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Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History of Managed Care

Zoos, general

  • Multiple assurance colonies managed in Mexico City (e.g., at federal universities), as well as many zoos around the world (Griffiths et al. 2003; Bride et al. 2008; Frías-Alvarez et al. 2008)
  • A significant portion of breeding stocks in labs and zoos are hybridized with tiger salamanders (see Vance 2017)
  • Flagship species for freshwater conservation (Griffiths, Graue, et al. 2004; Bride et al. 2008; Carrizo et al. 2017)
  • Also see History

Husbandry at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

(Joseph Boucree, personal communication, 2022)


  • Water conditions
    • Water temperature
      • Best health when housed at about 60°F (16°C)
      • Range: 58 to 70°F (14 to 21°C)
    • pH
      • Tolerate a fairly wide range
      • 7.4 to 8.0 is preferable
    • Mineral content
      • Do well with “harder water”
        • Minerals promote good gill function and slime production that protects an axolotl’s skin
  • Substrate
    • Large-sized gravel and rocks
      • Easy to clean and prevents accidental swallowing
  • Vegetation
    • Water plants needed for resting
      • Ample hiding space helps prevent stress
  • Lighting
    • Dim lighting mimics low-sunlight conditions of wild habitats

Social interactions

  • Often housed separately
    • When housed together, require plenty of space and areas to hide from each other

Diet and feeding

  • Juveniles and adults
    • Diet
      • Invertebrates
        • Ghost shrimp, red wiggler worms, and earth worms
      • Nutritional pellet
        • Provides extra vitamins and protein
    • Ambush hunters
      • Often rest motionless, waiting for prey
      • Usually strike at anything that swims by their mouths
    • Typically fed 3 times per week
      • Low metabolism due to their cold-water habitat and reliance on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature (ectotherm physiology)
    • Food offered using tongs
      • Helpful for tracking food intake and to keep uneaten food out of the water
  • Hatchlings
    • Diet
      • Small crustaceans
        • Daphnia and fairy shrimp
    • Food offered daily until large enough to eat a juvenile diet


  • Food
    • Live ghost shrimp offered to elicit hunting behavior and promote physical activity
  • Water currents
    • New water flow patterns help axolotls use more muscles and practice their swimming skills

Other behaviors

  • Typically most active at night
  • Occasionally adjust their buoyancy by coming to the water’s surface to gulp air or release gases

A Guest Favorite

Pink axolotl swims at water surface

Zoo visitors are fascinated by axolotls.

Video games, cartoons, coloring books, and plush toys have elevated awareness of axolotl biology and conservation issues among children, in particular.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

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