Unique and Easy Pet: The Mexican Walking Fish (The Axolotl)
Trying to fit a pet in with living situations these days can be quite a feat. "No Pets Allowed Tenancy" clause anybody? Not everyone has the necessary yard space for a dog, nor the time to commit to the ever-clingy, adorable kitty. Keeping fish is becoming the more popular pet choice in our ever-evolving society.
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 larvae stage and does not undergo metamorphosis like other salamanders, but remains waterbound with gills.
- Metamorphosis can be induced but is not recommended given the low success rate and it also drastically shortens the axolotls lifespan. Not to mention it's actually seen as quite a cruel process to put a pet through for no real reason.
Full grown axolotls range from 6-9 inches and 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. The Axolotl has a general life span of 10-15 years but have been known to live longer.
What about feeding them?
Axolotls are carnivores and a diet of easily available axolotl pellets can be supplemented with raw beef liver. Some pet stores sell beef liver cubes specifically for carnivorous fish. Mexican walking fish have tiny teeth and bad eyesight.
Axolotls don't eat floating food like goldfish, it is much easier to feed them with a pair of tweezers, and you may need to wave their food in front of them for 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!
That's cool. But how much will it all cost?
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.
So how much does a Mexican walking fish cost? The axolotl itself shouldn't set you back more than $20. Not as cheap as a guppy but they are a lot hardier, and a bit more unique than your average goldfish.
The recommendation is that gravel should be bigger than the axolotls head 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.
Did I mention they eat meat? I'm pretty stuck on that awesome fact, it's almost like a piranha but without the scary movie / legal implications.
Do they need friends? Or are they the anti-social lone wolf type?
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 axolotls gills. Mexican walking fish have regenerative abilities, they can regrow limbs and this fascinating ability is why they are researched so much.
The only real effort involved in keeping this interesting easy pet is changing 20% of their water every week or so, best done with a gravel cleaner. Also keeping the tank water cool during the summer as warm water can stress them. Axolotls tend to do well in the 54-64 degree Fahrenheit range, or 12-17 degree celsius. Keeping a few bottles of frozen water to add to the aquarium on hot days is a good tip to help through the warmer months.
A Few Facts We've Covered
- 10-15 year lifespan
- Extremely cheap to feed, pellets last several months and cost max $10
- Prefer relatively cool temperatures between 54-64 F or 12-17 C
- Weekly cleaning and 20% water change
- Don't take up very much space and don't need to be walked every day
- They can grow back limbs!
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.
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.
© 2011 coutneyk