Axolotls are popular exotic pets for several reasons. Top of the list is the fact that they are easy to care for and are mesmerizing to look at. They thrive in captivity and require very low maintenance, making them perfect beginner exotic pets. Perhaps one of the most common axolotl breeds is the golden axolotl.
The Golden axolotl is scientifically called Ambystoma mexicanum. It is native to Lake Xochimilco in Mexico. Axolotls occur in one natural color and four mutant colors. The golden albino axolotl is one of the morphs. It is golden colored and it has either pink or red eyes. You can also spot some shiny patches on their bodies, gill covers, and legs. Their aesthetic appeal is one of the main reasons why they are chosen as pets.
There are many interesting facts about the golden axolotl that anyone who is thinking about getting one as a pet should know. Not only will learning more about them help you realize just how amazing these creatures are, but it will also help you figure out whether or not the golden axolotl is the pet for you. This article will cover all the most interesting golden axolotl facts that you need to know.
Golden Axolotl Genetics
An axolotl’s color is determined by pigment cells known as chromatophores. There are three chromatophores- melanophores, xanthophores, and iridophores. The genes for these pigment cells are inherited from parent to child.
The golden axolotl owes its appearance to its condition- albinism. Albinism is caused by a recessive gene (to be visually seen in an offspring it has to be present in both parents). it causes a lack of melanophores. These are the pigment cells that contain eumelanin which is responsible for the black coloration.
The xanthophores are needed to produce the yellow and reddish pigmentation and since they are not affected by albinism, the axolotl takes up a golden color, hence its name.
Iridophores cause the axolotl’s skin to give off a shiny iridescence and they are also unaffected by albinism. This combination of genes results in the axolotl having golden skin with random shiny spots. You might also see that the golden axolotl has a shiny ring around the pupil of its eye.
What Does a Baby Golden Axolotl Look Like?
A golden axolotl egg takes 2 to 3 weeks to hatch. If the mother was also a visual albino axolotl, then the eggs will be white and have no pigment.
This pet is an amphibian so it goes through some stages of growth. When they are hatched as larvae, golden axolotls are almost white and they are about half an inch long. You might get confused since they resemble white albino axolotls at this stage.
Around 3 weeks after hatching, both the front and the hind legs will have started to form. The rate of development will depend on the temperature and feeding of the young axolotls. The axolotl’s color is also clearly visible at this time. As they grow, the yellow color will be deeper but most of them usually maintain a golden hue.
How Much is a Golden Axolotl?
The price of a golden axolotl will depend on its age, gender, and general appearance. Axolotls are preferred as pets due to their low temperament and their shiny appearance.
You can get your hands on a juvenile golden axolotl for any price between $30 and $70 depending on where you choose to buy it. Although they are commonly kept as exotic pets, they are often unavailable in pet stores since they need to be kept at cool temperatures. You can get one from a hobbyist or a supply.
What Habitat Does a Golden Axolotl Live in?
Golden axolotls naturally live in lakes. Try as much as you can to recreate this environment to ensure your pet is comfortable. One axolotl needs at least 10 gallons for water, so if you have two you will need 20 gallons of water. An axolotl grows to 12 inches at most, so a small aquarium with a tight lid will do.
Golden axolotls do not react well to chlorine so if you plan on using tap water, you will have to treat it first. You can fill the aquarium, unlike frogs that need some land.
Golden axolotls are albino, so light tends to hurt their eyes. Ensure you put in some large rocks to work as a hiding place for them.
The bottom of the aquarium can be left bare or filled with substrate. Leaving it bare may not be a good idea since the axolotl can get uncomfortable if it is unable to properly grip the surface. Sand can be considered the best for the job as it has small particles so if they end up in the axolotl’s body, it won’t suffer any digestion problems.
What Does a Golden Axolotl Eat?
Axolotls eat anything they can fit into their mouth. Those that grow in the wild eat worms, insects, and small fish. The ones bred in captivity eat large earthworms. You can also feed them bloodworms and blackworms.
Just like every other pet, the golden axolotl loves treats. You can feed it shrimp, prawns, or very lean strips of beef or chicken. It is also acceptable to feed it with the sinking pellets that are usually used to feed salmon and trout.
Being a salamander, you won’t need to get your golden axolotl any vitamin or mineral supplements.
A young axolotl needs to be fed daily and an adult usually eats around two earthworms every 2 to 3 days. As you get to know your pet, you will learn its feeding habit and adjust the feeding schedule as needed.
What Diseases Affect the Golden Axolotl?
There are a few diseases and injuries that can affect your golden axolotl. Here are the most common:
If your pet gets stressed, it is highly likely to fall sick. There are a few factors that can cause stress to a golden axolotl in captivity. Most of them are caused by the habitat you keep it in;
- Golden axolotls love still water. If the aquarium pump is too strong, this might stress your pet.
- Temperatures above 24 degrees Celsius are too hot for an axolotl and this will stress it.
- If you use tap water to fill the aquarium, ensure the water is treated as golden axolotls don’t do well in chlorinated water. Also, ensure the water is fresh and has no spoiled food in it.
- Axolotls, in general, can be cannibalistic, especially during their juvenile stage. Keeping your golden axolotl in an aquarium with aggressive animals will surely stress it.
A stressed golden axolotl will often refuse to eat due to a loss of appetite. You may also notice that it will curl its tail and turn it gills forward.
When an axolotl’s digestive system is not doing well, it is suffering from impaction. This happens when it swallows small stones or gravel. This is why sand is an appropriate substrate. Constipation can also cause impaction, so take care not to overfeed your golden axolotl.
If you notice the signs of impaction in your axolotl, fridging it can help solve this problem. Fridging involves keeping your axolotl in lower temperatures when it is sick or impacted. These low temperatures help it to get rid of the undigested food to prevent rotting.
Naturally, your golden axolotl will stay at the bottom of the tank but it can make itself float. There may be a problem if you notice your golden axolotl having trouble getting back to the bottom of the tank. Be keen for any signs of distress that your golden axolotl may show as it floats. You should also be concerned if you notice your golden axolotl floating up against its will, or if it floats too much.
Floating could be a sign that your axolotl is suffering from bloating or compaction. To tell whether it is floating for fun or not, gently scare it so that it goes to the bottom of the tank. If it floats back up unwillingly, this is a sign that something is not okay.
Fridging your axolotl can help to solve this problem. There might be a problem with the water parameters too, so check them and make necessary adjustments to rule this out.
How Should I Handle My Golden Axolotl?
The golden axolotl has no bone in its body, literally. Its skeleton is mostly built out of cartilage. Like most amphibians, their skin is smooth, permeable, and sensitive.
For this reason, the golden axolotl is highly delicate and should not be handled. If you need to take your pet out of the aquarium use a soft net with small holes so that its fingers and limbs don’t get stuck.
You should not keep more than one young golden axolotl in the same enclosure. They exhibit cannibalistic behavior and they tend to bite off the legs and gills of the animals they share the tank with. If you have no options but to keep the juveniles together, ensure they are well fed and they have lots of space between them. Their nippy behavior also makes it so that you cannot keep any other animal in an aquarium with the axolotl.
As adults, they can have tank-mates and exist peacefully. Although this is true, the golden axolotl is happiest when living alone.