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How to care for axolotls

Feeding

  • Axolotls can be trained to take a variety of foods, such as worms, insects, freshwater shrimps, and tadpoles, or more convenient foods, such as raw beef meat (trimmed of all fat), liver, beef or lamb heart, and cat food. Mince is not suitable food because it contains preservatives. A popular method of feeding is to cut beef schnitzels into strips 0.5 centimetres × 3 centimetres, wrap them in meal-sized portions, and then freeze them until they are needed. However, if the axolotls mainly eat raw beef, give them a multivitamin supplement.
  • The amount to feed varies with the axolotl's size, its stage of maturity, and the water temperature. Axolotls need feeding only two or three times a week because they take two to three days, on average, to digest their food. Digestion will be faster at higher temperatures and slower in cold weather. If the temperature falls below 10°C, they will regurgitate their food.
  • It is less messy to feed axolotls by hand, holding the food in blunt/round-nosed forceps in front of the animal. Watch carefully because sometimes axolotls eat little during the day. If that is the case, it may be wise to feed them at night, when they become more active, in order to prevent them from eating each other!

Handling

  • Handle axolotls only when it is necessary, such as when cleaning the tank. They can be trapped with a shallow net and then gently grasped with one hand around their neck and shoulders and the other around their abdomen and hind legs. Do not squeeze them because they are easily damaged. When handling them, take care as they often thrash their tails around, which could damage them.
  • Handle the animals only with clean, wet hands that have no trace of soap or detergent on them. Take any rings off before handling them and always wash your hands afterwards.

Health

  • Learn what is normal behaviour for axolotls and check them daily. Remember that because axolotls breathe through their skin, it must not dry out.
  • Incorrect environmental conditions and inadequate nutrition can make axolotls sick. To avoid this, feed them a variety of foods and maintain good-quality water.
  • Axolotls can also be affected by viruses and bacteria. At any sign of illness, or if you have questions, consult a veterinarian.
  • Beware of ammonia build-up, which is toxic. Ammonia is the main metabolic waste product of axolotls, and it also comes from decomposing food and other organic material. Increased levels of ammonia can also be caused by overcrowding, overfeeding, high water pH, warm water, and new tanks that haven't had time to develop good populations of nitrifying bacteria. Having a good water flow, changing water regularly, and removing uneaten food and faecal material can control ammonia levels.

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