Axolotls: Everything You Need to Know!

Tired of ordinary aquarium fish? Take a gander at the axolotl!

Axolotls make excellent aquatic pets for those looking for something unique. They’re also easy to care for and relatively affordable. 

If you’re interested in learning more about axolotls but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at our guide below! In this guide, we’ll talk about:

  • What axolotls are
  • Types of axolotls
  • Basic axolotl care
  • Axolotl costs
  • Top axolotl tips from the pros

Let’s start with the first one: what are axolotls? 

What Axolotls Are

You’ve probably heard of axolotls somewhere. They’re adorable little creatures with big smiles plastered on their wet faces – what’s not to love?

Axolotls are actually a type of amphibian. In case you don’t remember what an amphibian is, it’s a creature that starts its life in water and grows up to live on land, like frogs!

Axolotls are actually a type of salamander, but they’re not like other salamanders. In fact, they’re unique amphibians, different from other amphibians. 

You see, axolotls are neotenic. This means that as adults, they keep many of the traits that only juvenile amphibians have. (*)

Basically, they never become fully “adult” like other amphibians. They’ll retain their gills and tails instead of getting rid of them, but they’ll also grow limbs and lungs.

Talk about dynamic!

If you want to see axolotls in the wild, you’ll be able to find them in the Valley of Mexico and in Mexico City, where they’re native. The ancestors of all axolotls in the pet trade came from here, though it’s important no more are taken to preserve them. 

Learn more: Where Do Axolotls Live: Natural habits and known places

Types of Axolotls

Believe it or not, there are actually many different types of axolotls! Just like there are different colors of dog breeds, there are different colors of axolotls too.

And just like dog breeds, some of these colors are rarer than others, which can make them cost a pretty penny.

Common Axolotls

For those looking for just a basic axolotl, you’ll do well looking for any of these common axolotl types:

Leucistic is the type seen most often when looking up axolotls. These axolotls are pastel pink and have thin, almost transparent skin. 

They also have a speckled variety! Cute!

White albino looks similar to leucistic but is more white in color. Gold albino, on the other hand, is more yellow. 

Finally, black melanoid is the most unique on this list as it’s dark in color instead of light. These axolotls are dark grey to black and usually have speckles scattered across their long bodies. 

Rare Axolotls

If you’ve already got some axolotl experience under your belt, you may want to go for a rarer type! These types include:

It’s important to note that not all rare axolotls are as rare as others. For example, copper axolotls are simply uncommon, while mosaics are so rare they can barely be found.

Piebald axolotls are a fan favorite as they look marbled. They have white skin, black eyes, and dark patches that swirl around their face and back. 

Out of the list, though, green fluorescent protein (GFP) is probably the most fascinating. GFP axolotls have green fluorescent protein, which means they’re capable of naturally glowing!

Who needs a nightlight when you have a GFP axolotl?

They won’t glow brightly on their own, though. You’ll need blue light to fully see the scope of their glowing abilities.

Remember that the rarer axolotl types will be harder to find and more expensive. But if you love the type and are willing to put in the work (and the money), it’s totally worth it. 

Learn more: Unique Axolotls Names For Your Pet

Basic Axolotl Care

Before you run to an axolotl breeder, you need to know how to take care of your axolotl. Otherwise, you won’t have your axolotl long… Yikes. 

Take a look at our care guide below. We’ll tell you about everything you need to care for your axolotl, including (*):

  • Tank requirements
  • Filter
  • Water treatment
  • Lighting
  • Heat
  • Food
  • Common medical issues

With this care information, you’ll be ready for anything your axolotl throws your way!

Tank Requirements

Your axolotl’s tank is arguably the most important aspect of their care besides feeding them. Their tank is their home and their safe place, meaning it has to be ready to keep them surviving and thriving. 

We recommend a minimum of a 20-gallon tank for your axolotl. Any axolotls you get after that should have an extra 10 gallons added to the tank size per axolotl. 

This size will give them enough room to swim around and explore. Remember: It’s always better to get a long aquarium than a tall one, as your axolotl is a bottom dweller that prefers to have lots of areas to walk and swim around. 

Fill your axolotl tank mostly to the top. Some new axolotl owners think their axolotl needs some land, but this is actually not true!

Because they still have gills and soft skin, they actually don’t spend time on land. You’ll just need an inch of space at the top of the tank for them to swim up and breathe if they choose. 

Your axolotl also may not need an air pump, though some owners prefer to have it just in case. This is especially the case for younger axolotls, as many of them thrive with the higher oxygen in the water. 

Some axolotls love playing with bubbles, too, so it just depends!

Finally, you should get some aquatic plants and substrate for your axolotl tank. Plants provide oxygen in your axolotl’s water and also offer a place for them to hide, while sand makes your tank look nicer and won’t scratch your axolotl’s tender skin like gravel would.

Great choices include java ferns, water lettuce, and java moss. 

Oh, and don’t forget the mesh tank lid. Axolotls love to jump, and you don’t want to find your friend on the floor in axolotl heaven one day!

Learn more: Axolotls Lifespan | How long do axolotls live as pets?

Filter

It’s essential that you get a filter for your axolotl. Your axolotl’s tank is its home as much as it is their toilet, and their waste products can make them extremely sick if not cleaned. Yuck.

Find a high-quality filter for your axolotl tank. Axolotls, in particular, are extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrates, so you need to keep their water cool and clean at all times, or they can become sick. 

Even with a great filter, you’ll still have to do 30% water changes every week to make sure their water is as high-quality as possible. Remember: a healthy axolotl is a happy axolotl!

Water Quality

You can use tap water in your axolotl’s tank, but you’ll have to treat it first. It isn’t as simple as filling the tank and tossing your axolotl in!

You’ll have to use aged tap water and treat it with an amphibian-safe water conditioner. This will remove chlorine and other chemicals that are in tap water that may harm your axolotl if left untreated. 

Use a pH kit to test your water’s pH as well. Axolotls need a pH level between 6.5 and 8, so as neutral as possible. Nothing fancy is needed here!

Lighting

Fun fact: Did you know axolotls don’t have eyelids?

It’s true, and that’s why your axolotl doesn’t actually need a specific light in its tank. In fact, artificial light could actually harm your axolotl by making it nervous with such bright lights.

The only light your axolotl needs is some natural light, so they know the time of day since they’re mostly nocturnal. This will help them stick to a normal sleep schedule.

You may also want a blue light if you have a GFP axolotl, as we discussed under “types.” Please note you should not get a blacklight, as blacklights can also be harmful to your axolotl’s eyes. 

Heat

Your axolotl’s tank temperature is important. You don’t want to cook it!

The water temperature in your axolotl’s tank should be anywhere between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Any cooler than this, and your axolotl may have issues metabolizing food, and any warmer may result in death to your axolotl.

If you’re concerned about the water temperature, use a water thermometer to figure out the temperature of the water before treatment. Then, use a water-cooling system to keep the temperature low if it’s too warm. 

Food

Unlike some animals, axolotls are not picky eaters. In fact, you need to make sure nothing can fall into their tank, as they’ll try to eat anything in front of them that’s smaller than their head!

Some of an axolotl’s favorite foods include:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Nightcrawlers
  • Red wrigglers
  • Beef heart
  • Axolotl food pellets

A combination of these foods is great for your axolotl, though brine shrimp are a treat and should only be given occasionally. Bloodworms have all of the nutrients your axolotl needs, so they won’t need any supplements if this is the majority of their diet. 

Young axolotls will have to eat once per day, while adults only have to eat a few times per week. They aren’t prone to overeating, so remove any extra food left in the tank after they’ve finished feasting.

After all, nobody wants to swim in icky bloodworm water. 

Learn more: Axolotls In The Wild and As Pets: What do they eat?

Common Medical Issues

Lots of home aquarium enthusiasts like axolotls because of their hardy nature. They’re generally easy to care for once their tank is set up, and they don’t get sick easily.

However, that doesn’t mean your axolotl will never get sick. It’s possible they could, especially if their tank isn’t cared for properly.

The main illnesses your axolotl may face are:

  • Ammonia burns
  • Stress-induced illness
  • Parasite infection
  • Bacterial infection

Ammonia burns can occur if your filter works poorly or if you don’t change the water regularly. Ammonia comes from your axolotl’s waste, so keeping the water clean can keep your axolotl from experiencing painful chemical skin burns. 

Stress, on the other hand, can cause your axolotl to shut down and become ill from not eating. They may refuse to eat or be social, which can cause illness over time.

Never stress your axolotl with bright lights, physical handling, or an overcrowded tank. Make sure their environment is spacious, calm, and welcoming for them. 

Finally, Axolotls can also become infected with parasites or bacteria. Parasites can be picked up from food or from plants introduced to the aquarium.

Always try to check everything going into your axolotl’s tank before putting it in. However, if you can’t see any parasites, get your axolotl treatment as soon as they display symptoms of parasite infection.

These symptoms include refusal to eat, stiff movements, and pale gills. 

Bacterial infections from a dirty tank can also cause red streaks and open sores. Always take a good look at your axolotl when you go in to feed them to make sure they’re staying healthy! 

If they ever are sick, the sooner you get them treatment, the better. 

If your axolotl stays happy and healthy throughout its life, it could live anywhere between 10-15 years! Now that’s a longtime friend. 

Axolotl Costs

Getting an axolotl isn’t as simple as just getting one at the store and calling it a day! There’s specific equipment you need to keep your aquatic friend happy and healthy for a long time. 

If you follow the axolotl care we’ve provided above, you should expect to spend about the following on axolotl care. (*)

One-Time Costs

One-time costs are parts of your axolotl’s setup that you will likely only buy once in the axolotl’s lifetime unless it breaks or needs replacement. Items in this category include:

  • Tank (~$50)
  • Filter (~$50)
  • Water Bubbler (optional) (~$15)
  • Plants and Decorations (~$50)
  • Axolotl ($30 ~ 300, depending on the type)

It’s important to keep in mind that these costs vary by where you shop and how much you get. If you get fewer plants, for example, it could cost you less than $50.

These are simply averages to help you keep in mind how much it could cost you. 

According to these prices, one-time costs will run you about $195 for a basic axolotl, or $465 or greater depending on how rare of an axolotl you get!

Repeating Costs

Repeating costs are, as the title implies, repeating. These are the things you’ll have to get regularly throughout your axolotl’s life to keep them alive and happy. 

Annual repeating costs for axolotls include:

  • Food ($50-100)
  • Water Treatment ($10-20)

You’ll (obviously) always have to keep your axolotl well-fed, so that’s a non-negotiable repeating cost. Water treatment may not be applied as often as feeding but still needs to be performed regularly to keep your tank safe for your axolotl. 

Your repeating costs will cost you somewhere between $60 – $120 annually. Not too shabby compared to other animals!

Total Cost

If you add up both the one-time costs and repeating costs, getting a basic axolotl should cost you around $300 up-front. After that, you should only be paying the repeating costs, which average about $80 per year. 

If you aren’t sure if you can financially support your axolotl, you’ll have to reconsider if now is the right time to get one. Axolotls still need regular care, and getting one if you can’t care for it isn’t a fun time for your pet. 

Always get your axolotls responsibly!

Learn more: How Much Do Axolotls Cost? Top 6 Factors Influence The Price!

Top Axolotl Tips

Even the best research can’t fully prepare you as much as tips from experienced owners. Sometimes, experience takes the cake when it comes to raising these aquatic friends. 

After finding the best tips, we compiled them for you below. Take a look to see what you can do to give your axolotl the best life possible. 

Tank Location

Because your axolotl’s water needs to stay cool, you should carefully consider where you put its tank. If you know a specific area of your home gets extremely hot, avoid putting the tank there.

You should also avoid placing your tank by an open window where it can get direct sunlight. The sunlight will not only heat the water (and your axolotl), but the light can also harm your axolotl’s eyes.

Remember, they don’t have eyelids!

Getting the Bubbler

When in doubt, axolotl owners say to just get the aquarium bubbler. Worst case scenario, your axolotl avoids it, and you can move it to a corner, get a gentler one, or just remove it if you have plants to provide oxygen.

Lots of axolotl owners say their axolotl ends up loving the bubbler and entertaining themselves with it, so it’s worth a shot!

Hands to Yourself

Unlike your cat, your axolotl doesn’t like to be touched. Because of their thin skin, axolotls are extremely fragile and can get hurt easily, even when you don’t mean to hurt them.

Touching your axolotl can also stress them out, which can make them sick over time. They could avoid eating or become ill in other ways, which nobody wants.

The only times you should physically handle your axolotl is if it’s absolutely necessary, such as in a life or death emergency. You’ll mainly only handle your axolotl when introducing it to its tank and if you have to take it to a vet. 

Two Is Not Always Better Than One

Though you may be tempted to get your axolotl a friend of its own kind, this isn’t necessary like it is for other species. Axolotls many times prefer to be alone, though others do end up being fine with company.

If you decide to get more than one axolotl, make sure your tank is big enough and that you quarantine the second one before introducing it to the first. You don’t want to introduce disease to your tank from a new organism, nor do you want them to fight right off the bat.

Let them get used to one another by quarantining them nearby before putting them in the tank together. Even axolotls have to warm up to strangers!

The minimum recommended time for quarantine is two weeks. This gives you enough time to observe the new axolotl for any signs of illness or parasites that could harm your other axolotl when put into the tank.

If you discover your new axolotl is sick, get the treatment from a vet before putting it into the main tank. 

Find An Amphibian Vet

Speaking of vets, you should find yourself an amphibian vet before getting your axolotl. Axolotl owners say having a vet familiar with this species is a gamechanger for caring for their aquatic friend.

Just because a vet is familiar with fish or reptiles doesn’t mean they know how to care for an axolotl. Make sure the vet you choose at least has some familiarity and understanding of axolotl care before using them for an amphibian illness. 

Conclusion

Now that you’re an axolotl expert, you should be all set to raise one yourself!

Before running off to buy your axolotl, remember the information and tips, we provided in this article. Taking into consideration the cost and care required for an axolotl may save you a lot of headaches later. 

Plus, you want to make sure you use tips from the axolotl pros to give your new amphibious friend a great life! The happier your axolotl is, the happier you are. 

You can see it right on their face.

If you’re interested in raising axolotls, let us know why below. If you want to know more about another aquatic pet, comment below or send us a message, and we might write on yours next!

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