Is the Axolotl a Fish or an Amphibian?

Have you ever desired a puppy? They are incredibly adorable and small with soft fur! Puppies are a great source of amusement. When you ask your family about getting a puppy, they might respond with something like, “Puppies don’t remain puppies forever.” That statement is true. Puppies eventually grow up to become adult dogs. However, if you are searching for a pet that will always stay a baby, we have the perfect animal for you!

The axolotl (pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl), also known as the Mexican walking fish, is an amphibian that originates from the waters near Mexico City. These creatures possess a unique ability. They can remain in their larval stage for their entire lifespan. While other amphibians grow and leave the water to live on land, most axolotls remain in their baby state forever.

Wait. If axolotls spend their entire lives in water, then do they classify as fish? Some individuals may think so, but that is not accurate! In rare cases, axolotls do undergo maturation. These mature axolotls leave the water and live on land. Due to their ability to grow up and leave the water, experts categorize axolotls as amphibians. When axolotls do mature, they are referred to as Mexican salamanders.

What do axolotls look like? Their name is derived from an Aztec term meaning “water dog” or “water monster,” which gives you a glimpse of their appearance. Axolotls have elongated bodies, short legs, and tails. They possess feathery external gills that undulate through the water as they move. Axolotls have four toes on their front feet and five toes on their hind feet. They can grow to be a foot long.

Axolotls are also recognized for their wide mouths, often giving the impression of a permanent smile. They come in various colors, with brown or black being the most common. Some axolotls also sport gold or olive spots. However, other color variations exist, including white and gold.

Don’t axolotls sound adorable? Many people think so. However, if you encounter an axolotl in the wild, you may want to maintain a safe distance. They are typically the top predators in their habitats. Although axolotls are not known to attack humans, they consume worms, tadpoles, insects, and certain fish.

Axolotls can be particularly aggressive towards one another. Two axolotls in close proximity will engage in combat, biting off each other’s gills, feet, and tails. But don’t worry! Axolotls possess another remarkable ability. They can regenerate numerous body parts, including their own hearts and organs.

If you are searching for a wild axolotl, your best chance is during the night. Axolotls are nocturnal creatures, meaning they avoid light. Like many nocturnal animals, they have poor eyesight and rely mostly on their sense of smell to hunt.

However, finding a wild axolotl can be extremely challenging. These amphibians have a limited habitat, only residing in a lake near Mexico City. Due to human activities, a significant portion of their habitat has been destroyed. A study conducted in 2013 found no axolotls in the wild. This led many to believe that they now exist only as pets or in public aquariums. Presently, experts consider axolotls to be critically endangered.

For many people, taking care of axolotl pets is relatively easy. They are not very sociable and prefer to be left alone. Axolotls should not be handled or picked up. Instead, they should be kept in a spacious tank in a room away from direct sunlight. Additionally, it is crucial to never house two axolotls together!

Despite their aggressive behavior towards each other, many people are fond of axolotls because of their friendly appearance. We are also intrigued by their unique abilities to stay in a larval stage and regenerate body parts. Are you interested in having an axolotl as a pet? Taking care of them is much easier compared to taking care of puppies! Or would you prefer to see axolotls back in their natural habitat? How can we improve their environment?

Give It a Try

Are you ready to learn more about axolotls? Ask a friend or family member to assist you with these activities!

  • Read more about how to properly care for axolotls. Then, imagine that a friend or family member has a new pet axolotl. Write a letter explaining how they can take care of their new pet.
  • Axolotls are not the only endangered animals. Take a look at the top 10 most endangered animals. Summarize what you have learned for a friend or family member. Discuss what can be done to protect endangered species.
  • Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a pet axolotl? Would they stay in the water or transform into a salamander? What would they eat? If they could talk, what would they say to you? Write a story about your imaginary pet axolotl.


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1. Is an Axolotl a Fish or an Amphibian?

An Axolotl is an amphibian, not a fish. Despite its fish-like appearance, with gills and a long, slender body, it is not classified as a fish. Axolotls belong to the family Ambystomatidae, specifically the species Ambystoma mexicanum. They are native to Mexico and are known for their ability to regenerate their limbs and even parts of their organs.

2. How can you differentiate an Axolotl from a fish?

Although an Axolotl may resemble a fish, there are some key differences that set them apart. Unlike fish, Axolotls have lungs, allowing them to breathe air, in addition to their gills. They also possess limbs with digits, unlike fish that have fins. Another distinguishing feature is their ability to undergo metamorphosis. While most amphibians go through a metamorphosis stage, Axolotls remain in their larval form throughout their lives.

3. What is the natural habitat of Axolotls?

Axolotls are naturally found in the freshwater lakes and canals of Xochimilco, Mexico. These lakes are shallow and contain a complex network of canals and wetlands. Axolotls prefer to live in aquatic environments with plenty of vegetation and hiding spots. They are typically found in water bodies with temperatures ranging from 14-20 degrees Celsius.

4. What do Axolotls eat?

Axolotls are carnivorous and primarily feed on small invertebrates, such as worms, insects, and crustaceans. They are opportunistic predators and will consume anything that can fit in their mouths. In captivity, they can be fed a diet of live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small fish. It is important to provide a varied diet to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

5. Can Axolotls live outside of water?

While Axolotls are amphibians, they are not designed to live outside of water for extended periods. They are fully aquatic creatures and rely on water for their survival. However, they can tolerate short periods of time outside of water, especially if the environment is humid and cool. It is crucial to provide them with a proper aquatic habitat to ensure their well-being.

6. Are Axolotls endangered?

Yes, Axolotls are considered critically endangered in the wild. Their population has significantly declined due to habitat loss, pollution, and the introduction of non-native species. Additionally, Axolotls are popular in the pet trade, which has also contributed to their decline in the wild. Conservation efforts are being made to protect and preserve their natural habitat and promote captive breeding programs to ensure their survival.

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