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Axolotls as Pets: The Ultimate Guide to Your Perfect Aquatic Companions


Axolotls are unique and critically endangered neotenic amphibians that make excellent aquatic pets. These fascinating creatures are also known as Mexican walking fish. They are a type of salamander that never undergo metamorphosis, meaning they remain in their larval form throughout their lives.

Axolotls have a distinctive appearance, with feathery external gills, a flat head, and a long tail. They come in various colors, including black, white, golden, and speckled, and can grow up to a foot in length. 

They are native to the lakes and canals of Mexico City and are now considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and pollution.

In the face of their endangered status, axolotls have emerged as rising star in the pet world, captivating enthusiasts with their distinctive beauty and low-maintenance requirements.

They are relatively low-maintenance pets that require a simple aquatic setup and a diet of frozen bloodworm, brine shrimp, and other appropriate meals and pellets. With proper care and maintenance, axolotls can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Key Takeaways

  • Axolotls are unique and critically endangered neotenic amphibians that make excellent aquatic pets.
  • Axolotls have a distinctive appearance, are native to the lakes and canals of Mexico City, and are now considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and pollution.

Physical Description

Axolotls are a unique and fascinating species of salamander that can make excellent pets for those interested in aquatic creatures. They are native to Mexico and are also known as Mexican walking fish. These creatures are known for their unusual appearance, which includes several distinctive features.

Size and Body Structure

Axolotls can grow to be between 6 and 18 inches long, although it is rare for them to reach over 12 inches. They have long, slender body with four limbs and a long tail. Their body is covered in smooth, slimy skin in various colors and patterns.

Unique Features

One of the most distinctive features of axolotls is their external gills, which are fringed and feathery in appearance. These gills are used for breathing and are essential to the axolotl’s respiratory system. Axolotls also lack eyelids, which means that their eyes are always open.

Color Variations and Patterns

Axolotls come in various colors and patterns, including albino and leucistic varieties. Albino axolotls have white or pink bodies with red eyes, while leucistic axolotls have pale bodies with black eyes. Some axolotls also have spots or stripes on their body, which can be black, brown, or gold.

Gills and Tail

The gills of an axolotl are an essential part of their respiratory system and are used to extract oxygen from the water. Axolotls are also known for their regenerative abilities, which means they can regrow their gills if damaged or lost. The tail of an axolotl is long and slender, and it is used for swimming and balance.


Axolotls are also known for their neotenic characteristics, meaning they retain their juvenile features into adulthood. This includes their external gills, typically lost during metamorphosis in other salamander species. As a result, axolotls are often referred to as “perpetual juveniles.”

Habitat, Distribution, and Conservation

Axolotls are native to the freshwater canals and lakes of Xochimilco, Mexico. They are adapted to the environmental conditions of this region, which include a relatively stable temperature range of 14 to 24 degrees Celsius and a pH level between 6.5 and 8.0. Axolotls are primarily aquatic and require a habitat with a large water volume and plenty of hiding places.

Unfortunately, the axolotl population in Mexico has been in decline due to habitat destruction, water pollution, and the introduction of non-native species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified axolotls as critically endangered species, underscoring the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect these remarkable creatures.

Efforts are being made to protect axolotl populations, including conservation programs in Mexico and the United States. The government has established protected areas around Lake Xochimilco in Mexico to preserve the axolotl’s natural habitat. 

In the United States, axolotls are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and it is illegal to import or transport them across state lines without a permit.

Axolotl enthusiasts can help protect the species by ensuring that they purchase axolotls from reputable breeders and avoid contributing to the illegal pet trade. Also, proper care and maintenance of axolotl habitats can help prevent pollution and preserve the species’ natural environment.

Life Cycle, Reproduction, and Metamorphosis

Axolotls are a type of salamander that exhibit neoteny, meaning they retain their larval characteristics throughout their life and reach sexual maturity without undergoing metamorphosis. This unique trait makes them a popular choice as pets.

Axolotls reproduce through external fertilization, with males depositing sperm onto a female’s eggs as she lays them. The eggs are then fertilized and develop externally, attached to aquatic plants or rocks. The larvae hatch after 10 to 14 days and feed on small aquatic organisms.

Axolotls exhibit facultative paedomorphosis, meaning they can undergo metamorphosis if certain environmental conditions are met. However, in captivity, they can be kept in conditions that prevent metamorphosis and allow them to retain their larval form.

Axolotls have a long lifespan, with some individuals living up to 15 years. They are known for their ability to regenerate lost body parts, including limbs, spinal cord, and even parts of their brain.

Overall, axolotls make fascinating pets for those interested in amphibians and their unique life cycle.

Feeding and Diet

Axolotls are carnivorous and require a diet of live prey like fish, insects, worms, and crustaceans. With their opportunistic feeding behavior, axolotls possess a voracious appetite and a willingness to devour nearly anything that fits within their mouths.

However, it is essential to note that axolotls have specific nutritional requirements for a balanced diet.

When it comes to feeding axolotls, feeding them once a day or every other day is recommended. Proper feeding is essential for axolotls’ health. Overfeeding can cause obesity while underfeeding can result in malnutrition. Finding the right balance is crucial to maintain their well-being.

Removing uneaten food from the tank is also essential to prevent water contamination.

Some popular live food options for axolotls include brine shrimp, worms (such as earthworms and bloodworms), and small fish. Ensuring that the live food is appropriately sized for the axolotl is crucial, as they can only swallow prey smaller than their head.

Axolotls are known for their unique feeding behavior; they open their mouths wide and suck in water with their prey. It is essential to observe their feeding behavior to ensure that they are correctly consuming their food.

In addition, to live food, there are also commercially available axolotl pellets and frozen foods that can be used as a supplement to their diet. However, it is essential to note that live food should still make up most of their diet.

Care and Maintenance in Captivity

Axolotls are fascinating creatures that require proper care and maintenance to thrive in captivity. Setting up an ideal habitat is crucial for their well-being. The tank should be spacious enough to accommodate the axolotl’s size and provide ample swimming space. 

A 20-gallon tank is ideal for a single axolotl, and the tank should be equipped with a filtration system to ensure optimal water quality.

The water temperature is another critical factor to consider. Axolotls prefer cool water between 60-68°F, and the aquarium should be kept out of direct sunlight to avoid temperature fluctuations. The substrate should be soft and non-abrasive, such as sand or smooth rocks, to prevent the axolotl’s soft skin injury.

Maintaining optimal water quality is essential for the axolotl’s health. Regular water changes of about 25% weekly will help keep the water conditions stable and prevent the buildup of harmful minerals and chemicals. The pH level should be kept between 6.5-8.0, and a water testing kit can be used to monitor the water quality.

Proper handling techniques are crucial to avoid stress and injury to the axolotl. They should not be lifted or handled by their tails, as this can cause damage to their spine. Instead, gently scoop them up with a net or cup and avoid sudden movements.

Axolotl as Pets

Axolotls are fascinating aquatic animals that make great pets for those looking for a unique, low-maintenance companion. These exotic creatures are native to Mexico, also known as Mexican walking fish. They are easy to care for, have a long lifespan, and are legal to own in many countries.

Suitability as Pets

Axolotls are suitable pets for those interested in keeping aquatic animals but want to avoid dealing with the high maintenance requirements of other aquatic pets, such as fish. They are easy to care for and do not require much attention, making them perfect for busy pet owners.

Low Maintenance Requirements and Long Lifespan

Axolotls are low-maintenance pets that do not require a lot of attention. They are easy to feed and do not need to be walked or exercised. They are also long-lived animals, with a lifespan of up to 15 years in captivity.

Legal Considerations and Permits for Owning Axolotls

In many countries, including the United States and Canada, axolotls are legally owned as pets. However, it is essential to check with local authorities to ensure no restrictions or permits are required for owning axolotls.


Axolotls require a tank with at least 10 gallons of water per axolotl. The tank should be kept at a temperature between 60F and 65F, and the water should be treated with a water conditioner. Axolotls are also light-sensitive, so the tank should be kept in a dimly lit area.


Axolotls are carnivorous animals and require a diet of small aquatic worms and insects. Axolotls should be fed once a day, and any uneaten food should be promptly removed from the tank.

Axolotls can also regenerate lost body parts, making them more interesting to observe.

Common Health Issues and Care

Axolotls are generally hardy pets, but they can still experience health problems. It is essential to be aware of common health issues and how to care for your axolotl to keep it healthy.

Common Health Problems

Some of the most common health problems that axolotls may experience include bacterial infections, parasites, and metabolic disorders. Bacterial infections can cause redness, swelling, and open sores on the skin. 

Parasites can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Metabolic disorders can cause issues with the axolotl’s ability to regulate its body chemistry.

Preventive Care

Preventive care is critical to keeping your axolotl healthy. This includes maintaining clean water, providing proper nutrition, and monitoring the axolotl’s behavior. It is also essential to quarantine any new axolotls before introducing them to your existing pets to prevent the spread of disease.

Regular Health Checks

Regular health checks are essential to catch any health problems early on. It is recommended to consult with an experienced veterinarian who knows axolotl care. They can perform regular health checks and provide treatment options if necessary.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for axolotls include antibiotics for bacterial infections and anti-parasitic parasite medications. It is essential to consult with a veterinarian before administering any medications to your axolotl. Invasive procedures such as surgery should only be performed by experienced veterinarians.

Conservation and Threats

Axolotls are currently facing critical conservation status, with their populations rapidly decreasing due to various factors. Habitat loss caused by urbanization and pollution is one of the significant threats to axolotls. 

The water quality of the axolotl’s natural habitat in Lake Xochimilco, Mexico, has been severely degraded by pollution from urban areas, agriculture, and wastewater discharge. Moreover, introducing invasive species like tilapia, carp, and crayfish has also contributed to the decline of axolotl populations.

Illegal trade and ownership of axolotls are another significant threat to their conservation. Owning axolotls in some areas is illegal, and their capture and sale are prohibited in Mexico. 

However, the demand for axolotls as pets in the black market continues to thrive, leading to the depletion of wild populations. Therefore, purchasing axolotls from reputable breeders who follow ethical and legal guidelines is crucial.

Fortunately, there are ongoing conservation efforts to protect axolotls and their habitats. The Mexican government has implemented several conservation programs, including the Xochimilco Axolotl Conservation Program, to restore and protect the axolotl’s natural habitat. 

International organizations like the Amphibian Ark and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are also working towards conserving axolotls through captive breeding and reintroduction programs.

As a responsible pet owner, there are ways to support axolotl conservation. One can avoid purchasing axolotls from the black market and only buy them from reputable breeders who follow ethical and legal guidelines.


Moreover, one can also donate to organizations working towards axolotl conservation or participate in citizen science programs to monitor axolotl populations in the wild.

Interesting Facts and FAQs

Axolotls are intriguing pets with unique qualities. Explore fascinating facts and find answers to frequently asked questions about these captivating aquatic creatures.

Captivating Facts

Axolotls are known for their regenerative abilities. They can regenerate limbs, spinal cord, heart, and other body parts. This ability has made them a subject of scientific research, including their potential for human tissue regeneration.

Axolotls also have cultural significance in Mexico, where they are native. They were considered a delicacy in pre-Columbian times and used in Aztec medicine.



Axolotls are best kept alone or with other axolotls. They are incompatible with most fish species because they may eat or mistake them for food. Crustaceans and snails can make good tank mates, but they should be monitored for aggressive behavior.

Tank Setup

Axolotls need a large tank with plenty of hiding places, such as plants, rocks, and pebbles. The enclosure should have a fan or filter to maintain water quality, and the water temperature should be between 60-68°F. 

Axolotls are sensitive creatures, and their well-being relies on minimizing stress. Handling them with care and avoiding abrupt fluctuations in water temperature or quality is crucial to ensure their health.

Challenges of Keeping Axolotls

Axolotls require specific care and attention, which can be challenging for some pet owners. They can be messy eaters and produce a lot of waste, so regular tank maintenance is necessary. They also have a high oxygen demand, which can be challenging to maintain in smaller tanks.

Pros and Cons

Axolotls are hardy creatures that can live up to 15 years in captivity. They are fascinating to watch and have unique personalities. However, they require specific care and attention, which can be challenging for some pet owners. Considering the pros and cons before deciding to keep an axolotl as a pet is essential.