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Axolotls: A Giant Salamander with a Superpower
The Mexican walking fish
The Axolotl is a fascinating creature rarely seen by people in the wild, descending from the tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum and indigenous to central Mexico for about 10,000 years.
Axolotls are a newer species that evolved after the chaos and floods in North America after the younger dryas period, and so this creature gives us insights into an emergent species.
Sadly, much of its suitable habitat has been drained due to human intervention. These two spring-fed lakes (lake Xochimilco and lake Chalco) along the southern edge of the Basin of Mexico has been reduced by 77% recently.
Scientific research has discovered something amazing
Did you know these Salamanders have superpowers? First, Axolotls are specially designed for camouflage. With dark-colored bodies and the ability to shift their hue a few shades lighter or darker as needed, they can easily blend in with leaves on trees! Pink and light-colored variations are bred only by humans to make for an interesting-looking pet.
Axolotls are able to regenerate a new limb five times without even leaving scars – and do it in a matter of weeks. Also, the Axolotl can regenerate organs, jaws, and spines and can do this countless times while being entirely functional. Scientists want to understand the ability that Axolots inherently possess, so it is an extensively studied creature.
To top it off, they say that this Axolotl has an innate superpower to resist cancer—1,000 times more than mammals. Indeed an amazing creature and a worthy critter for observation in the aquarium.
The Axolotl is a strange and fascinating creature that can grow up to 25cm. Axolotls are the fastest-growing frog-like creatures on earth! After reaching sexual maturity at 8 or so centimeters, most continue their growth until they reach about 20 cm long before stopping.
Since Victorian times, they have been bred as pets but were only scientifically classified by scientists in 1859 when Mr. Charles Darwin gave them the funky name Axolotl Ambystoma Mexicanum because he found one near Mexico City while doing research.
In the wild, axolotls feed on snails, worms, crustaceans, and small fish. They can be fed a variety of brine shrimp or frozen food in captivity instead of wild food to avoid parasites that their natural prey could carry. In general, they do not need vitamins for healthy growth because they have a healthy appetite.
However, it’s essential to ensure he has plenty of quality protein since his primary source would otherwise come from munching on other creatures.
Adult axolotls appreciate a feed about once a week. One way to feed them is to place food with round-nosed forceps in the tank near where your animal lives, and you may also drop food into their water, as close to them as possible when they are active.
If it seems like your Axolotl doesn’t eat much during daylight hours, try feeding it in the evening so uneaten food does not stay in the water.
Axolotl Life Span
There are few things as fascinating as axolotls. Strangely, Axolotls have been known to live past 20 years- but it is unusual (and almost unheard of) for one to make it over 10!
A 60 litre reptile aquarium is the perfect size for one adult axolotl, but it can become messy due to constant waste. If you are looking for a 100+ litre tank instead, you will avoid this issue; in fact, I recommend doing so because as soon as you add in fish, it would be a messy affair. Ensure water parameters stay at an optimum level by filling the whole thing up and changing the water regularly, or else mold will start growing on anything inside!
A filter will help maintain safe water parameters but beware of the conditions axolotls like.
However, ensure that your tank has a spray bar or some other type of outlet to quickly and safely spread this water throughout. Axolotls do not tolerate strong flows so they need more delicate care than fish otherwise their health may suffer in ways from losing their appetite to developing stress-related diseases.
Lighting and Temperature
Axolotls do not require lighting, and new axolotls may be shy if kept in a brightly lighted tank. Lighting is for our viewing pleasure and the benefit of aquarium plants, not the Axolotls. This Salamander lives in habitats such as caves, amongst wood or vegetation. It would be wise to mimic this in the tank. Choose a plant-friendly bulb that does not produce excess light and heat above what is required for plants.
Axolotls, like most amphibians, are cold-blooded and need warmer water temperatures to function. If you have a hot home temperature be wary! An axolotls ideal temperature range falls between 18°C – 24°C with anything higher than 24 ° C being potentially fatal if left unattended long enough. This will lead them to not eat due to it feeling uncomfortable from all the extra stress on their body just trying to keep themselves cool.
Axolotl Aquarium Substrate
The ideal substrate for axolotls is aquarium-safe sand-like Aqua Terrarium Sand. Unfortunately, axolotls have a bad habit of ingesting gravel and mouth-sized objects if available but can be prevented by using large pebbles instead.
Anything the size of an axolotl’s head or larger will not end up in their stomach!
Salamanders need a substrate in their environment, but Axolotls do not. Many people keep them without any type of substrate. It does look nice to have an aesthetic base for the aquarium; however, this can cause water parameters to change more quickly because there is no surface area on which beneficial bacteria grow.
We recommend using our bio-filter balls in the shop, already packed full of beneficial bacteria.
Many salamander owners use substrates as part of their natural habitat design while many axolotl enthusiasts enjoy using nothing at all!
I love how they make my tank looks very clean with just plants and rocks scattered around the bottom.
Axolotl Breeding Behaviour
Axolotl mating starts with a waltz. After the male and female nudge one another’s urogenital opening called the cloaca, they take to dancing circles in what could almost be referred to as a ballroom dance.
The male Axolotl then struts away while shimmying his tail like a hula dancer, luring the female to follow. As they step together and dance their way in unison, he drops a small capsule full of sperm called a spermatophore for her to pick up with her cloaca as soon she just skirts over it.
Axolotls Common Health Problems
A notable characteristic of axolotls is their regenerative powers. But this remarkable ability doesn’t protect them from all health issues. For example, unsanitary tank conditions can lead to viral or bacterial infections, the signs of which include lethargy and a lack of appetite. Plus, ammonia buildup from waste in the tank can be toxic if it occurs–likely due to its corrosive qualities on organic matter like gills and neural tissue alike!
Moreover, axolotls with gravel in their tank that’s small enough to eat are prone to gastrointestinal obstructions. If your Axolotl experiences an obstruction, it will be sluggish and not want to eat much. And if you don’t promptly treat the problem, death can occur quickly.
How do you pronounce Axolotl?
- Axolotl is pronounced as ak·suh·laa·tl
Are axolotls endangered?
- Axolotls are considered a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Their population has been declining due to human intervention, with their numbers dropping from 6000 individuals per square kilometer in 1998 to 100 just ten years later. A more recent survey found only 35 axolotls left within a single square kilometer in 2015!
My Axolotols don't have legs?
Sometimes Axolotls do bite each others' legs off. Given the right conditions they should regenerate within 2-3 months.