Are Axolotls Fish or Amphibians?

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One of the most common questions I see about axolotls is whether they are fish or amphibians. The answer is that they are amphibians.

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Axolotl Fun Facts

They are an interesting species because they are stuck somewhere in between a salamander and an egg, so they never really develop fully into salamanders. But they still have some interesting characteristics that make them amphibians, and in many ways, they are quite similar to salamanders.

Although they can still swim in water, and they will spend most of their time in the water, something that salamanders don’t do, for example. In this way, they are quite different from salamanders and other amphibians that tend to live on the ground rather than in the water.

In fact, axolotls don’t survive for quite a long time outside of water. So they have this fish-like capacity to survive in the water, but they’re also capable of surviving outside of it for some time.

For some, it’s unclear whether the axolotls are an amphibian or a fish. That’s why some people even call it the walking fish. But it’s an amphibian, and in this article, I’ll explain all the reasons why that is the case.

What are Amphibians?

Amphibians are small animals that need water to survive, and they will live in moist areas where they can get a lot of water from the air or preferably, from the water. In this group, you’ll find animals such as frogs, toads, salamanders, as well as newts.

The main ability that makes amphibians different from fish is the ability to survive outside of water. They tend to absorb water and breathe through the skin, while the fish use gills to do that. All amphibians develop from larvae, although some have different processes than others.

In this way, axolotls have very different developmental stages than most amphibians. They’re similar to salamanders the most, although they don’t develop fully into salamanders. Instead, they’re caught in this stage where they stay partly in the larvae stage, and partly in the developed stage of a salamander.

But they’re very different from salamanders, too. They prefer water much more than salamanders, and they also look quite different. Unlike salamanders, they like to live in water and they actually don’t do that well on land. Salamanders do well on land, but they need water and moist areas to survive.

Do Axolotls Ever Morph?

Axolotls don’t tend to morph into salamanders, and they tend to stay in this developmental stage for the rest of their lives.

However, in some very rare cases, the axolotls can actually morph into a salamander. Again, this happens very rarely and if it does, it normally doesn’t have good outcomes. The axolotls that morph will usually pass away after a few days, or they will continue to live normally as salamanders.

Some axolotl owners have reported this phenomenon. They were amazed that one day, they found a salamander instead of an axolotl. It’s truly a fascinating behavior that’s unique to this species, even though it happens very rarely.

Can Axolotls Live on Land?

Axolotls spend most of their time in the water, and they are also capable of surviving on land for a few hours. However, they much prefer to live in the water where they thrive and get their nutrients from, and they are able to absorb oxygen through their very thin skin.

And when they are put outside of the water, they are not used to it because their system has developed a mechanism to survive in the water, which is something that stays on from the larvae stage of development.

But if the axolotls morph, then they will be able to survive on land comfortably. That’s what salamanders do, they spend most of their time on land, and they will actually prefer to live on land rather than in the water.

When axolotls morph, though, their lifespan will be significantly reduced. In some cases, they might not survive longer than for a couple of days. But even if they do survive through the metamorphosis, they might not live for very long.

Can Axolotls Eat Amphibian Food?

Yes, axolotls will happily eat amphibian food, but you must provide them with high-quality amphibian food that they’ll be able to digest easily.

Most amphibians prefer to eat live foods, especially smaller types of live food they can catch, and so do axolotls:

  • Insects and smaller spiders
  • Snails, slugs
  • Earthworms and other types of worms

They will also like to eat pellets that are made for amphibians specifically, as well as for axolotls, too. And this shows that axolotls stay in the amphibian stage and don’t actually eat fish food, unless it is the same type of food the amphibians prefer to eat.

Can Axolotls Live with Other Amphibians?

No, axolotls will not live comfortably with other amphibians. They are not the best tank mate for other amphibians, because they will often attack and eat other amphibians, especially the smaller ones.

So you should try and avoid this as much as possible. If you mate them with other similar amphibians of similar sizes, you can do that, but you must make absolutely sure they get enough space to survive comfortable, or else you’re risking high stress levels, and also fights.

Even though axolotls are normally not an aggressive species, they will attack smaller amphibians, though. They will even eat the small amphibians, which is what happens in their natural habitat if they come across smaller amphibians they feel comfortable with eating.

Conclusion

Axolotls are amphibians that prefer to live in the water rather than on land. They are an interesting and unique species caught in a development stage where they rarely come out of.

When they do morph, they become true salamanders, although this normally has bad consequences for them. They rarely survive for long after that happens.

But you should know that axolotls are considered amphibians and they will eat amphibian food, so make sure you know about this fact before you get an axie for yourself.

Updated: November 4, 2020

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