The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Since axolotls and salamanders are part of the same species, it might seem as if you could easily have them live together in the same enclosure. However, axolotls are not exactly the same as other types of salamanders.
These differences between the types of salamanders would make it difficult, but not impossible, for you to keep them as pets in the same enclosure.
However, it is best that these two animals are kept separate. If you are set on having another animal in the same tank as your axolotl, there are plenty of more suitable choices than salamanders.
Environment for Axolotls
Axolotls are a type of salamander, but they differ from other salamanders in significant ways that may make it difficult to cohabitate.
When most salamanders are full grown, they develop the ability to leave the water and survive on land. Axolotls do not develop the same way and are only able to live underwater for their entire lives.
No matter how old an axolotl is, it will not be able to live on land as do other salamanders, which could make it difficult to build an enclosure that would be suitable for both adult axolotls and adult salamanders.
Axolotls Are Neotenic
The term “neotenic” means that an animal retains the defining characteristics that would usually be exclusively seen in younger animals.
For axolotls, this is the reason why they are unable to live on land as other salamanders do when they become adults. Most salamanders lose their gills after adolescence, but axolotls keep them.
Essentially, axolotls are salamanders that never age physically past their juvenile body form. Their tanks are completely aquatic, whereas any other salamander would have to have a tank with ground space for them to walk around on since they do not live underwater any more as adults.
Building an Axolotl Tank
An axolotl tank should be ten gallons, at the very least. A twenty-gallon tank would be the preferred size, since it would give your axolotl more room to move around and more space to keep hiding places and any other animals you might house in the same tank.
If you only have a ten-gallon tank, you shouldn’t keep more than one axolotl. Make sure that any other smaller animals you have in the tank are very few in number, so as not to overcrowd the tank.
Axolotls spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. Use sand instead of aquarium gravel since they are known to swallow aquarium gravel, which causes health issues.
They also love decorated tanks since it gives them places to hide. Use plenty of plants and decorations that they can hide under or behind.
Environment for Other Salamanders
Salamanders do not live underwater like axolotls. However, they do need water as part of their tank.
A tank for a salamander would have a small amount of water, as well as land. This could be accomplished as easily as having a water dish in the tank that is large enough for a salamander to bask in.
Because of this difference in living environment, it would be very difficult to have a tank that would be suitable for both a salamander and axolotl at the same time. It is best to keep these two pets separate so that their tanks are built with each of their specific needs in mind.
Best Animal to Live with Axolotls
The best animal to live with your axolotl is by far just another axolotl. That way, you can make sure that your tank is specifically set up for all of an axolotl’s needs.
Keep in mind that if you don’t want your axolotls to breed, you’ll need to make sure that any of the axolotls that share a tank are the same gender.
Another thing to make sure of is that your axolotls are about the same size and the same age. Axolotls might be prone to asserting dominance over a younger or smaller axolotl, which could lead to serious injury, illness, or even cannibalism.
If you have two axolotls in the same tank, make sure that it is big enough that they can both have their own space. Keep a lot of objects and places where they can hide if they need a break from each other.
As a safety precaution, be prepared to have to separate the axolotls. There is no guarantee that any two axolotls will get along; if they don’t, you’ll need to separate them into different tanks so that they both stay safe and healthy.
Other Animals That Live with Axolotls
As carnivorous animals, axolotls have the potential to consume any animal that you put in the same tank with it. Keep this in mind when you are adding another animal into the tank with your axolotl and don’t put any animal that you would be upset about if your axolotl were to consume it.
All animals that are put into the tank with an axolotl should be safe for your axolotl to consume, just in case that does happen. This means that they shouldn’t have any sharp parts such as a shell or exoskeleton.
Minnows, shrimp, and guppies are good companions for axolotls. None of them will be able to hurt an axolotl and they are small, peaceful creatures.
Make sure that you do not overcrowd the tank when adding other animals to the tank with an axolotl, which could cause stress for your axolotl as well as the other animals.
Keeping Live Animals for Food
As mentioned above, axolotls are carnivorous animals. Any animal that you keep in the tank is supposed to be safe for your axolotl to eat, or else it might cause serious injury to your axolotl when they attempt to consume it.
Some axolotl owners even keep extra fish or shrimp in the tank with their axolotls specifically for the purpose of food. Small shrimp are the best option if you are looking to do this with your axolotl.
Small shrimp hide around the tank easily and your axolotl will be able to seek them out when they are hungry. It provides both nutrition and enrichment for your axolotl, which will benefit its health greatly in the long term.
Axolotls have a great sense of smell, so they will not find it too difficult to find the hidden shrimp around the tank.
Preferred Cohabitation for Axolotls
Just because you can house your axolotl with another animal doesn’t mean that it is the best environment for your axolotl to live in.
Axolotls are solitary creatures, who would most often prefer to live alone. It might seem as if your axolotl would be lonely without another creature living in the tank with them, but they would probably prefer it that way.
An axolotl might enjoy company, but it wouldn’t be a significant aspect of their life. They will be able to lead an equally happy life, if not more happy, if they were living on their own in the tank.
To keep your axolotl happy, your best option is to make sure that their tank is perfectly suited to them and their needs, rather than to compromise some of that in order to give them a friend in their tank.