Axolotl Care 101: Tank Setup, Food, Lifespan & More!

There are few pets as adorable as the axolotl, and when you look into how to care for them, there are few pets that make it this easy! But while they might be easy to care for, they do still have unique care requirements that can be easy to screw up if you don’t know what you’re doing.

That’s why we came up with this comprehensive guide to walk you through everything you need to know. That way, you can care for your axolotl right the first time and enjoy plenty of years of their cute adorableness, without a ton of extra work!

How Easy Is an Axolotl to Care For?

Few pets are as easy to take care of as the axolotl – once you have their habitat set up correctly, that is. While they’re generally a low-maintenance and easy to care for pet, their habitat requirements are extremely unique and different from most other amphibians.

So, if you want an axolotl, don’t worry about how hard they will be to keep up with, but do plenty of research on what they need before you bring one home. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to get all the information you need.

How Much Does an Axolotl Cost?

While tracking down an axolotl isn’t always the easiest thing to do, once you do, they’re not overly expensive. Expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $75.

Keep in mind that most pet stores don’t typically carry axolotls though, because their care requirements are so different from most other amphibians and reptiles. This means you’ll need to track down a private breeder to find what you’re looking for.

Finally, keep in mind that the exact cost of your can vary quite a bit depending on the color morph and overall appearance.

axolotl appearance

Axolotl Appearance

One of the primary selling points of the axolotl is their unique appearance. They have tadpole-like bodies with four legs, and they have multiple feathery gills that protrude from the size of their head.

A full-grown axolotl can reach about 12-inches in length and weigh about 4-ounces. They’re not the largest animals out there, but for an aquarium amphibian they reach a decent size.

And while there aren’t many wild axolotl color variants out there, in captivity, there are tons of color morphs and appearances for you to choose from.

Common colors include white with gold flecks, golden albino, grayish-green, copper, lavender, black, pure white, and green fluorescent.

With axolotls there’s just about any color morph you could want out there, it’s just how much you’re willing to pay for one and how long you’re willing to wait to track it down.

Axolotl Lifespan and Health

While it can be a little challenging to track down your axolotl, the good news is that once you get them, they have a reasonably long lifespan. The average axolotl will live about 15 years, but they can live as long as 20 years.

This means that adding an axolotl to your home isn’t a short-term consideration. But for those that want an easy to care for pet, the axolotl suffers from few health problems.

As long as you keep their aquarium clean, at the right temperature, and with the right substrate, there aren’t any health problems you should need to worry about.

Handling an Axolotl

Handling an axolotl is no easy task, and it’s something you should only do in emergency situations or when absolutely necessary. That’s because the axolotl has extremely sensitive bodies that are prone to injury if you squeeze them too hard.

Not only that, but they can be hard to catch in nets, and even then, you need to be extremely careful when moving them. The axolotl isn’t a pet you should try petting or cuddling, and it’s really best to leave them alone in the aquarium outside of feeding.

Aquarium Set-Up

Before we dive into the specific requirements for your axolotl, we want to address one common misconception. Your axolotl does not need any land space in their habitat. In fact, any land space you add will be completely unused.

So, what does their aquarium need then? We’re glad you asked.

axolotl Aquarium Set-Up


While the minimum tank size for an axolotl is 10-gallons, we really need to emphasize that’s the minimum tank size. A much better fit would be a 20-gallon long aquarium. Because the axolotl spends almost all of their time at the bottom of the tank, it’s essential to realize that adding vertical gallons doesn’t do much for them.

Also, since axolotls don’t always do well with other axolotls, we recommend adding a little extra space on top of the minimum 10-gallons for each one you add. So, technically, you only need a 20-gallon tank for two axolotls, but we recommend upping that to at least 30-gallons to prevent fighting.

With axolotls more space is always better.


While the axolotls are native to Mexican waters, they actually need a relatively cool water temperature to thrive. Warm temperatures stress them out, and water temps in the mid-60s are ideal.

Adding tank heaters is a common mistake owners make, and it only leads to stress, a loss of appetite, and eventual death. If you’re struggling to keep the aquarium cool enough during the summer months, an aquarium chiller should help you do the trick.


Since the axolotl spends most of their time at the bottom of the tank, picking the right substrate is crucial. It’s even more critical when you consider that they eat by sucking water up, which can lead to the ingestion of the substrate.

While some people choose to skip the substrate altogether, this can make it difficult for the axolotl to move around, and will likely stress them out. It’d be like if you had to navigate an ice rink to get to where you’re going every time you want to get somewhere!

Because of this, the best possible substrate you can use is sand. While your axolotl will certainly ingest some sand from time to time, it’s small enough that it won’t create any impaction issues. Not only that, but axolotls love to dig and play in the sand, so it’s a win-win for them!


Unlike many reptiles and amphibians, the axolotl doesn’t need any specific lighting requirements. But while they don’t need any specific lights, there are some lights you shouldn’t be using. Bright lights stress out axolotls, and you need to avoid them.

Keep in mind that axolotls live in caves in their natural environment, so they’re not used to bright lights. There are special dark lights you can use to view your axolotl without overly stressing them out though, as while they don’t need these lights, you might want them so you can see them!

Finally, keep in mind that if you have live plants in the aquarium, they will still need UV light, so you might have to invest a little more to get a light that’s not too bright but still keeps your plants alive.


It’s the most fun part of setting up the tank, and it’s not something you want to skimp on if you own an axolotl. They need tons of decorations around the surface, especially caves they can crawl around and under.

You can also add as many plants as you’d like, and they typically won’t dig anything up. Have fun decorating, just ensure there’s still plenty of space for them to crawl around the surface.

Feeding Instructions

If you’re looking for a pet that’s easy to feed, then it doesn’t get much easier than the axolotl. Adult axolotls only eat every two to three days, and they won’t overeat! Meanwhile, an adolescent axolotl needs to eat every day, but they won’t overeat either.

This means if you’re unsure if your axolotl is still hungry, simply offer them more food. If they eat it, they’re good to go now as they were still hungry!

Staples in their diet include nightcrawlers and bloodworm cubes, but keep in mind that the axolotl feeds off movement. So with a live nightcrawler, there’s nothing you need to do, but with bloodworm cubes, you’ll need to wiggle it around.

You can also feed your axolotl occasional cuts of cooked shrimp, beef, or chicken. Just ensure you don’t overdo it, since they’re not natural staples in their diet.


While axolotls might be cute and have a smile on their face, if you pair them up with other axolotls or fish, you might run into problems. That’s because the axolotl has a more aggressive temperament.

You shouldn’t have any problem when you reach in to feed them, but they’re not the friendliest to other tank mates.

Axolotl Tankmates

While we’d all love to fill up the top half of our axolotl aquariums with various fish, unfortunately there are no good tankmates for an axolotl. The only acceptable tank mates are other axolotls of the same gender, but even then, they need enough space, or they’ll fight.

If you think you can just add a larger fish your axolotl can’t mess with, the problem then is the fish will mess with the axolotl. Even if it’s not an aggressive fish, the axolotl is just an extremely enticing target.

Meanwhile, smaller fish look like a great snack to your axolotl. Unfortunately, there are no good tank mates, so just keep it an axolotl-only enclosure.

Breeding Axolotls

If you’re looking to breed axolotls, there is good and bad news. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to do, and we’ll walk you through how to do it here. The bad news is that there’s no money in it. In fact, chances are you’ll end up spending more than you make when you breed them.

But it can be a fun experience, so it’s up to you whether or not it’s worth the experience!

Breeding Axolotls

How to Breed Axolotls

While wild axolotls only breed once every 12-months, when they’re in captivity, nothing is stopping you from breeding them whenever the tank conditions are right. Start by reducing the amount of light around them a few weeks before you want them to breed.

Once they become accustomed to the lower light levels, slowly increase the amount of light they get. At the same time, reduce the temperature in the tank by a few degrees. These conditions should get your two axolotls to breed.

Once the two axolotls mate you should get eggs. Once the female has laid the eggs, you need to either remove the axolotls or remove the eggs. That’s because adult axolotls will eat their own eggs, which means you won’t get any babies!

Not only that, but for best results you should up the tank’s temperature with the fry to about 72 degrees for better results. While this is great for the fry, it’s too warm for adult axolotls.

Once the eggs hatch the larvae won’t move for two to three days. Don’t assume they didn’t make it, just give them time. They’re about ½” long at this point, and they feed off the egg yolk. Once they start to wiggle around you’ll need to feed them live baby brine shrimp or other small live foods.

Once they’re old enough, you can feed them typical foods, but larvae don’t have a sense of smell yet.

Keep in mind that a single axolotl can lay 1,100 eggs, but 100 to 150 surviving is a decent rate. Also, keep in mind that once they reach a certain size, you’ll need to separate them. This means you need to have plenty of tanks available, and this is often the most notable obstacle to overcome when breeding your axolotl.


If you still have some questions about the axolotl after reading through the guide, you’re not alone. That’s why we took the time to address some of the most frequently asked questions about the axolotl here.

Can You Raise an Axolotl?

Absolutely! When it comes to raising pets, the axolotl is among the easiest to care for. Just get their habitat conditions correct, clean their enclosure, and feed them regularly! Easy to care for and adorable to look at, the axolotl is a win-win.

Can You Take an Axolotl Out of Water?

While an axolotl needs to live in water, they can survive for short periods outside of water. However, just because they can live for a bit out of water doesn’t mean you should take them out of the water.

That’s because not only does the axolotl need to stay moist and avoid drying out, but they also breathe through gills. So, if you need to take your axolotl out of water in an emergency situation, they should be alright, but don’t take them out just to play with them or hold them.

Are Axolotls Good Pets?

Yes! Axolotls are incredibly adorable, easy to care for, and make phenomenal pets all around. While you can’t cuddle with them like you can a cat or dog, they’re also far easier to care for and don’t require as much attention each day.

If you want a low-maintenance pet, an axolotl is an outstanding choice.

Can You Legally Own an Axolotl?

It depends on where you live. If you live in California, Maine, New Jersey, or Virginia, owning an axolotl is illegal. The reason that some states ban the owning of axolotls is two-fold.

First is the misguided belief that axolotls are endangered in the wild, so they shouldn’t be owned by humans. While axolotls are certainly endangered, breeders have bred the axolotls you’re purchasing in captivity for generations, and they could no longer thrive in the wild either way.

Nothing highlights this more than the color morphs. While they may be stunning in your aquarium, these morphs would be a death sentence in the wild.

The second concern stems from inconsiderate pet owners. Axolotls can wreak havoc on local ecosystems if they get outside. But considering the axolotl only gets introduced into the wild on purpose by irresponsible pet owners, bans on this pet tend to punish the majority for the actions of a few.

As long as you care for your axolotl well from cradle to grave, there’s no reason you can’t ethically own an axolotl, no matter where you live.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy an Axolotl?

You should expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $75 to purchase an axolotl, with a large variance in price between the different color morphs. Some color variations are rarer than others, and these will be more expensive.

Still, axolotls are not very expensive overall, and you shouldn’t spend more than $75 no matter the rarity of the color morph.

Final Thoughts

While the axolotl is easy to care for and can make an excellent pet for many, if you don’t take your time and do your research, it’s easy to make mistakes. But since you took the time to track down and read through this guide, you shouldn’t have any problems – as long as you follow everything we recommended.

So, what are you waiting for? Track down an axolotl for sale today, because we could all use a little extra cuteness in our lives.