Looking like fish or an alien experiment gone wrong, the axolotl is one of the strangest pet you can ever own. Although it looks more like a fish with its fish tail and cat-fish-like face, it’s actually a salamander, thus an amphibian. An axolotl gets its appearance from an incomplete metamorphosis from its larval stage; it grows into an adult with its gills sticking out and its tail still intact. It’s really a very cute looking exotic pet.
Why a Pet Axolotl
Aside from helping a critically endangered salamander species survive, owning a pet axolotl has a lot of good benefits you can obtain. For one, it’s the most strange yet adorable aquatic pet anybody could own – no one can resist the cuteness level of an axolotl. It has red gills that stick out from its neck resembling alien tentacles, soft skin that looks like pink rubber, cute limbs with fingers and toes (remember it’s not a fish?), and an adorable face that you could swear it’s smiling back at you. Above all, a pet axolotl is not demanding; give your pet clean, well-oxygenated water and food and it’s happy.
Unique Axolotl Characteristics
Don’t worry if your pet axolotl will lose some limbs, gills, or even its entire tail; it can regenerate them through time! All axolotl species are experts when it comes to regenerating lost body parts, but still you can’t mix your axolotl with other water pets like fish because they love to nibble on your axolotl’s gills. The salamander can live from 10 to 15 years, so be sure you’re in it for the entire lifetime of your exotic pet. The pink albino axolotl is the most common axolotl in pet stores, but there are other axolotl colors in the wild such as black, brown, olive-green, and golden.
Designing Axolotl Tank
Although you could keep two or more axolotls in one big tank, it may not be the best idea since axolotls could fight over territory or cannibalize one another, which could end up seriously hurting your pets. One axolotl will do well in a 24 by 15 by 12 inches fish tank with gravel as substrate; however, the gravel has to be coarse enough for adult axolotl not to accidentally swallow as it rummage for food on the tank floor.
You don’t want to fill the tank to the brim; you want the height of the water the same as the length of your axolotl only. Axolotls also live in clear natural water, so filter the water free of chlorine for your salamander. Also, provide a water filter and an aerator because axolotls thrive only in clear, oxygenated water.
Don’t worry about using special lighting on your tank because your pet axolotl don’t need it. In fact, provide some hiding place (an inverted broken pot for example) in your tank for your salamander. The water must be kept cool always between 14 to 20 degrees Celsius. Any cooler or hotter might seriously injure your axolotl.
Feeding a Pet Axolotl
Axolotls are carnivores eating crustaceans, small fish and amphibians, snails, and worms in the wild. In your tank, your pet axolotl will eat small strips of beef, bloodworms, cultured earthworms, brine shrimp, and small fish. There are also specialized pellets for axolotls you can get from exotic pet stores. Whatever feed you give to your axolotl, be sure to clean out the excess food by siphoning it with a hose. Don’t leave uneaten feeds lying on the tank floor spoiling the water, which needs to be changed by 20 percent every week if you have a filter.
Rare Complete Metamorphosis
In very rare occasions, perhaps triggered by supplementary thyroid hormone or changes in water characteristics, axolotls metamorphose into a complete terrestrial adult with different habitat and maintenance requirements. But this is very rare, most pet axolotls spend their entire lifetime resembling as a larva.
These are the things you should expect when you have an axolotl as a pet. But the thought of helping a critically endangered salamander species is more than enough reason you should keep these cute little salamanders in your fish tank.