The Axolotl, Mexico’s Aquatic Salamander

24 05 2011

The Axolotl, Mexico’s Aquatic Salamander

Want an unusual herp that is easy to keep.  Try the axolotl, Mexico’s aquatic salamander. The axolotl is a neotenic amphibian.  Neotinic amphibians are amphibians that do not undergo metamorphosis for the larval to adult stages.  The axolotl remains aquatic throughout its lifetime.  This salamander never leaves the confines of the water.

The axolotl is easy to care for.  This salamander thrives at a water temperature of around 68°F.  For this species a low-current aquarium filter is recommended.  A high flow of water may actually induce stress.

The axolotl is a voracious predator and may be cannibalistic; therefore do not house these animals together unless they are approximately the same size.  A ten-gallon aquarium is sufficient space to house one adult animal.

Water should be dechlorinated.  A weekly water change of 20% is recommended to keep the water quality good.

This salamander spends most of its time on or near the bottom of the tank.  Handling of this species is discourages since they have very sensitive skin and gills.  When handling becomes necessary an aquarium net should be used.

Cage accessories are important to provide the animal security and relieve stress.  Aquarium plant (live or artificial) and caves within which to hide are a necessity.

The axolotl is nocturnal, so no lighting is required, but a low wattage bulb for viewing is harmless.  The tank should never be exposed to direct sunlight.  The aquarium bottom may be bare or large-sized, coarse aquarium gravel may be used.  Small gravel may be accidentally ingested during feeding and should not be used.  Large, smooth flat rocks may also be used on the bottom for the axolotl to explore.

This salamander has long been captive-bred in research laboratories to study their amazing ability of limb restoration.  This species is known for regenerating tail, limbs and even other vital structures including portions of brain matter.

In captivity the axolotl is an indiscriminant feeder and will generally eat anything it can fit into its mouth.  Food that can be used includes brine shrimp, earthworms, trout, or turtle pellets, tubifex worms, bloodworms and waxworms.  Small amounts of liver or been cut into strips may be used in a pinch but since is not a native diet should be used sparingly.  Variety in the food source is one of the best ways to insure the pet receives the correct nutrients.

The axolotl does not chew its food but rather swallows it whole with a vacuum-like suction.  The axolotl does have small teeth but they are used to grip its prey.  Once the axolotl becomes used to its owner they will often accept being hand-fed.

Uneaten food should be from the aquarium to prevent spoiling and thereby affecting the water quality. In captivity five color variations are available and include:

Wild which is mottled shades of brown, melanistic a black coloration, leucistic a pale color with black or bluish eyes, albino being pink or gold with red eyes and the final coloration being piebald.

An adult reaches a size of 9 to 10 inches in length.  These salamanders have been known to live to be more than 15 years in captivity.

In its native Mexico, the axolotl is considered to be a food source although it is listed on the CITES endangered species list.  The axolotl

This salamander has been bred in such high numbers in captivity that there is no danger of the pet trade having a negative effect on the wild population of axolotl.

References:

Boyd, Darren.  “Unique Beauty, the Axolotl, Mexico’s Aquatic Salamander, Proves a Fascinating Pet.”  Pet Product News International.  August 2007. Pp. 78-79.

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