Axolotl Care Sheet
Because an adult axolotl can grow to be 14 inches it is recommended to house one in a tank that is at least 24 inches in length. This would also be suitable for a pair, but bigger is always better and a new axolotl owner should ideally be looking at a 36 inch tank as a minimum.
Axolotls are carnivorous. There are a range of different foods that they can thrive on, from specialised axolotl pellets to bloodworms to earthworms. If offering live food you must be confident in your source as it may be carrying a disease that can infect your axolotl.
Young axolotls will most eagerly accept bloodworms and should be fed two times a day. Adult axolotls will eat a larger range of food and should be fed according to size, but every other day is often sufficient. To tell if your axolotl is a healthy weight compare the width of its stomach to the width of its head, these should be of a similar size. Mature female axolotls will often appear rounder than mature males; this is because they are carrying numerous amounts of eggs.
At around six months old onwards your axolotl will begin to reach maturity. Males will have an enlarged cloacal region (this is the bump you will see beneath the axolotl), whereas females, apart from appearing to have rounder stomachs, will remain as they were. If kept together a male and female axolotl will breed. It is best to keep them in same sex groupings as a healthy axolotl female can lay up to 300 eggs if allowed to breed with a male.
Even if hand fed axolotls still have a habit of scavenging the floor of the tank for food. Because of this special consideration should be put into your choice of substrate. Gravel should not be used because if swallowed it can became lodged in the axolotl causing discomfort and a lack of appetite: if the axolotl cannot pass the gravel this can be fatal. Even if the axolotl manages to pass the gravel it can result in a collapsed cloaca. Not only this, but water quality can also be impaired due to waste trapped beneath the stones. Because of these reasons gravel is not a suitable substrate.
Fine sand can be easily passed by an axolotl if ingested and will also provide a suitable area for healthy bacteria to grow in the tank. This is something that a bare tank may not achieve as well, but young axolotls will be safer living on a bare floor as the ingestion of even fine sand may cause irritability.
You can also create your own flooring by using aquarium sealant to attach slate to the base.
As a general rule anything used in your axolotls tank should be bigger than their head, if it is possible for them to swallow it, there is a chance that they will.
The above statement also applies to other axolotls. If you plan to keep more than one axolotl any companions must be roughly the same size, generally no greater size difference than an inch. This is because axolotls are cannibalistic. It is more common in young axolotls, but if not fed accordingly, or not living in a tank that provides enough space for the axolotls, they may attack each other.
Nothing other than axolotls should be kept in the tank due to risk of spread of disease and injury. Just to emphasise, this means no other water inhabiting creature should be kept with an axolotl other than an axolotl.
Water quality is essential to keeping a happy and healthy axolotl. The temperature should ideally be between 16 and 20 °C, any higher and this can cause sickness and stress. Signs of stress in an axolotl are forward pointing gills, a curled tail tip, or a lack in appetite. If you recognise these symptoms it would be advisable to test the parameters of the water to make sure they are correct. This can easily be done using a master test kit. In addition to regular testing you will also have to carry out water changes, being sure to add a water conditioner to any fresh water you intend to put into the tank, and have a filter capable of keeping up with the waste produced by axolotls.
Although there are many fancy ornaments you can use in your axolotl tank it is only necessary to be certain to have a few things, but do allow them plenty to engage in as they are intelligent and curious creatures. The essentials, however, are: plants either live or fake to create a comfortable environment and a cave for them to feel safe inside, ideally one per axolotl. Additional lighting is not required but should you use it you must have caves as axolotls eyes are sensitive to the light and it can cause them distress.
If there are any signs of sickness be sure to take your axolotl to a vet specialised in the species.