium or riparim should be provided. It can happen both naturally and through steroid induced.

Another amazing fact about the Axolotl is its almost unique regeneration qualities.
An Axolotl can quite happily regrow its own toes, limbs and even portions of its own brain.
This has given the animal an unrivalled interest from the scientific community. After all, by unlocking the Axolotl genetic makeup, it could hold the Holy Grail and the key to human regeneration. Of course that is just speculation.

Housing and Care:

The Axolotl is a "Cold water" Animal, preferring water temperature at between 14-18 degrees Celsius. So NO HEATER, unless you live in a particularly cold climate. Deviating from these recommended temperatures can cause adverse affects to the animal.
Colder temperatures and the animals’ metabolism can slow down to almost a halt. If the animal has any food in its digestive tract the cessation of digestion shall eventually cause the food to rot. Causing either food poisoning to the animal or forcing them to regurgitate their meal.
Warmer temperatures and the animals’ metabolism can greatly increase, causing an increase in appetite which can lead to an increased growth rate as well as an early death. This also can encourage Algae and Fungi to grow, in which case regular water changes can reduce these.
In Temperatures over 24'c can lead to heat stress and burning which can eventually lead to disease and death.
Heat stress is shown through pale splotches on the skin, and should be noticed A.S.A.P (although harder to spot on white axolotls, to reduce the temperature I suggest using either Tank Fans, Chillers or to move the tank to a cooler area of the home.

Young Axolotls maybe small and cute, but they shall not stay small forever! Remember to Accommodate for your Axolotls future not its present.
An Adult Axolotl can live quite happily in at least a 10 Gallon Aquarium, although I usually prefer larger. They are kept in smaller conditions in laboratories, but I’m not going to compare laboratories to pet ownership as they are two totally different worlds.

Plants can be kept with Axolotls as they shall not eat them, in fact my axolotl loves hiding underneath my piece of Jati wood with some Anubias on top.
But I only use a few plants; too many plants can obscure an Axolotls swimming causes stress to the animal. Floating plants are a nice choice to the Aquarium as it helps decrease the amount of light, being a nocturnal animal this is very helpful.
Although I have found that during the day, especially feeding time, My Axolotls seem to get quite excited and have destroyed many plants whilst flailing around.
That being the case, nice hardy strong plants shouldnt be a problem. Or just focus on the backdrop.

Wonder the type of Substrate you should use for your axolotl? Well wonder no more!
Large river pebbles are one of the preferred substrate for axolotls, due to its large size it prevents swallowing.
Personally I prefer to use sand for a number of reasons. The main reason being I'm not going to have my axolotl getting a gravel stone lodged inside itself leading to its death. Given the way axolotls grab their food, its easy to see how one of those gravel stones can accidentally get sucked in, but unfortunately the consumption of sand can also cause internal scarring as well as impactation. So personally its down to preference, but by getting your Axolotl to surface feed from your fingers you can avoid both problems.

As Axolotls are primarily a Nocturnal animal they do not like a lot of light and definitely need some kind of shelter to hide away from it.
An item such as a flower pot, a wood cove or basically anywhere shaded. An aquarium light is not essential for Axolotls in anyway, but that does not mean they are bad for them. If plants are in the aquarium then it seems almost logical to have an aquarium light.
Just be wary that the changes from dark to light (switching the light on) can greatly stress your animal, as Axolotls are sensitive to light changes.

Water level is all down to your own personal preference. Many people I know have a lower level of water for their axolotl (approximately half of the aquarium depth).
But I fill mine all to the top. It doesn’t harm the animal and I find it’s just more aesthetically pleasing. Not to mention it keeps Cloud away from the scenery when he’s flailing around with a cube of artemia in his mouth.

Filtration is not essential for Axolotls; given the fact you're ready to make regular water changes.
But Personally I prefer good filtration to maintain an adequate consistent low toxin levels (De-nitrifying bacteria prevent the levels of Ammonia building up and burning the animal). For Axolotls you can use any of these filter systems: External power filters (canister), internal power filters and under-gravel filters. Personally I keep an External Power filter (Canister) on my axolotls as it keeps the water crystal clear and allows the Axolotl to utilise more space in the tank. Although its the expensive option. If you do go for Canister filters remember to restrict the flow, as too much water flow is one of the biggest causes of stress related diseases in Axolotls. I've not only used a spray bar to reduce the amount of flow into the tank, but I’ve also turned it to face the wall of the tank to dissipate the flow even further. This has left cloud as happy as can be. Flow rates should be considered on any filter system, especially for axolotls. Try not to go for a larger filter than needed, and go for one that’s bang on the requirements for a tank of that size. Undergravel Filtration is also does not work with sand substrate, it'd be wise to go with one of the other filtration options or change to a larger gravel substrate

Tank Mates:

Now I'm sure every potential Axolotl keeper at some point has been tempted to keep something with their Axolotl, some lovely harmless guppies or something fish like. But the Simple answer is NO. Fish especially. An Axolotls gills are very delicate and can resemble a tasty treat such as blood worm to a fish, so it is highly recommended you keep Axolotls and fish away from each other. Axolotls can be kept together in an appropriate size aquarium. Although it is recommended to keep youngsters separated due to the increased risk of cannibalism, (as well to the fact that young axolotls nip each other’s limbs and gills). Especially when young, I’ve found that wild type Axolotls seem much more aggressive to other colour morphs (albino, whites and golds). If two Axolotls are introduced together,
I recommend two of similar size so that they aren’t left to eat each other.

Feeding:

Axolotls are an interesting animal to feed, especially when feeding by hand. They can quite happily eat a variety of foods,
Mine get a nice balance of Artemia, Mysis and Blood Worm. Although he has also eaten: Beef Heart, Daphnia, Squid, Prawns Chicken, Earth Worms and Sinking Catfish Pellets
Many people have also recommended feeder fish to me, now if you hold the feeder fish to the animals mouth this is fine practice (although surprising cruel).
But if the fish are left in with the axolotl, the stress of eventual gill nipping outweighs the cons of feeding them. So I tend to stay clear of this.
But feeder fish such as guppies can be used providing they are produced for this purpose by the owner through selective feeding so that the gills aren't associated as food

Although Artemia offers all the nutrients my Axolotl needs to grow I prefer to give Cloud a Variety to stop the animal getting bored. Other Foods can include: Lancefish, Strips of Tilapia and Pinkies
Some peoples Axolotls stop feeding for no apparent reason at all, I’ve found a little change in diet can get the animal up and feeding in no times.

As much as pellets are a nice easy and effortless food to drop in, I find that hand feeding is much more rewarding for Axolotl ownership.
This activity allows you and your animal to "bond" if you will. It also stops the animal from ingesting any harmful substrate and allows you to know exactly what your animal is eating. If you do get bitten, it’s not really painful. Axolotl’s teeth are designed to grab food items, not to tear them. Just wait until the animal realises he/she cant eat your finger and it'll let go. Stay Calm though, as you flailing around stresses the animal out greatly.

Sexing Axolotls

Axolotls reach Sexual maturity at around 1 year old. A Good way to check if your axolotl is sexually mature is to look at the animals digits. A Mature Axolotl shall have black smudges like nails on the ends of its fingers.

Males and females also look fairly different. Males shall have large bumps behind its back legs (the cloacal region), as well as being skinner and having longer tails. Females on the other hand have a shorter rounder sort of shape, as well as a stubbier head. She'll also start to get fatter once she begins producing eggs.

Breeding Axolotls

In Captivity the Axolotl breeding season usually begins at spring and ends at the start of summer (March-June).
Axolotl breeding is usually induced by an environmental change, such as a drop or increase in normal water temperatures. Normal conditions’ being the axolotl has lived in same conditions for a fair while.
Once breeding conditions are right, the male shall place a "packet" of sperm on a flat rocky surface. The female in turn shall pull herself over the sperm packet and pick it up with her Cloaca. Then after a few days she shall begin laying eggs on a nearby plant.
Females can lay anywhere between 300 - 1000 Eggs.

Once the Eggs have been laid it is wise to move them into a different tank to avoid the parents eating them or their young.
The bigger the tank the better so it prevents the young Axolotls from bumping into each other too much and causing damage to each other (nipping...etc), as well as overcrowding can cause high nitrate levels.
Eggs take about 2 weeks to hatch, within that time it is fairly easy to tell live eggs from dead ones. The dead ones tend to look a pale gray colour. It is advised to remove them as soon as possible so bacteria and fungi aren’t attracted to healthy eggs.
Keep the eggs away from harsh sunlight and remember to keep the tank relatively cool.

Caring for Newly hatched/Baby Axolotls is a relatively simple thing. Make sure they have plenty of space, very little lighting (apparently lowers aggression), aerated and clean water and plenty of food. Artemia I find is a nice food for young Axolotls, but not frozen live. As the Animals get bigger chopped up earth worms make a nice addition to their diet.

And now you know how to keep Axolotls!
I hope this Guide has helped you out.
This Guide is Exclusive to Tropical Fish Forums
If there is anything I may have missed or needs correcting,
Feel free to let me know.

Sources:
<a href="http://Axolotl.org" target="_blank">http://Axolotl.org</a>
<a href="http://http://inky.50megs.com" target="_blank">http://http://inky.50megs.com</a>
Thanks to Saltynay & Nmonks for Input of Data
 

Spishkey

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fantastic guide just what i needed many thanks...i so want one now..and haver a spare 120L just sitting here!
 
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Xenon Junkie

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Thanks :good:

My Axolotl lives in a 120L tank and he loves it :)
Just make sure you manage to meet all their requirements ^^

As for getting hold of one,
most LFS's can get hold of them, but wont unless they need to.
So if you do get one, make sure to get it the day it comes into the LFS.
They are usually put into tanks with animals which can harm them, the longer they're their
the more risk of disease and death they can have.
If they're in their own tank though, or with others of similar size (for adults).
Then it should be fine :).

Definately make sure to inspect your animal before hand though!
 

saltynay

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Firstly large river pebbles are the preferred substrate for axolotls, with sand a secondary alternative as sand can still cause blockages and more importantly abrasion to the digestive tract making the animal have internal scarring and thus large food can potentially choke the axolotl due to the inadequate stretching of the digestive tract.

I would advise floating plants for an axolotl tank due to their nocturnal nature it helps to diffuse light.

You say axolotls are messy animals then to get a filter which is only rated adequate surely that is condescending. Filtration is not essential for any animal but to maintain adequate consistent low toxin levels it is very beneficial which should be mentoned. You are also missing several filter systems from your description although you cover the basic areas External filters come in many forms not just canister such as fluidised bed filters which use suspended substrate as the filter media either for biological filtration or mechanical depending on particle size.

Guppy's are common feeder fish and can be added provided they are produced for this purpose by the owner through selective feeding so that the gills aren't associated as food.

Axolotls have been known to change to their terrestrial states and not remain in neotonic conditions in which case a paladarium or riparim should be provided. It can happen both naturally and through steroid induced.
 
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Xenon Junkie

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Thank you for your corrections Saltynay, i greatly appreciate your input.

If possible could you go into more detail about the filtration?
I assumped by basic's would be enough.
But if it being more indepth would be more helpful, then i think we should explore this more.

Thank you for anything else contributed and you have been added to Sources.

- Xj
 

saltynay

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I would just state filtration rather then trying to go indepth as this would avoid any issues or confusion entirely perhaps state that external filtration is prefferred to allow for there to be more space in the tank for the axolotl to utilise as there is less equiptment taking up space. Also perhaps state that UGFs can not be used with sand substrate.
 

shmotis

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I love my axoltls .I first found them around 13 yrs ago in a pet store. Unfortunately I can't find them any more. I was very successful in breeding the first pair that I had , had 100's of babies & sold them to the pet stores. After awhile they just stopped breeding. The parents died at around 8 yrs . I got a new black pair as a gift that was ordered through the mail 4 yrs ago. It turned out that they were male & female but never breed. I had them in a 40 gal aquarium that leaked last summer. I put them in my pond & they love it . We had a cold winter so they are quite hardy . I miss the personal touch of hand feeding them but they are very happy w/ all the space. I really wish that I could find more at a reasonable price.
 
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Xenon Junkie

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I love my axoltls .I first found them around 13 yrs ago in a pet store. Unfortunately I can't find them any more. I was very successful in breeding the first pair that I had , had 100's of babies & sold them to the pet stores. After awhile they just stopped breeding. The parents died at around 8 yrs . I got a new black pair as a gift that was ordered through the mail 4 yrs ago. It turned out that they were male & female but never breed. I had them in a 40 gal aquarium that leaked last summer. I put them in my pond & they love it . We had a cold winter so they are quite hardy . I miss the personal touch of hand feeding them but they are very happy w/ all the space. I really wish that I could find more at a reasonable price.
i think i picked mine up for a tenner from my local LFS, as sometimes they can get them in under the misc section of the order lists. It's best to keep asking.


It'd be nice to get stickied ^^
 

shmotis

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I love my axoltls .I first found them around 13 yrs ago in a pet store. Unfortunately I can't find them any more. I was very successful in breeding the first pair that I had , had 100's of babies & sold them to the pet stores. After awhile they just stopped breeding. The parents died at around 8 yrs . I got a new black pair as a gift that was ordered through the mail 4 yrs ago. It turned out that they were male & female but never breed. I had them in a 40 gal aquarium that leaked last summer. I put them in my pond & they love it . We had a cold winter so they are quite hardy . I miss the personal touch of hand feeding them but they are very happy w/ all the space. I really wish that I could find more at a reasonable price.
i think i picked mine up for a tenner from my local LFS, as sometimes they can get them in under the misc section of the order lists. It's best to keep asking.


It'd be nice to get stickied ^^

I bought the first ones for only $12.00 . The same pet store finally got them in 10 yrs later & were asking $65.00 !! They later put them on sale for $45.00. It was too much considering they were now in the pond . I did ask & the guy said everything has gone up . I used to sell them to the same store for $4 !! I don't know what the 2 that were given to me 4 yrs ago cost. They were ordered from a lab & came UPS. Tubby & Toughie absolutely love the pond. They are both black. My breeding pair was a black & a gold. They had every kind of baby ! My fav was the leucistic. I love their freckles. Are you in the US?
 
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Xenon Junkie

Xenon Junkie

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Cloud my axolotl is a leutistic as well, so i know what you mean about their freckles.
Currently i'm not in this US, im in the Uk :), so from my knowledge prices seem to differ here depending on the availability of breeders from the suppliers
 

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I got 2 baby ones from my LFS a few months ago for £10 each and he had loads at the time,i got my big guy free from a member on here and just paid the postage costs.
 

shmotis

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What do you guys feed yours ? When mine were in a tank I hand feed them frozen beef heart. Now that they are in my pond they have to scavenge on their own. The first 2 that I put in were little 2" babies that I had raised from eggs .. The next time that I saw them in the spring they were huge , all on their own ! Unfortunately this was before I put an electric fence up to keep out the raccoons & they were eaten . These 2 had a hard time learning since they were 3 yrs old when they went in the pond. They were used to begging in the tank & just having food put in their mouths. Now I try to help by dropping stuff near them . Usually I buy shrimp but the fish like it too. I have 1 huge koi that is never full. Today I bought some chicken liver because the fish won't eat it. It's too late in the yr for the fish to have high protein. Last yr the axolotl lost weight but this yr look good ( been in pond 1yr after tank leaked ) . The pond is only 500 gallons so I can see them easily. I sure would like some more though .
 
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