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How Much Does It Cost To Keep an Axolotl?

How Much Does It Cost To Keep an Axolotl?

A type of aquatic salamander, axolotls are fairly inexpensive for exotic pets, but there’s more to an axolotl’s expenses than just the initial purchase. If you’re considering getting one as a pet, it is important to consider several factors, including tanks and accessories, food, medical care, and other expenses. 

It costs about $200 a year to keep an axolotl. These maintenance expenses are in addition to the initial costs of purchasing the axolotl, its necessities, and a health checkup, which can come up to $350 or more. Prices will fluctuate depending on several factors, including the type of axolotl. 

Axolotls live approximately ten years in captivity, it’s a big commitment for these gorgeous little creatures.  Over this time the costs of necessities will fluctuate, so it is important to plan accordingly. In this article, let’s explore the factors to consider when calculating how much axolotls cost and look at their needs so you can take care of them properly.

Factors That Affect the Cost of Keeping Axolotls

The costs of keeping axolotls depend on several factors, including the age and morph of your pet and the breeder. Other costs include necessities like required tanks and accessories, food and medical care, and how long your pet will live. 

Age and Morph

The cost of a healthy axolotl may start as low as $40 and can go as far up as several thousand dollars depending on the rarity of the morph, as well as the health and age of the axolotl. 

Juveniles typically sell for less than fully grown adults, who are preferred as pets because they are hardier and likelier to survive in a tank. If you end up purchasing an adult, you’re likely to spend up to $100 for a basic, healthy adult axolotl morph. 

Basic morphs refer to the more common colorations and patterns that axolotls come in, whereas rarer morphs tend to be more striking, with unusual colors and patterns that are harder to find. 

Prices fluctuate depending on the popularity of specific morphs and how difficult they are to breed, so even these general estimates may vary.

Where You Get Your Pet

Axolotls are a protected species that are classified as Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List. Wild axolotls are subject to newly introduced predator and habitat threats, so they’re protected and cannot be removed from their natural habitats. 

All axolotls kept as pets must be purchased from reputable breeders who have bred axolotls that were kept in captivity for scientific research. 

The reputation and quality of the breeders are very important, as poor breeders and pet stores sadly mistreat the parent animals, resulting in unhealthy axolotls. Exotic pet rescues are also a good space to purchase axolotls because they keep adequate documentation and information about the pet’s health history. 

Naturally, purchasing a pet from reputable companies and breeders will cost more, but it is well worth the expense knowing you’re getting a healthy, disease-free pet with a solid history that has every chance to live a healthy and happy life.

Tanks and Accessories

First things first, you’ll need to provide your axolotl a home it will love. That means, a tank with the necessary accessories, including substrate, lighting, filtration, and a cooling system if you live in a particularly hot area. 

The quality of the accessories you purchase will naturally affect the cost. On average, a good-quality fish tank will last about a decade, which should be just right for your axolotl.

Tank Size

Tanks need to be at least 10 gallons (37.85 L) for juvenile axolotls and, ideally, one that’s 20 gallons (75.71 L) for fully grown adults. Larger tanks will cost more than smaller ones and need more effective filters that are also more expensive.


I personally would keep the tank bare or use tiles instead of substrate. Axolotls don’t have the best eyesight, so it’s easy for them to pick up sand or pebbles mistaking them for food.  That’s my personal preference.


Axolotls thrive best in water temperatures between 57.2-66.2°F (14-19°C), some live plants won’t do so well in this cooler temperature so you may want to consider decorative (artificial) plants

Cooling System

Air Stones are a great way to keep your axolotl’s tank cool.  Keep in mind they don’t like a lot of water flow, so make sure the water pump isn’t too strong. Other factors to keep in mind are to ensure your tank isn’t in sunlight, if you do have lighting make sure it’s LED lighting, although your axolotl will love you if you don’t have any lighting.  Another tip is to not have a lid on your tank, a lid can insulate your tank. Remember axolotls can jump out so if you don’t have a lid, make sure the water is at least 2.5 cm – 3 cm below the top of the tank.


You want to give your axolotl a lot of hiding places, especially if you are using a LED light.  They will want to find dark places to hide. Adding caves, mugs, and plants with shade will make them happy campers.


As axolotls are salamanders, they’re carnivores that will swallow their prey whole. Small mollusks, worms, insects, and fish are all part of their diet in the wild

Pet salamanders can be fed brine shrimp or salmon pellets depending on what works out to be more economical. Crickets and bloodworms also make for a great option to introduce variety into your axolotl’s diet and easily be found at pet stores across the country. 

Food is typically the cheapest part of keeping your axolotl. The expenses are recurring but minimal as axolotls are small animals that don’t need much to live.

Ideal Diet

Axolotls must be fed a varied diet that includes brine shrimp, fish pellets, bloodworms, small crustaceans like Daphnia, and other amphibian-friendly foods. Fresh and whole foods are better for your axolotl than dried foods, being easier for them to digest and being more nutritious. 

Axolotls only need to be fed one serving of food once every two or three days. 

While they can go as long as two weeks without food, they must be fed more often to help them grow and stay healthy. Injured and healing axolotls may need more frequent feeding. Always pay attention to your pet’s appetite and preferences, and introduce them to new foods slowly to prevent any issues. 

Medical Care

Medical care for axolotls must be performed by a veterinarian that specializes in exotic pets. Such vets are more expensive than regular vets, so prepare accordingly. Apart from a health check at purchase, axolotls need general checkups every once or twice a year to ensure their good health. 

Fees for exotic pet veterinarians vary from area to area, but a good starting range is between $45-60, with the assumption that any add-on services that may be necessary will cost extra. 

As these little guys are fairly hardy, they’re unlikely to fall grievously ill in the time that you’re caring for them as long as they’re kept in favorable conditions. However, regular medical checkups will ensure that any illnesses are caught before they become life-threatening and expensive to diagnose and treat. 

Years of Commitment Required

If well-cared for, axolotls can live up to 10 years in captivity and even as long as 15 years in exceptional conditions. This longevity is different from the wild, where most axolotls live up to five years or less. 

The initial costs of purchasing an axolotl are likely going to be the most expensive. Maintenance costs for these exotic pets are fairly low, as long as you remember that you’re signing up for a decade’s commitment. 

Axolotls as Pets: Not for Beginners

Also known as Mexican walking fish, axolotls are popular exotic pets for their appearance and increased ease of access. 

While they’re hardy pets with few needs, they’re not for beginners who are unfamiliar with setting up tanks for aquatic animals. Axolotls require specific care and attention to ensure their good health and help them thrive in captivity. 

Temperament and Breeding

It is important to remember that axolotls are salamanders and, as such, are solitary creatures. 

They are not social animals and do not tolerate being handled very well. 

In fact, it is very likely that you might accidentally harm your pet axolotl if you handle them, so avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary. Axolotls have delicate bodies that are easily bruised, so always be gentle when handling them. 

On their own, these salamanders are gentle and easygoing and fun to watch more than interact with. 

They tend to be incredibly aggressive to other axolotls, especially if both are juveniles, and they shouldn’t be placed together unless you’re trying to induce breeding. 

Axolotls typically breed once a year in the colder months. You can induce breeding by introducing some cold water gently into the tank. Before attempting to breed your pet, ensure they have reached sexual maturity.

Ensure that you work in consultation with your pet veterinarian before starting any breeding procedures.

Legality and Ethical Purchase

Axolotls may be gaining in popularity as pets, but they are illegal in multiple states across the USA, such as California, Maine, and New Jersey. In other states, you may need permits before you can keep one, so always check the Exotic Pet Laws of your state before you purchase one. 

States may ban axolotls for a number of reasons, but typically these bans are to protect native salamander populations and prevent interbreeding. In some regions, axolotls are classified as an invasive species. 

Apart from the legality of owning these creatures, it is very important to purchase your axolotl from a reputed breeder or rescue to prevent poor treatment of these animals. 

Reputable breeders will be able to provide the lineage and health history of your pet, which will help ensure there are fewer surprises and problems down the road. Breeding is also a specialized activity, and safely breeding axolotls ensures that there are fewer genetic abnormalities and issues with your pet’s overall health and temperament. 

Finding Veterinarians for Exotic Pets

If you’re buying your pet axolotl from a rescue, you can always ask for recommendations for a good veterinarian. You might also want to check with your breeder directly or your non-exotic pet veterinarian if they have any leads. 

Axolotl-specific forums online are also good resources for finding a community of pet owners who also own axolotls and can help with vet recommendations as well as other resources. 

Always check the credentials, reviews, and specializations of your vet to ensure they’re capable of caring for your axolotl before heading over for checkups. Their clinic or hospital must also be equipped with the right equipment to ensure that your axolotl will be cared for properly while they receive medical attention. 

Carry all relevant documentation when you’re heading over for the first checkup and follow up with your vet about necessary medication and subsequent checkups. 

A Complete Guide to the Care and Keeping of Axolotls

Once you have your axolotl, it is your responsibility to cultivate an environment where your pet can thrive and live comfortably for the extent of its lifespan. 

Maintaining the right tank environment, feeding your axolotl correctly, and being aware of common medical issues will go a long way in ensuring that your pet is healthy and happy. 

Living Environment and Enrichment

While you could continue to keep your axolotl in a 10-gallon (37.85 L) tank even after it grows to its full adult size, the size of your pet will necessitate more frequent water changes. Axolotls also spend a lot of time floating around and walking along the base of their tank, so they need a lot of space. 

A 20-gallon (75.71 L) tank is ideal for single axolotls, and it should be sufficiently filled up to manage the bioload of an adult salamander. Get a tank with a lid to prevent your pets from jumping out of the tank and hurting themselves in an accident. 

Water Filter

Always add a good water filter and replace the water filter cartridges regularly. The biggest contributor to the overall health and well-being of axolotls is water quality and temperature, so ensure that the tank water is free of added chlorine. 

Axolotls have fragile, permeable skin, so the water quality must be excellent to prevent accidental poisoning.

You also need to ensure that the filter maintains a gentle water flow. Aggressive filters that move the water around too much will cause stress in your axolotls, as they’re soft animals that can be easily damaged by pressure. Excess water flow may also prevent axolotls from eating, eventually leading to starvation and death. 

Always prepare your tank well in advance to allow water conditions and filter bacteria to establish themselves before you introduce your new pet to the tank. 

Water Temperature

Water temperatures are also important for axolotls. Too low, and they’ll be slow and sluggish. Too high, and they’ll find it impossible to survive. Ideally, temperatures should be maintained between 57.2-66.2°F (14-19°C), which is fairly cool but essential for their good health. 

Keep the tank in a cool part of your house, and add ice cubes or a gentle fan if you live in hot climates. If you live in cool climates, you might consider a tank heater. 

A good way to check your tank temperature is to get an easy-to-use tank thermometer like the Aquaneat Aquarium Thermometer (available on An affordable and easy-to-set-up thermometer, this one is known for being fairly accurate and easy to read. 

As mentioned earlier my personal preference is bare or tiles.  You can also add large river rocks to provide some grip on the bottom of the tank. If you do add river rocks, make sure they are bigger than your axolotl’s head so there is no risk of it trying to swallow them.

Tunnels, rocks, and hideaways are great enrichment materials to add to your tank. Axolotls are curious creatures and love to hide away, so caves and tunnels are a great way to keep them intrigued and mentally well. 

Tank Mates and Other Pets

Axolotls do best without tank mates. Juvenile axolotls are prone to violent fights resulting in limb loss if they’re kept in small tanks and perceive a need to fight for food. Adult axolotls may do a little better but will need significantly larger tanks to ensure they have sufficient walking space. 

You might also find that you end up changing the water and filters more often to compensate for the additional bioload in the tank, so it may be easier to simply keep one axolotl at a time. 

You should not add other fish to the tank as fish may nip at your pets’ sensitive skin, causing distress and injury. Axolotls may also try to eat smaller fish. 

Common Medical Concerns With Axolotls

With juvenile axolotls, the most common medical concern you can expect is injury, especially if multiple juveniles are housed in the same tank. 

Apart from injury, bacterial and parasitic infections are commonly seen in tanks that have poor water conditions and aren’t cleaned regularly. 

Parasites are common among axolotls that are fed fresh fish of unclear origin, as the fish may contain parasites that they then pass on to the axolotls that eat them. 

Some products may cause toxicity among axolotls, as mentioned earlier, so maintaining water quality is very important. 

Preparing the tank in advance is also crucial to prevent New Tank Syndrome – an illness caused by shifting water conditions where filter bacteria haven’t had a chance to develop. 

Axolotls are also prone to developing tumors, but most of these are benign and left to stay 

unless they’re affecting your pet’s quality of life. 

Axolotl FAQs

Now that you know how much axolotls cost to maintain and the care involved, let’s address some frequently asked questions about these popular exotic pets.

Are Axolotls Expensive?

Axolotls are considered cheap for exotic pets, but if you’re wondering how much axolotls cost, it’s important to remember that the cost depends on the type of morph. 

Axolotls can be expensive if you’re purchasing one with a rare color, pattern, or breeding history. However, if you only want to get a regular axolotl, you’ll be able to purchase one fairly cheaply. 

The greater expenses are in the setup required to house axolotls. Tank setups can be fairly expensive, but they last the entire length of your pet’s lifetime and are, therefore, a one-time investment. Other maintenance costs are fairly straightforward and inexpensive. 

Can Axolotls Live in Tap Water?

Axolotls need water that is of excellent quality to ensure their good health. It is very important that any water used in their tanks is purified. 

Axolotls can live in tap water so long as the water is filtered and free of contaminants and additions like fluoride, chlorine, and chloramines. Using an RO filter with a carbon block is a great way of making tap water safe for axolotl tanks. 

A lot of municipal water has chlorine added to keep the water clean. The percentage is small enough that it doesn’t affect human health but can affect plant and animal health, including that of your pet axolotl.

Wrapping Up

It can cost about $200 a year to keep an axolotl. But the initial purchases can go as far up as $350-400 depending on the type of axolotl, the breeder your purchase from, and the age of your pet. Axolotls have few needs but aren’t beginner-friendly pets as they require a lot of specific tank care to keep them healthy.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...