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Ambystoma mexicanum


    Beautiful, unusual, and rare, the Mexican salamander’s name in native Aztec translates to “water sprite, water monstrosity, water twin or water dog” and relates to Xolotl, the god of the lightening, fire, the afterlife and the underworld. Axolotls mature without metamorphosizing, a process called neoteny, wherein they retain larval features, such as feathery external gills, for their entire lives. Largely captive-bred, they are critically endangered in its native environment due to the introduction of non-native species and habitat loss. They have the ability to regenerate their limbs, tail, heart cells and brain cells.

Quick stats:

Listed tank sizes are the minimum
Size: Common length: 9 inches (23.0 cm) Max length: 16-18 inches (15-45 cm)
Tank: Individual: 20 gallon long (17.79 liters) or larger. Multiple: 55 gallons or larger. Long, rectangular tanks are recommended.
Strata: Will spend most or all their time at the Bottom.
PH: PH recommendation 7.0 – 7.5
Hardness: Medium hardness, 6 to 16° dGH
Temperature: 54°F to 68°F (12°-20° C), Preferably 63°-64°F (17.22°-17.78°C)


Order: Caudata
Family: Ambystomatidae
Genera: Ambystoma
Species: Ambystoma mexicanum

Common name:


    , Ajolote, Mexican Salamander, Mexican Walking Fish, Mudpuppy, Water Dragon


North / Central America:: 

    Mexico, near Mexico City. Lake Xochimilco and the canals of what was once Lake Chalco. Cold waters and glacial lakes.

General Body Form:A body typical of salamander larvae featuring a cylindrical trunk, a flat, wide head and a caudal fin that extends from behind the head to the end of it’s eel-like tail. It has four underdeveloped limbs with long, thin digits, three pair of feathery gill stalks (rami,) lidless eyes and delicate skin (one of three ways they breathe.)

By ZeWrestler (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


    1. Four basic color variants include “wildtype” (mottled brown with spots,) melanoid (black,) leucistic (pale pink with black eyes,) and albino (white/pale pink with pink eyes.) Additional colors include blue, golden albino, gray, tan and white.


Well-filtered, fully-cycled water is a must and a sponge filter, submersible filter, HOB or canister filter is recommended. Currents or turbulence from the filter’s output needs to be diffused by either a spray bar or plants on the water’s surface. Over-aerated water causes the external gills to shrivel. A heater or chiller (depending on your home’s ambient temperature) would ensure steady water temperature. Water that is too warm can make the Axolotl prone to disease or infection. Water should be at least 6 inches deep (15.24 cm.) Axolotl are strong and fast swimmers and need a medium or large tank in order to safely bounce around.

For substrate, use sand, not gravel. Gravel can be swallowed inadvertently and the resulting choking or impaction could be fatal. Any stones used for decoration must be larger than the axolotl’s head. The majority of the tank should be open swimming spaces and rounded or soft decorations are best. They appreciate having a cave or two and a few plants to hide in. Lighting should be dim and dappled as they are nocturnal and move little during the day. A screen or canopy atop the tank is recommended as axolotls can jump out when startled. Peaceful only when kept in a species-only tank. Generally solitary, but may be kept with a ratio of 1 male to 1 female. Ghost shrimp are harmless tank mates and are rarely hunted. Do not keep with fish. Not only will fish be eaten, but fish can graze on their gills and transmit piscene diseases, for which they have no natural immunity.

Diet:Carnivorous: Live or frozen blackworms, bloodworms, earthworms, mealworms, tubifex worms, trout/salmon/catfish pellets, waxworms, and whiteworms (feed tubifex and whiteworms scarcely as they are high in fats/oils that can damage the Axolotl’s liver.) Also brine shrimp, daphnia, insects, freeze-dried mosquito larvae and strips of beef heart. Will eat anything they can catch and they are prone to cannibalism. Feedings should be in the evening when they are most active. Feed adults twice weekly, juveniles daily, and feed larvae brine shrimp every two hours.

Biotope:High-altitude lakes located near Mexico City. Lake Xochimilco is the last remaining natural habitat. Axolotls are almost extinct in their native range.

Breeding:OVIPAROUS: Fairly easy to spawn. Egg-layers. Sexual dimorphism: Males display enlarged cloaca, female cloacas are smaller and their bodies are more rounded. Courtship begins with the pair nudging each others cloacas, then swimming in a circle. The male will then undulates his tail and releases a cone-shaped gelatinous packet of sperm called a spermataphore. The female swims to spermataphore, shakes her tail, picks it up with her cloaca and internalizes it, fertilizing her eggs. She then lays between 100-300 eggs on plants and on other surfaces around the tank. There is no further parental involvement. Eggs develop and hatch in approximately 10-17 days. Upon hatching, the young are fully independent and they reach sexual maturity within one year. Adults mature, but will not metamorphosize and will retain features of larval salamanders. This is called neoteny and is the result of an adaptation that helps them survive in mountainous environments where there is little food and little iodine.

By User:Sarefo (Own work) [GFDLCC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5/5 - (17 votes)


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