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How to Keep a Mexican Walking Fish (Axolotl) as a Pet

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I'm naturally curious about everything. I love to research unique and fascinating animals.

Get all the facts about keeping a pet axolotl. This photo shows an albino axolotl.

Get all the facts about keeping a pet axolotl. This photo shows an albino axolotl.

Everything You Want to Know About Axolotls as Pets

Trying to fit a pet into a small home can be quite a feat—"No Pets Allowed" clause, anybody? Not everyone has the necessary yard space for a dog or the time to commit to the ever-clingy, adorable kitty. Keeping fish is becoming the more popular pet choice in our ever-evolving society.

So what is an axolotl, anyway?

An axolotl, also known as the Mexican Walking Fish, is a hardy and very low-maintenance pet. The axolotl is a salamander that remains suspended in the larval stage and does not undergo metamorphosis like other salamanders, but instead remains water-bound with gills.

Can you induce metamorphosis in an axolotl?

Metamorphosis can be induced, but it's not recommended given the low success rate. It also drastically shortens the axolotl's lifespan—not to mention it's actually seen as quite a cruel process to put a pet through for no reason.

How big do axolotls get?

Full-grown axolotls range from 6–9 inches.

What colors are they?

Axolotls come in a range of colors, mostly different shades of brown, gray, and black. There are also a few albino breeds available, from white to golden tan.

How long will an axolotl live?

The axolotl has a general life span of 10–15 years, but some have been known to live longer.

Most axolotls come in shades of brown, gray, and black.

Most axolotls come in shades of brown, gray, and black.

What to Feed an Axolotl

Axolotls are carnivores, and a diet of widely available axolotl pellets can be supplemented with raw beef liver. Some pet stores sell beef liver cubes specifically for carnivorous fish.

Axolotls don't eat floating food like goldfish. It is much easier to feed them with a pair of tweezers. They have tiny teeth and bad eyesight, so they'll need help finding their food! You may need to wave their food in front of them a little before they catch on that it is there.

They are opportunistic eaters and will eat anything that is put in front of them with a vacuum-like action, sucking both food and water in at once as they lunge at meal. If you are the person holding the tweezers and not ready for it, you can get quite a surprise!

Is an Axolotl Expensive?

So how much does a Mexican walking fish cost, both initially and over time?

Is it expensive to buy?

The axolotl itself shouldn't set you back more than $20. They're not as cheap as a guppy, but they are a lot hardier and a bit more unique than your average goldfish.

Is it expensive to keep?

Compared to other pets, axolotls are incredibly cheap to maintain and feed. Initial setup requires an aquarium, gravel, and a water pump with a filter to help maintain water quality, which can be dechlorinated by any common water conditioner available at most pet stores.

The recommendation is that the gravel should be bigger than the axolotl's mouth so it isn't accidentally ingested. Because the Mexican walking fish has legs, having no substrate may cause them undue stress because they cannot grip the slippery bottom of the aquarium.

Another albino axolotl.

Another albino axolotl.

Will a Single Axolotl Be Happy, or Do They Need Company?

These pets live best by themselves. Housing them with goldfish and the like is not the best idea. Axolotls may eat smaller fish, and bigger fish tend to nibble on the axolotl's gills. Mexican walking fish have regenerative abilities—they can regrow limbs!—and this fascinating ability is one reason why they are researched so much.

How to Care for an Axolotl

  • The only real effort involved in keeping this interesting, easy pet is changing 20% of their water every week or so, which is best done with a gravel cleaner.
  • You also need to keep the tank water cool during the summer, as warm water can stress them. Axolotls tend to do well in the 54–64°F range, or 12–17°C.
  • Keeping a few bottles of frozen water handy to add to the aquarium on hot days is a good tip to help your pet get through the warmer months.

How to Keep a Pet Axolotl: Summary

  • They have a 10- to 15-year life span.
  • They're extremely cheap to feed. Their pellets last several months and cost about $10.
  • They prefer relatively cool temperatures between 54–64°F or 12–17°C.
  • They need a weekly cleaning and 20% water change.
  • They don't take up very much space (and don't need to be walked every day).
  • They can grow back limbs!

Are They Endangered?

Mexican walking fish are critically endangered in the wild, due to civilization encroaching on their natural habitat. (Somewhere I forgot to mention that the natural habitat would be Mexico.) But there are thousands in captivity that are bred for research purposes and to become pets.

Captive-Bred Axolotls Are Fascinating, Popular Pets

Axolotls are becoming a popular pet and there are many resources to find in-depth knowledge of these fascinating creatures. If you are looking for a fascinating, unique, quirky, low-maintenance, easy pet, the axolotl is definitely worth a try.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: Are Mexican Walking Fish legal to own?

Answer: In Australia and New Zealand, yes. Cannot speak for other countries as it would depend on their classifications for what can be kept as pets.

© 2011 coutneyk

Comments

River on December 05, 2019:

So, can I have two in the same tank? I don’t get it..... I’ve heard they can get in fights and even go cannibalistic, but you say you’ve had two, Ive I’ve seen pictures of more than once in a tank. It it just males that fight with each other, or any of them?? I don't get it.... also do they lay eggs?

Coutneyk on December 04, 2019:

Most pet stores carry them. It depends on your location. You could try calling some local pet stores in your local area

River on December 04, 2019:

I’m trying to beg my parents for one, paticuarly an Albion, but i don’t know where to get one if they say yes! Your info helped a lot, i now have 5 pages of infomnation but i dont have a breeder, do pet stores carry Axolots?

Coutneyk on December 15, 2018:

Liver cubes from pet shops are a good start, they also eat steak, in very tiny chunks.

mis jay on December 14, 2018:

what types of red meat can these fish eat??

??? on January 26, 2017:

What do you do when there antennas are shrinking

coutneyk (author) on December 19, 2011:

Yes aquasafe contains Iodine, it's meant to vitalize fish, but Iodine can also be used to encourage metamorphosis in an Axolotl. Not sure if the dosage is high enough, I used aquasafe for a while with my first axolotl and had no problems, but after that it was easier to leave the tap water in a bucket for 24 hours or so to de-chlorinate ;)

aaronw777 on December 01, 2011:

so does aqua safe contain iodine?

because I have researched that axolotls can be poisned by iodine.

coutneyk (author) on April 12, 2011:

lol yep they bite but their teeth are tiny, they're like little cones, it's more like they grip your finger, it doesn't feel like a bite at all :)

Alma Cabase from Philippines on April 12, 2011:

That pet is weird..hehe..do they bite? Just curious.

coutneyk (author) on April 12, 2011:

They're a lot of fun, I've had 2 of them over the years and they were definitely easier to look after than the ferrets and the dogs :) Their eyesight is absolutely shocking, you get used to waving food in front of their face though :)

laurels passions from Belmont, NH on April 12, 2011:

Wow! Sounds like a cool pet that I have never heard of. Very interesting that it cannot see and that it walks around...also, seems easier to take care of than a dog!

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