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Axolotols (Walking Fish)
Ambystoma mexicanum

The Mexican Walking Fish is a most fascinating creature, looking and often acting, like miniature pre-historic monsters. They can grow to a size of up to 30cm. These animals are often kept as pets, in homes, all over the world and are extensively used for study as laboratory animals. A little known fact is that the natives of Mexico have used the roasted axolotol as food since pre-Aztec times.

Axolotols are the larval stage of a salamander, and are different from other amphibians in that they have the ability to reproduce while remaining a sexually mature lava. Walking fish come in grey/brown colour, an albino form (which has a white body and bright pink gills), a golden form, and a spotted pattern which is seldom seen.

The name walking fish refers to the animals habit of walking whilst under water. Walking fish should not be removed from the water and forced to crawl on land as they cannot breath out of water. Death would rapidly occur as would be expected with fish.

Axolotols are supposed to have the ability to undergo metamorphosis (Similar to a tadpole changing into a frog) and change to an air breathing, land dwelling salamander, but this very seldom occurs. It seems that most strains have now lost the ability to metamorphose.

Axolotols are best housed in conditions similar to goldfish, as their temperature and water requirements are the same. An aquarium 60cm x 30cm x 30cm will house a full grown pair of axolotols. The tank should be aerated and filtered, as axolotols extract oxygen from the water through their gills, and the quality and clarity of the water is important to their well being.

Lighting is best kept moderately dim, as axolotols are somewhat nocturnal in nature.

In the aquarium, axolotols can be fed small pieces of raw lean beef, or beef liver or beef heart. It is a good idea to provide some variety occasionally by feeding earth worms, tadpoles or even small fish. Feeding every second day is usually sufficient. Requirements for food increases with increased temperature, and at temperatures below 10'C they usually refuse to eat altogether. Always remember to remove any uneaten food or pollution will occur.

Male and female axolotols are difficult the differentiate, even when sexually mature, which is about 12 months of age. The male shows a swelling around the cloace area (the sexual opening), is more slender, has a longer tail and the head is narrower. The female lays between 300 to 1000 eggs when she spawns in early spring. Eggs hatch in about two weeks at a temperature of 14-18'C. Parents should be removed from the tank after spawning and young raised on live food.

When a large number of axolotols are kept together it is important that they are well fed; hungry individuals may attack others in the tank. It is most interesting, that in the event of a limb or portion of the animal being bitten off, it will regenerate. The damaged individuals are best isolated and given extra food and attention. The regeneration process seems to be more rapid at lower temperatures.

Given the right conditions, your axolotols should give you 10-15 years of enjoyment.

They are certainly one of the world's most interesting creatures.