I'm not sure how suited this species really is for listing here. Based on the information available on certain herp sites, the ideal set-up for this species is a bare glass-bottom tank, or smooth, round river stones that are too large to fit in its mouth ... apparently digging in fine, muddy substrate for worms and small crustaceans is part of its natural foraging habits - it would probably choke to death on most planted tank substrates, not to mention that it would uproot the plants!
I suppose it could be kept with some pieces of planted driftwood - but, since it prefers temps in the cooler range, it's probably best just kept with some floating plants like hornwort, elodea, or duckweed. Also, I wouldn't keep it with any fish - even fish too big to fit in its mouth might end up with nipped fins!
Hey! These guys do great on a sand-bottom tank with lots of Vals. They love sitting in hornwort and I have not had problem with them up-rooting things. Please do not keep with fish, but shrimp seem to be ok. Do not underestimate these guys, and there are great forums specifically dedicated to their care.
AxolotlFarmer's comments caught me by surprise, as I had gotten some of my information from some of the species-specific forums he refers to (maybe not the exact same sites; I had previously checked out such sites because I was myself interested in getting an axolotl at one point) ... anyhoo, I went back and double-checked my sources of info ... turns out, I am indeed wrong about some of the specifics of the potential hazard that certain substrates do in fact pose to this species: the danger isn't that they can choke on some sizes of substrate, but that they can die of constipation from swallowing substrate! You just have to be careful of the substrate size, I guess - it has to be either too big to get in their mouths, or fine enough for them to pass out their cloaca. Although, based on what's written in one scientific, non-forum, axolotl breeder's site I checked out, fine sand (depending on the type) can build up slowly in their intestines over time ... so, while your axolotls may seem healthy now, you may want to ultimately reconsider the environment you're keeping them in.
As for digging, you may just have lucked out with your individual axolotl(s): oscars are also generally not recommended for planted tanks, as they are reknown for digging up rooted plants, and tearing up leaves - yet a recent poster in the Your Tanks section of this site has a beautifully landscaped tank with a big oscar in it. When I asked him how he pulled that off, he admitted that he just got lucky - his oscar never showed a penchant for digging. Some individual animals, just like people, don't conform to the norm of their species! There's also a couple of other possible explanations, which I didn't see substantiated in any of the axolotl sites ... maybe they only dig if the hear or feel things moving in the substrate ... or maybe well-established valisneria roots are just too firm and intertwined for them to dig up. I'd be interested to know what AxolotlFarmer's observations are on this - maybe I'll reconsider getting an axolotl!
What Mark said sounds very familiar to what happens to Bearded Dragons, Leopard geckos and any other reptile kept on a sand substrate when they are too young and small. If the grains are too large, like with the Calcium sand often sold for reptiles, it gets impacted and is usually fatal. A+ research Mark!
I have owned six of these little critters in a 180g planted tank. Raised them from about 2" until adulthood around 13". They are extremely interesting specimens with amazing attitudes. I would advise, however, that they have very specific needs. They need a cool tank (70F is the highest short-term..). They need subdued lighting as they have bad vision and dont like strong lighting (which could be an issue for plants and tank temp combined. If you want to keep plants, stronger lighting is good, but not with the axies.) They can and will nip anything that feels like food to them. They will attempt to eat anything that will fit in their rather large mouth. I have had them living with shrimp and guppies for a few months with success, but only if they are kept well-fed. They produce alot of waste, so proper cleaning measures should be taken. No snails. This, like small rocks, could easily cause impaction and death. Also, the picture shown as the display image has the axie in with the small-impaction-causing rocks..thats a no-no. Sand works very, very well with these guys at all ages. Bare bottom until at least 1.5" long.
Hope this helped a little. Any questions, feel free to contact me. :)
Axolotls have very different needs than tropical fish. For lots of great info on axolotls see http://www.axolotl.org/ I have had them for more than 20 years and they do make very interesting pets, but you have to remember to give them what "they need" and not what "you want".
I think some mention should be made of the unusual biology of the this species. It is one of the very few salamander species that remains in the juvenile body form all its life. It never grows up. Because of this it can regrow lost limbs the way most salamanders can only do while young.
The story goes these creatures are in fact a mistake made by the Mexican government. They originated in a lake under mexico city. What they are are fully grown baby salamanders. The government had a problem with the amount of salamanders in and around the lake, so they put a chemical in the lake that was supposed to stop the salamanders from reaching adulthood by stopping them at their aquatic stage. The affected salamanders evolved a trait called "neoteny" allowing them to survive as what we know today as an "Axolotl" You can in fact inject one these with hormone that will promote them to a fully terrestrial salamder.
Yo Safez. these critters were around long before mexico city even exsisted, let alone any mexican government. Axolotls were a staple diet of the aztecs so exsisted way before then. I've kept them for years on sand substrate with no issues (apart from a barebottom tank sand is the only way to go to be honest) they get fed a diet of earthworms, crickets, wax worms, bloodworms and mountain minnows and cherry shrimp (if they can catch em!) Big animals and could destroy a delicate planted tank in one manic outburst. All plants I have are attached to rocks and wood so dont get pulled about the place. Someone else made a good point, axolotls dont need and dont even like light so put the axolotls needs before any plants as these guys can live 15years java fern anubias attached to rocks are perfect for an axo tank! Amazing creatures but have very specific needs (most other critters in an axo tank will end up in an axolotls mouth!) Oooh one more note, young axolotls can be cannibalistic so beware of that one! Oh and they need a big tank as they get over a foot long, 3ft long is perfect for 1 or 2 of these guys! Oh ignore that max size 25cm, i had a big female at around 17inches in length, what a beast! average size is about 12inches!
I have 3 axolotyls and i would like to keep a few fish in with them but everything ive read on them suggests that they should be kept in a single species tank. Any fish or shrimp find the axolotls feathery gills too irresistable for a nibble. I suppose they do look like a nice bunch of bloodworm!
There's a bridge not far from my folks place in Oxford Mills where these guys swarm. They're really slow and cool to see in huge numbers just bobbing along feeding at night. I'll try to get and post some pictures next time I'm there. Think they call them mud puppies there.