The axolotl is a very unusual amphibian which originates from Mexico. The white or albino aloxotl is the most common form kept as a pet in an aquarium. Its unusual features include:
- Axolotls can breed before they are adults, from about six months old. This capability is known as neotony.
- In normal circumstances, axolotls never really mature into their full adult form, as in their natural habitat this would only happen in order to survive. For example, if the water in which it is living dries up, then it would lose its gills in order to breathe on land, like more normal maturing salamanders.
- Axolotls produce thyroxine. When stressed, e.g. through heat or changing water acidity or reduction in the amount of water surrounding it, this growth hormone is the cause 0f the change to the adult form.
- Axolotls can regenerate damaged limbs given a clean environment, though not always perfectly. Again, shallow water encourages this re-growth.
Axolotls are a fairly low-maintenance pet which will normally be housed in water for the duration of their lives, which would usually be about 12 years but has been known to be considerably longer.
A large tank with a cover is the most suitable environment, and a fairly basic setup is good as they are both a predator and can be aggressive. Plastic plants fare better than the natural variety which often get demolished in fairly short order. Large pebbles or even small rocks, if kept clean, are ideal for showing their long tails off as they rest on the stones. Some care should be taken; the stones shouldn’t be placed where they can be dislodged and fall onto the aloxotl, either by the pet itself or when cleaning the tank.
Aloxotls eat meat, best fed in quite small pieces, so a separate feeding tank with a bare floor is recommended. Lighting helps the display of the pet, but from underneath or one side of the tank to reduce heat.
Water should be dechlorinated. Cold tap water left to stand for two days or so is fine. The water will need to be changed regularly, but an air filter should also be considered as it will help reduce the frequency of the change. Dechlorinated water should also be used to clean the inside of the tank and anything inside it, as commercial cleaners are often dangerous to most forms of exotic pets.
Many pet axolotls live a solitary life with no problems, but two or more can often be kept in the same tank if it is large enough. If breeding, a separate tank will definitely be required!
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