Axolotl : Care Guide
The Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) has recently grown in popularity thanks to TikTok and the video game "Minecraft," which added the species in 2021. The species also has its own book, "In My Life at the Bottom: The Story of a Lonesome Axolotl," by Scandinavian Author and Illustrator Linda Bondestam.
"It looked like a mix of an alien and a human being, something very innocent," Bondestam recalled her first impression of an Axolotl. "It's a very, very special animal. I just knew I had to write something about it."
The innocent-looking Axolotl spends its whole life in a larval state, never becoming a land-dweller. The species originates from Mexico and is named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl, who, according to legend, can transform into a salamander.
The Incredible Abilities of an Axolotl
The Axolotl has the incredible ability to regenerate its limbs and organs, including its brain. Yes, its brain. The species can even accept transplanted organs and limbs from another axolotl without experiencing rejection, making them of prime interest to medical researchers.
Researchers began observing adult Axolotls regenerating parts of their brains back in 1964. Today research continues in the Treutlein Lab at ETH Zurich and the Tanaka Lab at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. Through their research, the teams hope to identify all the cell types in an Axolotl's brain to discover innovative research in regenerative medicine.
"Examining the genes and cell types that allow Axolotls to accomplish nearly perfect regeneration may be the key to improve treatments for severe injuries and unlock regeneration potential in humans," said Ashley Maynard, a Ph.D. candidate in quantitative developmental biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.
Care Requirements for an Axolotl
The Axolotl is considered critically endangered in the wild, but aquarists are carefully breeding the species in captivity with great success. Aquarists have also been able to develop a variety of interesting Axolotl color morphs.
The Axolotl is relatively easy to care for if a few essential requirements are followed, including water temperature and flow. The species is not a tropical animal, so the water temperature should remain under 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The optimum temperature is between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Aquarists should be mindful of any possible temperature increase that can occur, especially from aquarium equipment and lighting. Temperature increases can cause an Axolotl to stop eating and eventually die. Floating plants can help to diffuse any necessary lighting.
The species also needs low water flow. Adding a Spray Bar can help to distribute water evenly throughout an aquarium. By directing water flow to other areas, a Spray Bar prevents stagnant water, increases surface agitation, and improves oxygenation.
Also, beware, the Axolotl is a bit of an escape artist and can quickly jump out of a tank, so a tight-fitting lid is necessary. The tank also should be at least 20 gallons, as an Axolotl can grow up to 12 inches long.
Additionally, Axolotls tend to be nocturnal, but after one is established in a tank, it will become more active during the day. It's an excellent idea for any aquarium to include smooth driftwood, plants, and other places for an Axolotl to hide. All decor should have smooth edges as an Axolotl has fragile skin and can be injured easily.
An Axolotl is like a child; it will try to eat anything that can fit into its mouth, so only very fine substrates like aquarium-safe sand are acceptable.
The ideal diet for an Axolotl includes earthworms, blackworms, meaty frozen food, cooked shrimp, and dry food specifically formulated for salamanders and other amphibians.
With proper care, the Axolotl can live 10-15 years.
Aquatic Arts' Axolotls
Aquatic Arts offers locally-bred Axolotl morphs, including the Axanthic Axolotl, the Wild Type Axolotl, and the UK Copper Axolotl. To learn more about all of Aquatic Arts' offerings, visit www.aquaticarts.com.