While this unique-looking salamander has the exceptional ability to completely regrow an entire amputated limb, you have probably wondered about the axolotl lifespan.
To begin with, many people often believe that these critters can live forever. However, this is only a misconception. The life expectancy of an axolotl depends on many factors, such as its genes, environment, and diet.
Moreover, they are predisposed to certain illnesses that can shorten their lives significantly. Luckily, this guide will help you understand the longevity of these amphibians and what you can do to prolong their lifespan. Let’s start!
Axolotl Lifespan in Captivity: How Long Do Axolotls Live as Pets?
Axolotls kept in captivity can live between 10 and 15 years on average. However, this will vary depending on the quality of care they receive. If properly maintained, an axolotl can live for up to 20 years.
Despite being able to regenerate a tail, lost limbs, some complex parts of its nervous system, and even its heart, the axolotl, or the Mexican walking fish, has a shorter lifespan compared to other salamanders.
Nonetheless, this exotic amphibian is still one of the most sought-after pets in the United States. Due to the unusual appearance of axolotls, they continue to attract many pet owners looking for something different, even at a hefty cost.
Moreover, axolotls kept as pets live longer than their wild counterparts since they are not subjected to harsh conditions. The following section will provide more details on this.
Wild Axolotl Lifespan: How Long Do Axolotls Live in the Wild?
A wild axolotl’s lifespan typically ranges from 5 to 10 years, whereas axolotls in captivity tend to live longer.
To survive in their natural habitat, they need a healthy ecosystem that provides plenty of food and clean water. Unfortunately, these conditions are not always present in the wild.
Even though they are native to lakes and streams in Mexico, they can’t thrive there anymore due to pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change.
As a result, these factors have caused the axolotl population to decline drastically over the last several decades.
In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them as critically endangered on their red list of threatened species since 2006.
So what action can be taken to preserve the smile of this precious creature? Scientists are currently working on ways to breed axolotls in captivity so that they may be reintroduced into their natural habitat once again.
The Oldest Living Axolotl: How Old Is the Oldest Axolotl in the World?
Sadly, there is no way of knowing how old the oldest axolotl in the world is.
While axolotls have been used for centuries in the study of regeneration, it is hard to pinpoint exactly when they started living longer than their wild counterparts.
That said, we do know that they can live for up to 15 years in captivity and up to 10 years in their natural environment. So while they may not be immortal, they have a long expected lifespan.
On a different note, the oldest known salamander and amphibian was a giant Japanese salamander found in Amsterdam. According to the Guinness World Records (GWR), this critter lived for 52 years.
Factors That Determine the Lifespan of Your Axolotl
As with other types of salamanders, the lifespan of your axolotl is determined by many different factors.
When considering whether or not to acquire one as a pet, it is best to be aware of all these to ensure that you can provide the best care for your new friend.
To help you out, the following are some of the most common factors that influence the axolotl lifespan:
Food and Diet
The first thing that aspiring pet owners should know is that axolotls have very specific dietary needs. They are carnivores and require protein-rich food to keep them healthy and happy.
In their natural habitat, axolotls feed on small fish, worms, crustaceans, and insects. In captivity, however, they can be fed commercial pellets designed for them or vitamin-fortified frozen and live foods, including:
- Ghost shrimps
- Brine shrimps
- Red wrigglers
- Repashy gel food (Meat Pie or Grub Pie)
Fortunately, these products are readily available in pet stores and online. Moreover, bits of raw meat such as pork, beef, or chicken can also be used to provide additional protein for these exotic critters.
Keep in mind, though, that the type of food you give your axolotl will depend on its age and size. For instance, juvenile axolotls should be fed smaller and more frequent meals than adults.
While baby and adult axolotls can eat live food, owners should ensure that it does not contain harmful bacteria or parasites.
Health and Genetics
Similar to any other species, the lifespan of an axolotl is heavily affected by its genetic makeup.
To begin with, one of the leading causes of mortality in these creatures is the formation of abnormal cells or tumors.
Even though axolotls are known for being immune to cancer, these abnormal growths can cause other health problems to develop. For example, a fluid build-up can occur in their lungs if the tumor obstructs airways.
Additionally, as more and more tumors form, they begin to take up space in an axolotl’s vital organs, affecting its liver and kidneys. This leads to further health complications that may result in death if left untreated.
Tank Setup and Care
The best tanks for axolotls are ones that mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible. That means having a filter, water cooler, and at least two hiding places for your new friend inside its tank.
You will also need to be aware that axolotls require ample space for swimming. If they are not given enough room, they will become stressed and unhealthy.
Due to this, a 20-gallon fish tank is the minimum recommended size for housing an adult axolotl; however, larger tanks are better.
In terms of aquarium accessories, you can get creative with some aquatic plants, such as java fern, water hyacinth, elodea, or anubias. These plants do not need high light levels and will help create a natural setting for your pet.
Another thing to consider when setting up an axolotl environment is adding a substrate. Big rocks or sand are usually used as a substrate to help anchor plants and other decorations.
Apart from choosing a suitable tank, axolotls need adequate lighting and temperature conditions.
First, the lighting should be low enough for them to feel relaxed and comfortable.
However, if an owner chooses to place an aquatic plant that requires a good light source, ensure that there are dark areas where your axolotl can hide or have privacy.
Second, the temperature of the water should be 59.0 to 73.4°F (15.0 to 23.0°C). If left in an aquarium with too high or too low temperatures, they can develop health problems such as respiratory infections and even die from stress.
In addition to temperature considerations, axolotls also need tanks with the following specific water parameters:
- The pH levels are between 6.5 and 8
- A chlorine level of 0 ppm
- An ammonia level of 0 ppm
- General hardness is between 7 and 14 degrees
- Carbonated hardness is between 3 and 8 degrees
- A nitrate level of less than 10 ppm
Fortunately, owners can invest in liquid test kits and aquarium thermometers to make sure the water quality stays at a level that’s optimal for axolotls.
As long as all these parameters and requirements are met, you should have no trouble keeping your axolotl healthy for years to come.
Although axolotls may seem like cheerful animals due to their smiling faces, they do not interact well with other creatures. They are quite content to be left alone in their tanks and do not need much attention from their owners.
Adding a bigger fish to the aquarium can create problems for your axolotl, as it will be bullied by the newcomer. Meanwhile, a smaller fish would likely become an instant snack for your exotic critter.
Unfortunately, putting two axolotls in one tank is not recommended as well. There is a high probability that they will attack and eat one another if they share the same water space.
What Do Axolotls Usually Die From?
Despite being low-maintenance creatures, axolotls can die in their natural habitat or in captivity for various reasons.
In the wild, they are more likely to die from predators or water pollution than diseases. For example, they will fall prey to birds and other aquatic animals like predatory salamanders, tilapias, carp, and other big invasive fish.
Furthermore, humans have also been known to destroy the axolotl environment by polluting the water with toxins and harmful chemicals. That is why they do not exist in many lakes and rivers nowadays.
On the other hand, domesticated axolotls have a higher chance of survival due to their increased access to food sources. However, this does not mean they are unsusceptible from health issues or death.
In fact, they can suffer from stress-related disorders, bacterial and fungal infections, and even parasite infestations. They can also be impacted by their artificial environment’s water quality and temperature levels.
Common Health Issues in Axolotls
Before you decide to bring home your new pet axolotl, you must be aware of some common health issues affecting these precious critters.
While they are considered a generally hardy type of salamander, their lifespan is often shortened by various aspects, including poor water quality, insufficient diet, and improper handling practices.
To better understand what you are getting into, here is a list of a few health problems that can shorten the axolotl lifespan:
- Impaction: Impaction is a condition wherein the axolotl’s digestive tract becomes clogged up with pebbles or other material, causing a blockage in its intestines and usually resulting in death. If impaction is suspected, the axolotl should be taken immediately to the vet clinic.
- Stress: Stress can be a contributing factor in the death of axolotls. Stressors can be many things, such as a change in water temperature, a sign of injury, or an aggressive tank mate. Unfortunately, all these can negatively alter your axolotl’s behavior and overall health, resulting in a shortened lifespan.
- Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): As its name implies, metabolic bone disease is a condition that affects your axolotl’s bones and joints. This makes them weak or brittle over time from the lack of calcium or vitamin D3 in their diet. Common signs include loss of appetite, difficulty moving around, slow regeneration, and stress.
- Aeromonas Hydrophila: Aeromonas hydrophila is a bacterial infection that causes ulceration on the skin and fins of your axolotl. It is highly contagious, and if left untreated, it can be fatal. Nonetheless, some antibiotics have been proven effective in combating this infection if administered early.
Though axolotls are perfect for owners looking for a low-key pet, regular monitoring is necessary to guarantee they continue to thrive in captivity. They are also prone to parasites, so one must keep their living environment clean.
8 Easy Tips to Help Your Axolotl Live Longer
Now that you know the factors and health problems that can affect the longevity of axolotls, it’s time to talk about how to help your little guy live as long as possible.
Here are eight easy tips to prolong your pet axolotl’s lifespan:
1. Keep their tank spacious and clean
The first step in ensuring your axolotl lives a long life is creating an environment where it can thrive. This means ensuring their tank is always clean and free from parasites and providing them with adequate space.
Moreover, changing the water every week is highly recommended. Remember that axolotls are bottom-dwellers, so they will build up waste in the base of their tanks and should be cleaned out frequently.
To avoid overcrowding your axolotl’s habitat, it is also best to choose large rocks that can be easily kept clean.
2. Monitor the water parameters regularly
Axolotls are more likely to get stressed when their water parameters are not optimal. So to lessen the risk of getting stress-related health problems, always check the water quality and conditions of your exotic pet’s tank.
If you see a change in the water’s color or clarity, this could indicate that the nitrate or ammonia levels are too high. Increased levels of either one can cause burns on their delicate skin.
3. Axolotl tubbing and fridging
For newbie axolotl owners, tubbing and fridging are two of the most common ways to keep your little pet healthy.
Tubbing is placing the critter on a shallow dish or plastic tub filled with cold, dechlorinated water. This method is usually done when the tank is not correctly cycled, a fungus outbreak arises, or it simply needs cleaning.
Similarly, fridging involves storing your axolotl in a sealed container with dechlorinated water. However, the container should be placed inside the refrigerator at a temperature between 41.0 and 46.4°F (5.0 and 8.0°C).
Note that this technique is only necessary if your axolotl is sick or injured.
Watch the following video of an axolotl undergoing the fridging treatment:
4. Give them salt baths
A salt bath involves using aquarium water with a specific concentration of salt, which helps kill any fungus or bacteria growing on the axolotl’s skin.
However, if done incorrectly, this may lead to further irritation and discomfort in your exotic pet. Therefore, it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian if you are unsure about how to execute salt baths.
5. Use a water conditioner
When you add or change the water in your axolotl’s aquarium, it is essential to use a water conditioner.
Conditioners neutralize any harmful chemicals in the tap water and help remove chlorine or chloramine ingredients. These chemicals are highly toxic to axolotls, and even small amounts can cause severe damage to their health.
6. Cycle their aquarium
Before placing your new axolotl inside the aquarium, it is necessary to cycle its artificial habitat.
Cycling involves introducing beneficial bacteria into the aquarium water and allowing them to multiply. These bacteria will then consume harmful ammonia and nitrite waste products, which will help lengthen your axolotl’s lifespan.
This process typically takes three to four weeks, but once it is complete, you can safely add plants and other fish into the tank as well.
7. Invest in aquarium chillers or clip-on fans
Because axolotls require a stable, low temperature, it is recommended to invest in aquarium chillers or clip-on cooling fans.
These devices are often inexpensive and can be easily attached to the sides of your axolotl’s tank.
8. Avoid feeding them insects
Although axolotls naturally eat insects in the wild, it is actually not the most suitable food for them. This is because insects possess a hard substance called chitin that an axolotl cannot digest properly.
Thus, the best way to lengthen the lifespan of your unique pet is to feed it frozen bloodworms and brine shrimps.
You can find more tips in our ultimate guide on keeping and caring for axolotls as pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Age Is Considered Old for an Axolotl?
Though it may be surprising, an axolotl that reaches one year old has already achieved the end of its life cycle.
In this case, “old” simply means that the axolotl has reached maturity and will shortly begin to transition into adulthood.
Compared to other salamanders, however, fully-grown axolotls do not experience metamorphosis. They stay in their gilled form and aquatic environment for the rest of their lives — which can span up to 20 years.
Do Axolotls Live for 100 Years?
Unfortunately, axolotls do not live for 100 years. The axolotl lifespan ranges from 10 to 15 years, although some can live up to 20 years in captivity with proper handling and maintenance.
On another note, some scientists actually discovered a 200-year-old giant salamander in a cave in China.
How Do I Know If My Axolotl Is Dying?
It is difficult to know if an axolotl is dying, as some warning signs can be similar to those of other illnesses that are not life-threatening.
But once you notice that it is swimming upside down, refusing to eat, floating at the surface of the tank, or losing color on its body and gills, it is highly suggested to bring your axolotl to the vet as soon as possible.
Sadly, many things can cause the axolotl lifespan to be cut short. These include improper care, poor water conditions, inappropriate temperature levels, or exposure to poisonous chemicals.
Without a doubt, axolotls are one of the most intriguing critters on Earth. They are amphibians that can regenerate their limbs and tails, as well as their internal organs and even spinal cords.
Regardless, this remarkable ability does not make them immortal creatures.
Many factors can lead to axolotl death, including poor nutrition, wrong water parameters, and abrupt temperature changes. In addition, they have sensitive skin that is prone to bacterial infections.
In other words, if owners don’t take proper care of their axolotl’s health, they may fall ill or die prematurely.
Nonetheless, there are several things you can do to extend your axolotl’s lifespan. By taking note of all the tips in this guide, you can ensure that your smiling pet will live a long and healthy life.
If you have additional suggestions for prolonging the axolotl lifespan, let us know in the comments below!