Dedicated to Nicole and Juliet, for the care of my new baby's

Axolotl Care Sheet For Beginners

Axolotls are commonly known as Mexican walking fish but in fact they are not a fish at all. Axolotls are a salamander and are a part of the amphibian family just like frogs and toads and this is why they need special care when it comes to life in captivity.

Axolotls cannot be cared for like fish as they are more sensitive to water levels, light, heat, chemicals and water flow, this is why they need specialised housing and knowledge in order to be healthy and happy.

Axolotls are an amazing animal for many reasons, one of which is their ability to re-grow limbs and vital organs, this does not mean that they are invincible because in my experience they are quite delicate and need to be treated accordingly this care sheet will provide all the information a new axolotl owner will need to know



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HOUSING

A suitable tank set up is required for axolotls they need the following items to create a safe happy healthy environment for them

Tanks
  As axolotls can grow to 30 cm or bigger they do need a lot of room, over population of a tank will cause cannibalism and stress to the axolotls
  Axolotls will need no less than 37 litres / 10 gallons of water per axolotl
  Different tanks hold different amounts of water per foot, so when picking a tank make sure it has enough room for your axolotls.

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Substrate
  Substrates are very crucial to an axolotl tank, and need to be chosen wisely as a bad substrate can cause death and injury to axolotls here are the choices and recommended substrates

Gravel And Pebbles – Not Recommended
  Because axolotls eat by sucking water into their very wide mouths anything that’s around them will enter their mouths

This makes gravel a problem for axolotls, as it can be ingested it can cause blockages, floating, serious impaction and death to axolotls so in other words, if you use gravel it’s only a matter of time before they will get hurt or die

Large pebbles are not advised because axolotls can swallow anything the same size as there head or smaller this also causing very unwanted problems for axolotls.

So when using large peddles or large rocks its recommend that you check each one against the size of your growing axolotls head and make sure they are at least twice the size.

This is also not recommended because food, waste and other nasties can be trapped underneath the rocks, away from filtration's reach, causing build up of ammonia and nitrate which will become poisons to axolotls

Bare Bottom Tank, No Substrate
  Some people do use no substrate at all this can be useful for cleaning purposes but it also has its down sides.
Having nothing on the bottom of the tank could cause stress to the axolotls if they are having troubles walking, as they can’t really grip such a smooth surface they may find it hard to walk along 
I personally do not recommended bare bottom substrate for long term use

Sand - Recommended
  Sand is the best choice and also the safest for axolotls.
If ingested by axolotls it is small enough for them to pass without concern, also sand is a great choice because axolotls can dig and play along the bottom of their tank, which keeps them happy and it is also easier to set up plants, hides and decorations in sand. Very recommended
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Filtration
  Filtration is important to keep water clean and keep control over the water levels

As Axolotls are sensitive to their water conditions it is best to have a filter and do weekly 20% water changes.

When choosing a filter you must consider the water flow as high pressure water movement will stress axolotls. They prefer still water and anything to powerful can and will cause stress. The best type of filter is a canister filter, but for first time axolotl owners this isn’t essential

 A small in water filter with a small water flow rate will be perfect for 1-2 axolotls, or a small bubble filter will also be adequate for a small tank.

If your filter is to powerful there are some things you can do to help. You can set up some plants across the line of water flow, blocking the direct water movement from your axolotls also setting up there hides, caves, decorations in a shielded area of the tank will help
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Lighting
  Lighting is something un needed for axolotls as they prefer low lighted areas.
  Somewhere to bright will stress them becuase they have no eyelid's and prefer a cooler darker room, also bright lights will scare axolotls if they are in a dark room and a sudden bright light turns on, it will give them a fright
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Temperature
  Temperature is very important for axolotls, they need a stable temperature anywhere from 15°C to 23°C at a maximum of 24°C.

An ideal temperature to aim for is 18°C - 20°C

Anything to low will decrease there metabolism and cause them to be more sluggish.

Anything  to hot or temperatures over 24°C will cause them to become stressed and could lead to death, fungus and other health problems to axolotls.
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Decorations
  The best things for axolotls are caves, small hides, live or plastic plants and other things that will give them somewhere to hide.

This gives them more security and makes a great lay out for their tank.

Pvc pipes and pot-plant pots make great in-expensive decorations for axolotls to hide in.
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Cycling Your Tank
Cycling your tank is very important to maintain the water levels, cycling can take up to 6 weeks to complete and it is advised that you do this before bringing home a new axolotl, but with this said it can also be done with axolotls or other types of fish in the tank
for information on how to cycle your tank please visit this site 
http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/cyclingEDK.shtml
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FEEDING

Feeding axolotls here is everything you need to know about feeding
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Food types

Main Food's
  Earthworms - best food for axolotls as they are the most nutritional food source for axolotls and should be organic and not sourced from the wild

Pellets - are a stable diet for axolotls and are available at pet shops

Black worms - are a nutritional source of food also available from aquarium shop not from the wild as these may have parasites

Treats
  Bloodworm's - a good treat but are very messy and will require a big clean up after feeding

Meal Worms - axolotls can’t digest there outer shell so they are not ideal as main food but are good as a treat

Tuna - in spring water not brine or any flavoured water

Prawns - uncooked is best

Other Possibility's But Not Recommended 
{If Possible Avoid These Types Of Foods} 
These following types of food are for if there is no other choice available to the owner and should be avoided  
  Feeder fish - most pet shops will recommend feeder fish but they can have nasty parasites also they can nip at the axolotl's gill and cause some damage - not recommended

Slugs - also can have parasites and nasty’s if sourced from the wild they should be - avoided

Tadpoles - not always easy to find and also can have parasites if found in the wild

Anything else found in the wild should also be avoided because of parasites and pesticides

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Feeding Quantities

Axolotls will eat until they are full, if you are fattening up your axolotl your aim is to have there belly’s as wide as there head's that’s a good size for a healthy axolotl.

When I feed my axolotls they get feed daily about 2 earthworms a day, some day they will miss a meal as they are still full from the day before, growing axolotls need to be feed daily, but older axolotls every second or even 3ed day. You will be able to figure out the eating pattern of your axolotl easily by offering food and watching what they eat.

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Feeding Young Axolotls

For young axolotls food is very different depending on their age and size.

Feeding Larvae
Larvae are newly hatched axolotls, sized between 1cm to 5cm or when they have grown all 4 leg's

Larvae need to be feed according to their size and growth, Larvae that have no leg's cannot smell their food, this is why they must be feed on live food as they rely on site to hunt. The best live foods for Larvae are live daphina or baby brine shrimp twice daily, it is possible to feed Larvae on frozen blood worms and frozen daphina when they grow to 2.5cm at this stage they will take to dead food much easer and will only require to be feed once daily.
But it is best to keep feeding them on live foods until they have grown their front and back legs fully, and they become Juveniles. 


Feeding Juveniles
Juvenile axolotls are young axolotls that are roughly sized between 5cm - 15cm 
when feeding Juvenile axolotls you must remember that they are still growing and that they need to be feed as much as they will eat without over feeding them {still aim for their heads to match there tummy's} 
Juvenile Axolotls may not be able to eat a full earthworm, but are better to be feed on smaller worms, if suitable sizes are unavailable they should be feed on  3mm-5mm pellets , and as a treat for larger Juvenile's they can be feed Meal Worms 
Juveniles should be feed once to twice a day, depending on how hungry they are, just offer them food and see how they go.

ALL UN EATEN FOOD SHOULD BE REMOVED DIRECTLY AFTER EATING

if not removed this will cause the water to spoil with in a matter of a few hours
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CARING FOR YOUNG AXOLOTLS

Young axolotls need a different type of set up for the first few months of their live's.
As they are very sensitive to water conditions, temperature changes, water changes and aeration.

Housing
The best housing for young Larvae are food storage containers, Larvae require a 100% water change daily due to the amount of waste axolotls produce in a 24 hour period. 
Keeping the set up simple is best for cleaning purposes and is also ideal for the Larvae

Do not however add sand or any type of rocks to their container as they can get trapped underneath, and it is harder to clean

Aeration
Larvae need some type of aeration in their container, a small air stone attached to a low air pump with a small "G" clamp this can be done. Simply set up the air stone on the end of a piece of tubing and the other to the pump. then fully do up the G clamp, place it into water that has not got your Larvae in it, as the fiddling to get the right flow of bubbles may take a few minutes. And also may scare them if turn on to high during this adjustment.

Temperature
Temperature is crucial for all axolotls but must be keep at a very stable rate for young Larvae, a sudden drop in room temperature at night or a sudden spike thought out the day can be fatal.
The ideal temperature for Larvae is 20°C but advice to be lower, as the higher the temperature the more risk of stress and disease.
I would advice the temperature to be between 18°C and 20°C and the Larvae be kept in the most suitable room with the most consistent room temperature
 This is very important when planing the set up as the water will heat up and cool down faster due to the small amount's of water in the container set up.

Daily Water Changes
When doing daily water changes you must change 100% of the water. This is best done by feeding the Larvae first then continuing to clean there container.
It is best to have the water pre made up the night before, de chlorinated and treated for any other ph needs to match the same levels that your Larvae are used to. After treating the water is should be kept at the same room temperature as the Larvae, best way to do this is to have 2 matching containers aside each other. This ensures that there will be no accidental water temperature shocks
Next step is to remove about 70% of the water, using a turkey baster you can easily suck up most of the water, while keeping the Larvae still covered. 
Then with a small soft net, gently catch your baby/baby's and transfer them into the fresh container along with the air stone
Other alternatives to a small net are small containers or large plastic soup spoons that can scoop the Larvae up.

What ever you chose to use, please do this with care as they are very fragile and venerable at this stage.

Feeding
When it comes to feeding your Larvae the breeder that you brought/obtained your axolotl from will most likely tell you what stage your new pet is up to and what they require daily. There is also more information on this in the above section called Feeding Larvae


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Photos Donated By Caudata.org Users Morrison,  Bunny27 and MereB

MORE INFORMATION
For more information or for any questions you have there is two very good websites you can visit

One has a lot of information of axolotl housing, breeding, feeding, heath, colour genetics raising young axolotls and more
http://www.axolotl.org

Another is a forum site where there are very experienced axolotl owners that can help you with any questions you might have the forum has a dedicated axolotl are with sections for sick axolotls, axolotl general discussion, tank set up, and even an axolotl gallery especially for axolotl photos 
http://www.caudata.org/forum/

For all new axolotl owners I recommend you visit both these sites for more insight on axolotls


Care sheet written by Suzanne Dowsley 

References From

http://www.axolotl.org
  &
http://www.caudata.org/forum/
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