If you want to breed your axolotls or acquire a few, you need to learn to raise the little ones from scratch.
Given their susceptibility to variations in water needs, the care of baby axolotls is unique.
Regrettably, many axolotl babies encounter difficulties with genetic factors and tank water infections. These pose significant risks during their early weeks.
However, with proper care, they can overcome these challenges and develop into robust adults.
Intrigued to know more? Let’s dive right in.
Axolotl Breeding Overview
You should only breed axolotls if you have prior experience in fish or amphibian breeding. So, if you meet that criteria and want to try your luck with a pair of axolotls, here is a short overview of the breeding process.
Note: This is only a short version. You can read more about it in our main axolotl care guide!
Axolotls breed in late winter and early spring. Adults, when ready to breed, need increased temperature and light.
The male nudges the female, leading her in a courting dance. He deposits spermatophores, a capsule of sperm.
He then directs her over to the spermatophores for fertilization. She picks up the sperm packet with her cloaca. This process is known as indirect implantation or fertilization.
Axolotl sperm doesn’t have a flagellum, which looks like a tail and helps it move forward. Instead, the sperm uses the spin flagellum mechanism to move through water.
Females lay 400-1500 eggs 12-72 hours after fertilization. These eggs have several thick jelly-like layers. They attach them to tank rocks or plants and may breed multiple times in a season.
Once eggs are found, relocate them carefully. Avoid touching eggs with bare hands to prevent harm.
If any egg is laid on rocks, slowly slice it from the rock. Don’t worry; it won’t crack the eggs. If laid on plants, remove and place the plant in the new tank.
Prepare a newly cycled tank of about 15 gallons for hatching. Fill it with dechlorinated water. Choose a temperature of 77 °F (25 °C) for a faster hatching period of about 15-21 days. For slower hatching, go for a temperature of 64 °F (18 °C).
As the eggs mature, the tail and gills are visible within the eggs.
Once most eggs hatch, consider removing the jelly coat from unhatched ones using sharp forceps.
Knowing and Caring Your Baby Axolotls
Color & Features
Axolotl larvae have external gills resembling fins, lack all four legs, and instead have limb buds. It gives them a fish-like appearance despite being amphibians. They retain most larval qualities even as adults.
During their early stages, baby axolotls typically showcase shades of black and brown and yellow or green spots. As they mature, their color evolves. They reach their full size in 18-24 months.
Baby axolotls look quite similar to baby tiger salamanders.
Newly hatched axolotls are approximately 11 mm (1.1 cm) long – about the size of a rice grain. In an optimal environment with proper food, they can grow around one centimeter per week.
For the well-being of baby axolotls, understand their feeding needs, suitable foods, and feeding techniques.
During the first 24-72 hours, baby axolotls absorb nutrients from the embryo sac. After that, feed very small-sized live food like daphnia, microworms, or freshly hatched baby brine shrimp.
They don’t actively search for food. So ensure they’re well-fed by placing small worms close to their mouths with tools like a turkey baster. The movement of live prey stimulates their feeding instincts.
Once they’re slightly under an inch long, introduce larger foods, including bloodworms, blackworms, and axolotl-specific sinking pellets.
During development, feed once or twice a day for a few minutes. As they mature, reduce feeding frequency to every two to three days.
Promptly remove any unconsumed food to prevent bacterial contamination.
Initially, keep very young ones together as they don’t develop a sense of cannibalism yet. Cannibalism kicks in once they grow bigger, especially when legs are fully developed. To minimize cannibalism, follow these steps:
- In my opinion, it’s best to separate babies based on size when they reach 2 cm.
- Place them in a highly planted tank with low lighting to cut their line of sight.
- Some recommend feeding them enough to avoid cannibalism.
Tank & Housing Needs
Initially, axolotl babies can share a tank in their larval stage. As they grow, separate them by size to avoid cannibalism. Make sure you focus on the little ones’ tank needs while relocating them. Here are a few things to do to maintain the best environment.
- Tank Cycling: Ensure all tanks are cycled before introducing the babies.
- Filtration: Perform daily water changes and use a sponge filter for tank cleaning.
- Location: Keep the tank away from direct sunlight for a stable environment.
- Lid: Keep the lid on as they may jump.
- Substrate: Though often deemed unnecessary, substrate gives security. Opt for sand and avoid gravel.
- Hiding spots: Provide hiding spots like ceramic pieces, caves, or structures.
- Plants: For beginner axolotl owners, artificial plants are recommended over live ones. You can also opt for floating plants, decorations, and driftwood to provide cover.
Axolotl babies are sensitive to water quality and need slightly warmer water for optimal growth. So, maintain these numbers:
- Water Temperature: 70 to 72°F
- pH Levels: 7.4 to 7.6.
- Ammonia: 0 ppm
- Nitrite: 0 ppm
- Nitrate: Less than 30 ppm
Ideal Daily Routine for Newly Hatched Axolotls (Up to 1.5 inches):
Until your baby axolotls grow to 1.5 inches long, here’s how you care for them regularly.
Feed the Larvae: Place food into the tub with axolotls. Allow them to eat until their tummies are full.
Change the Water: Transfer axolotls to a clean tub with pre-prepared water using a turkey baster or net. Alternatively, remove water, food, and waste using utensils, topping up with prepared water.
Prepare Water for the Next Day: Clean the tub from which axolotls were moved. Fill it with dechlorinated cycled water, placing it next to the larvae-filled tub for consistent temperature.
There are some common diseases in baby axolotls. Know all about them here to ensure their well-being in captivity.
|Exophthalmia (Bulging Eyes)||High nitrate levels, poor water conditions||Bulging eyes||Perform regular water changes. Use a filter to maintain optimal water quality.|
|Hyperthermia||High water temperatures above 73°F (23°C)||Loss of appetite, fluid buildup in the abdomen, uncontrollable floating||Reduce water temperature. Refrigerate the water partially for quick relief. Antibiotic therapy for bacterial infection. Use a tank cooling system to prevent overheating.|
|Overfeeding||Excessive food intake||Impaction, obesity.||Feed only for 1-3 minutes. Monitor eating habits, especially in a tank with multiple axolotls.|
|Underfeeding||Providing less food||Stunted growth and potential health issues.||Provide adequate nutrients daily.|
|Skin Infections||Poor water quality, parasites||Blisters, lesions.||Maintain good water quality. Consult a vet for diagnosis and treatment. Regularly check water quality to prevent infections.|
|Injuries||Aggression in a shared tank or sharp edges in decorations.||Visible damage||Isolate injured axolotls. Remove sharp-edged decorations. Avoid housing multiple axolotls in small enclosures.|
|Floating Upside Down||Gas accumulation, stress, water quality issues, poor digestion, or intestinal occlusion.||Floating upside down.||Reduce food portions. Quarantine in a small tank. Check and correct water quality. Consult a vet if floating persists after 4-5 days.|
Axolotl Baby Buying Tips
Common morphs typically cost around $20, while rarer morphs may be more expensive. While buying, look for signs of a healthy axolotl:
- Active behavior
- Smooth, non-flaky skin
- Plump body
- Ease in moving
Be cautious of signs of illness like a curled tail and uncontrollable floating.
A word from FIA
The journey of baby axolotls from little larvae to full-grown adults is truly fascinating. However, you need to be alert to ensure you don’t lose healthy specimens.
Provide them with proper care, nutrition, and space right from the start to ensure their healthy development.
If you find the article helpful, share it with fellow axolotl enthusiasts. Remember, you can mail us anytime if you need any support in your axolotl rearing journey.