The axolotl: who is it? Can he live in an aquarium?

Originally from Mexico, this astonishing amphibian which reproduces in the larval state can quite live in captivity on condition of taking certain precautions. Zoom in on this funny animal and advice to guarantee its well-being.

What is an axolotl?

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanumi) is an amphibian of the order urodeles (Caudata), like the salamanders and newts. Unlike anurans (frogs, toads), urodeles keep a tail in the adult state. The axolotl lives in Xochimilco and Chalco lakes located more than 2000m altitude in Mexico. These lake waters display a temperature of around 20 ° to drop to 6 °, or even less, in winter. We can also find the animal in axalapascos, craters volcanic filled with water. In the wild, the axolotl is an endangered speciesextinction but it abounds in breeding because it is widely used in experimental research on regeneration. A characteristic of the axolotl lies in its ability to regenerate its damaged or destroyed organs. He can thus reconstruct an eye, a limb and certain parts of his brain.

Description of axolotl

The lacertiform body of urodeles of which it is a part is distinguished from that of lizards by a thin skin devoid ofscales. The axolotl sports a flat, rounded head, two small lidded eyes, and a large, wide mouth. On each side float three gills external that allow it to breathe (those of fish are internal). Their coloring (more or less bright) can indicate its state ofexcitation. The elongated body of the axolotl has four legs with fingers that facilitate its movements at the bottom of the water. A small fin starts at the base of the head and runs down the back. The amphibian measures between 15 to 33 cm in adulthood and its weight varies between 60 and 110 grams.

The colors of the axolotl

Axolotl exhibits genetic variations in pigmentation generally characterized by:

  • A common form: variants from gray to black including a brown sometimes speckled with blue;
  • A leucistic form (no melanin on the skin): black eyes, white body;
  • An albino form (resulting from hybridization with an albino tiger salamander): red eyes, white to golden skin.

The metamorphosis of the axolotl

The axolotl rarely metamorphoses into an adult (we speak of neotenia). It thus spends its life in the larval state, which does not prevent it from reaching the sexual maturity and reproduce (pedogenesis). In a very poor living environment iodine, the axolotl thyroid gland eventually atrophied and no longer provided enough thyroxine (hormonal secretion) to be able to transform the axolotl into an individual earthly like the salamander. It is not advisable to attempt the transformation because this delicate step causes significant changes in the morphology of the axolotl. Performed under bad conditions, the metamorphosis can prove to be fatal or incomplete, generating an individual hybrid mid-adult, mid-larval. In any case, the experience considerably reduces its life expectancy (5 years old) while she is 15 years old in the larval state.

Aquarium: temperature and dimensions

While it is possible to breed an axolotl in captivity, observing certain conditions is essential to keep it in good health.

  • The temperature ideal is between 17 and 21 ° C, i.e. a temperature ambient not requiring the installation of a heating system. Care should be taken to place the aquarium in a room that does not undergo large variations in degrees (be careful in the summer season). In all cases, the water must never exceed 22 °;
  • For the dimensions, you need a minimum aquarium width of 80cm. As axolotls live at the bottom of the water, it is not necessary to have a large deepr (but minimum 40cm). The species being gregarious, the presence of a congener will require a larger aquarium (120cm). If it’s even bigger, amphibians won’t complain!

What type of water for axolotl?

The water must be tough. Do not use distilled water for example, but rather the hottest tap water. limestone possible because it will preserve its sensitive skin. A pH of 7.5 is ideal. Filtration is not useful provided the water is changed regularly (at least 20% each week). If you still opt for a filter, it is preferable to set it to the minimum so as not to generate current too strong otherwise the axolotl will stop feeding.

The recommended atmosphere for axolotl

The stress is very present in axolotls in captivity, which is why the species needs accessories to hide : stones, plants, objects used as a cave. Regarding the substrate, small gravel and pebbles sharp are to be excluded because the amphibian could ingest them inadvertently. As such, it is best to line the bottom of the aquarium with fine sand or pebbles larger than the animal’s head. In general, avoid decorations rough that could damage his fragile skin. A nocturnal species, the axolotl needs low light intensity. Lighting that can generate heat, remember to turn it off when you don’t need it. A lid is essential because the amphibian is able to jump out of the aquarium.

Feeding the axolotl

Axolotl follows a diet carnivorous that you can make up from frozen invertebrates (worms or insects), as well as products available in pet stores such as fish-based pellets (trout, perch, etc.). Food dry, in the form of pellets, will provide him with complete nutrition without risk of deficiency. Its diet should be low in fat and rich in proteins and vitamins. Warning: the food supplied to the amphibian must come exclusively from water sweet. Thus, any product containingiodine and from the ocean is to be avoided because it is bad for your body. The cut food should be suitable for swallowing whole because its tiny teeth do not allow it to slice and the axolotl will eventually spit out if it does not.

By bringing together all conditions necessary for its well-being, you can keep the axolotl for many years with you. This strange and fascinating animal will be the star indisputable of your aquarium.

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