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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Axolotls aren’t your everyday pet, and they’re surely one of the most unique. These creatures are salamanders that never managed to go beyond the juvenile stage.
Unlike most creatures, they don’t change their shape from birth until adulthood. Instead, they just get bigger!
One of the questions that’s on a lot of people’s mind is “Can axolotls live with turtles?” To answer this question, we should know what’s needed for both pets to live comfortably.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at axolotls, and why they’re different from other salamanders.
In short, axolotls and turtles aren’t compatible and can’t live together. The main reason behind this is that there’s a notable margin between an axolotl’s living requirements and that of a turtle.
An axolotl is an amphibian that’s native to a lake in Mexico City named Xochimilco. It’s a creature that looks like a salamander but lives like a fish.
What is unique about axolotls, is that they stay in their baby form until the end of their lives. Because of a rare condition called neoteny, they keep most of their larval features until adulthood.
An adult axolotl can grow up to 18 inches, weigh up to 250 grams, and live up to 15 years. It can have a variety of colors like brown, black, pink, and albino. Also, an axolotl can shift the color of its body to mimic its surroundings.
Despite being commonly seen in aquariums, axolotls are critically endangered in the wild as their current estimated number ranges between 600 and 1,300.
There are multiple reasons for this endangerment, but the main ones are water pollution, improper human waste disposal, and droughts.
Because many people mistake an axolotl for a fish, axolotls earned the nickname “Walking Fish.” They earned that name because people occasionally see them walking on land.
As mentioned earlier, an axolotl looks like a salamander, especially in its juvenile state. Yet, they’re not the same, so how are they different?
Unlike most other species of salamanders, an axolotl spends the majority of its life underwater. It might walk on land sometimes if it’s mature enough, but it’s not very common.
Most salamanders breathe through their skin or their lungs. Axolotls, on the other hand, breathe through gills, similar to fish.
Axolotls won’t grow any bigger than 18 inches. But some salamanders, like the Chinese Giant Salamander, can grow up to 70 inches.
To know whether axolotls and turtles could live together or not, we must know the requirements for each of them to live comfortably and happily.
If you’d like to keep an axolotl as a pet, here’s the list of things you’d need to account for:
There are many water sources that you could provide for your pet Axolotl. However, your safest option would be bottled water for it contains the minerals they need.
Axolotls prefer brackish water, which is a mix between salt and freshwater. To be more specific, they need a water pH that ranges between 7.4 and 7.6.
A 15-20 gallon tank should be enough for an axolotl to live in without problems. Additionally, you need to change the water and clean the tank once a week.
Axolotls prefer relatively low temperatures. Ideally, the temperature of the water in their tank should be between 50 and 60 °F.
Since they don’t hibernate, you shouldn’t worry about moving their tank between seasons. However, if the temperature gets too low in winter, it would be best to provide them with a water heater to keep the temperature stable.
Axolotls are carnivorous and they need meaty diets. Earthworms, bloodworms, small pieces of beef, and liver are examples of good diets for an axolotl.
Typically, an adult axolotl needs to be fed three times a week. Young ones, however, need to be fed daily.
The amount of food that you should provide for your axolotls will vary depending on their age and size. Consult a veterinarian every two weeks to adjust their food intake accordingly.
Axolotls prefer dim light and they don’t need to be exposed to direct sunlight. In fact, it’ll do them more harm than good. Keep the tank away from direct sunlight to prevent water overheating and overgrowth of algae.
Axolotls are most active during the night when there’s no sunlight. That’s when you should provide them with food. Sometimes they’re too lazy to reach for their food if you try to feed them during the day.
Axolotls have bad vision, anything that moves around them could either be considered a threat (if it’s bigger) or a snack (if it’s smaller).
Because of this, it’s possible to temporarily place another tank companion with an axolotl. However, it shouldn’t be a permanent thing.
Since axolotls are somewhat messy eaters, you could introduce Cherry shrimps into their tank to clean up their mess. Keep in mind that those shrimps will end up being a snack, though.
Another thing to consider, axolotls themselves are delicate and could get easily injured. A curious tank companion could nibble at their gills and cause irreversible damage.
We now know the requirements to care for an axolotl. We should learn the same for pet turtles to see if there’s a big margin between both requirements.
Turtles prefer freshwater and thus, tap water is fine. Keep in mind that you need to remove the chlorine from the water, though.
To remove chlorine, boil the water for 15 minutes then let it cool down. Once its temperature is down, you may proceed to fill your tank with it.
If you’re unsure of your city’s water supply, or if you think that it may be too dirty for your turtle, it’s best to use distilled chlorine-free water.
Your tank capacity should be no less than 40 gallons for a turtle to live in comfortably, and it should be changed at least once every 10 days.
Warm water is aquatic turtles’ preference. An ideal temperature for a pet turtle should range from 72 to 77 °F.
Consider having a water heater active at all times as their preferred water temperature is slightly higher than average room temperature.
This is determined by the species of your turtle. If you are unsure what to feed your turtle, consulting a veterinarian would be a good idea.
Pet stores offer multiple turtle food products in the form of chunks or pellets. However, turtles could also feed on ingredients found at home, like boiled eggs, carrots, spinach, apples, and grapes.
Aquatic turtles are especially messy eaters. Changing their water could be done every 10 days or so, but cleaning their tank should be done every other day.
Turtles love sunlight. Even if they have already taken their required exposure to direct sunlight, they should still be exposed to indirect sunlight at most times.
Their exposure to sunlight should be for 20-30 minutes. Do this two or three times a week.
Additionally, you should use indoors UV light on their tank. If you can’t get your hands on a UV light, then you should expose your turtles to sunlight every day for 2-4 hours.
Anything that moves can provoke the curiosity of an aquatic turtle. And since most turtles are omnivores, they tend to try and nibble at any moving object in their tank.
For this reason, the only good tank companions for a sea turtle are small, agile fish. A guppy fish is a good example of a companion that could survive around a turtle.
Keep in mind that if you have multiple guppy fishes in the tank, they might overpopulate it and compete with your turtle over his food.
So, can axolotls live with turtles? After some deeper knowledge about axolotls and turtles, the short answer is no.
Axolotls like water that is more on the cold side, while turtles are fans of warmer water. In addition, axolotls don’t like direct sunlight, while aquatic turtles would die if they aren’t exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods.
Both of them are messy eaters, especially turtles. If you place them together, not only do you need a much bigger tank, but you’d also need to clean it every day.
Turtles’ curiosity and nibbling could be risky for the delicate gills of the axolotls. They don’t have to be fighting to injure each other, but they will explore each other with their mouths. This is when things could go wrong.
Another thing to be aware of; if your turtle eats veggies, an axolotl may try to swallow those veggies as well. This could be dangerous because axolotls are known to try and swallow big things that sometimes get stuck in their throat.
In the end, If you fancy having both of them as pets, you still can. Just keep them in separate tanks and care for each of them in the way they find most comfortable.