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A few newbie questions.

This is a discussion on A few newbie questions. within the Axolotl General Discussion forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; Sorry if these sound really dumb, they're basic questions, but I didn't know where else to post but here! So ...

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Old 15th December 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default A few newbie questions.

Sorry if these sound really dumb, they're basic questions, but I didn't know where else to post but here! So here goes:

1. Are axolotls poisonous or carry any toxins in any way? Or are they clean and safe?
2. What's the rarest and most collector sought-after color morph?
3. What's the rarest/least-available or most desirable common color morph?

Axolotls here are pretty hard to find, rare you could say, so I know nothing about them, and all the areas I've been to only have wildtypes.

Thanks for the answers!
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Old 15th December 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Oh, and

4. How can I tell the difference between an axolotl and early stage tiger salamander?
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Old 15th December 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Hi green,

Aww dont feel like a newbie, everyone starts somewhere. By asking questions you are learning and growing!

1. Are axolotls poisonous or carry any toxins in any way? Or are they clean and safe?

Hehe, i know this sound pretty gory but axolotls used to be a food source (edible) in mexico, so i would not say its toxic to you. However, it is not advisable to handle axolotls with your bare hands. If you need to handle them, its best to use a net. Sometimes we use products such as hand creams and lotions and soap that can leave a residue on your hands which can harm the axolotl instead. Also our hands are slightly acidic (from our sweat), may have germs that can damage the axolotl's skin.

Axolotl's skin do have a protective function against some microorganisms, by having a slimy coating that have special enzymes to protect against harmful germs. This slimy skin covering is not harmful to you though (unless you have a rare allergy or anaphylaxis against it).

I would say they are clean and safe pets! Axolotls in their native habitat reside in pristine clean water and if you intend to keep one as a pet (and with all the responsibility of changing the tank water and keeping its home clean), they would definitely not shed fur around the house or smell iffy!

2. What's the rarest and most collector sought-after color morph?

I would say its the harlequine/piebald. Its like a patchy mottled type colouration but i think looking through the photo collections here would give you a better picture.

3. What's the rarest/least-available or most desirable common color morph?

This one is really an individual taste really. I like leucistics (wjite with black eyes) because they appear to have a cheerful disposition. Other more commonly available colours include the pure jet black melanoid as well as different albino types. This is a site link showing some colour types.

http://www.axolotl.org/genetics.htm

4. Axolotls here are pretty hard to find, rare you could say, so I know nothing about them, and all the areas I've been to only have wildtypes.

You know wildtypes have their own beauty and just because its common doesnt make it less desirable. My first axolotl was a wildtype girl. Just among wildtypes, there is a range of colouration and patterns. There are those very darkly coloured wildtypes and those of olive and even beige type colour, and thats not including the lovely patterns (shiny iridosphores for eg). In fact, im very excited as im adopting a lovely olive one soon!

Axolotls make lovely pets, and a good guardian always does the homework first! Have fun.

Cheers
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Old 15th December 2008   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Check this site out as well, it should answer any other questions you have or should have, www.axolotl.org As for telling the difference between tiger and axolotl larvae I'll let someone with more knowledge help you with that one.
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Old 15th December 2008   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Ah, thanks for the friendly and detailed answers, much appreciated!

As I said above, axolotls are very hard to find here unless I specifically run around town for them, I assume only 1-3 shops would sell them (and usually in bulk of 1 color). I've heard of people mistakenly buying juvenile tiger salamanders instead of axolotls and get disappointed later on, , so I want to avoid the same jam.

In response to Darkmaverick's answer to Q #1 comes Q #5:

5. So if axolotls only live in pristine water conditions, are they a good sign of clean water in the wild? So if I went to a river and saw a few in the water there, then I could assume the water would be clean enough for camping needs?
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Old 15th December 2008   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Ah the special question 5.

Well the axolotl's natural habitat is sadly being destroyed and axolotls are endangered in the wild. I would say most of the damage is caused by pollution, clearing out of natural areas for construction etc. In the ideal situation, axolotls would thrive and flourish in clean environments, for those that you have seen (or other newts and salamander species) in the wild, i would not say the water is perfectly clean or safe, i would not want to risk having a drink and getting sick myself.

Cheers
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Old 16th December 2008   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Hi again,

Sorry i forgot to try help with one of your questions.

How can I tell the difference between an axolotl and early stage tiger salamander?

Honestly, i have not seen a larval tiger salamander myself and i know even a lot of experts may have difficulty telling axolotls and larval tiger salamanders apart. However i found this on a site (http://inky.50megs.com/axolotldiffs.html) which i thought might assist you with this question.
  1. Color: In the wild, axolotls tend to be dark gray to black, often with light or dark flecks of color throughout. Generations of lab work with axolotls has yielded many color variations within the species. At pet shops and medical livestock distributors you are likely to find axolotls with one or more of these colors: White, green, black, brown, or gray. White axolotls are not always albino but albinos are not uncommon. In contrast, tiger salamanders are normally some combination of green and yellow, often with some portions of black or dull brown.
  2. Pattern: Tiger salamanders are more likely to have a somewhat uniform coloration pattern than axolotls. Some tiger salamanders have big yellow polka dots, while others have the eponymous yellow tiger stripes down their backs. Color seems to be more randomly distributed in axolotl populations.
  3. Behavior: After metamorphosis, tiger salamanders are usually more aggressive and energetic than axolotls. I've heard from a few people who did have axolotls (mostly Biology students who were allowed to take their test subjects home) that underwent metamorphosis only to become somewhat dull and lethargic salamanders. This is not entirely a bad thing, though. Because they're so hyperactive, tiger salamanders are more likely to escape an aquarium than transformed axolotls. Always make sure that your tank's ventilated top doesn't have any holes that are big enough for a salamander to fit through.
  4. Gills: One of my correspondents has observed that axolotls often flick their gills, while young tiger salamanders don't seem to do it much, if at all. So you might be able to say that if the animal never flicks its gills, it's probably not an axolotl- but if it does flick its gills that doesn't necessarily mean that it is an axolotl. The act of gill-flicking is a way to shake carbon dioxide off of them to make room for more incoming oxygen.
  5. Girth: One thing I've noticed is that healthy tiger salamanders tend to me more slender than healthy axolotls. This can be a tough call to make in pet shops though, because most amphibians that I've seen in pet shops were underfed and uncharacteristically skinny anyway.
  6. Piggies: I have heard, but not been able to personally confirm, that axolotl fingers and toes are longer and more slender than those of tiger salamanders. This might make sense for the axolotl because the long digits probably aid swimming, while they might get in the way if the axolotl had to get around on land regularly, like the tiger salamander. I have also heard that the back toes of tiger salamanders are flatter than those of axolotls.
  7. Tail: Another tip that I have not been able to personally confirm has to do with the tail. On axolotls and young tigers, the ridge of the tail travels all the way up the back, tapering off gradually. Supposedly, this ridge, which reaches all the way to the back of an axolotl's head, only goes as far as a tiger salamander's neck.
Cheers
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Old 16th December 2008   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

G'day,

Here are some photos to help clarify Question 4:

The photo of the tiger salamander is from this thread:

What is it?

While the photo of the wildtype axolotls was take from:

http://www.axolotl.org/genetics.htm

NB. Tiger salamander is shown on the left, and axolotl is depicted on the right.

Jay.
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Old 17th December 2008   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Thanks for the detailed responses, both of you! It's still a bit hazy to me as they still kind of look the same, but I can definitely see some small differences. If I do end up getting an axolotl, then I'll be armed with some knowledge, and crossed fingers,

And wow Jay, the picture of the tiger salamander; maybe it's the lighting and close-up, but it looks like a beast compared to typical axolotls!

Okay, another Q came up (You don't mind if I just keep posting them here as they come up, yes?):

6. How big of a tank should I get for 1 or more axolotls, and how high should the water be? I've read on www.axolotl.org that tank size and water amount doesn't need to be a lot, but there is no concrete guideline, and the picture on that page has a huge tank?

7. How often does the tank, filter, and accessories need to be taken out and completely cleaned? I know this may be dependent on filter strength, water level, and tank size, so any input wil be much appreciated.

I'm currently keeping adult aquatic turtles in a 90 gallon tank; from a completely cleaned tank it gets messy in under 8 days (really nasty!), it's a real hassle to clean as I need to do the tank and filter every week, I spend 2-4 hours every week cleaning. So I hope an axolotl won't be nearly as demanding, nor will I need another tank that big as my house is out of room for big tanks,
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Old 17th December 2008   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Hihi,

6. How big of a tank should I get for 1 or more axolotls, and how high should the water be? I've read on www.axolotl.org that tank size and water amount doesn't need to be a lot, but there is no concrete guideline, and the picture on that page has a huge tank?

I read from various sources that indicate floor space is more important than water volume depth. I agree in the sense that since axolotls tend to crawl along the bottom of the tank, the bigger the floor space, the better. I remembered Kal has once mentioned that he goes by the general guidelines of 2 foot per axolotl. However some other experts here, with their experience, has found that if you are diligent with your water changes to maintain water quality, and provide enough environmental enrichment such as hiding caves and logs (ideally 2 hiding places per axolotl), you might be able to house more. I personally have 5 adult axolotls in a 4x2x2 ft tank. Jennifer Macke (2006) has defined overcrowding as follows:

"10-gallon tank can support about 12 inches of animal (three 4-inch newts, for example), and a 15-20 gallon tank can easily support about 16 inches of animal. These figures assume that the tank is at least 2/3rds full of water. Any fish or other animals in the tank also count toward the total. Any animals beyond this could result in overcrowding."

However, it is always best to provide the biggest available tank/space for your axolotl. Besides giving it the freedom to move about more freely and reduce chance of overcrowding, it also assists in maintaining a more stable water chemistry environment. Some references, especially those from laboratory setups suggest half tanks of water, i figured they have the capacity to change water more frequently and also to optimise manpower especially if they have huge colonies of axolotls. I personally prefer a full tank of water. The rationale being that the larger the volume of water, the water chemistry (and even temp) tend to be more stable and fluctuate less. Think of a glass of water and a swimming pool of water both under the same ambient temperature, which one takes longer to equilibrate with the temperature? Its the larger volumed one. Secondly, harmful nitrogenous waste products like ammonia can be more diluted in a larger volume of water. This is not to say you can do away with water changes though, it just means that the harmful effect is 'buffered'. Lastly, i think of the aquatic home of the axolotl in a 3D perspective. True that they tend to 'walk' along the ground, but lets not forget they can also swim up and down, left and right. Why not give it the bigger space to roam? Since axolotls are fully aquatic, i would say why not have a full tank?

For some fantastic examples of tank setups, take a look at this site

http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/setups1.shtml

7. How often does the tank, filter, and accessories need to be taken out and completely cleaned? I know this may be dependent on filter strength, water level, and tank size, so any input wil be much appreciated.

Please take a look through these two VERY important articles, they answer ALL your questions in great detail.

http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/waterquality.shtml

http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/filters.shtml

I would recommend only 20 water change each time and NOT total water changes. You can use a siphon or turkey baster to get rid of visible solid wastes on the bottom of the tank. I would NOT completely clean the accessories, filter etc. because we want to keep the beneficial bacteria alive. However, crystal clear water also doesn't mean that its good to go.

You would need a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria in your tank to detoxify ammonia and nitrite. A well-established fully-cycled tank will be able to efficiently biofiltrate and keep the water healthy for your axolotls. A totally clean tank is dangerous because the tank isn't fully cycled yet with the beneficial bacteria. Ammonia and nitrite can then build up and cause toxicity in your axolotl. Furthermore they are colourless and odourless and by the time its too late, you won't know what hit you.

These are some tips on protecting the biofilm (slimy bacterial colony). The following is an extract from the article written by Jennifer Macke, 2006.

Protect your tank slime .
Where do beneficial bacteria grow? On any wet surface in your tank: on the glass, the gravel, the rocks, the aquarium ornaments, the filter. You may notice that these surfaces are slimy. This slime is your biofilter. Here are some simple things you can do to take care of it:
  • If you must use an antibiotic treatment for a sick axolotl, do the treatment in a separate quarantine tank so you donít kill the good bacteria in your main tank.
  • If you want to clean your tank, donít clean all the ornaments and the filter all at once. If you do, youíve just killed most of your biofilter and the tank may have to start the cycling process all over again.
  • Choose tank decorations that have rough surfaces where more bacteria can colonize, such as natural rock and terracotta.
  • Choose a color of gravel that wonít show the algae, and you will never have to scrub it. (However, you will still have to remove debris diligently.)
  • Understand that algae, in moderation, is not bad. Most algae have all the same benefits of live plants Ė oxygen production and nutrient consumption. If you get excessive algae, particularly the ugly kinds, take steps to reduce it. But never take the whole tank apart and scrub everything off unless absolutely necessary.
  • If you are starting a new tank, use some pieces of filter media or gravel from the older tank to help establish the bacteria in the new tank.
Remove debris and clean the filter frequently.
Filters do not make dirt go away. They only concentrate the dirt in one place to make removal easier. Even if you canít see it, the dirt in the filter is still in the aquarium, producing waste products.

This means that you have to remove the solid wastes accumulated in your filter. However do not wash the filter media in boiling water. Otherwise it does the same thing as cooking your bacterial colony to death.

Hope these sites are useful for you.

Cheers
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Old 19th December 2008   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Ah, thanks for the detailed info again, DM!

Sounds like keeping an axolotl is like keeping fish, with the cycling and water changes. Well no worries there, and I'm glad that axolotls have an ideal rule of 2 feet/per or that you can fit 5 in a 4x2x2, compared to OTHER aquatic pets,
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Old 19th December 2008   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Maybe I'm not fully awake - but if what the original post'er said is true - he/she finds mostly one color available at each store - doesn't that sort of guarantee its an axolotl? Tiger sals don't come in any color but wild right - except for rare genetic mutations that any owner/collector would be gleeful to discover?

If I'm wrong I'll be happy to read it, but I'm headed to the kitchen for some coffee.

Sharon
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Old 19th December 2008   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Sharon, this time of year isn't really the time for tiger sal larvae. These are much more prevalent in the summer. Most have morphed by now. As far as my pet shop, they carry only what babies I have at the time. Usually, these all end up being wildtype. So they only have one color.
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Old 4th January 2009   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Sorry for the 2 week lack of response, I was out for holidays and didn't have any access to the net,

Anyways, thanks for the info on distinguishing Tiger Salamanders and Axolotls, I'll definitely come back to this post when/if I do get an Axo.

Okay, another Q came up (I'll keep coming back here if I have more Qs):

8. Are Axolotls like fish, as in they usually spend/must spend their lives under water to survive, or do they occasionally surface for a few minutes/hours?

Would it kill them or seriously hurt them if I picked one up and had one out of the water for 5-10 mintes, or maybe even an hour, or do I need to move them asap out of water to water, like fish?
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Old 4th January 2009   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: A few newbie questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Green View Post
8. Are Axolotls like fish, as in they usually spend/must spend their lives under water to survive, or do they occasionally surface for a few minutes/hours?

Would it kill them or seriously hurt them if I picked one up and had one out of the water for 5-10 mintes, or maybe even an hour, or do I need to move them asap out of water to water, like fish?
Axolotls are nothing like fish, they are amphibians.

The axolotl has a rudimentary set of lungs for which he will take a gulp of air from the surface on occasion. They breath mainly through their gills and through the skin.

Axolotls are fully aquatic and should not be handled unless absolutely necessary as this can harm their slimecoat - their first line of defence against disease.

Axolotls are strictly for viewing pleasure and should never be petted, or removed from the water.
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