Axolotls are voted as one of the most interesting little creatures in aquariums. These small salamanders, native to Mexico, have an amazing lifespan.
So, how long do axolotls live? This depends on whether they live in captivity or in the wild. In the wild, they typically live 5 to 10 years, while in captivity they can live 10 to 15 years, with an average lifespan of 12 years.
- What is an Axolotl?
- How do Axolotls Differ from Other Salamander Species?
- Where Are Axolotls Found in the Wild?
- Axolotl Development and Lifecycle
- How Long Do Axolotls Live In The Wild?
- How long do axolotls live in captivity?
- How Many Axolotls Are Left In The World?
- Are Axolotls Endangered?
- Why are Declining Axolotl Populations Concerning?
- 6 Ways To Ensure Your Pet Axolotls Lives A Long Life
What is an Axolotl?
Axolotl is a species of salamander with a very unique genetic structure. Due to a rare condition known as ‘neoteny’, they retain most of their larval characteristics as adults. They, therefore, have all the characteristics of a tadpole – from the hairy gills to the long quill-like dorsal fin – even when they are fully grown.
Axolotls are carnivores, their diet includes worms, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and some small fish. About a few decades ago, Axolotls were at the top of the food chain in their habitat, but today the arrival of invasive tilapia and tilapia species is threatening and have contributed to reducing their numbers.
Axolotls are the only species of amphibians that spend their entire lives in water, so they are sometimes mistaken for fish. Indeed, axolotls are sometimes called Mexican walking fish, due to their appearance and habitat.
Here is some more information to help you understand more about these unique creatures:
- Size: 15-45 cm
- Weight: 50-250 grams
- Lifespan: 10-15 years
- Colors and characteristics: some common colors include brown, black, albino, gray, and light pink; The outer gill peduncle and the dorsal caudal fin are the result of having hairs
- Wild population: about 700-1,200 animals.
How do Axolotls Differ from Other Salamander Species?
It can be said that Axolotl has many differences from other salamanders like newts, olms, and fire salamanders. Appearance, anatomy, habitat – there are many things that set them apart and it is easy to see why they are colloquially known as ‘walking fish’.
Let’s see what sets axolotls apart from any other salamander:
Axolotls are larger than many other salamanders, considerably larger than animals also found on land.
Axolotl is native only to Lake Xochimilco in the Valley of Mexico, as well as the canals and waterways of Mexico City.
This is because they have acquired a ‘neoteny’ property, whereby their body features as larvae are retained when they are fully grown. This is only found in axolotls.
Axolotls, unlike most salamanders, live permanently in water. Some animals have been known to be able to venture on land when fully grown, but most of Axolotls’ lives lie below the surface, and use gills to breathe.
Where Are Axolotls Found in the Wild?
As mentioned above, axolotls are found only in the Xochimilco lake population near Mexico City, which includes Lake Xochimilco and a series of man-made canals and waterways that cut across the Mexican capital. Axolotls, being neophytes, have adapted well to their native habitat, which is a high-altitude area with an average water temperature of around 20 °C, even during the winter months.
For centuries, Axolotls have been an important part of Mexican culture. According to local mythology, the creature was the embodiment of an Aztec god who disguised himself as a salamander to avoid being sacrificed. Sadly, they are also considered a delicacy in Mexico City, with overfishing contributing to their appearance on the critically endangered species list.
Axolotl Development and Lifecycle
These axolotls live their entire lives in aquatic environments, from egg to adult. Their breeding period is usually spring and can last from December to June, and axolotls begin in the egg stage.
The life cycle of axolotls will go through the following stages:
Egg stage: After the female lays eggs, they stay like that for a while before moving on to the next stage. Note that during the breeding season, the female can lay up to a thousand eggs in one season; then they start to grow.
Infancy: At this stage, the eggs begin to take on a jelly-like appearance with black or white spots on them. This helps to protect the eggs from harm until they have fully formed and hatched. After a while, the embryos will begin to develop their heads and bodies before they enter the larval stage.
Legless larval stage: axolotls usually have a see-through appearance with their organs visible at this stage and they have not yet formed legs. Therefore they also cannot move quickly due to a lack of legs.
Larval stage with legs: after about 2 weeks, they develop into the larval stage, where they have four legs. Their front legs extend in front of their hind legs, then they can move around better. They remain at this stage until six months of age when they reach sexual maturity and are able to reproduce.
Adolescent Stage: Axolotls begin to become sexually active as they transition to this stage. They may also begin to live alone at this point. This stage will take about 6 months for them to fully develop and enter the adult stage.
One point to note, Axolotls at this stage are often aggressive and can attack each other. So if you intend to keep juvenile Axolotls as pets, you should keep them in separate tanks.
Adult stage: At this point, axolotls have developed into adults with full body parts, they will continue to live until they die naturally. Here, they begin to be capable of spawning egg axolotls. If nothing happens at this stage, they can live up to 15 years.
How Long Do Axolotls Live In The Wild?
Axolotls are peaceful creatures, avoiding contact and confrontation with other animals whenever possible. However, axolotls are not agile, don’t really have teeth or claws, and have no real defenses.
That’s why when it comes to any carnivores around, they make a really easy-to-catch meal.
Not only that, but they also have to face a series of other dangers such as fishing by local people, environmental pollution, parasitic factors in the water, and habitat loss.
Therefore, in the wild, it is rare to see an axolotl older than 10 years, even 5 years is a great achievement for wild axolotls.
How long do axolotls live in captivity?
When kept in captivity, in a home aquarium, axolotls will not face the same threats as they do in the wild.
So you can expect a well-groomed axolotl to live to be 10 to 15 years old, about 12 years on average.
It is essential to emphasize that only well-groomed axolotls can live to this age.
These creatures are very sensitive and fragile, in other words, it doesn’t take much to kill them. That said, when taken care of very well, they can live up to 20 years.
How Many Axolotls Are Left In The World?
Currently, it is estimated that there are between 1400 and 1600 axolotls left in the wild. However, there are thousands more in pet stores and home aquariums.
This number has yet to be determined, but preliminary estimates place the total world population of axolotls, both wild and in captivity, at less than 10,000.
Are Axolotls Endangered?
That’s right, according to the IUCN conservation index, axolotls are classified as critically endangered, meaning their numbers are plummeting with the real threat of them becoming extinct in the near future.
However, this only applies to wild species, and there are now significantly more axolotls in captivity than in the wild.
There are many factors that have contributed to the sharp decline in axolotl numbers in recent years. And it’s really a big drop.
According to the results of research conducted by Mexican biologist Luis Zambrano, there were about 6,000 axolotls per square kilometer in the Xochimilco lake complex in 1998; Currently, there are only 35.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of a large drop in the number of axolotls:
Water pollution: the rapid growth of Mexico City has seen a significant increase in water pollution in the Xochimilco network, rendering some areas unsuitable for aquatic life.
Overfishing: axolotls have become a delicacy in Mexico City, leading to a huge increase in demand by local fishermen. Overfishing is currently one of the biggest threats to axolotls populations.
Habitat loss: Mexico City’s rapid growth has seen large swathes of the Lake Xochimilco population drained and destroyed, including Lake Chalco, one of the axolotls’ primary habitats.
Invasive species: historically at the top of the food chain in Xochimilco, a small number of invasive species have been introduced into the habitat of axolotls. Animals such as perch and tilapia have reduced the number of axolotls, contributing significantly to their decline.
With the existing threat of axolotls becoming extinct, there has been a renewed effort in recent years to preserve their numbers.
Several axolotl ‘barns’ have been placed in strategic locations around the canals of Mexico City, to provide shelter for them.
While biologists have begun work on a project to bring laboratory-bred individuals back to Xochimilco as a way to boost numbers and encourage natural reproduction.
Why are Declining Axolotl Populations Concerning?
Scientists are particularly concerned about the decline of axolotls because of their enormous biological value.
These particular salamanders are among the most studied freshwater creatures in the world, and scientists believe humans can still learn a lot from their genetic makeup.
One of the properties of axolotls that have fascinated biologists for decades is their ability to regenerate legs.
For example, if an animal loses a foot, it can regenerate the limb in a relatively short period of time.
Scientists believe this could have great biological value for human medicine and the treatment of a number of degenerative diseases.
The fact is, before significant efforts are made to protect the Axolotls species, they are always facing the threat of extinction at any time. Therefore, conservation is key to the future of this unique salamander.
6 Ways To Ensure Your Pet Axolotls Lives A Long Life
In captivity, the Axolotl’s lifespan mainly depends on the following factors.
Indeed, your axolotls can go up to 15 years by taking these factors into consideration and keeping them happy and healthy for a long time.
But if you don’t take care of them properly, your axolotls can die easily.
Let’s consider the most important tips in this regard.
Ideal Water Parameters
One of the most important aspects of keeping your axolotls alive as long as possible is how well the water is in your tank.
They first need an aquarium of at least 20 Gallon in size so they have enough space to move around.
Axolotls require water to be at a certain temperature, between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, which is quite cool.
You may need to have a water cooler for your aquarium and indispensable an aquarium thermometer so you can control the water temperature in the tank.
Remember, they can tolerate slightly colder water, but warmer water does not. If you don’t meet the ideal temperature requirements for these pups, their lifespan will definitely decrease.
At the same time, pH and dGH levels are also very important to pay attention to. Axolotl requires a water pH between 6.5 and 8.0, with an ideal level around 7.2. Regarding water hardness, they claim a hardness of 7 to 14 dGH.
A Clean Tank
Another very important thing to do is to make sure that the water in the tank is as clean as possible for humans.
Axolotls are very sensitive to dirty water, especially to ammonia and nitrates, which can be stressful for them.
This causes their organs to shut down, and even minimal levels of ammonia can be fatal.
Uneaten food, untreated waste, rotting plants, and other things can all cause bad water quality, which can shorten the life of the axolotl and kill it.
If you do not clean the tank adequately, you are not filtering dust, and if the filter is not operating at full capacity or is overloaded, water quality will be affected.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is make sure to do a weekly water change of about 30%. This will help remove a lot of contaminants from the water.
You also want to clean the tank from top to bottom at least once weekly. Finally, a high-efficiency filter that includes all 3 main filter media, mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration is needed.
You can refer to the best filters for 20-gallon tanks.
The Right Food
Another thing that will help ensure a long and healthy life for your axolotls is adequate and proper feeding.
In general, axolotls need a very high-quality, high-protein diet. This means that you should feed them plenty of insects and insect larvae, fry, crustaceans, worms, and others.
You can also feed them some lean cooked chicken and lean beef, as well as cooked shrimp. It was shown that the axolotls were fed nothing but perfectly healthy earthworms.
Now, an axolotl can enjoy some raw food because it helps them preserve and develop their hunting instincts. However, raw foods, and even frozen foods, often contain parasites that can kill them.
To prevent this from happening, feed them only frozen dry food. Axolotls are really super susceptible to diseases and parasites, so controlling this is very important.
What you should avoid doing, at least if you want your axolotls to live long, is exposure to it. Sure, you’ll have to touch it sometimes, especially when cleaning tanks and other such things.
However, contact should be avoided and handling of axolotls should be kept to an absolute minimum.
These are fragile creatures and it is not difficult to break a leg or damage the cartilage in their body.
While axolotls can completely regrow lost limbs, it still doesn’t benefit them in terms of stress or their overall lifespan.
Furthermore, axolotls can be out of the water for short periods of time, but it is not recommended.
Since axolotls have an oily undercoat, this coat will be removed by your hands and will dry in the air. This oily coat protects them from parasites and bacteria and keeps them moist.
If they are out in the water for too long, this protective coating will dry out and disappear, thus putting axolotls in immediate and serious danger.
Whatever you do, touch the axolotl as little as possible and leave it in the water whenever possible.
The Right Tank Setup
To set up a suitable tank for Axolotl, you definitely need a filter, water cooler, plants, and all the other stuff. But it is very important to note axolotls that require very specific substrates.
The reason for this is that axolotls are clumsy and voracious eaters, and they often feed directly from the substrate. As a result, axolotls often ingest large amounts of the substrate along with their food.
If you don’t have the right substrate when they are ingested, it can be affected, or in other words, it will cause impact damage or blockage of the digestive tract, and this can quickly lead to death.
The only viable option is to use a high-quality aquarium sand substrate designed to prevent bumps from occurring. The use of gravel, and pebbles as a substrate for axolotl is not recommended.
The Right Tank Mates
The best tank friends for these shy guys are other axolotls.
However, make sure that they are all adults so that they do not interfere with each other.
Axolotls are like introverted friends, preferring to be alone rather than with others. So, if you want to keep other pets with your Axolotl, think again!
Axolotls are nocturnal animals, and they can easily harm other sleeping fish for a healthy meal.
Here, I will list a list of the best tank teammates for axolotls for your convenience.
Other Axolotls (Best choice as long as they have enough space and are of equal size)
Small Shrimp (ghost shrimps)
Mini soft-shelled snails (Ramshorn snails)
White cloud minnows
Other species of peaceful cool water fish
However, keep in mind that you will at least need a 55-gallon tank if you plan to share the tank with your Axolotls.
Can you touch your Axolotl?
As noted above, this is not recommended. However, you can touch your axolotls in case it is absolutely necessary such as during a tank water change, to check for disease or other problems.
How long can axolotls be out of water?
Axolotls can survive outside of water for a few minutes, but that’s not a comfortable feeling for it.
When they are outside of the water, the mucous layer covering the skin will gradually dry out and disappear. This mucus layer protects them from infections caused by fungi and other bacteria. Therefore they will be in danger.
Are axolotls good beginner pets?
Axolotls are very sensitive to water quality and conditions, and they are very susceptible to stress-related diseases.
Breeders need to be responsible as well as experienced to provide the right parameters and optimal conditions for Axolotls.
Therefore, I don’t think axolotls are a good choice for beginners.
How long do pet axolotls live?
Axolotls in captivity can live about 10-15 years. In some special cases, when given the right parameters, water conditions, and tank size, axolotls can live up to 20 years.
Can Axololtls regenerate body parts?
Axolotls have the ability to regenerate body parts and internal organs such as legs, lungs, heart, and brain.
Their ability to regenerate their legs and other organs is the main reason for their longevity.
Now, the answer to how long axolotls live is no longer a mystery.
Axolotls, in captivity, can live up to 10-15 years, some can live up to 20 years longer.
The bottom line here is that you need to follow all the tips I have given today to give your axolotl a chance to reach its maximum age.
These are sensitive and fragile creatures that need careful care.