Axolotls are aquatic salamanders that are related to tiger salamanders. They are simple to care for and make excellent pets. If given the proper environment and care, they can live for 10-15 years in aquariums.
Part 1 Creating the Right Environment
1. Prepare the tank. A single axolotl can be housed in a 10-gallon (38-liter) tank. When it comes to axolotls, however, bigger is generally better. Choose the largest tank that will fit in your home. An axolotl can live in a 20-gallon (76-liter) tank.
Fill the aquarium completely with water, just as you would for fish. If you condition tap water as you would for a freshwater fish tank, it is safe to use. Chlorine and other chemicals in the water can harm or kill your axolotls if the water is not treated.
Keep the aquarium lid on at all times. Axolotls will occasionally jump out of their tanks.
2. Install a canister filter outside the house. To keep your axolotl’s water clean and healthy, an external canister filter is required. This type of filter is available at your local pet store.
Any filter you install should have a spray bar or other outlet that allows you to control the flow of water. While axolotls require subtle water flow, actively flowing water stresses them out. They may stop eating or develop stress-related health problems if they are exposed to strong water flow.
3. Make a substrate. The material that lines the bottom of an aquarium is known as the substrate. Large fish tank pebbles (larger than the axolotl’s head) or fine sand should be used to line the bottom of an axolotl tank (fine grain sand being the ideal substrate). Use no small pellets or rough sand (such as blasting sand). Such substances may be accidentally consumed by an axolotl.
4. Keep the lighting to a minimum. Lighting is not required for an axolotl in the same way that it is for a fish tank. Bright lighting can actually make an axolotl feel stressed, so if you must use a light, use a plant light. Because axolotls do not require a lot of light to thrive, lighting is usually used to allow you to see the animal rather than for the axolotl’s benefit.
Reduce the number of times you leave the light on. Excess heat from lights can be harmful to an axolotl. When you’re not feeding or watching the axolotl, turn it off.
Part 2 Keeping Your Axolotl Healthy
1. Maintain the proper temperature. Generally, a tank heater is not required to keep an axolotl tank warm enough. An axolotl’s ideal temperature ranges between 60° and 70° Fahrenheit (approximately 16°-21° Celsius). Because this is generally room temperature, heating the tank should not be required.
However, if you live in an area prone to extreme heat or cold, make sure to adjust the temperature of the room that houses the tank. During certain months, you may need to keep an air conditioner or heater in the room.
Heat stress develops in axolotls exposed to temperatures above 74° F (23° C). Purchase a tank cooler if your tank is prone to overheating.
2. Feed your axolotl a balanced diet. Nightcrawlers and frozen bloodworms can be purchased at a local pet store, or you can feed them pesticide-free earthworms. These foods should be staples in your axolotl’s diet. You can also provide frozen shrimp and chicken bits as a treat. Because of parasites, avoid eating live fish.
Feed your axolotl for half an hour every other day. Give the axolotl as much food as it can eat in a half-hour period.
3. Change the water on a regular basis. Remove 50 to 60% of the water from the tank once a week. Then, rinse it with clean water. If you condition the water and have a filtration system in place, tap water is safe to drink.
Part 3 Maintaining Your Axolotl’s Safety
1. Separate the young from the old axolotls. If your axolotls breed, use a net to remove the babies from the tank and place them in a separate aquarium. Because older axolotls may prey on younger ones, keeping axolotls of different ages in the same tank is not recommended.
2. Other animals should not be kept in an axolotl tank. Axolotls do best in their own tank, but they can occasionally get along with another axolotl of similar size and age. They will, however, prey on other types of fish or marine life. In general, only axolotls should be kept in an axolotl tank.
3. Axolotls should not be handled. Axolotls are not good pets for people. They do not require human contact to be happy, and in fact, this may be stressful for them. Handle an axolotl only when absolutely necessary, such as when removing babies from a tank. If handled, axolotls may nip.
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