The Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), which belongs to the tail amphibians, occurs exclusively in a few high-lying Mexican lakes; the animals, therefore, prefer cool and oxygen-rich water. In contrast to other amphibians, such as the fire salamander, it spends its entire life as a permanent larva in the water, breathes through outer gills throughout its life and also becomes sexually mature at this stage (neoteny). The reason for the absence of the – otherwise typical metamorphosis – is a congenital defect of the thyroid gland.
In their natural habitat, Axolotl is threatened with extinction, but they have been bred in Europe for many decades – including for research. In addition to the dark gray to the brown marbled natural form, various (color) variants have also been increasingly grown in recent years; these include albinotic (white animals with red eyes) and leucism (white animals with dark eyes) animals as well as pied “harlequins”.
How To Sex Your Axolotl
Sexually mature animals can be differentiated based on the cloaca region, which is significantly bulged in the male and flatter in the female.
Axolotl shows no pronounced social behavior. The animals can be cared for individually, in pairs or groups, provided there are sufficient space, hiding places, and suitable structures. If there is a lack of feed, biting will quickly occur. Specimens of different sizes may not be kept together since the smaller animals could be regarded as food.
Axolotl is twilight to nocturnal; also active during the day in poor lighting.
Since Axolotl does not normally leave the water, an aquarium is suitable for keeping, which should have at least 100 x 50 x 50 cm (length x width x height) for up to 4 adult animals. The water temperature should be 14 – 18 ° C, long-term temperatures above 22 ° C damage the animals ( cooling may be necessary! ). A precise thermometer is required to measure the temperature. Other water values: pH 6.0 – 8.0, total hardness up to 30 ° dGH.
The aquarium must be equipped with a powerful filter with a secure inlet. Good oxygen supply can be ensured by additional ventilation. The facility should have sufficient hiding places; Wood roots, clay pipes, and dense plant stands are suitable for this. Coarse river pebbles and / or fine sand can be used as the substrate. Aquarium gravel is taken up by the greedy eaters together with the food and can lead to intestinal obstructions or injuries. There is no need for lighting; if necessary, a floating plant cover provides the necessary shade. Axolotl must not be cared for with fish or crustaceans (e.g. shrimp, crayfish), as these could damage their sensitive outer gills.
The axolotl is pure carnivores. Live food is preferred, for example, earthworms of various sizes or red mosquito larvae. These are also accepted as frozen food. The pet shop also offers pellets that are specially tailored to the needs of Axolotl and are eaten after getting used to them. Alternatively, sturgeon pellets are also suitable for a full Axolotl diet.
Warning: Axolotl tends to become fat. In adult animals, it is sufficient to feed every 2nd to 3rd day.
How To Take Care of Axolotl
A sufficiently dimensioned filter is always required to operate an aquarium. The filter should be checked regularly and cleaned if necessary. Axolotl is sometimes sensitive to an increased bacterial load in the water. A regular, weekly partial water change of (at least) 25% removes pollutants and increases the well-being of the animals. Regular mulching of the substrate also helps to reduce water pollution. Tempered, stale water must be used to change the water; however, the Axolotl should not use water treatment agents.
The most important water parameters for the wellbeing of the animals – such as temperature, pH, ammonium/ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, total and carbonate hardness – should be checked regularly.
The health of animals must be checked daily. Common health problems with Axolotl are changes in gills and skin, (bite) injuries and fat. An amphibian veterinarian should be consulted in the event of any abnormalities.
Acclimatization and Handling Axolotl
Once at home, the lighting in the aquarium should first be switched off. Then the transport bag can be placed on the water surface for 10-15 minutes to adjust the temperature. Then open it and gradually add about as much aquarium water as there is transport water in the bag. Then the Axolotl can be used gently. To get used to it gently, the light should remain switched off until the next morning.
Amphibians are pure observation and NOT petting animals! For the first few days in their new home, the animals need to rest to get used to their new surroundings. Fine-meshed and somewhat deeper nets or correspondingly large vessels are suitable for catching the animals. Catching by hand should be avoided due to the risk of injury.
Characteristic Features of an Axolotl
All Axolotl on the market is offspring. Axolotl is protected, but do not have to be reported; however, proof of origin is required. Axolotl can regenerate injured and lost limbs. However, such injuries always indicate postural errors! Experience has shown that if the characteristic, tuft-shaped outer gills recede, there are postural errors – for example too high temperatures or too high water pollution. The maintenance of Axolotl only makes sense if the required low temperatures are guaranteed even in summer, for example in a cool cellar room or by using an aquarium cooler.