There are very few people who have heard the word Axolotl, and even fewer who really know what it is. I did some research on this unique little creature and have come up with a guide that is perfect for beginners and anyone else who is interested in learning more about these strange animals.
What is an Axolotl?
Commonly known as the Mexican walking fish, the Axolotl is a type of salamander that never outgrows its aquatic phase and is found in Mexico. This aquatic anomaly is severely endangered because of the love that people have in making it a pet.
There is a lot of wonder and intrigue surrounding the Axolotl because not many people know much about it and because of its unique and special look. The Axolotl is not the kind of pet that beginners should buy spur of the moment, but are a special species that should be prepared for months in advance.
What is an Axolotl?
Everyone’s big question is “What is an Axolotl?” People are buzzing trying to figure this out. Is it a fish? Is it a lizard? What in the world could an Axolotl be?
Luckily we know the answer. Part of the salamander family the Axolotl, Mexican walking fish, is a species of salamander that has stopped developing in their adolescent stage and remains aquatic.
The Axolotl really differs from its salamander cousins in its stationary state in the water. It, unlike all other salamanders, keeps its dorsal fin that run almost the full length of its back to the tip of its tail and its frilly gills that stick out from behind its head.
On rare occasions, the Axolotl has been known to progress to live on the ground, but in general, these creatures love their habitat at the bottom of their lake where they are safe and content.
Axolotls are only found in Mexico and only in a certain place called Xochimilco that is made up of lakes and canals. There these creatures can live and grow.
Unfortunately, in recent years the axolotls have been put on the endangered species list and then on the critically endangered species list. This is due to a number of factors that humans have brought into the picture.
The Xochimilco lake used to be clear and full of clean water but now because of pollution the water is dirty and full of particles that cause the Axolotls to receive cuts and damages to their skin as well as their insides.
The demand for Axolotls as a
Another problem that humans have been declared in charge of, is the introduction of larger species to the lake. Throughout time the Axolotls have been on the top of the food chain surviving off of fish and worms.
But now that humans have introduced new species into the Xochimilco lake they are starting to attack and kill the remaining Axolotls. Causing them to dip farther and farther onto the endangered species list.
There are some breeders in the United States that are breeding these endangered animals and there are also new laws saying that wild Axolotls are not to be caught and sold as pets.
This doesn’t stop the locals from making a meal out of these special amphibians as they eat one of their countries most famous and delicious delicacies.
A Complete Beginners’ Species Guide to Axolotls
There is a lot to know about the Axolotl salamander and a lot more to learn about the world because of them, and because of the future discoveries made possible through them.
So, let’s start at the very beginning as we learn our way through this guide about the Axolotl species. There is a lot of knowledge to gain from the past and the events that have led up to our day.
History of the Axolotls
The history of the Axolotl actually come to us in the form of a myth. It is said that the original Axolotl was a dog-headed god named Xolotl. It was required of all the gods to sacrifice themselves to fire in order to create a new element on earth.
When it came Xolotl’s turn to sacrifice himself he ran instead. Perused by his brother Quetzalcoatl, another god, Xolotl found Lake Xochimilco and transformed himself into an Axolotl to hide.
Finding his brother hidden in lake Xochimilco, Quetzalcoatl cursed him to be an Axolotl forever. Unable to evolve onto land he was punished to live forever in darkness as a water monster.
Even the name Axolotl means water dog after the myth of Xolotl and his brother. Although this myth is not a historical fact, it is the only history of the Axolotl that we humans have.
When it comes to evolution a lot of people wonder what the Axolotl evolved from. While the answer is still unknown, it is a common belief that the Axolotl is actually a step backward in evolution.
It is believed that because Axolotls are stuck in their juvenile state that they digressed in the form of evolution. They are rumored to be decedents of the tiger salamander, because of successful inbreeding, these creatures seem to cause quite the conundrum.
Difference Between Axolotl and Other Salamanders
|Differences between Axolotl and |
|Similarities between Axolotl |
|Axolotl never go through |
other salamanders do.
|The both belong to the same |
|Salamanders live on land while the |
Axolotl live in the water.
|Both Salamanders and |
their eggs in water.
|Salamanders and Axolotl have different matinf rituals||Most Salamanders and all Axolotl |
reproduce by the male excreting his sperm
and the female then picking it up
with her colacal lips.
Size and Looks are Important
When we hear the words water monster we normally think of something huge like the loch ness monster but really these water monsters are about 6 inches long.
Although, larger Axolotl can reach about 12 inches in length. Female Axolotls are usually larger than males and grow even more while they are preparing to reproduce.
In the wild, these salamanders are normally a brownish color with spots of yellow and white in captivity though they are bred to be either dark, white/ albino, or yellow.
It is very rare and almost unheard of to find a completely albino or yellow Axolotl naturally in the wild. There dark molted skin helps them to blend into their surroundings on the lake floor.
Axolotls Have Special Skills that Humans Want
Most amphibians and lizards can regrow parts of their bodies but the Axolotl has taken it to another level that is completely unheard of except for these little guys.
Axolotls can regrow any limb any amount of time. The can regrow legs, arms, feet, tails, spines, spinal cords, jaws, tongues, and even their own brains.
These creatures have amazing powers of regeneration because they never grow out of their embryonic state. This is very useful for Axolotl because they have very sensitive skin and this regrowth helps them to heal nicks and tears in their skill with no scaring at all.
Not to mention that axolotls can regrow any limb over 100 times. This allows for a lot of wounds to be healed free of scaring as many times as it needed. This is not only a helpful skill for Axolotl but also one that human scientists have admired for years.
Trying to replicate and apply this ability to regrow any part of itself to other amphibians and even to humans has been in trials for years. So far, there have been no successes.
Although, they have been able to transplant organs from one Axolotl to another, and the Axolotl accepted the transplant completely and without any problems.
The Lifespan of the Axolotl
Axolotls live for about 15 years, and when they are kept in clean environments they very easily achieve that. That means that getting an Axolotl as a pet is at least a 15-year commitment.
Growing up as an Axolotl is an interesting process. Axolotls have neoteny which means that although they reach adulthood they never actually mature out of their juvenile state.
That is why they stay in the water their whole lives. So the Axolotls lungs develop, but they rarely use them because of their gills, which give them plenty of oxygen under the water.
Just because Axolotls have lungs and can breathe out of the water does not mean that they can survive out of the water. They cannot walk on land and they are not meant to be out of the water for extended periods of time.
Eating Habits Tell Us a Lot About Axolotls
A lot of people wonder what the Axolotls eat and how they survive in their habitat. Well, these kings of the food chain are known for eating some fish but most of their diet consists of worms, mollusks, insect larvae, and crustaceans.
The only real natural predator of the Axolotl are birds like storks and herons, but humans have changed the game for the Axolotl. Humans have introduced bigger fish into lake Xochimilco which has seriously influenced the Axolotl.
No longer the top of the food chain, the introduction of these new and big species of fish into the Axolotl’s habitat has caused a severe drop in the amount of Axolotls that are able to survive.
Now they have to deal with predators that they are not evolved to face and that are causing their deaths. Because of human interference these amphibians may be lost in the wild forever.
Reproduction is What Keeps All Species Alive
Male and female Axolotls reproduce in a sort of dance. The male Axolotl will show that he is interested by nudging his head under the hindquarters of the female Axolotl.
If the female shows interest they male will move to her front and start leading her around her head to his tail. As the male walks forward he deposits sperm packs in the water.
He then leads the female over them and she takes them in through her cloaca. Then will continue this dance for about an hour with the male continually dropping sperm and the female continually taking sperm in.
Within 12 to 72 hours the eggs are fertilized and laid, preferably in a plant, and then after about the same amount of time they hatch and grow very rapidly. They are fully mature around 18 months.
Axolotls in Captivity
Having an Axolotl in captivity is hard and they need a lot of special attention. For that reason, beginner pet and fish owners are persuaded into buying other fish before they move on to Axolotls.
Basically, they are not for beginners and it is simply because they have very demanding needs in order to survive in captivity. Axolotls are sensitive and should be treated as thus.
Before you purchase and pick up your Axolotl you need to prepare their terrarium about a month in advance. Axolotls need special water that is partially distilled and partially salt water.
Once you have the right blend, which can be mixed in the home or bought at the store, you need to monitor the levels of nitrate and ammonia for about two weeks, so that the balance isn’t off.
Once you have the water right you should place big smooth rocks in the water. If you use small rocks your Axolotl will eat them and it may cause serious problems with their digestive tracts.
You can decorate their terrariums with some fake plants but make sure that they are smooth and soft so that your Axolotl does cut their skin on them. Because of their skin, everything in their terrariums should be soft and smooth.
Axolotls should be kept in 10-gallon tanks and the water should be kept in the low sixties. The filter should also be able to change settings because their needs be a slow flow coming from the filter.
In two strong of a current, these little creatures can damage their skin. It is also important to change their water regularly so that it stays clean and pure.
In order to feed your Axolotl, you should decide if you are going to feed them live food or pellets. Whichever you decide you should feed them little amounts throughout the day, and try to feed them in the same spot every time.
If you feed an Axolotl all at once in one big meal, it will gorge itself which will then, in turn, cause major digestive issues that a specialized vet will have to take care of.
This is why they steer beginners away from Axolotls. They have a lot of special needs and are a lot of work. But if you are used to taking care of these types of animals it can be an easy transition to raising an Axolotl.
Can Axolotls regenerate their heads?
Known for their power over regeneration, Axolotls can regenerate almost any part of their bodies including their brains, jaw, and spine. They can regrow any part of their body over 100 times.
How many Axolotls are left in the world as of 2018?
It is said, that there are 700-1200 Axolotls living in the wild today. They are in extreme danger because of the destruction of their natural habitat.