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Friday, August 26, 2016

Axolotl - Real Life Pokemon

All this talk about Pokemon Go has gotten people going crazy about wanting to care for real pokemons. Since these pocket monsters are actually based on real, and at times exotic, animals, the want to care for these one of a kind creatures has blown off the roof. Take for example, Axolotls.

Who’s that pokemon?

An axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a salamander native to Mexico. What makes it really interesting is that it looks exactly like a Mudkip. The term axolotl is a common name for a number of Ambystoma species in Mexico, but the common pet or laboratory axolotl refers to the A. mexicanum.
Unlike most salamanders, axolotls are neotenic. This means that they don’t routinely go through metamorphosis, from larva to adult form. Instead, they retain their gills as they sexually mature and reproduce. They stay in this aquatic state throughout their lifespan. Although axolotls are able to go through metamorphosis, it’s very stressful for them.
These animals have amazing  regenerative abilities. If they get injured, even to the point where they lose a body part, they’ll fully heal and even regenerate the body part that got cut off. This ability gives these creatures a pretty long lifespan, lasting to about 10 to 15 years (for something this small, that’s a long lifespan) when given the right care, particularly with water quality. This quality makes them an ideal subject for cell regeneration and healing studies.

Housing Axolotls

As cute as they may look, they should never be handled. They have very soft and sensitive skin and gills which could be damaged if you hold them. Axolotls can grow quite big. You’ll need a 15 to 20 gallon fish tank to house one. The axolotl only needs enough water to keep it submerged, so you don't have to fill the tank up. It’s best to place a filtering system in the tank so the water stays clean, and it’s also less hassle to maintain. Keep in mind though that the filtering system needs to be slow to avoid any strong currents happening in the tank.The filter should not be in a position to trap the gills of the axolotl. When cleaning the tank, never do a full water change as this creates a situation where the water chemistry changes too drastically for the axolotl.
Water Temperature and pH

The tank needs to be placed inside a cool area, away from direct sunlight. The water should be kept consistent, between 57-68 degrees Fahrenheit (14-20 degrees Celsius). Tap water should have any chlorine or chloramines (added during the water treatment process) removed using commercially available solutions. Never use distilled water and the pH of the water should be 6.5-7.5 (neutral).

Tank Content

If you’re planning to place gravel in their tanks, make sure that it’s coarse gravel. axolotls might ingest  fine gravel when eating. Some owners keep the bottom of the tank empty, but some believe that it’s best to add some gravel since it can help the axolotl to walk around. The glass bottom might stress them out since they can’t get a hold of the tank’s bottom and slip while they walk around. The gravel is also said to help mimic their natural habitat. Adding aquarium figures like caves, castles, or a terracotta plant pot broken in half can help give them a space to hide. 


Juvenile axolotls may become cannibalistic, so it’s best to raise them together in separate enclosures. As they mature and become adults, they may be housed in one tank, but be watchful of any cannibalistic behaviour. Safely take the other axolotl out right away if they start biting each other. If a body part does get bitten off, it will grow back over time.

Feeding Axolotls

Wild axolotls live off eating small amphibians, small fish, crustaceans, worms, and snails. In captivity, they can be given small strips of meat (usually beef or liver), brine shrimp, cultured earthworms, tubifex worms, bloodworms, or commercial fish pellets (such as trout or salmon pellets). The best thing to do is to give them a variety, so as to give them a balanced diet. Remember, it’s important that uneaten food should be cleaned from the tank daily to avoid getting the water dirty and contaminated.

Terrestrial Axolotls

As mentioned, axolotls are occasionally able to go through metamorphosis and take a terrestrial form. What causes this to happen naturally is still not that well understood. In the event that the axolotl does change to a terrestrial form, owners will have to be very watchful about their pet’s state. Some owners actually force this change to happen by changing the water characteristics and giving the Axolotl a supplement. Care for terrestrial axolotls is very different compared to aquatic axolotls. Also, since the animal actually goes through a lot of stress during the transformation, inducing metamorphosis is not recommended and it can significantly lower the axolotl’s lifespan.

As pets, axolotls are relatively easy to care for. Although they are easy to breed in captivity, wild axolotls are actually considered as critically endangered because of the effects of pollution, exploitation, shrinking habitat, and introduction of non-native predators. If you’re planning to get an axolotl for a pet, make sure that i comes from a reliable breeder and do a lot of research on a axolotls to get a good idea on what to expect when keeping one. Just remember that it’s not going to evolve into a Marshtomp.  

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