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Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q)

Can axolotls be safely housed in the same tank as South African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis)?

Can axolotls be safely housed in the same tank as fish?

A recent protocol involves the study of renal function in tiger salamanders. The investigator is requesting that the salamanders be kept in a "cold room" for up to three months. During this period, animals will be periodically used for the research procedures. I wonder if you would comment on the "ethics, humaneness, etc." of "cold-room" housing.

We house axolotls for research purposes. Several of these have developed scoliosis. Some cases occur in the thoracic and lumbar regions but most appear in the base of the tail and cause severe deviation of the tail. Have you encountered this? Is this possibly a nutritional problem or could it be a genetic or developmental occurrence?

Do healthy axolotls normally become agitated if one bangs on the side of its tank or from similar disturbances?

Please let me know how to induce spawning by artificial insemination.

Where can I find a table of stages for axolotl development?

What antibiotics can be given to axolotls and what are the proper dosages?


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Q. Can axolotls be safely housed in the same tank as South African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis)?
A. I don't recommend putting an axolotl with a clawed frog. They can transmit disease to one another, plus I think it would stress them both.


Q. Can axolotls be safely housed in the same tank as fish?
A. Axolotls can be housed with fish that tolerate the same conditions, especially temperature. However, if the fish are smaller than the axolotl, the axolotl will eat the fish (or try to). Also, goldfish are often aggressive and will bite the axolotls gills. We have had axolotls coexist nicely with Plecostoma.

Q. A recent protocol involves the study of renal function in tiger salamanders. The investigator is requesting that the salamanders be kept in a "cold room" for up to three months. During this period, animals will be periodically used for the research procedures. I wonder if you would comment on the "ethics, humaneness, etc." of "cold-room" housing.
A. Generally I would not see a problem with cold-room housing for a limited period. Neotenic tigers will metamorphose if not in a relatively cold environment. Fully metamorphosed (terrestrial) tigers would normally be dormant, buried under leaves and dirt, during the winter months. Salamanders such as axolotls or tiger salamanders are stressed more by heat than they are by cold.

We house our axolotls at 16-20°C. Anything above about 22-23°C. is stressful. We frequently put ill or injured animals at 5-10°C., sometimes for a month or more, because the low temperature reduces stress and promotes healing.

I see no problem with a protocol calling for 3 months of cold room housing provided that the animals are not extremely young larvae (say, less than 8 cm long), and provided that the housing is otherwise suitable and maintained appropriately.

At cold temperatures the animals will eat little or nothing because they will be fairly dormant. If they are neotenic the water should be kept clean with perhaps weekly changes at 5°C. If terrestrial, suitable material, preferably allowing them to hide (bury themselves) should be used.

I don't believe any special procedures are required to induce dormancy.


Q. We house axolotls for research purposes. Several of these have developed scoliosis. Some cases occur in the thoracic and lumbar regions but most appear in the base of the tail and cause severe deviation of the tail. Have you encountered this? Is this possibly a nutritional problem or could it be a genetic or developmental occurrence?
A. We have seen this, though not recently. A few might acquire the deformity while confined in their jelly coats before hatching, and there could be a genetic abnormality, but I think what you're seeing is probably nutritional, especially the thoracic and lumbar problems. It may indicate a calcium deficiency.


Q. Do healthy axolotls normally become agitated if one bangs on the side of its tank or from similar disturbances?
A. Axolotls do not normally become agitated by people banging or tapping on their bowls or tanks. It is often possible to stroke or move an axolotl around with your finger without it becoming disturbed. Axolotls accustomed to being fed by people are expectant rather than nervous when people are around.


Q. Please let me know how to induce spawning by artificial insemination.
A. For artificial insemination, I recommend chapter 21, Induced spawnings, artificial insemination, and other genetic manipulations, in Armstrong and Malacinski (editors). Developmental Biology of the Axolotl. Oxford, 1989. pp. 228-235.


Q. Where can I find a table of stages for axolotl development?
A. here


Q. What antibiotics can be given to axolotls and what are the proper dosages?
A. The Axolotl Colony has used enrofloxacin (Baytril), amikacin, and gentamicin. All of these are powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotics. Amikacin and gentamicin are aminoglycosides, and enrofloxacin is a quinolone. In our experience, all are well tolerated by axolotls. We recommend that Tetracycline and related antibiotics be avoided because it is a strong skin irritant.

We give antibiotics by injection usually. We do not have good data on the efficaciousness of antibiotics added to the water. We use a dose of 5mg/kg body weight. We use a solution of 5mg/ml antibiotic in physiological saline and give a volume of .1 cc. The animal should get 3 shots of amikacin or gentamicin, each separated by 48 hours or 5-7 shots of enrofloxacin, each separated by 24 hours. We inject with a tuberculin, 25-gauge needle intraperitoneally, just in front of a hind leg, approximately parallel to the body and about midway between the dorsal and ventral surfaces: that is, dorsal to the bladder and ventral to the kidneys and too caudal to hit the liver or spleen.

It is possible that other antibiotics could be used, or that some antibiotics could be administered in water, but we do not have enough experience to recommend dosages of other antibiotics or other methods of delivery