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Wot a Lotta Axolotl

September 26th 2017

Author: Sarah Butler

The Axolotl or ‘Mexican Walking Fish’ is a rather strange looking amphibian that makes a fascinating pet. Most amphibians, such as frogs, have a life cycle that involves the development of eggs into a larval stage (tadpole), then on to adult form (frog), which can survive on land and in the water.

The Axolotl is unusual in that it is a type of salamander which never reaches its adult form, and consequently spends all its life in water. Despite being a larval form, the Axolotl still reaches adulthood and is able to reproduce.

Axolotls range in size from 18-35cm and come in a variety of colours including white, grey, black, brown and a golden colour. They have fluffy, exuberant external gills through which they breathe. They do have very basic lungs and can occasionally be seen rising to the water’s surface and taking a gulp of air. Their amazing ability to regenerate limbs or tails (often after they have been bitten off by a fellow Axolotl) has made them the subject of much laboratory investigation.

Axolotls have many specific housing and feeding requirements. Their water temperature should ideally be between 14˚ and 20˚C, with minimal variation. Temperatures greater than 24˚C cause stress and predispose the Axolotl to disease, whilst temperatures below 14˚C slow metabolism and reduce their appetite. The base of the tank should be covered with either fine sand or pebbles larger than 2cm, as Axolotls are notorious for eating normal aquarium gravel, which can use gut obstructions. Water filtration systems need to be appropriate for the size of the tank, as both over and under filtration can cause problems. Axolotls can be fed a combination of live and pelleted foods but prefer food that sinks rather than on the surface of the water.

As with any pet ownership, it pays to investigate the specifc needs of an Axolotl before introducing one into your home. Many problems are related to poor husbandry, so seek help in setting up your Axolotl's tank and hopefully it will live a long and happy life.