The Axolotl might just be one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. Despite their common alternative name, the Mexican Walking Fish, Axolotls are in fact amphibians rather than fish. (Their other name, the Mexican Salamander, is more appropriate.) Yet Axolotls never leave their watery homes, reaching adulthood without ever undergoing metamorphosis. Instead they always retain their gills and aquatic natures.
But it gets even more interesting! Axolotls have truly incredible healing abilities. If an Axolotl loses a limb, no problem! It can just grow another limb in its place – a perfect, scar-free replica of the original. The spinal cord can be crushed, severed or have sections removed, again without long-term ill effects – the Axolotl will rebuild its own spine. The same is even true of the less vital parts of the brain! Seriously, take a chunk out of an Axolotl’s brain, and this incredible creature will just grow it back again.
Axolotls have been associated with humans for centuries, but we’ve only ever been bad news for them. The Aztecs used to eat Axolotls in their thousands as part of their staple diet. More recently, we’ve completely drained one of the two lakes where Axolotls could be found in the wild, and we’ve changed the other almost beyond recognition. The expansion of Mexico City has destroyed the Axolotl’s home with drainage, pollution, the construction of canals and the introduction of non-native predators.
The Axolotl is officially listed as critically endangered, but it may already be extinct in the wild. Fortunately the species lives on in the pet trade and in scientific laboratories, so hopefully we won’t lose these fantastic animals forever.
Fortunately Axolotls do make good pets, and their popularity is only growing. It’s not hard to see why so many people want to keep Axolotls when they’re both fascinating and adorable! There are even several different colors to choose from, including the famous albino/leucistic morphs.
Axolotls also don’t require too much space (a 20 gallon tank like this one is more than enough), they’re easy to feed and you only need an aquarium (not a split land-water tank). The only real difficulties in caring for an Axolotl involve their sensitivity – Axolotls have to be kept in a specific narrow temperature range and all water must be dechlorinated (not distilled) and cannot be changed all at once so as to avoid chemical imbalances.
But if you can handle the challenges (and it’s really not that difficult), then a pet Axolotl will keep you fascinated and entertained for years. If you want more information on how to care for an Axolotl, why not take a look at our Axolotl care sheet?