Saturday, March 2, 2019

Top 7 Helpful Resources for Axolotl Care

So you’re interested in getting a new axolotl, but feel overwhelmed with all the information out there. Keep reading as I reveal the best axolotl resources to help you get started!



If you didn’t know already, I previously owned axolotls. Unfortunately, one died from my own human error and another from health issues. It's one thing to lose a shrimp or a betta fish, but when you lose a larger pet that’s almost a foot long… it’s just particularly painful. So I haven’t kept axolotls for over a year now because I wanted to take a break and really do some in-depth research on what it takes to own them. I don’t want to go through the heartache of prematurely lose another one, if at all possible.

Online Axolotl Resources

So, today I’m going to show you the results of my search and rank my top favorite axolotl books and resources. This is not a care guide article, so if you just want to go straight to my favorite beginner resource, visit axolotl.org. It’s free and available online, very well-organized and easy to read, and has a lot of accurate, detailed information that really helped me when I was getting started.

axolotl.org website for axolotl care

Another website that has a lot of information is exopetguides.com. Their axolotl guide was released last year and therefore is the most recent resource out of all the ones I explored. Written by hobbyists, this article describes the latest, most conservative trends in axolotl keeping, so if you don’t want to get yelled at on axolotl Facebook groups or forums, this page will steer you clear of most controversy.

Children's Science Books on Axolotls

Now if you’re like me, I don't like to blindly trust popular hobbyist views and would prefer to double-check information with the professionals. The most readily available resource at the library was children’s science books, which weren’t that helpful because they usually consisted of a 1-page description about axolotls mixed in with other 1-page summaries of other oddball animals. However, I did find Inside Animals: Frogs and other Amphibians by David West to be of interest because of the great diagram of axolotl anatomy.

Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating

Research Books and Papers

As for research books and papers, there were tons once I started really digging. Axolotls are commonly used in research for their regenerative properties and have even been shown to have an effect on breast cancer (woohoo!). The king of all axolotl research books is Developmental Biology of the Axolotl, edited by John Armstrong and George Malacinski. Published in 1989, it’s a collection of scientific papers on axolotls. Probably less than 25% of the book contains relevant info on their natural history and practical care because it’s written for research facilities, not hobbyists. If you're interested in checking it out, see if your local university has it because the textbook costs about $100 to $300 online.

Developmental Biology of the Axolotl edited by John B. Armstrong and George M. Malacinski

The now defunct Indiana University Axolotl Colony also released the Axolotl Newsletter, which you can order all 30+ issues from the Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center (AGSC) for $60. I’ve reviewed several issues online for free, and for the most part the newsletters are heavily geared towards researchers and how to keep axolotls in a laboratory environment. However, there’s a bunch of valuable nuggets of information in them, so check out the newsletter link above.

Axolotl Newsletter from Indiana University Axolotl Colony

Salamander Care Books

The next category of axolotl resources actually comes from salamander pet care books, which I think is totally valid because it’s worth looking at how similar species need care. Newts and Salamanders by Frank Indiviglio was published in 2010 and comes highly recommended on Axolotl.org (and I can see why). The book’s author has a master’s degree in biology and worked as a zoo keeper for reptiles and amphibians, so his book is very detailed and informative. Mr. Indiviglio also has a lot of great axolotl articles posted on ThatPetPlace.com that you can read.

Newts and Salamanders by Frank Indiviglio

Another book I found is also called Newts and Salamanders, but was written by Devin Edmonds in 2009. This one provides a lot more info on how to setup an aquarium for aquatic salamanders, but doesn't have as much specific info on axolotls. Still, it's a decent book to check out from the library.

Newts and Salamanders by Devin Edmonds

Axolotl Care Books

Finally, the last category: axolotl pet care books. Axolotl.org lists Axolotls by Peter W. Scott (published in 1981) as the first book on its recommended resources page. The first half of the book is devoted to axolotl biology and the second half is devoted to care. Some of the aquarium setup and feeding info is a little outdated, but I did find the breeding and health sections to be pretty interesting. All-in-all, a good read where the author clearly consulted a lot of university researchers and professors.

Axolotls by Peter W. Scott

Another axolotl-specific book I found is Axolotls, Mexican Salamanders as Pets, published in 2013. The author Elliott Lang writes many different pet books for a living and he’s actually owned axolotls himself, so think of this as a well-researched, hobbyist-written book. As of the writing of this article, I personally think this is one of the most thorough, practical books for keeping axolotls on the market. It lays out how to set up the aquarium, appropriate tank mates, diet, breeding, etc. You may not agree with everything Mr. Lang recommends, but if you’re going to buy a book as a beginner, this is the #1 book I would turn to. Highly recommend!

Axolotls, Mexican Salamanders as Pets - front cover

My Final Recommendation...

Before I finish this post, there is one final resource I would recommend: find a good exotic vet that treats axolotls. I think one of the major mistakes I made when previously owning axolotls was not having a veterinarian lined up for them when things started going south. An experienced vet can offer a lot of knowledge and is capable of doing things the typical hobbyist can’t – like taking x-rays, examining fecal samples under a microscope, injecting antibiotics, and so on. Lesson learned: I can’t state how important it is to find a vet for your axolotl before you even get one.

All-in-all, I feel like I’m much better equipped now with the wealth of resources I’ve collected and hopefully will have better luck with my next axolotl. If you want to learn more, check my articles on axolotl care. Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you in the next article!


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