Axolotls are amphibians that come from 2 lakes in Mexico City, Mexico, they live their entire lives in water, never emerging onto land. First brought into NZ in 1956 then released to general public through efforts by FNZAS members in 1963.
So long as basic requirements for keeping are met they are hardy, easy-to-care-for amphibians that reach a maximum size of 30cm but are generally about 25cm as adults, expected life span can be over 20 years with them reaching sexual maturity at about a year old. Axolotls have a skeleton made up of mainly cartilage and are soft-bodied amphibians with permeable skin. As such, axolotls should not be handled unless absolutely necessary. They breathe air and use their external gills to absorb oxygen into their system.
A 40 litre aquarium is the minimum recommendation for a single adult axolotl and a filter will be needed as they produce a large amount of waste from feeding, in the wild they are solitary animals so are okay on their own but if you want to house more together you will need a larger aquarium. Young axolotls tend to bite off the legs and gills of their tankmates if not fed well or given plenty of space
The ideal substrate for axolotls is sand as Axolotls have a bad habit of ingesting gravel and mouth-sized objects from their action of sucking food in so gravel or small stones can be ingested leading to gut impactions and the death of the axolotl. Anything the size of an axolotl’s head or smaller can and will be consumed!
Many keepers use no substrate at all which may not be pleasing to the eye in a display aquarium but tiles maybe used to give more grip for the aquariums inhabitants. Pieces of driftwood, plastic plants and ornaments such as caves can help your axolotl feel safer in the aquarium.
Tap water is fine for axolotls so long as it is pre-treated with aquarium water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramines, though they are far more forgiving than aquarium fish either regular water changes or a good filter should be used. The best choice is an external canister filter with a low flow as axolotls do not tolerate distinct water flow, too much flow can cause lack of appetite and forward-curled gills. Ideally, a new aquarium and filter should be allowed to cycle for a few weeks prior to the introduction of axolotls to let the water conditions settle and filter bacteria develop. Be sure to keep an eye on water parameters using the water test kits sold at aquarium stores.
Axolotls do not require lighting and some individuals may be shy if kept under bright lighting, though they will become accustomed to it if provided with some hiding places. Lighting is generally for the benefit of aquarium plants you may have put in the tank so choose a plant- bulb, such as those sold for freshwater aquarium fish, remember that many lighting fixtures often generate a lot of heat and this can be detrimental to axolotls.
Axolotls are poikilothermic, that is, their body temperature is determined by the temperature of the environment. Ensure that they maintain a temperature range of 10–25 degrees Celsius (°C). The optimum temperature is 14–18°C.Temperatures above 25 degrees will invariably lead to heat stress, fungal infection loss of appetite and quite often death. If you have temperature problems, consider buying an aquarium chiller for the warmer parts of the year, temporary measure to cool the water such as freezing bottles of water and then floating in the tank may help reduce temperatures temporarily.
Good staple foods are earthworms, mealworms, insects and frozen bloodworm, shrimp, prawns (shells removed), tuna and lean chicken or beef (all fat removed), avoid live food such as feeder fish because of the risk of parasite, disease transmission with uneaten fish often eating the gills off the axolotl. With a good varied diet they have no need of vitamin/mineral supplementation. Axolotls will eat until full and asults may just need feeding once a week whereas growing youngsters will require feeding once a day.