How to Successfully Keep Your New Axolotl
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Axolotl Factoids

Origin

Mexico City

Albino Origin

Reared in captivity

Sexing

Males  “lumpy” at back legs.

Temperature

Keep in unheated aquaria  

Attitude

Frequent biter of tank mates

Substrate

Likely to eat gravel

Security

None needed.  Mean.

Foods

Crickets, fish, worms

Supplements

None needed

Housing

At least a gallon of water per axolotl

Water

Clean water – preferably hard

Breeding Age

One year

Incubation

About 3 weeks

Brood Size

200 to 600 eggs

Axolotl threat

Dedicated cannibals

Comment

Separate adults after breeding 

LA Pic
Here's the only axolotl we've seen this millennium (written in 2003). 
We have not seen these biters on wholesale lists for a long time.  We wrote most of this information in the previous millennium.  They were always pricey.  Now they are rare.

LA Pic
Water dogs look very much like axolotls.

Axolotls vs. Waterdogs.  Axolotls look like water dogs with a different number of back toes.  As a result, we usually order only the albino form because we can’t tell them apart.  Both are “nippers” to the max.  They bite off each others’ gills and feet.  Happily, axolotls and water dogs grow back these lost parts if you separate them.

We have not seen waterdogs for two years until  June '04.  We'll have to go out and catch some of our own.  We have seen a few salamanders.  Our customers find them in their window wells.

Recommended Foods.  In the wild, these guys eat bugs, worms (one of their favorites), fish, tadpoles, and parts of slower axolotls.  In captivity, axolotls eagerly eat commercial turtle sticks and/or pellets.  They also love most frozen fish foods -- and live worms.  Feed larger worms as they grow.  This makes them easy to keep.  Just make sure that you remove any uneaten food.  Bad water kills axolotls.  You need to feed the adults only three or four times per week.  We used to feed ours much more often.  Overfeeding causes a weird fungal-like growth on them.  Yes it's fatal. 


Un-recommended Foods.   Axolotls will eat pieces of meat.  Since they rarely eat cows or pigs in the wild, you’d do best to avoid meat in their diet -- they cannot digest the fat.

Food II.  Several reports say Mexicans eat axolotls.  We don’t know whether to believe these reports or not.  Axolotls are an endangered species where they come from.  That makes them expensive besides not being at all tasty looking.

LA
Not the best substrate.  Feeding axolotls can ingest gravel.  June 05

LA
Axolotls will gorge themselves on small goldfish.  Same guy as in middle of pic above.

LA
Axolotls tend to snap at whatever's close.

LA
You needn't feed your axolotl every day.

Eating Comments.  Axolotls suddenly Hoover their food.  They open their mouth in such a way that whatever’s near gets sucked in.  Very much like an oscar’s enthusiastic gulp -- without the audible pop.   Unfortunately, this often includes gravel since they eat food “off the floor.”  Axolotls can probably process small gravel.  Larger gravel often presents a real problem.  In addition to anchoring them to the bottom like a load of ballast, gravel can plug up their digestive system.  Luckily, they usually spit it out -- but not always.

 
LA
Leucistic axolotls are white with black eyes.  June 05

LA
Same guy as in middle of pic above.   July 05.


Appeal.  If you like bitey little predators, you’ll like these guys.  Axolotls bite anything that goes past their mouths.  Their eyesight is not the greatest.  They locate their food by smell or by feeling it moving through the water.  But most people keep them because they look intriguing.  Their albino bodies, pink eyes, dainty toes, and decorative fringed gills all catch your eye.

LA Pic
Not many critters will eat tadpoles.  Axolotls (probably a female here) will.

Not Good Mixers.  Axolotls bite their tank mates every chance they get.  They will always eat smaller tank mates and chew on the equal-sized ones.  The laboratories that raise them house each in a separate container about the size of a half-gallon ice cream carton.

Xolotl:  In Mexican mythology Xolotl is the god of games.  He is the twin brother of the better known Quetzecoatl.  Axolotls originally came from the lakes below today’s Mexico City.  Some people translate axolotl as water beast or water dog or water doll or water whatever.

LA
When you see those white spots appear, you should have changed their water yesterday.

Water.  Axolotls thrive in hard, alkaline water (like comes out of our Des Moines faucets).  Age it, of course.  Add NovAqua to remove the chlorine and any heavy metals.  Then add one teaspoon of salt per gallon to make primo water.  Making perfect water decreases your chances of disease.  Most axolotl problems stem from dirty water.  Also, careful with those power filters.  Too much current stresses them.

LA Pic
Obviously, this axolotl would rather you leave her alone.

LA Pic
If you insist on handling axolotls, slowly come up from underneath.

LA
This little guy kept biting at me till I turned him loose.  (It did not hurt.)

Can You Handle Them?  You can try.  Axolotls dislike being grabbed.  We do not recommend handling axolotls (or other amphibians) any more than necessary.  Scraping their skin can cause bacterial and fungal infections.  And keep all raw amphibians out of your mouth.

Breeding Axolotls.  Separate the sexes for a period of time.  Then put your pair in a shallow container with gravel on the bottom.  (He attaches his spermatophores to the gravel.  The female picks them up.)  He’ll “court” her by nuzzling her a bit.  She’ll usually lay eggs within 24 hours after picking up the male’s spermatophores.  She prefers to lay her eggs on floating plants.  Remove her before they hatch or she will probably eat the larvae.  

Larvae Care.  After the larvae start swimming, feed them infusoria and newly hatched brine shrimp (or microworms).  Keep them well fed and change their water often.  Wait three months between spawnings to allow her to recoup her resources.  Axolotls spawn better when the days are longer.

LA
Axolotl mouths aren't really big enough to bite you, however, bigger ones will try.  June 05

Do They Bite?  Of course.  Tank mates beware.  However, they will not likely bite you.  If you feed them small worms from your fingers, your chances of getting bitten go way up.  Axolotls (and water dogs) pretty much just bounce off your fingernails.

LA
Salamanders lose these external gills.  Axolotls keep their gills forever.  June 05

LA
Axolotls come in several colors.  June 05

LA
Another color July 05.

Vocabulary Lesson.  Axolotls never (well, hardly ever) turn into salamanders like their cousins the waterdogs.  However, even though they keep their fringed gills, the adults also develop lungs.  They keep their external juvenile form (the fringed gills) even when they mature.  This trait is known as neotony.

LA

Unrelated Extra Info.  We put this guy in a fallow tank that previously housed Yucatan crayfish.  The next morning he was covered with these baby leeches.  The little blood suckers really nailed this guy.  LA.

LA
He's in a two-inch bowl here.  Lotsa leeches too tiny to pick off.  (We tried with a tick puller.)

LA
We added one teaspoon of salt and the leeches started dropping off.

LA
More than we cared to count -- not counting the ones on the hand shown above.

Leech Info.  Evidently leeches can lie in wait without food for extended periods of time.  We dosed that fallow tank with salt and zapped many more baby leeches.  But they still lived.  So we gave them a couple cups of salt and the tank still lies fallow.  (We’re writing a version of this soon to appear on the Sci-Fi channel.)  LA.
 

Michelle Meaney, September 28, 2006
I was very disappointed when I read your care section on axolotls. They are not mean cannibalistic monsters. Once they are adults they stop eating each other. This is just a phase they go through at about 3 weeks old. It usually finishes around 2-3 months. And if you feed them, they don't try to bite people and random fish in their tank. I have been keeping axolotls for a few years now and worked out the best ways to maintain their health and
happiness. My axolotls are in the same tank and they have bred. They do not "hunt" their young and mainly ignore fish (unless they are hungry and you haven't been feeding them). I'm sorry about the negative email but I found more than a few things wrong with your page. It's up to you if you wish to delete this email and ignore it or if you want to do some proper research and inform people properly.

A:  I don't consider your email negative.  You're just reporting your experience with them.  I've seen them eat fish and chew the heck out of each other, then separated them to heal.  My experience is just different than yours.  I'm adding your letter to my axolotl page.  LA
 

Nathaniel R. Veith, December 1, 2006
Years ago I acquired six baby axolotls from my high school Biology teacher. He started with one and a set of eggs.  I helped him hatch forty five babies. So he decided to do a research project with a few of his favorite students, myself included, and allow us each to take six home for the summer. He taught everyone to hatch brine shrimp for the babies then feed pellet food when they got bigger. I fed my babies California black worms, and they loved them. By the end of the summer, mine were nearly six inches long, while everyone else's were only three to four inches long. On top of that, they were nearly twice the mass of the others. Feeding axolotls live food helps them stay healthy longer and grow to sizes unexpectable. My big one, which I named Killar, was close to ten inches long. As for the cannibalism, I found them to love to nip at each other throughout the past 4 years. Killar ate two of the smaller ones when we put them all into a 75 gallon tank. And yes, we have a picture somewhere of one latched onto the end of my finger, so they will and do snap at anything. I put average sized jewel cichlids in with Killar, and he ate them. I would highly recommend not placing them with other axolotls or with fish. The only fish I could keep with mine was one of those Bichers or whatever they are called. Now they both eat the same food. Hope this is helpful to others,

A:  Thanks, I'll add your comments to my axolotl page.  LA

Ryan, Farmville, VA, April 16, 2007
To Whom it may Concern: I have an axolotl with fungus on his face.  I've been giving him salt baths and rehydrating him in deionized water, but I was wondering if I can use a fish product on him called Fungus Clear.  Its active ingredients are nitrofurazone, furazolidone, potassium dichromate.  Thanks!

A:  I really don't know.  I have no idea what effect those meds would have on amphibians.  Is there any way you can cool your axolotl to 60 degrees?  He can probably heal himself if you can keep him cooler.  At the very least move him to the coolest part of your basement (if you have basements in Virginia).  LA

Additional comments from Nathaniel R. Veith, April 18, 2007
On top of that, I would also recommend not to worry too much. I had an axolotl with the same problem a few years back and we added ice to the tank to cool it down to 55 degrees and just allowed him to heal himself. They do seem to have some type of regeneration capabilities, and ours were known for healing themselves. We also made sure to feed them live food particularly at this time to make sure that he was eating, much easier to notice if one particular one is eating if it has a tail of a goldfish hanging out of his mouth rather than having the chance to spit out a pellet food.

 

Scott, England, UK, October 4, 2010
Hi. I have added your website to my useful website page on my Axolotl website. It includes a logo, title and description. 
Click below to view your advert:
Please add a link to my website:
Title: Axolotls
Description: Axolotl salamanders complete online care guide.
Please reply and confirm. Thank you

Albino Axolotl close up photo from the front.S

A:  Sure.  Your site looks much more related than Mexican hotels.  LA

LA
And they show up well over a black substrate.

LA

LA

LA

LA
2-inch "normal" axolotl.

LA
Same guy.

LA
2-inch albino axolotl.

LA
They eat pellets greedily.

LA
Very greedily.
 



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