Axolotl’s are a very unusual aquarium inhabitant. It is a fascinating creature that looks like a larvae form of tailed amphibians. It might seem that keeping them in an aquarium is not the best for these creatures, but they are on the verge of extinction in their natural habitat, and aquarium keeping makes sure that these species do not go extinct. Fishkeepers from all over the world adore them for their distinct look and peculiar motions. In addition, axolotls have the ability to regenerate, which means that they may grow new legs and tails, as well as other organs, to replace those that have been lost, making them in high demand in the scientific study fields.
The axolotl's most distinguishing attribute is that it spends its whole existence in the form of salamander larvae, and even when it matures to be capable of reproducing, it does not morph into a full-grown salamander. This happens because this species does not produce enough growth hormone to change into its overland species counter part being the salamander. In some cases, you can trigger the metamorphosis of an axolotl into a more land-looking one by progressively reducing the water level, making access for the surface, and placing it in a colder, drier habitat. The process of metamorphosis might take several weeks to more than a month. The morphological alterations include the atrophy of external gills and changes in the shape and color of the body. You do not have to do this at all, as an axolotl is precious in its natural form for being visually appealing and highly regarded for the beauty of its larvae-like look in an aquarium environment.
The head of an axolotl is significantly wider than the rest of its body. The mouth is wide, and the eyes are small. The front paws have four toes and five toes on the rear ones. They may grow up to thirty centimeters long. The color of the salamander is very notable. There are several salamander species with white or greenish coloring. The albino salamander is frequently encountered and is quite popular in the aquarium hobby. It has distinctive red gills with a completely white- transparent body. The overall axolotl's look is rather amusing, especially the large, fluffy gills on either side of its head. They often push their gills against its back or shake them, giving the impression of being a little dragon.
The mouth is one of the most distinguishing of its characteristics. When looking at it from the front, it seems that the axolotl is always smiling, giving a positive impression on everyone who sees it for the first time.
Axolotls can breathe simultaneously through their gills and through their lungs. If the water has a low oxygen concentration, the gills may essentially start to atrophy, and under this situation, lungs start to work more intensely. The gills can revert to their previous state if oxygen levels come back.
The axolotl's tail is very distinctive as it looks like a larvae stage of a salamander's tail. It is pretty long and is flattened laterally. It allows them to swim quite well and escape from predators, but often, to avoid being attacked, they simply freeze on the ground and remain immobile until the threat goes away.
How to care for an axolotl
The axolotl care has its own special characteristics that distinguish them from other aquarium inhabitants. The first thing that you should note is that they may grow to be up to thirty centimeters in length. As a result, the minimal aquarium size should be more than 80 liters in capacity. It is preferable to maintain them in a bigger tank to avoid any problems when they grow up. Due to the fact that axolotls may breathe through their lungs, the aquarium should not be filled to the brim, nonetheless, they do not need direct access to the surface. Axolotls are particularly sensitive to water quality. Water changes should be performed on a regular basis, with substrate cleaning and all other aquarium maintenance procedures.
It is advised to install a good aquarium filter, but make sure that the current is not overly powerful. Otherwise, the sensitive gills and lungs of axolotls may be injured. Ideally, the pH level should be between 7 and 7.5 with low water hardness. The decorations should not be with pointed edges as they may hurt the salamander's delicate skin or gills, which are very sensitive. If all proper requirements as met, these species can live in an aquarium for up to fifteen years.
You can keep a flock of axolotls together, but it is important to make sure that they are around the same size. Still, you have to watch that they do not hurt one another. Axolotls do not require much lighting, and they are pretty active at night. It is preferable to have an aquarium with ample hiding places for them, such as coconut shells, clay pots, and grottoes.
Because axolotls are a cold-water species, keeping the temperature at a low level can be pretty challenging, especially in the Australian heat. Ideally, the temperature should be between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. A temperature higher than twenty-four degrees has the potential to have a detrimental influence on the axolotls' health, making them more stressed and susceptible to fungal diseases that can flourish in their gills and mouth. Keeping a low temperature can become difficult in the summer months of the year. That is why it is recommended that you utilize special cooling systems, shield your aquarium from the sun, or often pour in cold water with ice.
Live aquarium plants such as echinodorus, cryptocoryne, and hornwort are good for axolotls. They prefer big leaves plants that can provide a good hiding place and give a shade. Axolotls require plants in order to reproduce as their eggs stick to the leaves.
Substrates such as sand and sized pebbles are ideal. However, pebbles should not be any smaller than the salamander's mouth in any way. The same goes for small jewelry pieces, shells, and stones. They all should be avoided in an aquarium with axolotls. Swallowing of such a pebble often results in intestinal issues and even death in some cases. Some fishkeepers choose to maintain axolotls in an aquarium with no substrate at all.
Compatibility with other aquarium inhabitants
It is recommended to maintain axolotls only with the same species. The obstacle is that they can only live in cold water and will regularly prey on other inhabitants. Small fish such as tetras or barbs will be eaten, and bigger ones can damage axolotls themselves as they have fragile skin and gills. Fish are particularly prone to bite the external gills of axolotls because they may perceive them as worms. Even though axolotls have the remarkable capacity to regenerate, wounds can be severe and take a long time to heal, giving more stress to the animal, and as we mentioned before, if the injury is extensive, a fungus may colonize the wounds leading to the animals' death.
Axolotls are inherently cannibalistic in nature. Adult axolotls can attack the same species and bite their limbs, tails, and gills, especially if other ones are a lot smaller. This can especially be observed when axolotls are not fed enough. When caring for a group of axolotls in one aquarium, you have to create enough hiding places, feed them regularly, have enough swimming space, and make sure they are of the same size.
How to feed an axolotl
Small invertebrates, tiny fish, crabs, and other live food are the best food for axolotls. An interesting fact, they consume the food by first sucking it and then grinding it with their small teeth. Some fishkeepers supplement their axolotls with small live fish, such as guppies. These livebearing aquarium fish may serve as additional food for usual insects and worms. Adult axolotls should be fed every two to three days, depending on their size.. Axolotls need a well-balanced diet.
The freshly born axolotls in aquariums can be fed with cyclops, daphnia, or similar. When they grow up a bit, you can feed them with bloodworms and tubifex.
They can get accustomed to being stroked and even allow themselves to be pet, but it is not recommended as its skin is covered with mucus that might break down under excessive touching. Also, there is a chance that the axolotls will bite your finger, mistaking it for food, this however should not hurt as they do not have the jaw strength to pierce human flesh.
All the food we described above can be supplemented with dry food of excellent quality. Blue Planet Axolotl Sinking Food, a healthy amphibian diet, is a fantastic choice for your axolotl. It is high in protein, which is essential for good development. Axolotls have a relatively simple time absorbing it, and it meets all their dietary requirements.
As we mentioned, Axolotls are considered an endangered species in the wild. Because these species mostly inhabit isolated areas, it isn't easy to assess their population and the real population numbers. Axolotls are often called Mexican walking fish as they were found in Mexican lakes Choco and Xochimilco. Salamanders are attracted to deep, slow-moving waters overgrown with plants. In these places, the water temperature is often at 12-16 degrees Celsius, but it can also dip to 5-6 degrees Celsius during winter times.
It is pretty simple to breed axolotls on your own. Even fishkeepers who are completely unfamiliar with axolotls can breed them. They reach sexual maturity at around one year of age. With age, their reproducing process decreases and gets considerably slowed at the age of around eight years. One female can breed two to three times each year.
If you want to promote the breeding process, you have to separate male and female for several weeks, and the temperature must be lowered by several degrees. Next, feed the axolotl pair with a high-quality, protein-rich diet. After a couple of weeks, you can put them back into the aquarium for the spawning process to begin. The male deposits his spermatophores on the ground, where the female gets them for egg fertilization. She can spawn up to one thousand eggs.
The pair must be removed from the aquarium as soon as the eggs are deposited, and the temperature must be raised to twenty-two degrees Celsius to ensure a successful hatch. Remove any eggs that are grey in color or have a bad look. For healthy egg development, it is vital to replace the water on a daily basis.
It takes for eggs to mature and hatch between thirteen to seventeen days. After that, the first babies emerge. They can be fed with egg yolk or other small food that can fit their mouth. The youngsters are born without limbs and with small external gills. Their hind legs will develop in around one week, and their front legs will appear in approximately three to four months.
Small axolotl fry readily eats little daphnias and cyclops and special fry food. Make sure to provide a well-balanced diet for them. Axolotls who grew up enough can eat the same food as grown-ups. In order for the young animals to develop more equally and not get attacked by their bigger peers, keeping them separate during maturation is recommended. Axolotls reach their maximum size when they are about two years old.