Axolotl are unique creatures that make fascinating and friendly pets. They are also relatively inexpensive and easy to care for when it comes to exotic animals. But exactly how much can you expect to spend when you decide to bring home an axolotl?
Read on for our complete axolotl cost guide, starting with the price of the animal itself and also looking at the cost of setting up their habitat and caring for them in the long term. These incredible animals usually live 5-6 years but can live as long as 15 when cared for correctly. That is a big commitment and a long friendship ahead.
How Much Does It Cost To Purchase An Axolotl?
Purchasing Price: $30-75
Axolotl are a type of amphibious salamander that are originally from Mexico, but by 2020 they had been declared all but extinct due to human destruction of their natural environment. So, any axolotl that you buy will have been born and raised in captivity.
While they only breed once a year in the wild, they might breed twice a year in captivity, usually in June and December. They don’t breed often, but a female will lay between 300 and 1000 eggs when they do, and they should hatch after about two weeks. This means that if you purchase at the right time of year, axolotl can be highly available.
Juveniles should usually be kept by the breeder until they are about three inches long, which happens when they are three or four months old. They are then considered ready to find a home. Axolotl reach sexual maturity at around six months, but they shouldn’t start breeding until they are about 18 months old.
You can expect a baby or juvenile axolotl to cost between $30 and $75 for your standard, common breed. There are more exotic morphs and types that can cost between $100-$1,500, but these really are for collectors.
Assuming you don’t have a breeder close by, remember that you will also have to pay for shipping. You can expect this to cost between $40-$60 as a flat fee no matter how many you purchase. This might seem expensive, but remember that they have to be transported in habitable water conditions.
Like many exotic pets, axolotls are solitary creatures and you shouldn’t get two or more thinking they will need company. They are very happy having their tank all to themselves.
But if you do want to get multiple axolotls, it is a good idea to buy them together because they do have to be roughly the same size. If one axolotl is small enough to fit in the mouth of the other, chances are that the smaller one will get eaten!
How Much Does It Cost To Set Up An Axolotl Habitat?
Lighting (optional): $10-$40
More expensive than purchasing your axolotl will be creating an appropriate habitat for your new friend. You can probably expect to spend $400-$500 on setting up a habitat for your axolotl.
First and foremost, your axolotl needs a watertight tank to call home. For adult axolotl, which grow to be about 12 inches long from nose to tip, they will need a minimum of a 20-gallon tank. You can start juveniles in a smaller tank, but that does just mean investing in a larger tank down the line.
You should probably expect a decent tank to cost between $100-$200, though you may find something cheaper. Check out this Tetra 20 Gallon Aquarium as a great budget option or this GloFish 20 Gallon Aquarium as a premium option, but it’s worth noting that it comes with LED lights, heater, and filter included.
Your tank will need a good filtration system for your axolotl since they produce a lot of waste and they are also sensitive to poor water conditions. Canister filters are the best option when it comes to balancing cost and effectiveness, but they cost $80-$150.
Axolotls thrive in a fairly restricted water condition of between 57 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that you might need to invest in equipment to heat or cool their tank depending on where you live, though cooling is more common than heating. You’ll also want an aquarium thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature.
Substrates & Decoration
Of course, you can’t just pop your axolotl in an empty tank; they need a substrate, plants, and decoration.
The main thing to consider with the substrate is that it should not be made of hard materials since axolotls have delicate skin and can easily cut themselves. The best choices are a natural sand substrate, but without calcium carbonate as this can disrupt the pH balance of the water, or a rock substrate made from smooth rocks that are also not big enough for your axolotl to swallow. Either choice will probably cost between $10-$15.
They will also need some plants, which can be either live or made of plastic. The benefit of plastic plants is that they don’t need light, but they don’t always look as good as the real thing.
Axolotl do need relatively soft plants, as they have a tendency to sit on them. Among the best choices are java moss,java fern, Elodea, Marimo moss ball, and floating plants such as Amazon frogbits or water lettuce.
You might also want to install some hides in the tank for them made of cichlid rocks, dragon stones, rover rocks, or ceramic pipes.
Overall, you might expect to spend about $50 on decorations.
Fortunately, axolotls don’t need any special lighting, and natural daylight is often enough for them. In fact, you don’t want to invest in excessive lighting as they have no eyelids and it can hurt their eyes. But if you have plants, they may need lighting, and you might want lights to better see your friend.
If you decide to get lights, go for dimmable aquarium LEDs so you minimize excessive light exposure. This MingDak option is a great budget choice, while this Nicrew Classic LED set is a popular premium option. Expect to spend between $10-$40.
Ongoing Axolotl Costs
Food: $50 per year
Vet: $50 per year
Tank upkeep: $20-$50 per year
White it can be expensive to get your axolotl set up, they are relatively cheap to care for over time. You probably only need to budget $120-$150 per year for their ongoing upkeep.
These amphibians eat earth bone shrimp, earthworms, and bloodworms, and only need to eat twice a week. This means you can reasonably feed your axolotl for just $50 a year.
On top of this, they might need a visit to the vet maybe once a year, which will cost around $50. They are pretty healthy animals and don’t need medical care often.
You may also need a few things for their tank, like new plants, dechlorinator for the water, and a change in the sand substrate. But this might only cost around $20-$50 per year.
Are axolotls good pets?
These amphibians have a curious smile and an engaging personality, which makes them the perfect pet for someone looking for more than just a fish. Once their habitat is set up, they are also easy and inexpensive to care for.
Can you touch axolotl?
Axolotl are safe to touch and can tolerate it in very small doses. Wash your hands before and after touching them to avoid passing contaminants in either direction.
Adopting An Axolotl
As is the case with many exotic pets, while they aren’t necessarily expensive to buy, setting up an appropriate habitat for your new friend can be rather expensive. It’s important to factor in these costs before deciding to buy and bring home one of these friendly amphibians.
Luckily, once you have your habitat set up, axolotls are fairly low maintenance and affordable to care for. You only need to feed them about twice a week. So, while you need to make an upfront investment, they are affordable in the long term.
Want to know more about axolotl? Read our guide to interesting facts about axolotl salamanders.