Axolotls are a species of Salamander that originally come from lakes Xochimilco and Chalco in Mexico City, Mexico, but are now exclusively bred in captivity and virtually extinct in the wild. Axolotls live their entire lives in water in their “larval” stage and never emerge onto land. Axolotl care requirements are minimal, and provided temperature and water flow are well controlled, they are hardy, easy-to-care-for pets that have been known to live 20+ years, but more commonly about 10 years on average. They are remarkable creatures, often studied by scientists due to their ability to regenerate virtually any part of their body. They have exploded in popularity due to being featured on platforms like TikTok and Minecraft. Their cute and cartoon-like appearance clearly has helped them gain this popularity.
While this is great that so many people are learning about them, this also means there is a lot of misinformation out there as well, so we made this care sheet to clear things up!
We recommend starting a baby in a tank no smaller than 10 Gallons, but a larger 20-gallon long (30”x12”x12”) aquarium is also a safe choice. As they reach their full adult size of 10+ inches, a 20 gallon long would be a minimum and a larger tank is almost always a better option. The water level should be full, or at least close to full. A glass top is recommended, as they are known to potentially jump out and a standard screen top will rust too easily.
A filter will help maintain safe water parameters. We recommend starting a baby axolotl with a low powered sponge filter. This is necessary because axolotls will become stressed if water flow is too high and can also get stuck to the intake of a filter that is too powerful.
Water temperatures should be cool. Ideally in the low to mid 60s, but up to the low 70s is also ok. There is no need to buy an expensive aquarium chiller or anything like that. Bottled or Filtered water would be best to use, and if tap water is used, be sure to use dechlorinating drops.
Like most amphibians, Axolotls do not want much bright light. However, if you wish to keep a low powered LED light to illuminate your aquarium, be sure to provide plenty of dark hiding places for your axolotl to escape the light. If you axolotl seems to be stressed, you’ll have to turn the light off.
We strongly advise against using loose substrate such as sand or small gravel, especially with smaller axolotls. They are bottom feeders, meaning the eat their food off the bottom of the aquarium. Using loose substrate would potentially cause impaction from the axolotl ingesting too much while eating. Larger axolotls will usually be fine, but we feel it is always safer to avoid loos substrate. This also makes it easier to clean, as loose substrate provides a chance for uneaten food and leftover waste to rot and cause an unhealthy and dirty environment.
Like most reptiles and amphibians, axolotls do best alone. Adding more than 1 does little except increase the possibility of stress and competition related problems, as well as the obvious risk that they will fight and physically harm each other.
Feeding is very simple. Most of the axolotls’ diet can be a commercial pellet food (almost any shrimp pellet, or pellet made for aquatic amphibians like clawed frogs, newts, salamanders, etc.…). They can also eat insects and worms. Younger axolotls do great with live blackworm as a treat, and mid-size to larger individuals can eat earth worms or night crawlers. Frozen blood worms are an acceptable option, but their hard chitinous shell is a bit harder to digest (for babies especially).
Axolotls are not an animal that can be handled, think of it more as a pet fish. They can be lots of fun and very interactive as they have a great food response. The filter will take care of most of the cleaning, but regular water changes are also needed to maintain a healthy environment.