Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) Species Profile & Care Guide
Axolotls are excellent first amphibians for beginners because they are relatively easy to look after as well as being a very hardy species, so it is unlikely that your pet will become ill. Axolotls may be active at any time of the day and are curious animals. They like to explore new surroundings, so you should change the aquarium's layout every once in a while. This will prevent your Axolotl from growing bored. Once you place your Axolotl back in the tank, you will notice them re-exploring their new surroundings.
Axolotls have predatory tendencies and have been known to eat smaller tank mates and other Axolotls' limbs if similar sized or smaller; therefore, it is recommended that you keep your Axolotl on its own to avoid this, even if the limbs will grow back eventually.
Some people have said that it is ok to keep Axolotls with aquarium fish; however, this is not advised as there is a chance that the Axolotl may eat the fish, or the fish may try to eat the gills of the Axolotl, causing damage to them.
Axolotls are relatively active species, so the bigger the aquarium you can provide, the better. Ensure your aquarium has a tight-fitting lid as this species will try and escape from their aquarium. Axolotls are not accustomed to living on land, so if they escape and do not get placed back into the aquarium on time, they will dehydrate and die quickly.
It would be better if you covered the bottom of your aquarium with a gravel substrate, ensuring that they are a larger size; otherwise, your Axolotl may accidentally ingest it. Sand, pebbles, marbles and large rocks are recommended.
This species is highly appreciated for its qualities because it can regenerate almost every part of its body in months, and, in some instances, more vital structures, such as the limbs, tail, tissues, of the eye and heart and the central nervous system.
In some cases, this species has been known to repair damaged limbs and regenerate an extra one, ending up with extra appendages that makes them charming to pet owners as a novelty. In metamorphosed individuals, however, this ability to regenerate is greatly diminished.
Axolotls have a rare trait of preserving their larval features throughout their adult life. This condition, called neoteny, means it keeps its tadpole-like dorsal fin, which runs almost the entire length of its body.
Axolotls have a thick, flat body with a disproportionately large head in compassion to its body. They display signature feathery external gills, which distend from the back of its head. Its mouth appears bent as if always slightly grinning. Round, dark eyes with yellow, iridescent irises take in its murky environment. It has legs similar to that of a lizard, which it uses to prowl around the bottom of the aquarium.
This species natural colour is usually black or mottled brown with gold speckles and an olive undertone and can shift their hue a few shades lighter or darker as needed for camouflage. However, because breeders frequently cross the variant colours, they have many common colour variants. These include pale pink with black eyes, golden with gold eyes, grey with black eyes, pale pink to white with red eyes and all black or dark blue with no gold speckling or olive tone.
|Scientific Name||Ambystoma mexicanum|
|Other Names||Mexican walking fish|
|Difficulty||Beginner - Intermediate|
|Best kept as||Loners|
|Lifespan||5 - 6 years|
|Temperature||55 - 75 ℉ (12.8 - 23.9 ℃)|
|PH||6.5 - 8.0|
|GH||8 - 14|
|KH||3 - 8|
|TDS||140 - 250|
Natural Habitat of the Axolotl
Axolotl is only native to Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco in the Mexican Basin. Lake Chalco no longer exists, having been drained as a flood control measure, and Lake Xochimilco remains a piece of its former self, existing mainly as canals.
The main problem has been the improper release of organisms, in this case, fishes like Mojarra, Asian Carp and Tilapia. Also, the chemical contamination at the beginning of the past century when natural springs of freshwater were altered to bring potable water to Mexico City and the original canals were refilled with wastewaters from the city as well as the fact that the urban sprawl is growing around the lake area. They are now considered to be in danger of extinction.
Their habitat is like that of most neotenic species, high altitude bodies of water surrounded by risky terrestrial environments.
Other Amphibians of interest
Axolotls feed on molluscs, worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, and some fish in their natural habitat. In captivity, axolotls eat various readily available foods, including salmon and trout pellets, as well as frozen or live foods such as earthworms, crickets, mosquito larvae, waxworms and bloodworms. Axolotls will also eat feeder fish, although care should be taken when providing these as the fish may contain parasites.
Breeding the Axolotl
The courtship behaviour of Axolotls follow the general Ambystoma pattern; firstly, they both nudge the other's cloacal region, which eventually leads up to a "waltz," with both animals moving in a circle. The male will then move away while waving the posterior part of his body and tail, and the female will follow.
The male will then deposit a conical-shaped jelly mass with sperm cells by actively shaking his tail for around 30 seconds and will then move forward one body length. The female then moves over the cone-shaped jelly mass, shaking her tail, and picks it up with her cloaca.
Axolotls reach sexual maturity when they are around one year old. They are seasonal breeders in the wild, generally from March to June. They typically deposit about 100 to 300 eggs in the water and attach them to substrates such as floating vegetation or rocks. The eggs will hatch between 10 to 14 days, and the parents will take no part in the parental care, and the young will become independent immediately.