Axolotl Care: A Simple Guide for Your Unique Pet

Have you ever come across a creature called the Axolotl? These unique amphibians are known for their regenerative abilities and distinct feathery gills. Native to Mexico, axolotls can make amazing pets if you’re prepared to provide appropriate care for them.

In this article, we’ll explore the Axolotl’s species profile and discuss how to set up their habitat and meet their dietary needs. By the end of it, you’ll have a solid understanding of what it takes to keep these fascinating salamanders happy and healthy.

Remember, a well-cared-for axolotl can live up to 10 years or more, so get ready to form a lasting bond with your new aquatic friend.

Species Overview

Axolotls are fascinating creatures known for their unique appearance and ability to retain their larval features throughout their lives. They are native to Mexico and have become popular exotic pets due to their interesting characteristics.

Here’s a quick species overview table with important information about axolotl care:

Property Axolotl Information
Scientific Name Ambystoma mexicanum
Common Names Axolotl, Mexican walking fish
Distribution Mexico
Size 6 to 18 inches (12 inches is rare)
Lifespan 10 to 15 years
Diet Worms, insects, crustaceans, small fishes
Temperament Peaceful
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallons (75 liters) per axolotl
Temperature 57°F – 68°F (14°C – 20°C)
pH 7.4 – 7.6
Water Hardness 7 – 14 dGH
Care Level Moderate
Filtration/Water Flow Low, sponge filters are recommended
Water Type Freshwater
Breeding Egg laying
Breeding Difficulty Moderate
Compatibility Species-only tank

By understanding and providing the proper care for your axolotl, you can ensure its health and happiness throughout its life. Remember to maintain the ideal water parameters, offer a balanced diet, and provide a suitable environment for your axolotl to thrive.

Axolotl Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

Axolotls, also known as water salamanders, are native to Lake Xochimilco and its canal systems, as well as a few neighboring waterways of Mexico City. These fascinating neotenic amphibians are closely related to the tiger salamander and remain in their larval stage their entire lives.

Size and Shape

Axolotls have an elongated, flat body that is well-suited for their aquatic lifestyle. They are generally 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) in length, depending on age and diet. Their body is adorned with feathery gills on either side of their head, which they use to breathe underwater. They also have a tail and body fin, which help them swim and navigate their environment.

Color and Markings

You’ll be pleased to know that axolotls come in various colors, including:

  • Wild: Dark, mottled brown or green with gold speckles
  • Leucistic: Pale pink or white with black eyes
  • Albino: Pinkish-yellow with pink eyes
  • Melanoid: Solid, dark gray or black with few or no gold speckles

These fascinating creatures showcase a diverse range of markings that make them visually appealing and interesting to observe.


Axolotls have a relatively long lifespan for an amphibian, typically living between 10 to 15 years in captivity if given proper care. Factors like water quality, diet, and environmental conditions greatly influence their lifespan, so maintaining a steady and suitable environment will keep your axolotl healthy and content.

Diet and Feeding

Axolotls have a diverse diet in the wild, including snails, fish, and even other amphibians. In captivity, your axolotl will thrive on protein-rich foods such as earthworms, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

When feeding your axolotl, using long forceps or tweezers is the best way to deliver food. Axolotls enjoy live food like earthworms, mosquitoes, crickets, and crustaceans, but can also eat dried shrimp if needed.

For a balanced diet, consider mixing in different prey items such as Daphnia, a small aquatic crustacean, with bloodworms. This variation will help maintain your axolotl’s overall health.

Be attentive to your axolotl’s appetite and adjust feeding amounts accordingly. Remember, axolotls are unique pets with fascinating dietary needs, so cater to their preferences – and enjoy watching them thrive!

Behavior and Temperament

Axolotls are generally peaceful and gentle creatures, making them fascinating pets to observe and care for. They have a docile nature, so you don’t need to worry about aggressive behavior with these adorable amphibians.

You might notice that your axolotl is more active during nighttime. They tend to spend their days burrowing under mud and aquatic vegetation, making them perfect pets for busy individuals. Keep in mind that their gills may curl forward if they’re stressed, and they might refuse food in these situations.

Remember that axolotls have delicate, soft bodies with permeable skin. This means you should avoid handling them unless it is absolutely necessary. Being mindful of their sensitive nature will ensure your axolotl thrives in its environment.

Overall, understanding and catering to their unique behavior and temperament can make axolotls a truly enjoyable addition to your home.

Care and Tank Requirements

Caring for axolotls may seem complicated since they have particular care and tank requirements. However, you can master this essential aspect of axolotl keeping by learning about the key areas for a healthy habitat.

Tank Size

When choosing a tank for your axolotl, consider that adult axolotls can grow between 6 to 18 inches long. As such, a 20-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for one axolotl. If you plan to house multiple axolotls, add an extra 10 gallons of space for each additional pet.

Water Parameters

Proper water conditions are essential for your axolotl’s health. Consider the following optimal water parameters:

  • Temperature: Keep the water temperature between 60-64°F (16-18°C). Axolotls prefer cooler water, and temperatures above 75°F (24°C) can induce stress and health issues.
  • pH: Maintain a pH level between 7.0 and 7.5, ensuring stability and avoiding sudden changes.
  • Water hardness: Aim for a general hardness (GH) of 7-14°dH and a carbonate hardness (KH) of 3-8°dH.

Perform regular water checks and changes to maintain these parameters.

Tank Setup and Decorations

Setting up the tank for your axolotl involves specific decorations and substrates. Consider the following when creating the habitat:

  • Substrate: Opt for a fine sand substrate to reduce the risk of accidentally ingesting gravel and causing impactions.
  • Hiding spots: Provide hiding spots, such as artificial caves or PVC pipes, to offer your axolotl a sense of security and a place to rest.
  • Plants: Add live or artificial plants as they not only help maintain water quality but also provide hiding spots for your axolotl.

Remember to keep the tank’s lighting low, as axolotls have sensitive vision.

Filtration and Aeration

Proper filtration and aeration are essential to maintain a healthy environment for your axolotl. Here are some guidelines:

  • Filter: Choose a filter suitable for your tank’s size, and adjust the flow to create a gentle current, as axolotls don’t tolerate strong water movement.
  • Aerator: An air pump with an air stone will help oxygenate the water, ensuring your axolotl has access to adequate oxygen.

With these care and tank requirements, you’ll be well on your way to providing your axolotl with a healthy and comfortable habitat.

Suitable Tank Mates

It’s important to note that Axolotls generally do best when kept without any tank mates, including other Axolotls. Due to their nature, Axolotls may exhibit fighting or cannibalistic behavior, which can cause them to lose limbs in skirmishes. Although Axolotls possess the ability to regenerate their limbs, it’s preferable to prevent conflicts by keeping them solitary.

Axolotls are inherently solitary creatures, and they thrive when provided with their own space. While some owners have reported success with certain types of goldfish as tank mates for Axolotls, it’s not advisable to attempt this pairing. To ensure the health and well-being of your Axolotl, it’s always best to create a peaceful, solitary environment for them to enjoy.


Good news! Axolotls can be easily bred, but it’s essential to observe certain precautions to ensure a successful mating. Sexual maturity for axolotls can be reached between 5 months to a few years, but you should avoid attempting breeding before they’re 18 months old.

Your female axolotl may produce over 1,000 eggs while prioritizing egg production over her own growth. Although breeding can occur at any time, the best results are usually observed from December to June. Seasonal changes can naturally trigger your axolotls to breed without the need to replicate specific conditions.

To set up an ideal breeding tank, make sure to include plenty of silk or live plants for the female axolotl to attach her eggs. Rough stones or slate should also be added for males to deposit their spermatophores.

During breeding, males initiate spawning by depositing spermatophores onto stones and other items in the tank. They then raise their tails and lead the female to the deposited spermatophores. Fertilization takes place internally when the female picks up the spermatophores.

After fertilization, expect the female to lay her eggs individually on plant leaves, rocks, and scattered around the tank. Don’t be surprised if the egg color varies, as albino eggs appear bright white and normal eggs tend to be dark brown. To maintain a healthy environment for the eggs, it’s crucial to keep them well-aerated – a helpful tip is to use an air pump.

Eggs typically hatch within 2-3 weeks, with the larvae emerging from the eggs. If you maintain a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, the eggs should hatch around 14-17 days later. Good luck with your breeding efforts!

Common Diseases and Treatments

Blockage and Impaction: Your axolotl may suffer from blockage and impaction due to ingesting gravel or other debris. To prevent this, use larger substrates in your tank. For treatment, try fasting the axolotl for a few days and gently massage its belly.

Red Legs Syndrome: This bacterial infection causes redness and swelling in axolotl’s legs. Maintain good water quality and provide a stress-free environment. Consult a veterinarian for antibiotic treatment if necessary.

Chemical or Ammonia Burn: Poor water quality may lead to chemical burns in axolotls. Test and maintain your water parameters regularly. In case of burns, isolate the affected axolotl and ensure water quality in its tank.

Bacterial or Fungal Infections: Keep an eye out for skin lesions, blisters, or eye opacity. These can be a sign of bacterial or fungal infections. Improve water quality, consider using a UV filter, and dechlorinate the water. Consult a veterinarian for proper medication.

Worms and Parasites: Axolotls may be affected by anchor worms or other parasites. To treat, isolate the axolotl and consult a veterinarian for appropriate medication. Regularly check your tank for signs of infestation.

Remember to maintain good water quality, proper tank conditions, and regularly monitor your axolotl’s health to prevent most common diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are axolotls easy to take care of?

Yes, axolotls are generally considered easy to care for. They require clean and stable water conditions, a well-balanced diet, and a suitable tank environment. Just be sure to monitor your axolotl’s health and maintain a proper setup.

Is it OK to touch axolotls?

It’s best to avoid handling axolotls unless absolutely necessary. Their skin is delicate and touching them can damage their slime coat, which helps protect them from infections. If you must handle them, be very gentle and wash your hands beforehand to avoid transferring chemicals or bacteria.

Can axolotls live only in water?

Yes, axolotls are fully aquatic and need to live in water throughout their entire lives. They have feathery external gills that allow them to breathe underwater. Never attempt to remove them from the water, as it can be harmful to their health.

Are axolotls fresh or saltwater?

Axolotls are freshwater creatures. They thrive in still or slow-moving water with a temperature between 60 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 22 degrees Celsius) and a neutral pH level. Make sure to use a high-quality water conditioner to remove any harmful chemicals from tap water before adding it to their tank.

What do axolotls eat?

Axolotls are carnivorous and enjoy a diet consisting of shrimp, bloodworms, earthworms, small pieces of beef, and other frozen prey items. It is important to provide them with a well-balanced diet to ensure their health and well-being.

Can axolotls live with goldfish?

It is not recommended to house axolotls with goldfish or any other type of fish. Axolotls may see smaller fish as food, or larger fish may attempt to eat the axolotl’s delicate gills. Additionally, goldfish produce a lot of waste which can cause poor water quality for axolotls.

Do axolotls swim or walk?

Axolotls exhibit both walking and swimming behaviors. They have legs that enable them to “walk” along the bottom of the tank, and they can also swim by propelling themselves through the water using their tail. It’s fascinating to watch them move both on the tank floor and throughout their environment.