Where Do Axolotls Live? Originally in Lakes, Now Aquariums Too!

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Axolotls are becoming very popular aquarium pets because of their unique appearance and quirky personality.

There is a lot more information about axolotls now but do you know where axolotls live?

Wild Axolotls live in canals that are remnants of Lake Xochimilco in the southern Mexico City neighborhood of Xochimilco where they originated from. Captive-bred axolotls live in aquariums all over the world now that mimic their original high altitude lake habitat.

Let’s dive in and explore the axolotl’s original world and how it was transferred to the aquarium world…

What Habitat Do Axolotls Live In?

lake xochimilco sunrise 1024x547 1 PetAquariums Where Do Axolotls Live? Originally in Lakes, Now Aquariums Too!

Axolotls can live in different types of habitats but their original habitat is the high-altitude lakes described above.

The axolotl is also known as the Mexican walking fish because they like to walk along the bottom of their habitat.

So, if you put this all together, it would mean that they are used to:

  • Still waters
  • Deep waters with little light
  • High Altitude
  • Food Sources along the lake bottom

Today axolotls are becoming extinct in their original lakes because they are being outnumbered and forced out by carp and tilapia, plus the lakes are being drained for drinking water.

Axolotls now are found in canals and swampy areas as they migrate away from the lakes. Lake Chalco is gone and canals are all that remain of Lake Xochimilco.

Axolotls are being protected and bred by scientists to keep the species alive in general but also because of scientists’ interest in axolotls’ regeneration abilities.

Axolotls are also being kept alive by commercial breeders for use as aquarium pets because they are becoming so popular.

That leads us to the new world of axolotls – Aquariums!

Axolotl Aquariums

The main idea of setting up an aquarium for any kind of aquarium pet is to mimic their natural habitat in the wild.

Since axolotls are from high altitude lakes an aquarist has to mimic the same type of water from high altitude lakes.

The median Ph for aquarium water is 7. If you go lower than 7 the water is more acidic, if you go higher the water is more alkaline(less acidic).

Ph for water is best described by The American Museum of Natural History:

The pH of water is important to aquatic life. If the pH falls below 4 or above 9, all life forms die. The pH is a measurement of the acid/base activity in a solution. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14; a pH measurement of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic and greater than 7 represents alkalinity. A pH range of 6 to 8.5 is common for natural waters. Lower pH values can be caused by the deposition of acid formed by substances in precipitation, called acid rain. The pH levels can also be affected by wastewater discharge, runoff from mining operations, and the types of rock naturally found in the area (Gada 2010).

Since high altitude lakes are so high, all of the rainwater (contains acid) runs down through streams and collects in lower level lakes. This would explain why the Ph for axolotls aquarium water needs to be 7.4 – 7.6 because their natural water has less acid.

Since Axolots live in higher deeper waters, the temperature would be lower, which is why the temperature for an axolotl tank needs to be between 60 – 64 degrees Fahrenheit which are cooler waters for an aquarium.

Basic requirements to mimic an axolotl’s natural water in their aquarium:

  • Water Filter – must have to keep the water clean. Make sure the water flow can be adjusted to keep the water still or slow-moving like in a lake.
  • Water Chiller – only if you live in areas with hotter temps or if your axolotl will stay in a hot room. A chiller simply kicks in when the water temp reaches 64 to keep it chill and shuts off if the water temp gets to 60.
  • Water Heater – opposite from a chiller, a heater kicks in fi the water temp gets below 60 to kick it back up.
  • Portable dissolved oxygen meter – Measures the oxygen saturation which should be between 70 – 100 %.
  • Air Bubbler – Optional, but the air bubbles help put more oxygen into the water since axolotls live in slow-moving water.

Axolotl Aquarium Habitat


After the water quality is right, you have to take into account, the axolotls habitat.

Since they are used to walking along the lake bottom, they will walk along the bottom of their aquarium.

You need to leave the aquarium bare bottom, flat pieces of slate, put rocks that are too big for them to swallow, or very fine gravel or sand that they can poop out if they swallow.

If you put very fine gravel or sand then it will be very hard to keep clean because axolotls poop so much and their poops are so big.

We recommend the flat pieces of slate or bare bottom because they are easy to clean, in turn making the water less risky for your axolotl since dirty water can make them sick.

After that, you really just need some hides which are really just caves or other aquarium decorations that they can hide in.

This is because some axolotls are outgoing, while some axolotls are very introverted and won’t associate with anyone or anything including you, no matter how hard you try.

Final Thoughts

Now you know where axolotls live and why, so go get your Mexican walking fish and build that aquarium that mimics their original high altitude lake habitat!

Happy Axolotoling!

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Pet Aquariums

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