Axolotl (aka walking fish, water dog)
The basics: These creatures are often referred to as Mexican Walking Fish. They live in water like fish, yes, but that is where the similarities end. The Axolotl is actually an amphibian (like a frog) and is in a paused state of metamorphosis.
Axolotls are popular mainly for their interest value, and some say their unique personality. The other day I am sure one smiled at me! This page will cover the basics of everything you need to know about Axolotls and looking after them. There are many more in-depth web pages out there about Axolotls so if you want more information (or are just so intrigued you want to keep reading!) I will post some of the best sites I have found at the bottom of this page.
| Physical Characteristics |
| Size |
| Aquarium Set-Up |
| Gravel, Ornaments and Plants |
| Filtration and Cleaning |
| Handling |
| Feeding |
| Personality |
| Life Span |
| Links |
Physical Characteristics: As stated above Axolotls look very interesting. They have external gills that look like dark red feathers, four legs (hence the walking), a long tail, and a large flat head. The do indeed have a great deal of character.
Axolotls come in numerous colours but there are three main shades. These include:
Dark (i.e. black/brown/grey)
These colours will vary and mix together creating some very interesting and unique varieties. If you have any photos of Axolotls why not send them in and I will show the world your beautiful pet!
Size: Under warm* conditions they grow fairly quickly, reaching sexual maturity by the time they are one year old. They can reach up to 30cm long (12 inches) head to tail-tip but rarely do. They usually reach about 20cm (8 inches) and remain that length.
*It is not recommended to keep the Axolotl in temperatures any higher than 24 degrees Celsius as this can stress the fish. It may make them grow bigger however they will remain happy and healthier at lower temps. This is covered further below.
Aquarium Set Up: The requirements for Axolotls are a bit more complex than that of gold fish.
Tank Size: For one Axolotl a tank measuring approx. 45cm (18 inches) in the minimum. For two a tank measuring 70cm (29 inches) is sufficient. It should be above 30cm (12 inches) in width. The water height should also be above 20cm (8 inches) so that the Axolotl has some room to swim.
Gravel, Ornaments and Plants: ~VERY IMPORTANT~ Do not use small sand or gravel in your Axolotl tank. This can in fact prove lethal to your pet if it gets out of hand. The Axolotl feed by opening its mouth quickly, so all the water, food (and gravel) that is in the vicinity gets suck up. Instead use large pebbles (rough ones are preferable, as they give the Axolotl something to grip on to) approximately 2.5cm (an inch) in diameter.
Large, flat rocks are great ornaments. As are drift wood and man-made bridges etc. These ornaments are essential hiding places for the Axolotls as they like dark, shaded areas. The flat rocks are good as the Axolotl like sitting on rocks as they watch the world go by. Remember though, always have a large empty swimming space so the Axolotl has room for sudden quick movements.
Axolotls enjoy pulling up plants and are rather rough with them. For this reason plastic plants are recommended. It is a good idea, however, to include some live plants for oxygenation and toxin reasons. Use hardy cheap plants and make sure they are firmly planted down.
Filtration and Cleaning: Axolotls are quite messy creatures. For this reason regular cleaning and water changes are essential. Change a third of the water once a week and be sure to use a water purifier in the new water.
Axolotls do not like strong currents, so make show the flow rate is not to fast if using a internal power filter or flowing filter. Otherwise the filter should be maintained the same way a fish aquarium filter should, go to filtration for more information.
Handling: Although they are amphibians, do not take them out of the water- they shall die just as any fish would... just perhaps not as quickly. Try not to handle them very often, if at all, as it will damage their slime coating. If you must pick one up, use two hands and ~gently~ hold one hand around the base of the gills and one hand near its back legs. Be very careful not to drop your Axolotl whilst doing this, and be very quick to put it back in the water.
Feeding: Axolotls are carnivorous yet eat a variety of things. These are listed below:
Beef (cut in thin strips a couple of cm long)
Beef Heart (same as beef)
Blood Worms (frozen are best as they will not introduce parasites)
Brine Shrimp (same advice as blood worms)
Pellets (made especially for Axolotls, may be available from aquarium shop)
Feeder Fish (not really recommended as they introduce parasites and might nibble at the Axolotls gills if not eaten.)
When they are young it is best to feed them once a day. They will be more hungry in warmer conditions so the amount you feed will depend on a few things. As much as they will eat in about 10 minutes is a fair estimate, or if they keep asking for food a little more. Also, if they are not hungry a little less. When they are older feeding every second or third day is enough.
Personality: Obviously personalities will vary greatly in Axolotls - as they do in humans. They are reported to be quite intelligent and can be taught tricks (one obvious example of this is learning to eat out of their owners hand). They learn to recognise their owner, too. Some are quite active whilst some never seem to do much at all! They are most active in the evening, so this could explain that. They don't mind being alone, nor do they mind sharing with another Axolotl. They sometimes may fight with other Axolotls, however if their is sufficient room this is not common.
Life Span: Axolotls usually live about 15 years if kept in good conditions. May live even longer, some are reported to have lived up to 25 years!
The Axolotl FAQ. This is a great FAQ site about Axolotls. It answers any questions you ever may have had! Also some photos (including the one I used at the top of this page :)) It also includes other info other than FAQ's.
AXOLOTL SLIDESHOW. So many photos!!! If you want to see Axolotls - HEAPS of them, this site provides a great slide show featuring beautiful Axolotls.
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