Baby Axolotl Facts and Information

Baby Axolotls are incredible pets and offer much to a keeper. What makes these adorable amphibians so special? Let’s find out!

Baby axolotls require a carefully crafted home to meet their needs. Axolotls are especially sensitive to changes, so environmental stability is important. Diet, lighting, water temperature, water condition, habitat design, and overall health are all factors in caring for a young axolotl.

Axolotls are unique and beautiful creatures. They can be found in many different colors. Baby axolotls hatch from soft eggs after 2-3 weeks of gestation. They are completely aquatic neotenic amphibians and do not undergo total metamorphosis naturally.

Baby axolotls should be fed live, size appropriate food once a day. Keepers must offer food directly to the animal with tongs due to poor eyesight.

All axolotls are extremely sensitive to changes in environment. They are recommended to dedicated keepers as they require special water conditions and temperatures that must remain stable at all times. Biological filter byproduct levels, pH levels, and water hardness levels must be tested and maintained to a specific standard.

While axolotls do not like much lighting, it’s also important to maintain an appropriate environment for the age and development of the axolotl. The tank should be kept clean at all times to ensure the health if the animal.

Plants, substrate, hiding places, and water flow are just some factors to consider when putting together a baby axolotl’s habitat. Caring for a baby axolotl also requires frequent tank cleaning and water changes.

It’s best to house baby axolotls separately as they can become aggressive toward one another and cause major injury.

Where Do Baby Axolotls Come From?

Baby axolotls are produced from slime covered eggs that are laid by a female 12-72 hours after being fertilized by a male. The male and female do a mating behavior that if successful, results in an indirect fertilization. The eggs hatch 15-21 days after being laid. An axolotl will often choose to lay her eggs on a plant or rock. Up to 1000 eggs can be laid in a single breeding cycle.

Although they have gills, axolotls are not fish- they are amphibians. Even so, axolotls don’t undergo the metamorphic changes that most of their salamander relatives do. Also, unlike most other amphibians, axolotls are totally aquatic. Axolotls are neotenic salamanders and do not naturally progress to a mature salamander form due to natural lack of iodine and genetic factors.

They are the only neotenic salamander to have the ability to transform into a mature salamander, but this ability is only unlocked when an axolotl is injected with iodine in a captive setting. The salamander resulting from this metamorphosis is similar to a Tiger Salamander, but due to some unique physical differences is considered to be its own species.

There are genetic variations between axolotls that determine their skin and eye colors. The different genetic categories that determine the pigmentation are called morphs, and there are 5 main types. (Wild, Leucistic/Pink, White Albino, Golden, and Melanoid.) There are almost infinite genetic combinations beyond the ones listed, and more are being discovered all the time.

Some of these combinations include a gene that causes affected axolotls to glow. There is also endless variation in pattern and color expression among the same kind of axolotl. No two axolotls look the exact same- even solid pigmented individuals have varied qualities in their eye color and body structure. It’s truly amazing that every single axolotl is unique.

The lifespan of most captive axolotls is around 10 years, although it’s not uncommon to find a well-kept axolotl that’s been around for 15 years. Some keepers say they’ve had axolotls that live as long as 20 years!

Best Practice for Feeding Baby Axolotls

Feeding for a baby axolotl includes offering a selection of live food until reaching maturity. Frozen options and pellets are available, but it’s safest and healthiest to feed live food when the animal is still a juvenile. A baby axolotl will feed on the yolk of its egg for the first day or so after hatching. After that, live food should be offered once a day to properly stimulate the feeding instinct and nourish the hatchling axolotl.

Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small red worms are good to start with in terms of feeding a  baby axolotl since they are modestly sized and easier for a young axolotl to consume.

Wild caught worms and insects should not be offered as they carry risk of parasites and pesticide exposure. Feeder fish and large earthworms are not recommended as they can cause issues in the axolotl’s habitat and digestive system.

Once the axolotl is mature, it can begin sampling some frozen versions of food it already likes and also graduate to bigger live offerings.

Any pellets offered should be small, sinking, premium meat only pellets. Pellet food should only be offered as a treat if offered at all, as it’s full of fat and protein. Some axolotls will not consume non-moving offerings. Human food, even meat products like sausages or chicken, should not be offered to an axolotl. Processed foods can make the animal very sick.

Since they cannot see well, captive axolotls require food to be offered directly to them. Keepers can accomplish this task with tongs or a pipette put directly in front of the face. The baby axolotl will suck in the offering once it senses movement in front of its mouth. Axolotls consume their food using small teeth, but because they are suction feeders the chewing action on large pieces is more grinding than taking a bite. It’s imperative that all food is appropriately sized for the animal’s mouth to ensure it does not experience distress while consuming or digesting the meal.

It’s also important that food offered in a pipette, like brine shrimp, is not taken into the axolotl’s gills while it feeds. This injury can be avoided by being very careful while feeding and not over saturating the area around the axolotl with food. Patience is necessary when feeding an axolotl.

Baby Axolotl Habitat Requirements

The habitat for a baby axolotl should be size appropriate and offer security to the vulnerable young animal. Axolotls should be kept in separate enclosures to ensure they do not become stressed or attack one another. Baby axolotls have a feeding instinct to take up anything that moves close to its mouth.

If housed together, young axolotls may become cannibalistic due to their poor eyesight and feeding instinct. It’s not uncommon to see missing limbs or gills due to juveniles sharing a habitat and getting into a territorial tangle. Even though axolotls have the ability to regenerate limbs, tails, skin, and organs, it still takes some time!

A baby axolotl should be kept in a glass tank when possible. A tank size of at least 75 liters (20 gallons) is required for an adult axolotl, with 35 liters being acceptable for a baby axolotl. Larger tank sizes are recommended, when possible, to help with diffusion of waste products. A bigger habitat also gives the creature room to grow, enriches their quality of life, and provides more places to explore.

Some will insist that it’s okay to house mature axolotls together if the tank is a sufficient enough size, but this is still not recommended. If the intention is to breed a pair of axolotls, they should only be left together long enough for the male to fertilize the female. Eggs should also be kept separate from the female once laid, as adult axolotls will eat their own eggs. Axolotls are safest in their own space.

The substrate in the habitat must not be a hazard to the animal while eating. There should be safe plants and places for the axolotl to hide in the habitat. Consuming small gravel can cause serious and even fatal complications in an axolotl. Sand is not good for young axolotls as they can ingest large amounts of it while their feeding instinct is elevated.

Axolotls also produce an abundance of waste at this stage, as they are eating a meal every day- so the tank must be easy to clean. To minimize the work of frequent cleanings and water changes, many baby axolotl keepers decide not to use any substrate at all. Even though these tanks do not have substrate, they should still have weighted plants and hiding places for the axolotl. There should always be some kind of texture on the bottom of a substrate-less tank so the axolotl can walk around without slipping.

Water flow is often an overlooked part of keeping aquatic salamanders. In the wild, these amphibians live in pools with little to no flowing water. Stationary water is where these creatures are the most comfortable, but that’s not really possible when keeping these pets in captivity. Filters, vacuums, and bubblers disrupt the current in the tank, so a flow bar should be installed instead.

A flow bar allows a running filter to keep the tank clean, but distributes the water across the tank and diffuses it off the glass. This creates a minimally disruptive current in the axolotl’s habitat. A baby axolotl will show signs of stress when the water flow in their habitat is too high. This includes forward facing gills, curled tail, and skin conditions. If water flow is not corrected in time, it can be fatal to an axolotl.

Plants and hides are the most important visual component of your axolotl habitat. It can be difficult to balance what looks good in a tank-scape vs what is best for an axolotl, but that’s part of the fun in keeping these creatures. Due to the dark, cool, substrate-less conditions in the average baby axolotl tank, keeping plants can be a challenge.

There are few plants that can thrive without much light and substrate, I’ve listed them and their features below.

Plants that go well with baby axolotls without light and substrate:

  • Anubias are hearty aquatic plants that can be attached to other fixtures in the tank.
  • Water lettuce is a floating plant with aquatic roots. It can spread across the top of the tank and provide shade and hiding places for the axolotl.
  • Moss balls are self-contained and do not require substrate. They help filter the water in the habitat and are fun, fuzzy additions to the floor of a baby axolotl’s environment.

Hiding places for a baby axolotl should allow the creature to be in total darkness. Some keepers create small cave formations with wood and rocks in their axolotl habitats. The decorations in an axolotl tank should be safe and functional for the creature. Formations should be sturdy and unmoving; with no places the creature can get stuck. Plastic tank decorations with sharp edges are not recommended, as well as rocks with sharp edges.

Decorations and hides should be easy to clean, as axolotl habitats require frequent maintenance. Axolotls like to bury themselves so providing plants and hiding places on the bottom of the tank can provide them with much comfort. Plants at the top of the tank, like water lettuce, can have their root system curated to serve as hiding places for axolotls as well. The more places for a baby axolotl to hide, the better.

Lighting, Temperature, and Water Quality for Baby Axolotls

Lighting should be dim if present at all, and there should always be dark places for the axolotl to escape to. Axolotls don’t have eyelids and are sensitive to light. Baby axolotls do not need a dedicated light source and are okay with just indirect room lighting. Axolotl habitats should be kept away from windows and direct sun light, as it can stress them out and cause health issues. Black lights are not recommended either, as they are still bright and contain an abundance of UV rays.

Baby axolotls prefer a cool tank temperature, between 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit. Most tanks will not require a heater or aquarium cooler, but due to the sensitive nature of axolotls, special care should be taken to ensure temperature does not fluctuate. If you live in a place that is especially hot or especially cold, you may need to take precautions to keep the water at a stable temperature.

Prolonged exposure to cold temperature will slow the metabolism and growth of the axolotls, eventually becoming fatal. Prolonged or sudden exposure to warm temperatures can cause heat stress on the axolotl, creating health issues and possibly death.

Keep more than one thermometer in the tank to ensure the reading is always accurate and your axolotls are not being subjected to swings in temperature.

Water condition is a direct factor in the health of an axolotl. Ammonia and other chemical byproducts of the life cycle should be tested for and kept at acceptable levels to avoid health issues in the axolotl. Nitrates, Nitrites, and ammonia are all parts of the biological filtration cycle of your tank, but elevated amounts of these compounds become harmful to the health of the animal if not controlled.

Keeping axolotls requires testing the water for these byproducts frequently and taking measures to lower the levels when necessary. Often a water change is enough to solve high levels of ammonia or nitrates, but sometimes the remaining water must be treated as well. Home water test kits and water treatment products are available online and at pet stores.

Make sure that any water treatment products purchased are safe for the axolotl, as most of them are intended for use in fish tanks and may not meet the standards required for use in amphibian habitats.

Keeping pH levels in check is an important part of maintaining water quality in an axolotl habitat. pH is a measurement of acidity levels and can range from 0-14. A pH level of 7 is considered neutral, 0 is acidic, and 14 is basic/alkaline. When testing pH in an axolotl habitat, it should be between 7.4-7.6. A wider range of 6.5-8.0 is acceptable for short periods of time, but is not good for the baby axolotl. The pH level of an aquarium is correlated with toxic ammonia levels. The higher the pH, or more basic the solution, the higher the toxic ammonia levels. This does not mean it’s okay to have low pH either, as that causes a different set of issues.

The degree of hardness in the water is associated with pH and must also be tested. Hard water is associated with a basic/alkaline pH while soft water is associated with acidic pH. Water hardness is a measurement of dissolved salts in the water and is dependent on the geographical area.

The degree of hardness can always be adjusted with supplements. Usually, a combination of special salts is added if water lacks the appropriate hardness levels. The most common combination of salts is called Holtfreter’s Solution, created by a biologist who discovered the benefits of the mixture on amphibians.

Final Thoughts

Baby axolotls are super cute pets. Baby axolotls are considered larvae, and are produced from slime covered eggs that are laid by a female after 2-3 weeks of gestation. Up to 1000 eggs can be laid at one time. Although they are totally aquatic, axolotls are not part of the fish family, they’re amphibians. They are also different from other amphibians because axolotls are neotenic salamanders. Neotenic means axolotls can’t naturally transform to a mature salamander form without scientific intervention. The lifespan of most pet axolotls is around 10 years, but it’s common to find a captive axolotl that’s been around for 15 years or more. Axolotls have the ability to regenerate body parts such as arms, tails, skin, and organs.

Feeding a baby axolotl requires offering live food every day. Frozen food and pellets are options for older axolotls, but it’s safest and healthiest to feed babies live food. A baby axolotl will feed on the yolk of its egg for the first day or so after hatching. After that, small offering should be placed in front of the axolotl with tongs or a pipette. Live food is required in the early stages to properly stimulate the feeding instinct and nourish the hatchling axolotl. Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small red worms are popular options since they are appropriately sized for baby axolotls to consume. Pellets should only be offered as treats if at all.

An axolotl should be kept in a glass tank of at least 20 gallons, with 10 gallons being acceptable for a baby axolotl. Axolotls should be kept in their own enclosures to ensure they do not become stressed or fight with each other. The substrate in the habitat must be safe for the animal while eating. To make for lighter work of frequent cleanings and water changes, many axolotl keepers decide not to use any substrate in their tanks. Hides and cave formations should be made of safe and sturdy materials that are easy to clean. Water flow should be minimal to decrease stress on the axolotl. Axolotls should have minimal lighting and should always have dark, secluded places to hide. Due to the sensitivity of axolotls, water temperature, quality, and hardness are important to maintain at consistently appropriate levels.