Axolotls are a type of freshwater neotenic salamander. They are also known as Mexican walking fish, even though they are not fish, but amphibians that grow to an average size of about 6 to 18 inches long.
Axolotls are natively found in Mexico in Lake Xochimilco. They are unique sea creatures, and are famous among aquarists.
If you are considering to keep axolotls as a pet you can learn more on Axolotl Nerd about these interesting pets. Below are 15 fun and interesting facts that you should know about axolotls:
1. Almost Extinct in the Wild
In the wild, axolotls are only found in lake Xochimilco and Chalco in South East of Mexico City. Unfortunately, Lake Chalco was drained many years ago and it no longer exists.
This has contributed to the reduced numbers of axolotls in the wild. Additionally, the remaining Lake where axolotls can be found is affected by urbanization and water pollution from companies’ waste and households’ garbage.
As a result, the number of axolotls in the wild has reduced immensely, as the axolotls are still captured for the international pet industry and for medicinal purposes. Axolotls have been declared an endangered species.
2. Available in Different Colors
Axolotls have four coloring genes, that result to four different colored axolotls when mutated. However, in the wild, axolotls are normally brown with an olive tinge and gold spots.
The four major known colors of axolotls include, albino, golden axolotls with golden eyes, melanoid, all black axolotls with no olive tone or gold spotting, leucistic, pale pink axolotls with black eyes, and axanthic, grey axolotls with black eyes.
Pet breeders frequently cross breed the different colors of axolotls. Therefore, axolotls are available in a variety of sizes and colors in the pet industry.
3. Capability for Regeneration
Axolotls have an amazing power to regenerate lost body organs. They are believed to have a protein called c-Fos that makes it possible for the regeneration process to take place.
In case of a head injury, axolotls are capable of regenerating back destroyed body organs such as heart, lungs, parts of the brain and spinal cord, without leaving any scar. They are also capable to grow back lost limbs.
However, scientists have discovered axolotls can only grow lost limbs up to a number of five times. Thereafter, it gets hard to regrow the limbs to their former size, but instead a scar is formed.
4. Used for Research in Laboratories
Due to their amazing regeneration and healing powers, axolotls are used in laboratories. Scientists believe they can study the axolotls to come up with better healing techniques for human beings and extend our lifespan.
Particularly, axolotls are used in the study of neural tubes defects and heart defects. In addition, axolotls are also more resistant to human cancer than any other mammals, and again scientists are studying axolotls to understand their natural resistance to help them heal our today epidemic scare, cancer.
5. Axolotls are Neotenic
Although axolotls are amphibians and more like salamanders, they do not go through the process of metamorphosis like the rest of the amphibians.
This means, axolotls do not change form, but retain their larval look even as they grow into maturity. Axolotls exhibit a characteristic known as neoteny.
If axolotls were to undergo metamorphosis, they would lose their gills and develop lungs, lose fins to grow feet and tail, and develop teeth and eyelids.
However, adult axolotls, just like baby axolotls, have fins and gills, no eyelids, immature teeth, and fish like tail. It is almost like axolotls remain babies for the rest of their lives.
6. Axolotls are Carnivores
Axolotls have a meat based diet. In the wild, axolotls are predators, although they look calm and harmless. They mostly eat small fish, insect larvae, molluscs, worms and crustaceans.
They locate food by their sense of smell, and since they do not have teeth to chew and tear prey, they pull their food into their stomachs with vacuum force, through interlocking rakes that close the gills while feeding.
7. Axolotls Live in Cold Water
Axolotls thrive in cold water environments. Their optimum water temperature is between 60 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. You do not need a water heater for your water tank if you are keeping axolotls.
However, during the warmer seasons, you may need to add a chiller to the water tank to keep the water cool enough for axolotls. High water temperatures can cause stress to your axolotls.
This will lead to decreased immunity system making your axolotls to easily get infections and contract diseases. To ensure the water is always at optimum temperatures, keep the water tank away from direct sunlight.
8. Axolotl Mean Water Dog
Axolotls got their name from Aztecs, an ancient language spoken in Mexico. The Aztecs revered the axolotls. In their mythology, it was believed axolotls was a god of fire, deformities and death that could transform itself from a dog into a salamander.
It is narrated that one time Aztec gods were being sacrificed to keep the sun alive and moving. Xolotls gods were fearful of being sacrificed, so they transformed themselves and hid in the water forever. The name axolotls come from two words, atl meaning water and xototl meaning dog.
9. Axolotls Lay Many Eggs
Female axolotls lay a massive number of eggs, between 100 to 1500 eggs at ago. They lay each egg individually, attached to a protecting substrate. The eggs are placed on plants, rocks or any other hard surface in the lake or aquarium for protection against predators.
Although many eggs are laid, only a few survive after hatching. The eggs hatch after about two weeks into young independent axolotls. Axolotls do not take care of their young ones, the hatchling quickly learn to fend and take care of themselves.
10. Axolotls Have Outside Gills
Interestingly, axolotls have both functional gills and lungs. Since they do not undergo the process of metamorphosis, they retain their gills from the larval stage and lungs develop as they grow to maturity.
The gills resemble feathery branches that extend from both sides of the axolotls’ head. They use their gills for excretion purposes and to absorb more oxygen while in water. However, axolotls are also often seen floating on the surface of the water to gulp for air using their lungs.
11. Axolotls Have a Long Lifespan
Axolotls are long lived amphibians. With proper diet of worms, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and small fish, they can survive up to 15 years both in the wild and in captivity.
In the wild, axolotls are at the top predator, their main threat are birds, for instance herons and stalks, that can skim through deep waters. However, with the manmade introduction of larger fish in the lake, axolotls are beginning to suffer.
Due to their regeneration capabilities, some people confuse axolotls with other mortal sea creatures. But, axolotls can die from diseases or old age.
12. Axolotls are Bad Aquatic Tank Mates
Axolotls do not necessarily need company. They are comfortable living in solitary. However, they can also live with other types of fish, but they are bad aquatic tank mates and eventually one of the two will suffer.
Keeping small sized fish will definitely be eaten by your carnivores’ axolotl. Other small fish that tend to grow larger than axolotls, for instance, guppies or goldfish, will tweak your pets’ gills, or in worst case scenarios, your axolotls may choke to death as they try to gobble the fish down into their stomach.
Very large fish, on the other hand, may eat your axolotls’ gills or eat the whole pet. Axolotls can peaceful live alone without any aquatic tank mates other than their fellow axolotls.
13. Axolotls can Bite
Axolotls bite other axolotls that annoy, nag them or keep crossing into their territories. They can also bite their owner’s fingers especially during feeding time.
Fortunately, axolotls do not have teeth, so the bites do not hurt and cannot cause any damage. Their bites are just tiny nips that cannot break the skin, so you have nothing to worry about in case they bite your finger.
14. Axolotls can Survive for Days Without Food
Axolotls take a lot of time to digest their food. In cold weather, axolotls slow down their digestion process while in warm and humid weather, the process of digestion is faster.
You do not have to feed your axolotls two to three times in a day like other aquatic pets. Two or three times a week is enough since axolotls can go for up to three weeks without food. If the temperatures are low, you will be required to even feed your axolotls less food.
Avoid overfeeding axolotls because it can lead to digestion and gastric problems. Additionally, left-over food will cause water pollution in the tank.
15. Axolotls are Nocturnal Animals
Axolotls are nocturnal animals, they avoid light. In the wild, you will have a better chance to trace them during the night. Just like other nocturnal animals, axolotls have poor eyesight, and they rely on their sense of smell mostly to get food.
Axolotls are unique amphibians that spend all their lives in water. To learn more about them, you can keep one as a pet, and continue to find out many more interesting characteristics of the axolotls.