Axolotls

Are Axolotls Hard or Easy to Take Care Of? Read This Before You Listen to Anyone Else…

15 min read

Axolotls

If you are considering having an aquatic pet, an axolotl may not be the first choice to comes to mind. Also known as a Mexican walking fish, an axolotl is a kind of salamander. The term ‘walking fish’ is derived from the way this salamander moves in water – it ‘walks’ along the water bottom instead of swimming like most underwater inhabitants. In fact, axolotls are not fish but amphibians. The species was first discovered in Mexico and remains aquatic its entire life.

Although exotic, axolotls are kept as pets and some people do choose them instead of fish. Depending on your experience with marine creatures, you may ask yourself if axolotls are hard or easy to take care of. “They are easy to take care of and not too demanding. All you need to do is ensure that you provide clean water, the right temperature, and the right food. All of these factors are pretty much basic when taking care of any aquatic species. In captivity, axolotls require water temperature at approximately 14 to 20 degrees Celsius (61 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit) to ensure sufficient food intake. Chlorine is harmful to them and salts such as Holtfreter’s solution are usually added to the water to prevent infections. It spends most of its life ‘walking’ on the underwater bottom of the tank.

Below, we are going to take a closer look at this extraordinary creature and find out in details how easy or hard it is to take care of!

ARE AXOLOTLS HARD OR EASY TO TAKE CARE OF?

If you are planning to take care of an axolotl you can take a deep sigh of relief! These amphibians are easy to take care of and not too demanding. As long as you provide the necessary living conditions and maintain them, you will enjoy a happy and healthy Mexican walking fish!

HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF AN AXOLOTL?

There are a couple of things to consider before inhabiting your tank with an axolotl:

1. Behavior and Nature.

These salamanders are very fragile. Their skin is made mainly from cartilage and not so much from bones. This makes them very sensitive and should be held from as little as possible to never. It is recommended to never touch your axolotl, unless absolutely necessary. So, rule number 1 when taking care of an axolotl – never touch or hold it!

These exotic aquatic species are not that sociable and they do not require the company of other fish or axolotls. Do not combine them with other fish at all, especially a salamander because the salamander may try to eat them. Also, axolotls are not too kind to each other either. When very young, two axolotls may try to eat each other. Two adults could live together but you have to watch out for cannibalistic behavior. It is better not to combine two axolotls together at all in order to avoid any such risks.

2. Feeding and Cleaning.

Once you have set up the living tank, you need to spend only a few hours per week on feeding and cleaning. A funny fact is that they enjoy being looked at and will come near when they notice a human observing them!

3. Housing and Living Conditions.

The axolotl ranges in length of between 15cm to 45cm. However, the most common size it reaches is up to 23cm and anything beyond 30cm is rare. Therefore, a 15 to 20 gallon fish tank is recommended for it.

The minimum water depth should be a little bit more than the length of your pet; however, this is the minimum. Adding extra depth will contribute to healthier water and will provide your inhabitant with more space to move freely. Make sure the tank has a reliable lid as your aquatic companion may try to jump out of the tank!

  • Light and Temperature

The tank must be kept in a cool room away from bright sunlight. The water temperature must be between minimum 14 degrees Celsius and maximum 20 degrees Celsius. Don’t let it reach 24 degrees Celsius. No special lighting is required, unlike when keeping most kinds of reptiles as pets. Only make sure there is not direct bright light falling on the tank and the room where it is kept is not too warm.

  • Water

Never use distilled water for your axolotl’s aquarium and ensure the pH is between 6.5 and 7.5. The pH is one of the most important factors when having an axolotl – it measures how acidic the water is. The right level of acid is necessary for the survival of the axolotl. Most owners prefer tanks with a filtering system to remove the dirt, otherwise you will regularly have to change the water yourself to remove waste. Keep in mind that if you choose to filter, the filtration must be slow. Powerful filters can create strong currents that can be stressful for the axolotl.

If you go for a filtered tank, cleaning usually involves 20% water change each week and siphoning waste from the bottom of the tank. If you are not using a cleaning system, you will have to change 20% of the water yourself every day or every other day at the least. Avoid changing the entire water altogether as this will alter the chemical consistency and your axolotl may get stressed. “

Axolotls are adapted to survive in still water only. If the water flow in the tank is disturbed by the filter, the axolotl can get seriously disturbed and anxious. If you think that the current is too strong, think of installing a couple of plants to balance out the water layers.

  • Plants

Any natural water bottom is filled with plants, corals and some kind of greenery. Since axolotls spend their entire lives walking along the bottom, they are used to having plants around them. They love to hide and use them as protective havens, so installing a couple of plants is a good idea.

Plants like java mosses, anubias and hornworts are good options. Also, you can ask for suggestions at the pet shop where you buy your new companion. In addition, plants give a nicer and more aesthetic look of the aquarium. Here is a brief list of potential plants to consider:

Before setting up plants, bear in mind that they may differ in ways to be installed. Also, the plants will not have access to direct sunlight (direct sunlight is not healthy for axolotls) which may affect the plants’ well-being.

Anubias are probably the best choice as they are hard and resistant. There are also many Anubias varieties that you can choose from: Anubias nana, Anubia Isabelle and Anubia Barteri.

Java Fern is also one of the easiest plants to take care of and is good for an axolotl. It is a classic aquarium plant, it is reliable and the growth is slow.

The Amazon Frogbits are floating plants and will provide some nice variety to your tank’s environment. They are also a very good way to provide shade and darker living conditions. Frogbits are also very easy to take care of. You only have to make sure that they do not get wet constantly on the top part. If they do, the leaves will start to rotten.

The Water Lettuce, Water Hyacinth and Elodea are also perfect choices for an axolotl tank and require very minimal care. Be more careful with the Water Hyacinth as this plant is invasive, spreads quickly and may be aggressive towards other plants in the tank. The Elodea (water weed) is also a great choice and will provide your pet with shade like the Amazon Frogbits.

  • Food

In nature, the Mexican walking fish survives on snails, warms, crustaceans, small fish and amphibians. When looked after as pets, axolotls can eat a variety of brine shrimp (type of shrimp also called artemia, a genus of aquatic crustaceans); strip of beef or liver; earthworms; bloodworms; tubifex worms; frozen fish foods such as catfish or sharks; commercial fish pellets (packed foods in the form of granules).” “

Never give your extraordinary pet any fish or worms that you have caught yourself. They may contain bacteria or parasites harmful to your axolotl, which can lead to health problems like poisoning and infections.

Before purchasing your new axolotl, ask your veterinarian how many times to feed it, what type of food would be best and in what amounts. Generally, adult axolotls need to be fed two to three times per week, which makes them very easy to take care of. “

HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF THE HEALTH OF AXOLOTLS?

If you want to enjoy easily taking care of your small pet, you need to be aware of its health and any common health issues that may occur.

Some of the most problematic factors for their health include:

  • Unsanitary Tank
  • Ammonia Buildup
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Impaction
  • Floating
  • Metamorphosis
  • Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Similarly to any aquatic creature when inhabiting an unsanitary tank, axolotls can also suffer from viral and bacterial infections due to uncleanness.” Symptoms can include lethargy or lack of appetite.

Another result of a dirty tank can be a buildup of ammonia. It happens from waste that has been left for too long in the tank and can be toxic. You should regularly perform ammonia tests of the water to make sure it is 100% safe. “If you notice signs of lethargy, poor appetite, gasping and inflammations around the body, then consider these the result of a possible ammonia buildup.

If you decorate the tank’s bottom with gravel, especially small gravel, the axolotl may eat the pebbles. As a result, gastrointestinal obstructions can appear. If your pet seems sluggish or does not want to eat, think of obstructions. Lack of taking measures on time can lead to a quick death.

Impaction is another condition observed in axolotls’ digestive system. Symptoms include refusal to eat for several consecutive days, bloating and low waste production. It is also caused by swallowing gravel or small stones, usually found at the bottom of the tank.

Axolotls are popularly called ‘walking fish’. They rarely swim or float in the water but instead they walk. If you happen to observe floating, then there is probably a health issue. Floating can be an indication of bubbles in their guts. Observe your axolotl’s behavior for a while for the following signs:

  • Your pet cannot return back to the bottom of the tank;
  • It floats involuntarily (as if something is forcing it to do so);
  • It floats too often (generally it is common for a axolotl to float every now and then);
  • There are signs of distress when floating.

If you notice any of these behavioral patterns, take your pet to the vet immediately!

Bacterial and fungal infections are another commonly seen health issue. It usually happens due to unsuitable water temperature. Common illnesses include red-leg bacteria, characterized by the appearance of red spots on the limbs. Columnaris is sluggishness and the show of white grey patches and Saprolegnia, which is the occurrence of white patches on the skin and gills. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is probably the case of bacterial or a 8fungal infection. You can cure it by using a salt bath or fridging.

  • WHAT IS FRIDGING?

Fridging literary means placing your axolotl in your very own fridge! These amphibians love cold water and you can use it to cure diseases and infections.

Make sure your fridge is between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius. Prepare a container of dechlorinated water big enough for the size of your axolotl. The container must have a secure lid with air holes and some space for the axolotl to rise to the surface to breathe in air.

Cover the container with a towel to prevent light. Change the water daily, always chlorine-free and keep your axolotl in the fridge until it recovers.

  • WHAT IS A SALT BATH?

The second method for curing infections is by providing salt baths. A salt bath should be given twice a day during an infection, for 10 minutes each.

Mix 1-2 liters of chlorine-free water with sea, rock or aquarium salt. Avoid table salt. Refrigerate the water at the same temperature as described earlier. Remove the container once the water has cooled off and shake.

Fill the salt bathtub and add the axolotl. Leave it for 10-15 minutes at most. Repeat every 12 hours until the infection clears and for another 2-3 days maximum to remove any remaining fungus.

Finally, the last common problem may be the event of metamorphosis. Axolotls rarely experience metamorphosis into a terrestrial form. If it happens, the process can be extremely stressful for the exotic creature and significantly shorten its lifespan. In case you notice any abnormal body changes, take your axolotl to the vet immediately. “

WHAT IS THE BIOLOGY OF AXOLOTLS?

Axololts

Inorder to better understand how hard or easy it is to take care of this extraordinary creature, let’s pause for a bit and examine its biology.

Axolotls are not fish but amphibians. They are a kind of salamander that keeps its larval form into adulthood. It possesses small, stump-like teeth. Axolotls have rudimentary lungs, which is why they have to rise to the surface occasionally to breathe in air.

Axolotls grow from eggs and at about 11mm the embryo hatches and young and limbless larva appears. These larvae are transparent at first and their organs are visible for the first few weeks of growth. Eventually, their legs develop too and an axolotl reaches its full size for between 18 months to 2 years, depending on their rate of feeding and healthy aquatic conditions.”

In case you decide to breed this aquatic creature, keep in mind that axolotls can reach sexual maturity between 5 months for up to a few years. You should definitely not attempt to breed an axolotl before it reaches 18 months because you have to make sure it has reached its maximum size. Breeding before reaching the necessary age can be very damaging to this fragile water pet. “

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

We have provided lots of information in this article about how to take care of an axolotl and how easy it is to do so. It is not difficult at all to take care of this unusual pet, if you provide it with the right living conditions and you have the right equipment.

Here is a brief step-by-step guide on how to take care of an axolotl:

1. Aquarium.

Choosing the right type of tank is vital. The perfect size is a 20- gallon aquarium. Make sure you provide plenty of room and length. Axolotls love walking and moving all around.

2. Filter.

Like with any other aquatic pet, taking care of an axolotl also requires a tank filter. The only thing to take into consideration when buying a filter is the fact that axolotls get stressed by strong currents. You can ease the strength of a current by placing a sponge in front of the outflow of the filter.

Another option to relieve the strength of the flow is by installing water plants. Greenery ensures a smooth exchange of the water layers and plants will take in part of the flow’s strength and speed.

3. Heater.

Axolotls are not fans of warm water. Maintaining the right water temperature is crucial if you want to keep your amphibian for longer. Install a heater to ensure a constant perfect temperature. Always remember that axolotls love cold water.

4. Water Test Kit.

Unsanitary water is amongst the most common reasons for health problems and death of axolotls. Unclear water happens when there is a lot of ammonia. The substance collects from waste and if the water is left unclean for too long, your axolotl will get poisoned and eventually die.

Supply yourself with an ammonia test kit and run tests regularly in order to always ensure healthy tank water.

5. Lighting

Axolotls do not enjoy direct bright light. Make sure you place the aquarium in a room with a steady cool temperature and prevent access of sunlight directly onto the aquarium.

If you cannot find a good spot, consider arranging floating plants to block light and install a water heater by all means!

Even after you supply yourself with the proper equipment, you are still not quite ready to enjoy a healthy and carefree life with an axolotl! Let’s summarize a few more steps that need to be taken before your rush off to the pet shop!

1. Setting up the tank.

  • Cycling

You must provide the tank with an adequate circulation system before introducing the axolotl to it. First of all buy everything necessary as described above and put it all together. Cycling means putting all the elements of the aquarium together and giving the water, plants, filter, heater etc. some time to adjust and find a balance between each other.

For example, the plants need a couple of days to settle and adjust in the water and work in harmony with the filtration system, oxygen exchange and water movement!

Cycling will also give your aquarium the time to accumulate beneficial bacteria in the filter and substrate.

  • Temperature

Before inhabiting the tank with your future axolotl, make sure the water is the perfect temperature!These creatures do not enjoy warmth; therefore the water must be between 14 and 20 degrees Celsius!

  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate

As already discussed, ammonia is deadly. Regular tests of the water are necessary to determine whether the ammonia levels are acceptable or are too high.

Nitrite and nitrate are acceptable at low levels but do not let them go beyond 15.

  • Hardness

Axolotls enjoy hard water so, the hardness in your aquarium’s water should ideally be 100ppm and maximum 200ppm.

And Finally the Most Fun Part – Decoration!

Set up plants for your new companion! They are both healthy and beautiful. You can also opt for other elements such as driftwood, rocks and aquatic caves! They are all nice decorations and will provide the axolotl hiding places! These extraordinary creatures love to hide when in nature!

Also, axolotls are lonesome creatures. Do not pair them up with another axolotl as they may try to eat each other. If you introduce another fish, the amphibian may try to eat it! Let your axolotl enjoy a spacious tank all by itself!

CONCLUSION

If you are planning to buy an axolotl always remember only one rule! – it is all about the preparation! As long as you do the necessary preparation to provide a healthy and safe living environment it will be very easy to take of an axolotl.

Axolotls are easy and not demanding at all to take care of. They are a kind of a salamander that remains in its larva state for the rest of its life. It is found in Mexico and it is an unusual choice for a pet. This funny creature enjoys cool waters and does not like direct sunlight. It almost never swims or floats. That is why it is also known as a Mexican walking fish. Even though, it is aquatic and remains underwater forever, an axolotl has 4 limbs and walks along the water bottom.

Provide a spacious and deep tank with plenty of water. Buy a filtration system and do not forget to ease up the flow as strong currents are very stressful for an axolotl. Place the tank in a cool and shady spot and make sure no direct sunlight falls on it.

Provide water temperature of 20 degrees Celsius maximum! Decorate with plants, caves and rocks and fill in the bottom with gravel. Let your aquarium setup run for a few days to adjust and allow all beneficial bacteria to settle.

Supply yourself with a water heater and make sure you regularly check the water temperature! Water that is too warm can be fatal for your axolotl. Together with this, buy an ammonia test kit and check the levels of ammonia. Ammonia is generated from waste and can be deadly if the levels in water are too high!

Axolotls need to eat only two-three times a week! In nature they enjoy worms, crustaceans, small fish and amphibians. When in captivity they can eat a variety of brine shrimp (type of shrimp also called artemia, a genus of aquatic crustaceans); strips of beef or liver; earthworms; bloodworms; tubifex worms; frozen fish foods such as catfish or sharks; commercial fish pellets (packed foods in the form of granules).

At all times watch out for the health of your pet! Signs that something is wrong are usually visible and all you need to do is just look at it every now and then but sometimes more thoroughly. If you observe unusual white spots it may be the case of a fungal or bacterial infection. If you notice your axolotl float and is unable to return to the bottom, then its gut may be full of bubbles. The most common gastro problems observed include gastrointestinal problems, floating and impaction. “If you notice symptoms such as sluggishness, lack of appetite or refusal to eat altogether and general lack of energy, you may consider some of these problems.

Axolotls are truly extraordinary creatures. They may not be usual pets but are certainly unique ones and are quiet and enjoyable companions. It is very easy to take care of them, if you provide healthy living conditions. It is all about preparation!

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Pet Aquariums

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