Origin and Characteristics of the Axolotl
The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a salamander with a very unique feature called neoteny, which means that the animal retains its larval form throughout its life without undergoing the metamorphosis into an adult, as most amphibians do. Its natural habitat is limited to Lake Xochimilco in the city of Mexico.
Proper axolotl maintenance revolves around water quality, temperature, filtration, and lighting. For an adult individual, a minimum tank size of 40 liters is recommended, as the available space for the animal decreases when introducing accessories. You should have an adequate filtration system, a water heater (if necessary), a water chiller (if necessary), a thermometer, an oxygenator, and a water quality testing kit.
As a 100% aquatic species, water quality is of utmost importance for axolotls. Like all amphibians, they can absorb harmful substances through their skin. To maintain optimal water quality, you should measure physico-chemical parameters such as pH, hardness, nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, CO2 levels, oxygen percentage, and chlorine. You can use water from osmosis suitable for animals or tap water. In the latter case, let it sit for 24 hours or use a water conditioner to neutralize chlorine. Keep in mind that if you have a cascade filter, water evaporation is high, so you need to top up the water regularly.
Water Quality Parameters
pH: 6.5 – 8
Chlorine: 0 mg/l
General hardness (GH): 6 – 18 ºdH
Carbon hardness (KH): 3 – 10 ºdH
Nitrites (NO2-): 1 mg/l (maximum)
Ammonia and ammonium (NH3/NH4+): 0% or 0 mg/l
CO2 concentration: < 5 mg/l Dissolved O2: > 80% saturation
Temperature: 15 – 18 ºC (maximum 22 ºC)
In the wild, axolotls are strict carnivores and feed on small crustaceans, fish, insect larvae, copepods, and other microorganisms. In captivity, you can offer them brine shrimp, tubifex worms, copepods, water fleas, freshwater fish or turtle pellets, earthworms, mealworms, crickets, small pieces of chicken or beef, etc. Juvenile individuals should be fed daily, while adults can be fed every 3 days. Overfeeding can lead to obesity or water quality issues if the animal doesn’t consume all the food.
It’s essential to consult a veterinarian to ensure proper water conditions and overall care. Regular check-ups are recommended, as axolotls don’t tolerate extensive diagnostic tests or treatments well. Additionally, preventive care, such as deworming, should be performed annually.