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Sure, everyone loves exotic pets! But what keeps the keepers troubled is the fancy price tag that comes along with the pet. Well, what if I tell you that you can keep an exotic pet without breaking your bank?
Today, I’ll walk you through how much is a axolotl. I’ll go through the monthly, yearly, and average cost of axolotls A.K.A The Mexican Walking Fish, originating from the lake complex of Xochimilco near Mexico City1.
What are axolotls?
Before digging further, let’s give a quick review of what actually axolotls are and how are they different from other salamanders.
Axolotls are amphibians. However, unlike salamanders, they spend most of their lives underwater. They are close relatives of Tiger salamander and range up to a foot in length. (quite a large size for salamanders)
They typically showcase mottled brown and black colors. However, in some rare and costly varieties, Albino and Leucistic axolotls display a translucent white color with shiny gold flecks and red or pink feathery gills.
How are they different from other salamanders?
Axolotls charm marine experts for their retention of features from the larval stage.
If you’ve seen tadpoles, you know what I’m talking about!
Amphibians; in general, go through a process called metamorphosis. It is a process in which an animal goes through certain developmental changes in the body structure. However, this process doesn’t apply to axolotls.
Axolotls, even in their adulthood retain their larval features including tadpole-like fins and external feathery gills.
One enticing thing about axolotls is that they take their regeneration to the next level. It would surprise you that axolotls cannot only regenerate tissues, but limbs, brains, spines, and even jaws!
How Much Do Axolotls cost?
The average cost of an axolotl doesn’t end with its purchase.
There are several other costs involved; the axolotl tank, accessories, delivery fees, recurring costs, monthly cost, yearly cost, and much more!
So, let’s go budgeting!
The Initial Cost
Axolotls are generally considered inexpensive exotic pets with an initial cost of around $30 to $100; that too for basic and juvenile axolotls.
The price, however, varies for exotic or adult axolotls. Depending on the rarity of morph and the health of the axolotl, rare axolotls like piebald axolotl cost around $100.
The adult Golden Albino axolotl costs around $45. Meanwhile, other varieties with exceptional pigmentations would cost you around $300 to $1500.
If you’ve ordered your axolotl online through a reputable store, be sure to add a few bucks (say $40 to $60) as a flat rate of the shipping cost for each pet.
So, this is where your actual expenses lie. An axolotl needs a larger tank than any other amphibian.
That’s because they spend their whole time underwater and the smallest tank you can accommodate for young axolotls is 10 gallons.
For a mature axolotl tank, a standard 20 gallons aquarium would suffice.
However, it’s not just the tank that counts.
Since your smiling pets would be captive-bred animals, they would need ample lighting and filtration. Some pet stores offer various aquarium kits and ensembles that include LED lighting, filtration device and cartridges, heating devices, and other tank decors.
The overall tank setup would cost you somewhere between $100 to $300 approximately.
Lucky for you; axolotls are exclusively captive pets.
And on top of all that, they have exceptional regenerative abilities. It makes it easier to minus the health problems of axolotls and clinical attention.
However, I still recommend visiting the vet once a year to rule out any medical abnormalities in your pet.
Basically, the only recurring cost left is food.
Axolotls enjoy a protein-rich diet including brine shrimp, earthworms, bloodworms. Many novice keepers make the mistake to feed feeder fish and mice to their diet. I strongly discourage live or dead food as it may introduce bacterial and parasitic infections to the tank.
Hence, the annual recurring cost of grown-up axolotls that feed twice weekly is estimated to be around $50.
I have rarely seen an axolotl falling sick and dying of a fatal disease.
However, they are living beings and require regular medical upkeep. As a responsible axolotl owner, you should make a yearly visit to the vet to avoid deadly diseases or aliments.
Factors Affecting the Price of This Pet
No two axolotls are the same. And that applies to their cost as well. There are a number of factors that affect the axolotl price.
When it comes to axolotl price, it mostly depends on the rarity of color. There are some varieties that are extremely rare, and hence the fancy price tag. Meanwhile, the common and basic morphs are inexpensive and easily available in pet stores.
Age is also an essential factor in determining the cost of an axolotl. Adult axolotls sell at a higher price than juveniles. That’s because mature axolotls are easy to care for and friendly.
While visiting the pet store, you may encounter the same morph axolotls selling at a low cost than some others. That could be mainly because of their health conditions.
A healthy axolotl would retail at a much higher price than the ones in poor conditions.
I advise inspecting the axolotl before making your valuable purchase. An unhealthy axolotl will most likely be lethargic and unresponsive.
The price also varies from breeder to breeder. Some breeders charge higher prices due to their reputation or brand name. Other breeders may charge nominal rates for a basic morph.
Requirements for the Tank
Like I said before, the prices for axolotls vary depending on their pigmentation and health. However, it’s the tank cost that makes the difference.
Along with a larger tank, axolotls require several other essentials to keep them healthy and happy throughout their lives.
I have prepared a thorough list for pet owners to guide through the proper requirements and estimated costs of an axolotl tank.
Estimated cost: $25 – 100
Happy axolotls are the best.
And what keeps the axolotl happy is a long aquarium around 30 inches in length.
For your convenience, I would suggest a standard 20-gallon long tank for an adult axolotl that provides much room for movement. For the best price, you can consider buying a cheap one used or waiting for a local chain pet store’s dollar per gallon sale.
Also, axolotls prefer dim lights. And so, I encourage placing some type of hide in the aquarium for them to get shade.
Hides are common place in the reptile word. Excellent for creating a safe space for your reptiles and amphibians
Estimated Cost: Less than $100 – $150+
You can cut the cost of filtration only if you promise to change the water regularly.
Yes, you can go cheap on filtration for axolotls if you are willing to do more water changes. However, I recommend installing canister filters in axolotl’s water tank.
You might wonder why.
Well, axolotls produce a lot of waste, which means a lot of ammonia. And they are extremely sensitive to poor water conditions. Therefore, installing a high quality filter would be the safest option.
Also, canister filters, although difficult to maintain, provide enough room for biomedia and gentle water flow to keep your pets healthy.
A good-quality canister filter usually costs less than $100 and lasts much longer than expected. Fluvals would be consider top-tier for a Axolotl tank, but you can do well with a budget canister like a Sun Sun.
Top name brand, Italian made, and updated design. The next gen Fluval Canisters are a best buy!
Estimated Cost: $15 – $25
You have to be very finicky while choosing the substrate for axolotl.
Since axolotls have delicate skin, the hard or sharp substrate might cause potential injuries to your axolotl. The costs of substrate or aquarium sand should cost you no more than $10 or $15.
Natural Fine Sand
I always recommend natural fine sand substrates for the axolotl aquariums. (with caution, of course)
If you choose natural sand substrates, make sure to avoid Calcium Carbonate sand as it might disrupt the pH levels of the tank.
Also, I recommend stirring the sand once in a while to help prevent the buildup of air gases and bacteria.
Natural sand is excellent for bottom feeder fish to forage around in.
Rocks and Gravels
Always remember; the larger the rocks, the better!
Axolotls have delicate mouths, and they suck in their food.
If you use rocks that are too small, your axolotl will suffer from intestinal blockage and experience several health problems.
Also, rocks and gravels should be smooth-edged and rounded. For younger axolotls (under 6 inches/15 cm long), avoid using any rocks or substrate at all.
Estimated cost: less than $50
Fun fact: Axolotls do not have eyelids!
And so, strong lighting overwhelms them.
If you want to install lighting sources, always go for LED aquarium lights that are dimmable.
However, the best advice I can give you is to utilize natural lighting. Axolotls do not require lighting, nor does the tank. But, if you have live plants, you can always opt for Planted Tank LED lights that are adjustable.
This way, the tank also doesn’t heat up and water temperature is maintained throughout.
The lighting cost for an axolotl tank should cost you around $50 for a premium-quality, adjustable LED aquarium light.
Water Temperature & Chiller
Estimated Cost: $10 – $15
One thing that makes Axolotls challenging for beginners is their demand for optimal water temperatures.
The ideal water temperature for Axolotls ranges from 57 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, in some rare cases, they have adapted to water temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to experts, Axolotls show sluggish behavior below 57 degrees Fahrenheit, and higher temperatures might trigger serious diseases. Also, temperature fluctuations can be detrimental to your axolotl, as they are sensitive to them.
Therefore, in hotter climates, it is a challenge to maintain water temperature, an aquarium chiller should be installed to ensure water stays cool enough.
A fan costs around $10 and can work exceptionally well in keeping your tank water cool.
Aquarium cooling fans are cheap and effective ways of pushing heat away from the aquarium
Even in cooler climates, a heater for an axolotl tank is not needed as the temperatures rarely fall below the their preferred ranges. If needed, the LED lighting or natural source of light would provide enough heat to the tank. Having a lid on the aquarium will also keep heat inside
Estimated Cost: Around $50
Axolotls appreciate decorations as much as other aquarium pets.
However, you have to be extra careful with the decors you choose for your smiling pet.
I always suggest live plants for axolotl tank as they like sitting on them. Low light plants like Java fern, , Java Moss, Eludia, Marimo moss ball, and floating plants like Amazon Frogbits, and Water Lettuce are some excellent options for axolotl.
Nevertheless, axolotls do great without live plants. If you want to adorn your tank, feel free to add fake (plastic) plants as they require zero maintenance and lighting.
Additionally, to offer some safe places to hide, you can invest in high-quality hides for the axolotl, such as Cichlid rocks or Ceramic pipes, dragon stones, river rocks. Rock structures are also a great addition to an axolotl aquarium, which costs around $50 each.
You can add absolutely anything, just make sure the edges of objects are not sharp to avoid injuries.
Estimated cost: $10
Water de-chlorinator is something that your axolotl would thank you for!
Axolotls make a lot of mess in their natural habitat and things are no different in the home aquariums. Therefore, the tap water needs to be de-chlorinated every now and then to make it axolotl-friendly.
I always recommend installing water de-chlorinators in your axolotl tanks.
They are cheap and readily available in the market and cost around $10 or so. I recommend Seachem Prime.
Seachem prime is a easy to use and affordable choice when it comes to remove chlorine and chloramines from your tap water. Highly recommended!
The Total Costs of Owning This Pet
Now that I’ve covered everything, let’s break all the expenses down for you.
The initial cost of an small axolotl is around $30 to $100, depending upon the breed and variation you opt for.
However, if you buy your axolotl online, it might cost you an additional $40 to $60 due to shipping and morphs (since online sellers tend to have better morphs).
For an adult, you need a large tank of around 20-gallons. This would cost you around $200 to $300 with all the required devices.
Lastly, the complete axolotl aquarium setup would cost you around $150 to $600 minus the food and water therapy.
Also, baby axolotl needs to eat more frequently than adults. But as they grow, they require less feeding and more maintenance.
So, axolotls are amazing pets that are quite inexpensive as compared to other exotic pets. And the total cost you pay or spend on your smiling pals is worth every penny.
Do they bite?
Yes, they do. Since axolotls are carnivorous, they bite everything. Axolotls also bite their fellows in the tank if they get too close to each other. However, their bite feels more like a tingling sensation rather than an actual animal bite.
Is it illegal to own one as a pet (Mexican walking fish)?
Yes, it is — in some states.
Axolotls are unfortunately considered critically endangered species. Also, their population in the wild is slowly decreasing. Therefore, in some states like California, Maine, New Jersey, and Virginia have put restrictions to make them illegal.
The California law doesn’t prohibit owning axolotls because they are endangered, but because they pose a serious threat to native wildlife. Hence, it is advised to keep axolotls that are bred and raised in captivity rather than in their natural habitat.
How much does the rarest one cost?
The rare axolotls can cost around $300 to $1500, depending on the morph, age, and overall health conditions.
Some axolotl morphs are extremely rare, which includes Chimera axolotls, mosaic axolotl, Enigma axolotl, Piebald axolotl, Firefly axolotl, and Lavender axolotl.
The Chimera and Mosaic axolotls are only sold through specialized sellers. The Enigma axolotls are worth around $1500.
The piebald axolotl costs around $300. The Firefly and Lavender axolotl cost somewhere between $250 to $115 each.
How much does it cost per month?
The monthly costs of owning an axolotl only include food consumables.
And luckily, their food supplies are much cheaper than any other exotic pet. The diet of axolotl comprises protein-rich food that mostly includes brine shrimp, bloodworms, etc.
Generally, the adult axolotl eats twice or three times a week. So, the monthly expenses of owning an axolotl should not be more than $20 to $30.
Are they good pets?
Axolotls are interesting creatures.
They are hardy, always smiling, easy to look after, and easy to feed.
Just what an axolotl owner needs!
However, they might not be the best fit for novice keepers as there are a few things to consider;
- Temperature for axolotls should be between 57 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything more or less than that may put your pet under stress
- Since they have a sensitive mouth, the substrate or decors used should be of high quality and kept clean
- They demand clean water filtration. Therefore, a high-quality filter is recommended
Now you know what it costs to own an axolotl.
Besides everything, make sure to keep the water clean, and water temperatures maintained for your walking fish to stay healthy and smiling. The price that starts from $30 may touch $600 or so after complete tank setup. So, I believe it’s not much to invest given the joy and how long these animals live.
Got any comments to share? Leave a comment below and let’s get a conversation going!
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.
My daughter just told me she may invest in a axolotl. This was by far a wonderful to the point education!
I will definitely pass this on!
Thank you for the info and the photos of the items.