Want to hear the reason why I’m so obsessed? Story time!
In college I did a ton of projects on them. They were like living Pokemon, and I love Pokemon. There was something about them that I adored. I found myself watching baby axolotl videos online while most people were watching cat videos. Baby axolotls were cute and when they grew up- they were just as cute. To me, they were just the cutest and neatest things out there. I loved them.
Not quite an axolotl
I was told by one of our local pet stores they had an Axolotl for sale. This was the same pet store that sold us our African Clawed Frogs over 20-something years ago (and yes, we do have a frog that is about 24 years old). After purchasing a pet that I was told was an axolotl around my sophomore year, I soon learned after suspicion it was actually a Tiger Salamander in larval form, not an Axolotl.
Thus, this Tiger Salamander I named Muffin. After a few months of having it, it started to change. I was gone one week and I kid you not, my Mom called me freaking out that “it was changing”.
Needlesstosay, Muffin wasn’t an axolotl. Muffin was also an awesome pet. He’d come over to me and follow me. When I’d clean his coconut fiber tank, he’d stand up and watch me. Despite being a type of mole salamander (ie- spends most time underground) Muffin was usually in his food dish sitting, waiting for worms.
I had him for a good 8-10 years before he sadly passed away.
NOTE: Tiger salamander larvae are commonly sold at pet stores as axolotls. While the Tiger Salamander is a cousin to the Axolotl, there is a HUGE difference between the two animals. Tiger Salamanders become terrestial and eventually go on land. Axolotls remain in a larval phase their entire life- never going out of water.
When it all turned around
I graduated college in 2012 and decided I would start sewing plush axolotls because no real plush of them existed on the market and I didn’t exactly own one to obsess over. It took off surprisingly- and I couldn’t keep up with orders. That is when I was contacted by a (pending) non-profit organization that was dedicated to raising awareness about axolotls. They were interested in my axolotl plush and illustration skills for posters and flyers.
I was thrilled!
Little did I know this would be the turning point. One day I was given a message that if and when I was ready, I would have a leucistic axolotl shipped to me- free of charge as a thank you. For those unaware leucistic axolotls are pinkish white.
I was beyond thrilled! That meant getting a tank, cycling it, all that jazz.
Which I did. Immediately.
So I got my first Axolotl who I named Vicious. She was amazing. I felt like we really bonded- she was super interactive and social. She always followed me around the tank. When I’d clean her- she never put up a fuss. She was just a sweetie.
Sadly, four years ago I lost her in a freak accident. She ended up getting her leg stuck on a decoration in her tank one day while I was at work. I was mortified and thought I caught her in time- but three days later, she passed. I was always so cautious.
Then there was pickles
I vowed if I were to ever get an Axolotl again, I wanted one the POLAR OPPOSITE of Vicious.
Flash forward a year. Christmas Eve three years ago, my best friend shows up with a dark green, GFP wild type axolotl as a gift to me. He is now my big boy Pickles!
Pickles is just super chill and lazy. Zero hunt drive whatsoever. So lazy that two years back a mosquito laid eggs in his tank and he didn’t eat any of the buggers that infested his tank (even when they would land on his head and nose).
NOTE: GFP Axolotls mean “Glowing Flourecent Protein”. Pickles eyes actually glow green under a blacklight! Although I do not advise leaving lights on with lotls because of sensititvity.
Yet another surprise awaits
I was content with just one lotl. Although I admit, I love watching them grow as babies and I think baby lotls are one of the cutest things on the planet.
Feb 13th 2020, a former coworker of mine told me the pet shop in town had baby lotls. It just so happens I was going on a craft run that day. Low and behold- when I got there, there were about eight or so baby lotls swimming around and I was in my glory. Usually, I can refrain from taking anything home unprepared. I just think they are adorable and they bring me so much happiness.
Yet, there was one baby who was much smaller than the others. It was missing 3 out of its four limbs, part of its tail and three gills were munched on. It was in bad shape and was getting cannibalized (which happens if younggins are kept together and hungry). It was the only one in the tank in such rough shape which told me the others were picking on it.
It waddled over to me. Stubs in all. I almost cried. I knew if it stayed, it would have died.
I took it home. For a month, I was hand feeding it blood worms with tweezers twice a day. Constantly keeping up with water quality to make sure no infection sets in.
It healed up incredibly fast (still has a patch on its belly I am watching though). Day by day I watched it. I logged it every week for progress. It has come incredibly far. I’m still working with it as it is very scared and timid, but i’m hoping in due time- this little one will come around.
NOTE: Axolotls are INCREDIBLE healers. They can regenerate almost anything. Popcorn did an amazing job with regeneration as depicted above.
I think I can fairly say I am a crazy axolotl lady.
Anyhow, seeing Axolotls are a huge part of what I do, I feel like it is only natural that I post the story behind my love for these animals. They aren’t fish. They are aquatic salamanders. I spent years doing research on them, but it doesn’t really add up to when you experience owning them. You get to learn the personalities of each one. You learn what to look for and you can spot when something may be going on due to how they act.
I joined groups and forums for advice. Iv’e talked to other owners who gave stories and offered insight to certain situations. It’s not just my hobby- but my passion.
It’s one of the most rewarding things. I am by no means an Axolotl expert, but looking back at my history with them- it’s my passion and I love them. Just seeing how proper care can make a baby thrive. Watching them grow.
This is my passion and i’m sticking to it!