Despite being critically endangered in the wild, axolotls are very popular domestic pets. So popular in fact that certain owners breed them!
For some, breeding their own axolotls is a way to grow their collection without buying new ones. For others, it’s a way to finance their passion by selling a few axolotls here and there. For others, breeding axolotls is a full-blown business and a way to generate income.
Whatever your reasons, you’re likely here to find out more about axolotl husbandry and how to breed axolotls. So, let’s jump right in!
Table of Contents
- When Do Axolotls Become Sexually Mature?
- How Do Axolotls Reproduce?
- Where Do Female Axolotls Lay Their Eggs?
- How Many Eggs Will The Female Axolotl Spawn?
- How Long Do Axolotl Eggs Take To Hatch?
- How To Prepare Tank For Breeding?
- Frequently Asked Questions
When Do Axolotls Become Sexually Mature?
Unlike other amphibians, axolotls are neotenic. This means that they don’t undergo metamorphosis, and retain their larval features into adulthood. So, sexually mature adult axolotls resemble pre-metamorphosis salamanders from other species.
These juvenile features include:
- DIsproportionately large head.
- External gills.
- Long dorsal fin.
- Webbed feet.
Because axolotls retain their juvenile looks for their entire lives, when do they become adults and at what stage do they become sexually mature?
Axolotls can reach sexual maturity anywhere from 6 to 12 months, with certain individuals reaching adulthood as late as 18 to 24 months. An axolotl is said to reach adulthood once it has become sexually mature. Once sexually mature, axolotls can begin to breed (or reproduce).
The speed at which an axolotl reaches adulthood depends on many factors, such as:
- Quality of the food they eat.
- Frequency & quantity of food they eat.
- Quality of their water (temperature, pH, salinity, hardness, chemical composition, etc.)
- The number of other axolotls or tank mates they live with.
- Their general health.
Males tend to reach sexual maturity a little earlier than females.
You should wait until your axolotls reach their full size of approximately 12 inches – after around 18 to 24 months – before you attempt to breed them. Even if they reach sexual maturity before that milestone.
How Do Axolotls Reproduce?
Male & Female Axolotls
First of all, it might be obvious but for axolotls to reproduce, you will need two sexually mature axolotls of the opposite gender.
To determine if your axolotls are male or female, check out How To Sex An Axolotl [Male or Female].
Due to seasonal variations in temperature and day length, axolotls spawn in late winter and early spring.
During what is known as a “courtship dance”, the male axolotl expresses his interest in a female axolotl by pushing her hindquarters with his snout. If she accepts his advances, the male axolotl will court her by standing in front of her and escorting her around the tank leading her around the tank, nose to tail.
The male will then begin to depose his spermatophores (10-20) around the bottom of the tank. These little sperm cones or sperm packets contain semen, which will eventually fertilize the female’s eggs.
Once he has released his sperm cones the male will then move the female axolotl around the tank until her cloaca is directly above the cones. The female will then absorb the spermatophores up into her body through her cloaca.
For an hour or two, the male axolotl will continue to move the female along, and she will pick up many packets of sperm. A few days later, the female axolotl will then begin to lay her eggs.
Where Do Female Axolotls Lay Their Eggs?
The female will lay her eggs on the leaves of the plants in the tank.
The eggs must be kept away from the adults, who could try to eat them. Remove the plants with the eggs from the container and place them in a new one with the same water quality and temperature as before, preferably with a bubbler.
The egg’s exterior jelly layer will have a point of attachment that will secure it to the plants. With your fingernail, you can easily loosen the eggs. Every egg is made with numerous layers of jelly to protect it, allowing it to be safely extracted even from rocks.
How Many Eggs Will The Female Axolotl Spawn?
Depending on the size of the mother, a single spawning can generate anywhere from 100 to over a thousand eggs.
At this stage of the breeding process, check out How To Tell If Axolotl Eggs Are Fertilized?
How Long Do Axolotl Eggs Take To Hatch?
After 14 days approximately, the eggs hatch, and within a few hours the larvae begin consuming anything tiny enough to fit between their mouths.
At this stage of the breeding process, check out How To Care For Axolotl Eggs?
How To Prepare Tank For Breeding?
When breeding axolotls, you need to make sure that their tank is set up correctly. This will ensure that all the conditions are optimal and conducive to breeding.
As bottom-dwellers, axolotls require a lot of horizontal space. Consequently, tank length is more important than tank depth. They are uninterested in the tank’s upper tiers, and most will spend their days frolicking on the smooth sand.
To breed axolotls, you will need to keep two axolotls of the opposite gender in the same tank (one male and one female). A single axolotl requires a 20-gallon tank. And, it’s recommended that you increase the size of your tank by a minimum of 10 gallons for each additional axolotl. So, for a set of axolotls, you will need a tank with a minimum capacity of 30 gallons.
Make sure you have enough genuine or plastic plants on hand if you wish to breed your axolotls. The female will lay her eggs on these plants, onto which they will become attached.
To depose their spermatophores (sperm cones or sperm packets), males should be provided flat stones or pieces of slate. Despite the fact that these packets are unlikely to adhere to glass or decorations, they must remain mobile in order for the female to absorb them into her cloaca.
Axolotls can get very stressed if the temperature in their tank is too warm. And stressed axolotls tend not to breed. They’re more concerned with survival.
Axolotls must be kept in cold water. They thrive at temperatures between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. As a result, if your aquarium’s water isn’t cold enough, you may need to purchase a cooler. If you don’t want to buy one and your home doesn’t have any chilly areas, keep your axolotl in the basement.
Two to three weeks before you want your axolotls to breed, separate the couple into two separate tanks (if you’ve been keeping them together). Keep the water temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius during this period. Then lower the temperature by roughly 5 degrees Celsius (using ice for example) before you reunite them in the same tank, in order to promote reproduction.
Certain breeders have reported that gradually reducing the period of time during which axolotls are exposed to light each day, for a couple of weeks, and then gradually increasing it again just before reuniting your pair of axolotls, can also help trigger mating.
This would make sense because the days get shorter during Winter when axolotls usually mate. And then begin to get longer again toward the end of the breeding season. Mimicking nature in this way with artificial lighting can help signal to axolotls that it’s breeding season, and then spur them to breed before the season ends.
Allow the mating couple to stay together throughout the breeding phase. When they’re mating, try to avoid changing the water as much as possible, and if you must, do it as infrequently as possible to avoid disturbing them or throwing out/damaging the eggs or sperm cones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Axolotls Give Birth or Lay Eggs?
Axolotls lay eggs and do not give birth to a live axolotl. Instead, the fertilized axolotl spawn is laid onto plants or rocks, where it attaches. From this spawn will hatch axolotl larvae.
Will Axolotls Breed on Their Own?
An axolotl cannot breed on its own. It takes two axolotls of the opposite gender to breed. A female axolotl’s eggs must be fertilized by the sperm of a male axolotl, in order for axolotl larvae to hatch from the fertilized eggs.
Can Axolotls Lay Eggs Without A Male?
Female axolotls will not lay eggs in the absence of a male. While certain females have been known to lay eggs without males, this is very rare. In such cases, the eggs will not be fertilized and will not hatch into axolotl larvae.
Can Axolotl Siblings Mate?
While it is biologically possible for axolotl siblings to mate, it is not advisable. Indeed, inbreeding is not recommended from a genetic point of view and there’s a risk that some of the axolotl larvae will be weak, sick, or deformed.