The axolotl also known as a Mexican salamander or a Mexican walking fish, is a neotenic salamander,
Axolotls make great first time amphibians, and due to their strange appearance they make great talking points (with questions usually resembling ‘what on earth is that’). They are very hardy and quite forgiving of the kinds of mistakes that beginners can make.
Whilst axolotls are generally considered to be communal, care should be taken when housing specimens together which differ in size, cannibalism is not unheard of in this species (in fact it is quite common when large individuals are houses with youngsters).
The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum (pronounced axo-lot-ul) is a rather bizarre looking critter, with its soft body, almost fish like head and external gills. Reaching some 9-10 inches in length (up to 12 inches in exceptional circumstances) and living for up to 15 years, axolotls are actually neotenic salamanders.
That is to say they are the larval stage of a salamander that rarely go through metamorphosis and therefore retain juvenile features, remaining purely aquatic with external gills. More bizarrely still, they are fully able to reproduce during this juvenile phase and they rarely actually turn in to the adult phase.
The name axolotl stems from the Aztec Language of Nahuatl where it is thought to mean Water Dog, Water Doll, Water Slave? and ?Servant of the water?. Whilst extremely common in captivity, axolotls are unfortunately critically endangered in the wild. Naturally found in Mexico (once with a fairly expansive range).
Threats include human impact (namely urbanization taking over their natural habitat and the pollution which comes with it) and introduced species such as the African tilapia and Asian carp which not only out compete axolotls for their food, but they also prey upon young axolotls. Axolotls are relatively fast growing, reaching sexual maturity in approximately 18-2 4months and as previously mentioned, despite being the larval stages of a salamander axolotls are capable of reproduction and breed readily in captivity