ABOUT AXOLOTLS

Axolotls, Abystoma mexicanum, are amphibians and a species of salamander native to Lake  Xochimilco in Mexico. They once had a larger native area, but it has been reduced by human occupation and pollution. They are a neotenic species, which means they retain aspects of their juvenile form into maturity. In the case of axolotls, they retain their fully aquatic nature, keeping their signature cute gill floofs, long dorsal tail, and slightly spindly legs into adulthood. They still have lungs and can breathe air. Axolotls rarely naturally morph into land dwelling creatures. This can be forced with certain chemicals or prolonged air exposure and is a painful process. Pet axolotls will morph if the Tiger salamander DNA, which was introduced decades ago into the pet population in the US, activates. This usually occurs as a trick of genetics, and the axolotls producing morphing young will not be bred again.

 

Axolotls have written history back to the 13th century. They've been kept as pets since at least the 1800s. We know much of our care from scientific papers. However, relying on papers written in the 20th century rather than the current century often leads evidence-minded owners down poor husbandry paths. We have learned much in the pet world since those papers were written. New scientific papers continue to be produced about axolotls. I encourage anyone who is looking for evidence on best care guides to check the age of the paper or check the age of the references being used. Often long-time pet owners have the best information since we are not keeping our axolotls in laboratory conditions.

 

Pet population axolotls have differences throughout the world. Different regions will have slight variations due to the siloed nature of keeping them. They are no longer compatible with any wild habitat and should never be released. Pet axolotls should be kept according to my care guides, with general parameters of a 20gallon long or larger tank for a single axolotl fully cycled prior to adding the axolotl, with ammonia at 0, nitrite at 0, and nitrate kept below 20 ppm via water changes. Adding plants can also help keep nitrates lower. Water temperatures should be kept at 60-68℉. The kh (carbonate hardness) should be 3-8 degrees which is equivalent to 53-154ppm, and the gh (general hardness) should be 7-14 degrees which is equivalent to 125-250ppm. Only keep same gender and similar sized (head and length) axolotls together.

 

Axolotls should grow at a rate of about one inch per month. They hatch at about 1 cm (0.4 inches) big, which means a 3 month axolotl should be 3-4" long (including tail). Do not purchase axolotls less than 3-inches. These axolotls are either too young to be sold or are malnourished. Either way, they are likely to have low survival rates and purchasing them is the equivalent of supporting a puppy mill. Likewise, due to posting and updating scheduling, axolotls may exceed the advertised size on this website. 

 

Pet axolotls come in many colors, also known as morphs. This listing will not cover all the morphs, but will highlight many of the common ones you will come across. You can check out my two videos on axolotl genetics for more information.

  • The most common is the wild type, which is similar in color to the axolotls found in the wild. This color is a mottled olive, black, and brown with gold flaking called iridophores.

  • The next most commonly known morph is the leucistic, aka lucy, which is a pink with black eyes. Sometimes lucies have additional features which are labeled "dirty" when they have marks resembling freckles on their faces or "blue-gilled" when the gill stalks are blue instead of pink. (Link to Lucy)

  • A hugely popular morph is the melanoid, or mel. These axolotls often have fun, cutesy, or upmarket names. There's no such thing as a lavendar axolotl, it is simply a mel that is light. Melanoids are a flat gray or black, and will sometimes have spots. Mels do not express iridophores. Depending on the lighting, they may look blue or purple. My melanoid, Cloud, looked blue under my LED lights the morning I couldn't find her hiding in the plant roots. Most of the time, she is black. 

  • Albino axolotls come in golden, white, or melanoid. Albinos that have only the albino gene expressed are often differentiated as "golden albino" due to their golden appearance. Golden albinos will frequently have a high number of iridophores. "White albino" axolotls have both the albino gene and the leucistic gene expressed. This makes them pink in color but their eyes remain the same color as their bodies. Melanoid axolotls are also pink in color and will have no iridophores, or shiny spots. Albino axolotls can have other morphs also expressed, but the albino gene tends to override them and they simply appear as one of the above except to the highly trained eye.

  • Copper axolotls are one of my favorite. They are a beautiful brown with spots. Coppers are a form of albinism and will have no black, but they may have iridophores. Their eyes will glow red under certain light.

  • Axanthic axolotls lack the expression of yellow pigment. They also often have fun, cutesy, and upmarket names. Differentiating a highly pink axanthic from a black axanthic is reasonable, but always watch if the seller says the axolotl is "silver dalmation" or some other name that is not a standard morphology. Link to Anubis

  • The most recent morphology to be described in the US is hypomelanistic, which is not a type of melanoid axolotl. These axolotls are currently (summer 2022) expensive compared to other axolotls. These axolotls produce less dark pigment. You can read more about them by visiting Rainy Day Aquatics or Strohl Herpatiles.

  • Finally, GFP is an expression of the green fluorescent protein added by scientists to help with research. GFP can be placed in front of any of the morphologies to produce a slightly different color (often a bit more green with green eyes in the non-albino morphs.)

 

All of these morphologies can combine to make even more colors. My newest addition is a MAC - melanoid axanthic copper, which is the brown of a copper but has no iridophores and no yellow pigment. 

ABOUT ME

My interest in axolotls and aquatics started decades ago. I've kept aquatics for over 15 years and began with axolotls in January 2021. I start with two, Lemon and Scorpi, and quickly added a third, The Big Gal. The three are clutchmates.

After they three matured, I added two more axolotls to the same-sex tanks, Ra and Jolinar., who are also clutchmates. Good luck brought Storm and Cloud my way, a third set of clutchmates. 

Axolotls can live 10-15 years when kept well in captivity. I look forward to a long companionship with these adorable and goofy creatures.

As a scientist, long-time aquarist, and former dog breeder, the breeding aspect of axolotls intrigued me. I'm dedicated to producing healthy babies with known hets and genetics. 

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