Black Axolotl: Species Profile, Care Guide & Pictures

Black axolotl walking in an aquarium

The black axolotl, a captivating amphibian, is a unique addition to any aquarium. With their perpetual smiles, soft coloring, and sci-fi movie-like appearance, they are sure to captivate anyone’s attention. 

However, these creatures require specific care and aren’t as easy to handle as they might seem. In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about the black axolotl.

From their appearance and behavior to the basics of their tank setup and feeding, you’ll find everything you need to know about black axolotls in this guide. Let’s start!

Black Axolotl Overview

Species Name:Ambystoma mexicanum
Common Names:Axolotl, Mexican walking fish
Lifespan:Up to 15 years
Adult Size:9 – 12 inches
Care Level:Intermediate
Tank Size:At least 20 gallons of water
Water pH Level:6.5-8.0
Diet and Feeding:Carnivore
Ideal Temperature:60 – 64°F

What Is a Black Axolotl?

Black axolotl with intricate head

A black axolotl, scientifically known as Ambystoma mexicanum, is a captivating aquatic creature that sports black skin. It is a unique color variation of the standard axolotl. While they are often referred to as “Mexican walking fish,” they are not fish but amphibians. 

Axolotls are descendants of the tiger salamander, who retain their larval form throughout their lives. These creatures have lungs but mostly rely on their external gills. Interestingly, axolotls live their entire lives underwater.

The black axolotl is a product of selective breeding, with their genetic ancestors originating from Lake Xochimilco in Mexico. 

Contrary to popular belief, a black axolotl is neither a fish nor a lizard. It’s an amphibious salamander. They are neotenous, which means they retain their aquatic larval forms their entire lives. 

Additionally, because of their neoteny, axolotls have the ability to regenerate lost body parts.

Watch this video to learn more about axolotls:

This Incredible Creature Can Regenerate Its Brain, Heart, And Limbs

Black Axolotl Appearance 

Black axolotl isolated in white background

Black axolotls captivate scientists and hobbyists around the world with their remarkable physiques and unique appearances. 

For starters, the body of the black axolotl is comparable to that of a lizard, boasting legs, arms, and a considerably large, eel-like body.

The signature trait of black axolotls is their ‘headdress,’ a term given to the external gills that sprout from their heads in a crown-like formation. 

The black axolotl’s headdress isn’t just for show, as it is also used for underwater respiration.

Black axolotls also have external gills consisting of a central stalk and feathery filaments that sprout outward from the perimeter. These filaments range in color from black to a purplish tint, light gray, or even white.

Black Axolotl Size

When you first acquire a juvenile black axolotl from a reputable dealer or pet shop, you will find that it only measures a few inches. However, these wonderful swimmers grow to reach their adult size of 9 to 12 inches

The majority of their size comes from their tails, which take up about two-thirds of their entire length. 

According to some sources, axolotls have been recorded to reach an impressive 18 inches but usually average around nine inches nowadays.

Although they might seem small, axolotls need a good deal of space to thrive. Hence, for a single black axolotl to live a comfortable life, a sizable tank is often recommended.

Black Axolotl Temperament and Behavior

Black axolotl up close

Black axolotls are creatures of solitude, often keeping to themselves and basking alone in their tanks.

While they’re capable of harmonious coexistence with other axolotls of the same size, they tend to display aggressive behavior from time to time. Hence, many aquarists recommend keeping only a single axolotl in a tank.

However, though axolotls aren’t your typical touchy-feely creatures, they are rather engaging and may even shadow your movements around the tank. This behavior makes the axolotl pet experience entertaining for many.

Take note that it’s crucial to avoid unnecessary handling, as it is often stressful for black axolotls. Nonetheless, occasional handling should be fine, particularly when you need to clean up your pet’s tank.

On a different note, these black beauties are inherent hunters. They thrive prey on fish, snails, shrimp, and other small aquatic animals in captivity.

But it’s not all good news for the black axolotls, as they often suffer from subpar vision. Consequently, they tend to nip at anything that strays too close, their fellow axolotl included.

Black Axolotl Lifespan and Common Diseases

With the right care and attention, black axolotls have a life expectancy of up to 15 years. They are typically robust creatures, but they can face some health concerns, such as physical injuries, fungus, bacteria, and parasites.

They may also encounter some less common problems like overfeeding, gut blockages, and heat stress (hyperthermia). 

Eye bulging (exophthalmia), skin infections, and issues caused by ammonia accumulation are other potential challenges they could face.

The frilly external gills of black axolotls are quite delicate, and inferior water conditions could negatively impact your pet’s health.

When temperatures in the tank rise too much or ammonia levels get too high, axolotls may experience stress. This, in turn, leaves them open to bacterial infections and parasite infestations. 

The bacteria can cling to their fragile gill filaments and cause infections that can also occur in the mouth, eyes, or other surfaces in the tank.

Talking about health issues in axolotls, I once visited a friend who was fond of taking care of axolotls. During that visit, I noticed cotton-like growths on the skin and body of his two black axolotls.

When we brought the fish to the veterinarian, they were diagnosed with mycosis, which is a type of fungal infection caused by poor tank conditions. My friend’s concern regarding his tank set-up heightened after that incident.

However, don’t let this scare you. These are not common diseases in axolotls and are often due to improper care or poor living conditions. 

With the right care — such as maintaining the right temperatures, cleaning the tank regularly, and feeding them properly — you can help ensure a long, healthy life for your black axolotl.

Black Axolotl Care Guide

Black axolotl walking on pebbles

Tank Setup

A 20-gallon tank is the minimum requirement for one black axolotl, but larger is always better. Axolotls are active creatures and appreciate the extra space to explore. 

The tank should have a secure lid as axolotls can sometimes attempt to jump out of the water. Additionally, the tank should be filled completely as these creatures are purely aquatic. 

In terms of filtration, a low-flow filter is necessary to maintain clean water without creating strong currents, which axolotls are not fond of.

When it comes to the tank bottom, black axolotls need bare-bottom tanks without substrate. Likewise, a tank with very large, smooth stones that they cannot swallow may also work.

Axolotls can accidentally ingest smaller substrates like gravel or sand, which can lead to impaction and serious health issues. Hence, these are not recommended.

Decorations such as plants and hides can be added to provide cover against bright light for your axolotl. However, sharp or rough decorations should be avoided to prevent injury to your pet’s delicate skin.

Water Parameters

Axolotls are sensitive to water quality and require regular water changes to maintain optimal conditions. 

For starters, owners should keep temperatures within 60 to 64 °F when it comes to an axolotl’s water tank. Given the axolotl’s ability to thrive in cooler temperatures, it is best to consider getting a cooling fan or aquarium chiller.

Meanwhile, the water pH should be between 6.5 to 8.0, and your axolotl should be provided with water that is dechlorinated, and the use of a water conditioner is recommended. 

Regular testing of the water parameters is crucial to ensure the axolotl’s health. High levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates can be harmful to your black axolotl.

Diet and Feeding

Black axolotls are carnivores, feasting mainly on worms and small fish. Due to their slow digestion, they should be fed every two to three days or approximately twice a week.

As with any other pet, axolotls need a balanced diet to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients. 

In addition to worms and small fish, axolotls can also be fed a variety of foods such as shrimp and beef heart. You can also purchase specially formulated axolotl pellets, which can be bought from your local pet store.

It is worth noting that axolotls have a strong feeding response and will often eat anything that fits in their mouth. This is the reason why small stones and rocks are not recommended when it comes to their tank bottom.

Recommended Tankmates for Black Axolotls

Generally, black axolotls are solitary creatures that can thrive on their own. However, there are a few tank mates you can consider if you want to add a bit of liveliness to your tank.

Here are some recommended tankmates for black axolotls:

  • Other axolotls: Adult axolotls can make great tank mates. It’s best to keep a male and female together, but you can also keep same-gender axolotls together if you don’t want any babies. However, avoid keeping a smaller axolotl with a fully matured one, as they often display cannibalistic tendencies towards each other.
  • White cloud mountain minnows: These are peaceful cool water fish that can be excellent tank mates for axolotls. Their lack of spines and shells makes them safe for axolotls to eat, should they decide to do so. They are quite fast and should be able to escape the axolotls unless caught off guard.
  • Zebra Danios: Zebra Danios are also great pets to consider as tankmates for your axolotl. They will keep to their shoals and mostly stay away from your axolotl. However, your axolotls might catch these danios off guard every once in a while and may eat them.
  • Guppy fish: Guppies are another fish species that rarely pose a risk to your axolotls. However, they do sometimes carry diseases, and their babies are often used as feeder fishes. Keep in mind, though, that guppies reproduce very fast, so the sudden increase in fish numbers may stress your axolotl.
  • Adult apple snails: Adult apple snails can safely be kept in the same aquarium as young axolotls. They aren’t small enough for axolotls to eat. However, an axolotl may attempt to eat this kind of snail once it reaches adult size. 

It’s important to note that some fish aren’t suitable tank mates for axolotls due to differences in environmental requirements, such as water temperature. 

Likewise, some aquatic animals may pose health risks or be in direct competition for food for your axolotl. 

For example, goldfish, Cory Catfish, Otocinclus Catfish, and shrimp are generally not recommended as tank mates for axolotls.

Breeding Black Axolotls

Black axolotl in a simple tank

Black axolotls are ready to start a family of their own when they reach one year old. The female axolotls are pretty productive, laying as many as 200 eggs in a single go. 

If the conditions are just right, at a comfortable temperature of 72°F, these eggs will hatch into baby axolotls in about 15 days.

Getting your axolotls to breed, however, is not as simple as it may seem. During this process, it can be a bit challenging to care for your axolotls. 

For starters, the pair you choose for breeding must be in top health and well-nourished. Furthermore, the females need plenty of surfaces in the tank, like aquatic plants, where they can lay their eggs.

Once the eggs are in place, they need to be moved to another tank. This is to stop the parent axolotls from possibly eating them. The eggs need clean water and a stable temperature to grow properly.

After they’ve hatched, the tiny axolotls, or larvae, start their journey of life feeding on miniature foods like brine shrimp. They will eventually transition to bigger meals as they grow bigger.

Legalities of Owning a Black Axolotl

Before you rush off to get a black axolotl, it’s crucial to first delve into the laws and rules around owning this unique creature. Axolotls are endangered in certain parts of the world, so they’re protected by law. 

For example, in their home country, Mexico, it’s not allowed to take axolotls from their natural habitat. 

Meanwhile, some places in the United States, like California, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia, also have certain restrictions or even bans on keeping axolotls as pets. 

On the other hand, in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, you can have axolotls as pets without needing any special permits. 

So, before you fall head over heels for these fascinating creatures, it’s important to check with your local wildlife authority or fish and game department. You can also refer to online references for more info.

This way, you’ll make sure you’re not breaking any laws or rules when you bring an axolotl into your home.

How Much Does a Black Axolotl Cost?

Black axolotl in a tank

The price tag on a black axolotl can range between $20 and $70. This depends on factors like their age and size. However, remember this is only the cost for the axolotl itself. 

If you’re thinking about welcoming one into your home, you’ll also need to factor in the expenses for creating and upkeeping a suitable living space.

This involves setting up a roomy aquarium with at least 20 gallons of water per axolotl and equipping it with a reliable filtration system with sponge filters. 

Furthermore, you need to consider routine water quality checks, for which you’ll need water testing kits.

Moreover, these amphibians fancy a menu of live food. This preference for wriggling meals, like small fish or crustaceans, must also be considered for the recurring costs of caring for your black axolotl.

I’ve always been fascinated by amphibians, and I’ve had the pleasure of caring for a black axolotl in my home aquarium. While the initial purchase of an axolotl might seem affordable, the ongoing costs to ensure they have a healthy and engaging environment can add up.

I invested between $450 and $550 for the initial setup and now spend approximately $50 to $100 annually on maintenance. This should give you a rough idea of the expenses involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

Black axolotl eating

Are Black Axolotls Healthy?

Yes, black axolotls are generally healthy but can be susceptible to certain diseases if not properly cared for. Some of these issues include infections from fungi or bacteria, physical wounds, or problems caused by unfiltered water. 

Simple acts like changing their water frequently, providing food in front of them for easy access, and handling them carefully can ward off many of these health problems.

It’s also crucial to have a vet in your corner who understands axolotls’ unique health requirements. All in all, axolotls prefer a carefully maintained environment to thrive and remain hale and hearty.

Are Black Axolotls Rare?

Black axolotls are not rare. In fact, this color variant is one of the most commonly seen axolotls nowadays. This is the same for other axolotl colors, such as the golden albino.

However, while they are common as pets, they are unfortunately classified as critically endangered in their natural habitats. 

Additionally, it’s worth noting that axolotls, particularly those with a dark green or melanistic color morph, face an alarming risk in the wild. Nonetheless, these axolotls are not rare, as many breeders continue to produce them.

Are Axolotls Good Pets?

Axolotls, including the black axolotl, can make excellent pets for the right owner. They are relatively easy to care for, requiring a diet of live food and a clean, cool aquatic environment. 

However, they are not a good choice for those looking for a hands-on pet, as they can become stressed if handled too much. 

They are best suited for those with some experience in keeping aquatic pets or those willing to learn about their unique needs.

Did this article encourage you to get a black axolotl for yourself? If it did, get ready to fill the tank and leave a comment below! Further, feel free to ask any questions you may have about these black yet beautiful creatures!

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