Also known as the walking fish, Axolotls are some of the most amazing marine creatures. This Mexican walking fish is an amphibian and not a fish as most people presume. It is classified as a neotenic salamander and has close relations with the tiger salamander.
It is worth noting that the axolotls are unlike other amphibians in that they attain adulthood without having to undergo metamorphosis. Adult axolotl remains gilled and aquatic throughout their life.
Most axolotls are greenish-brown/black in color but there are rare ones that are usually white. The white breed is a descendant of a mutant male breed that is native to France. These amphibians have black eyes but there are an albino breed that has red eyes.
So, how long do Axolotls live? Axolotls kept in captivity will live between 10 – 15 years on average. Some have been known to as long as 20 years, although this is relatively rare. There are a number of factors that impact the lifespan of an Axolotl, read on to find out more.
What is the lifespan of axolotls?
Axolotls are some of the longest living amphibians with a lifespan of between 10-15 years in their natural habitats. However, in captivity as pets, their lifespan can go beyond 15 years as most of the natural threats are eliminated when in aquariums. These amphibians mostly survive on a diet that comprises worms, mollusks, insect larvae, small fish, and crustaceans. Axolotls are regarded to be a top predator in their natural habitats.
In captivity, these amphibians mostly feed on readily available foods such as salmon pellets, trout, frozen bloodworms, wax worms, and earthworms.
Which are some of the crucial facts worth knowing about axolotls?
Since axolotls are some of the fascinating marine creatures, they possess unique feature and attributes. Some of the abilities of these creatures such as limb regeneration are crucial in enhancing their long life. Here are some of the must-know facts about these amphibians:
Ability to regenerate lost limbs and body organs
Incredibly, these amphibians have the ability to regenerate lost limbs and body organs within a few weeks. If these amphibians suffer injuries to their lungs, spinal cord, heart, and parts of the brain, these parts grow back without any scarring whatsoever. This is because the creatures have a unique protein known as c-Fos that is crucial for aiding the regeneration process. There is no limit to the number of times that the creatures can regenerate injured parts and limbs.
The feathery branches on the head double as their gills
In addition to having fully functional lungs, these creatures also have gills for aiding in their breathing. However, studies show that the creatures do not fully depend on the gills for breathing when in water. This is because they often come to the surface to breathe using their lungs. The gills come in handy when the amphibians are busy feeding on the floor of the lake.
Axolotls feed by suction
Axolotls do not chew their food. Instead, they feed by suction. This is achieved by interlocking and closing the gill once the food enters the mouth. The creature then sucks on the food in the mouth instead of chewing it like other water creatures. These amphibians are carnivorous and hence much of their diet includes insects, tadpoles, small fish and worms.
Axolotls are edible
Unknown to most people, these amphibians are edible marine creatures. A few decades ago, the amphibians were a vital component of Aztec diets. They were prepared into tamales served with cornmeal. In present times, they are commonly sold in different flavors and recipes in exotic Asian restaurants in Japan. Their taste and flavor are similar to those of chicken or eel.
Axolotls are favorite pet options for many people
There are lots of people across the globe who keep axolotls as pets. For people keen on adding these amphibians as part of their pet collection can purchase them online. If you are considering keeping these creatures as pets, it is crucial to construct a large aquarium.
The ideal aquarium size for axolotls is one that can hold up to 10 gallons of water or more. This is because the rate of waste products of the amphibians is high, and hence the water in a small aquarium can become dirty pretty fast. You do not need to add lighting to the aquarium but it should have a lid. You can feed the pets with worm cubes and pellets that are easy to find in most pet stores.
Axolotls have neoteny characteristics
The most amazing attribute about these creatures is they do not grow into adulthood. Instead, they retain their youthful characteristics and appearances throughout their life. This rare feature is referred to as neoteny and can only be found in these creatures. Upon reaching maturity, the amphibians reproduce while still in their larval stage. Their failure to mature to adulthood contributes to why they spend all their life in water, without living on land like other amphibians.
Breeding happens early in the year
Axolotls reach breeding age within 6 months. The breeding season occurs early in the year and starts from March or through to June. In the wild, breeding happens only once in a calendar year, but in captivity, the breeding can occur up to two times in a year. Spawning occurs in late winter when the temperature of the water is moderate and temperate.
Are Axolotls endangered species?
Like other marine creatures, the existence of these amphibians is critically endangered. There are several factors that threaten the existence of these creatures. For starters, the increased pollution and spillage of waste into water bodies possess a significant threat to their existence.
Due to the draining in Lake Xochimilco- the only freshwater habitat of these amphibians, the population of the creatures has declined significantly. In addition to this, the existence of axolotls has been threatened by the introduction of larger water creatures like tilapia that feed on the amphibians. The existence of these creatures in artificial habitats is mostly threatened by poor handling and feeding.
Use of Axolotls in modern medicine
Due to their unique abilities to regenerate limbs and body parts, there are ongoing studies aimed at identifying the medicinal impact of genes derived from these creatures. What is more unique about these creatures is that they exhibit unique resistance to cancer in comparison to mammals. There are expectations that the gene extracts will be used for eliminating complications that arise during transplants, and for enhancing tissue healing and recovery for burn victims.
What are the care requirements of captive axolotl?
Private breeders offer these amphibians for sale in the market for use as pets. What most people do not know about these creatures is that they require special care and attention. They are not like other marine creatures that you can put in standard size housing and wait to see them multiply. For starters, they require specialized housing and dietary needs.
For starters, these creatures reach a maximum of 10 inches in total length when fully mature. However, there are some species of these amphibians that reach 12 inches in length. Therefore, when seeking to buy these creatures for pets, it is necessary to consider their length for purposes of space availability in the aquarium.
A single adult pet (axolotl) should be accommodated in a 10-gallon aquarium. These messy creatures produce a lot of waste and hence putting more of these creatures in the same aquarium will require you to change the water regularly. Young axolotls are fond of nipping each other at the tails and hence should not be kept in the same aquarium. However, if well-fed and taken care of, it is possible to put up to 3-5 young ones in the same aquarium.
Axolotl do not require any special water for their aquariums. Tap water works fine as long as it is treated using aquarium water conditioners. This helps in removing chlorine and compounds such as chloramines. A good filter should be installed in the water as well as the employment of regular water changes. This helps in maintaining the water clean and waste-free at all times.
You should avoid handling the creatures physically as they do not have any true bones especially when young. Therefore, physical handling can easily cause fractures and injuries on their bodies. Additionally, their skins are permeable and hence are prone to bacterial infection more than other amphibians.
Axolotls can be a unique décor enhancement feature in public spaces such as living rooms or even receptions. With the right feeding and handling strategies, it is possible for these creatures to live for long and with a healthy reproduction cycle. You should never take these creatures out of the water as this will most definitely trigger their deaths. They are generally friendly creatures and their bites do not hurt at all. They are quiet creatures and do not make any noise whatsoever unless when held or squeezed in the hands.
It is important to note that axolotls are not dangerous in any way and do not cause or trigger any health conditions in humans. You should not keep these creatures in the same aquarium with other specifies. This is because they are predators and will most likely feed on the other species.