Diva Dogs and Funky Felines - For the Urban Pet Owner

Diva Dogs and Funky Felines is a guide for city-dwelling pet owners who want to maximize the time and space they share with their dog, cat or other animal companion. Whether you live in a cramped basement apartment with an iguana or share a house in the trendy part of town with a black Lab (or two), we'll help you improve quality of life for your pet with tips, product guides and expert interviews.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Weird Pets -The Axolotl

We’ve all seen pictures of pet dogs and cats that are so unusual looking they make us laugh or squirm, but what about fish and amphibians? In the slippery world of salamanders, the axolotl or Ambystoma mexicanum, wins the quirky-looks category hands down. Originally descending from Xochimilco and the defunct Chalco, two lakes south of Mexico City, the axolotl brings in the highest number of oohs and aaahs - and maybe some yucks - of all the salamanders available to pet owners.

Unlike other salamanders, Axolotls are neotenic. That is, they remain in their larval form (complete with fins) permanently. For this reason, most axies have a babyish, quizzical appearance. Maybe it’s their lidless eyes or the pale pink, almost see-through skin of most axololtols that makes them look perpetually young. They develop gills and remain in the water all their lives. Occasionally, an axolotl undergoes metamorphosis,  but this is painful for the animal. Axolotls can regenerate their limbs, eyes, even their kidneys. It’s no wonder scientists study these creatures to find out more about their healing and regenerative abilities.

A mature, two- year axolotl ranges from six to eighteen inches in length. Axolotls have several naturally occurring colors. They may be brown with spots, black, pink, gold or tan. Their eyes are pink or black. Some captive breeders produce multicolored or neon, glow-in the-dark variations.

Caring for an Axolotl

Axolotls should be raised in a 15-20 gallon aquarium, filled with enough water to fully cover the axie. Never use tap water as chlorine may harm axolotl. Use bottled water at a temperature between 64 and 72 degrees, adding Holtfreter's salt solution  to prevent infection. Change 20% of the tank water every two weeks. You may need to adjust this, depending on your axolotl's habits and health. Use only sand as substrate; the axolotl may eat stones or gravel lining the botttom of the tank. This may cause death. Axies eat bloodworms, earthworms, shrimp, red meat and tiny fish. They’ll also chow down on tiny insects and store-bought food pellets like Reptomin. Be careful when feeding axies miniature live fish.  Avoid leaving any in the tank. They may nibble at the axolotl's gills. With proper care, axolotls can live up to 15 years. Hand-feed these creatures, as they have poor eyesight and can only see an inch in front of them.

Endangered in Nature, Bred in Captivity

The axolotl is listed as “critically endangered:” in its natural habitat by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, many amphibian experts breed axolotls and interested parties can contact a private breeder about purchasing one. Small pet stores occasionally sell axolotls, but you can never be sure of what you’re getting unless you can talk directly with a breeder.

Some states ban axolotls as pets. For example, it is illegal to ship them to
California and New Jersey. Check with your state’s Fish and Game Department for the laws in your area.

Article Copyright 2011 Jade Blackmore

This article originally appeared on Yeepet.com

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