Axolotls, those little water salamanders are marvelous creatures. Exclusively native to Lake Xochimilco in Mexico, they’ve grown in popularity as pets over the years. So, as an aquarist, you might wonder: “How long do Axolotls live?”
Wild axolotls have a life span ranging from five to ten years. However, when in captivity, they can live for much longer than that. Therefore, if you plan on having one as a pet, it’s essential to know it’s a lifelong commitment that can exceed 20 years.
In this article, we address the lifespan of axolotls, what affects their age, and how to keep captivity axolotls healthy.
Axolotls are an aquatic type of salamanders that live entirely underwater. Primarily, they’re paedomorphic creatures, which means they maintain their juvenile characteristics through adulthood. So, unlike most amphibians, axolotls don’t go through metamorphosis.
What’s even more amazing about these creatures is their ability to regrow body parts, sometimes even organs. This is probably why many people have the misconception that axolotls can live forever.
How Long Do Axolotls Live?
Axolotl’s life span ranges widely and depends on a few determining factors, such as their surrounding environment, diet, and genes. While they’re critically endangered in the wild, the number of axolotls kept as pets is increasing.
Here’s an overview of Axolotl’s life expectancy.
In the Wild
Axolotls in the wild typically live for five to ten years max. Their life span depends on the environment and overall water quality.
Mainly, axolotls prefer living in still, high-altitude, and fresh bodies of water. To thrive, these fantastic creatures need plenty of clean water and food inside a healthy ecosystem.
Sadly, such conditions aren’t always available in the wild. That’s why their population has been declining rapidly over the past decades.
Reasons Causing Axolotls To Face Extinction
Axolotls, also known as the Mexican walking fish, face several threats, contributing to their risk of extinction. They’re low-maintenance animals that can regenerate vital organs and body parts.
Despite that, they can die in their natural habitat for many reasons, including the following.
- Water Pollution: Lake Xochimilco witnesses high levels of pollution from sewage, industrial chemicals, etc. This can harm axolotls and affect the availability of their prey.
- Invasive Species: The introduction of non-native species of fish disrupts the ecosystem of axolotls. Not only do such species compete with axolotls over food, but they also prey on their eggs and juveniles.
- Habitat Loss: Axolotl habitat gets destroyed by urbanization, drought, and agriculture expansion.
- Overfishing: People fish axolotls for the pet trade, scientific research, and even eating (yes, axolotls are considered a delicacy in some regions). Sadly, unregulated harvesting can lead to population losses.
- Isolation: Because of their limited numbers and habitat isolation, axolotls suffer from reduced genetic diversity. In turn, it makes them more vulnerable to diseases and environmental changes.
Axolotls are often kept as pets for their ease of care, outstanding behavior, and unique looks. Their feathery gills and cute smiley faces are fascinating. Plus, they come in a range of colors, such as white, gold, black, and gray.
When in captivity, axolotls can live much longer than in the wild. Depending on the quality of care they receive, their life span can even exceed the 20-year mark, with an average of about 12 years.
Factors Affecting the Lifespan of Axolotls in Captivity
- Diet: It’s essential to feed axolotls balanced and nutritious meals. Generally, they’re carnivores that primarily eat insects, worms, brine shrimp, etc. So, a varied diet can contribute to their overall health.
- Water Quality: Maintaining clean and appropriate water conditions is vital for the lives of axolotls. Otherwise, poor water quality may lead to stress, diseases, and a shorter lifespan.
- Tank Size: The size of the tank axolotls live in plays a critical role in extending their lifespan. Optimally, a large tank with proper filtration can create a healthier environment for them.
- Temperature: Higher than usual temperature causes axolotls to stress out and shortens their lifespan.
- Handling: Experts recommend minimizing handling axolotls. They’re sensitive creatures. That’s why excessive or rough handling may lead to stress and potential injuries.
- Genetics: The genetic background of many axolotl species plays a part in its lifespan. Some of these creatures have a predisposition to certain health issues.
- Healthcare: Caring for and monitoring axolotls’ health is essential to maximize their lifespan.
How To Best Care for Axolotls for a Longer Lifespan
All the previously mentioned factors affecting axolotls’ life span in captivity are easy to accomplish. So, if you have one or are planning to get an axolotl soon, the following care guide is what you need.
1. Food and Diet
One of the main factors that aspiring axolotl owners should know is how feeding works. Axolotls are carnivores that need protein-rich food to remain healthy. They can consume a wide range of foods in captivity, such as commercial pelleted, live, or frozen foods.
Here’s a more detailed look at what axolotls eat and how to feed them.
- Live Food: Axolotls enjoy having live food, including bloodworms, brine shrimps, daphnia, and blackworms. Such insects are quite nutritious for axolotls. However, be careful when it comes to earthworms, as large-sized worms can cause axolotls to choke.
- Frozen Food: You can find both live and frozen foods in pet stores or online. Frozen food has almost the same varieties as live food but is much more conveniently stored.
- Pelleted Food: Some axolotl keepers like to offer high-quality axolotl pellets as part of their diet. Such products are specially formulated to provide essential nutrients.
- Raw Food: These exotic creatures can also enjoy some types of raw meat, such as beef, pork, or chicken. They’re actually considered a great source of additional protein.
Important Feeding Tips
- Ensure your axolotl gets a balanced diet by offering a variety of food.
- Avoid including feeder fish in axolotls’ diet as they can carry diseases.
- Keep in mind that juvenile axolotls need to eat every day or every other day, while adult ones eat only two to three times a week.
- Adjust the amount of food you give to your axolotl according to its size and appetite.
- Rinse live or frozen food with dechlorinated water before feeding to remove contaminants.
- Use feeding tongs or pipettes to place the food in front of your axolotl, as these animals have poor eyesight.
- Avoid overfeeding your axolotls as this may lead to obesity as well as water quality issues.
2. Tank Setup
For your axolotl’s well-being, you need to set up a suitable tank and provide optimal living conditions. Plus, make sure to place a few hiding spots for your axolotl to retreat when needed.
Here’s what you need to know about axolotl tank setup.
- Tank Size: Provide a spacious tank with a size of 20 gallons (or larger) for a single adult axolotl.
- Water Depth: Axolotls are bottom-dwelling creatures. So, keep the water relatively shallow, around 12–18 inches deep.
- Water Temperature: It’s important to keep the water at cooler temperatures between 60 and 68°F (15–20°C).
- pH Levels: Maintain water pH levels of between 7.0 and 7.4.
- Ammonia and Nitrite: Use a suitable filtration system to ensure that ammonia and nitrite levels are near zero.
- Water Changing: Make sure to change about 10–20% of the water every week to maintain its quality.
- Substrate: Use a fine type of substrate, such as sand or small pebbles to prevent accidental ingestion.
3. Tank Mates
Axolotls don’t get along well with other creatures. They like to be alone and don’t require any extra attention. So, if you want to introduce a tank mate to your axolotl, you might need to think twice about it.
Generally, adding a larger fish to the tank may cause stress to your axolotl. On the other hand, a smaller fish would instantly become a prey. On top of that, getting another axolotl isn’t a recommended option either, as they may become hostile and attack each other.
That said, your safest options are non-fish tank mates, such as snails or shrimp.
The Most Common Health Issues Affecting Axolotls Lifespan
While axolotls are hardy creatures, some health issues can affect their health and shorten their lives. Among the most common of these are:
- Stress: Changes in their environment, too much handling, or inappropriate tank mates can stress axolotls. This leads to a weakened immune system and other health problems.
- Metabolic Issues: Axolotls can suffer from metabolic disorders like impaction or constipation. Such issues are often a result of ingesting substrate.
- Bacterial Infections: Poor water quality can make axolotls susceptible to bacterial infections such as Aeromonas hydrophila.
- Metabolic Bone Disease: This condition affects axolotls bones and joints, causing them to become brittle over time.
- Parasites: External and internal parasites can affect axolotls, causing various health problems.
Axolotls are one-of-a-kind creatures that hold many mysteries inside their bodies. Despite their bizarre looks, they’re easy to care for, but exactly how long do axolotls live?
In the wild, axolotls’ age doesn’t exceed ten years. Yet, they’re famous for their remarkable longevity in captivity, with an average lifespan of about 10–15 years. Moreover, with proper care, axolotls can live for over 20 years.
So, provide suitable living conditions, maintain a balanced diet, and minimize stress factors to ensure the well-being of your axolotl.