SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Caring for axolotls

Axolotls (also referred to as Mexican Walking Fish) are not fish at all! They are amphibians native to Mexico and can live up to 20 years!


Axolotls are carnivorous predators who like to eat a range of insects, small fish and crustaceans. It is important to supplement your axolotl’s diet with calcium and/or a multivitamin, as they are prone to developing calcium deficiencies.

Adult axolotls should be fed every second day. Their food needs to be chopped into small pieces, as axolotls cannot chew their food and need to be able to swallow their food whole.

Note: Try ‘wiggling’ your axolotl’s food when feeding. Axolotls are adapted to eating moving prey and therefore this can help your axolotl recognise its food.


Axolotls have external gills and need to submerged in water all times!

Axolotls can grow up to 30cm in length, so you need a tank large enough to allow them to grow. The bigger the tank the better!

Place your tank in a stable and quiet environment, one that doesn’t experience significant changes in temperature and away from direct sunlight. Tank water should be maintained between 17-18°C. It is very important to monitor the water temperature of your axolotl aquarium closely with an aquarium thermometer. Axolotls are adapted to cool, still, fresh water and can develop serious problems if their water becomes over-heated. The pH of the water should be maintained around neutral (6.5-7.5).

Axolotls should not be housed together, as they can be aggressive to other members of the same species.

When putting substrate in you axolotl’s tank, you should only use big rocks or decorations for the bottom of their tank, or sand. Anything smaller than the axolotls’ head and they will try to eat it. It is good to use decorations such as plants or caves in their tanks as they love to hide.


Bloat is a common issue for axolotls, which can be caused by infection, parasites, and inappropriate water temperature. Other common diseases seen in axolotls include: metabolic bone disease, obesity, red leg, water-borne parasites and poor water quality.

If you have any concerns about your axolotl please consult your veterinarian. Health check-ups for axolotls are recommended every 6-12 months.


Axolotls should never be handled (unless absolutely necessary!). They are very delicate and can be easily injured and will suffocate if their external gills dry out when removed from water.

Axolotls are slow-moving and docile animals. They are not very active and may spend a lot of time at the bottom of their tank. You may see them digging in their tank substrate and rearranging their plants/hides on occasion.

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