Axolotl Breeding Life Cycle (Journey from egg to larvae to adult)

For those who are interested to breed axolotls, good news for you guys!

I have carefully collated and put together the most comprehensive axolotl breeding guide to ensure a high success rate when it comes to breeding your axolotls.

Breeding axolotls may not be as complicated as it may seem. As I walk you through this intricate process, i will try to be as specific and detailed as i can be in every aspect.

What is the lifespan of an Axolotl?

Before we start to delve into axolotl breeding and go into further details, i thought that you and fellow axolotl keepers ought to understand an axolotl’s life cycle as it is beneficial especially when it comes to breeding.

Did you know?

An axolotl has an average lifespan of 10 – 15 years in an aquarium. This means that your axolotls should be well fed and water changes should be done consistently to ensure healthy water perimeters.

If neither of these conditions can be done properly, I would not encourage any of you to begin breeding them at all.

Axolotl life cycle

The life of an axolotl begins like most life cycles, through an embryo where it is being held by the female axolotl, which will be fertilized with the spermatophores from the male axolotls.

An empty embryo should look significantly smaller than that of a fertilized one. It measures around 0.2 cm in diameter and has a couple layers of jelly encasing it to protect the fetus.

A fertilized egg should look slightly bigger than an empty one, measuring about 11m in diameter.

The process from a fertilized egg to a young hatchling will require anywhere from less than 14 days to slightly close to a month depending on the water temperature.

Here’s the deal.

If you want your eggs to hatch faster, the general rule of thumb that you should take note of is the temperature. The warmer it is, the faster they hatch.

Take for example –

If the axolotl eggs are being kept at a temperature (absolute highest) of 25°C, it should typically hatch before 14 days. If it is being kept at temperatures as low as 18°C, the eggs should take at least 20 or more days to hatch.

Once they hatch, provide them daily feeds of once or twice and after approximately 8 – 9 days, it should grow close to 2cm where you will start seeing its front limbs developing.

Find out on what to feed younglings at our gourmet guide here.

This will only eventuate if you were to feed it with brine shrimps or daphnia and it is being kept at 22°C.

Upon hitting 2.5cm, their front limbs should be noticeably out and their hind limb buds can be seen growing.

As these baby axolotls start to grow in sizes, make sure you control the number of axolotls per containment to reduce any casualties or cannibalism as their natural instinct will manifest over time.

As they start growing in length, at about 4 cm or so, you can start to introduce frozen food such as frozen brine shrimps, frozen bloodworms, or frozen daphnia in cubes.

Breeders have noticed that wild-type axolotl babies are usually the ones that would attack the non-wild types, hence if you want to categorize your axolotls and separate them, this would be the chance to also do so.

Do not make frequent water changes as this might add stress to the larvae axolotls, instead, if you can try to use wool or sponge filters as they are good filters that would decrease the frequency of water changes.

Internal pumps or aeration should not bring about strong water flow, this is usually the case where most breeders would suffer from huge losses as these tender larvae cannot take such immense flow at such a delicate state.

Axolotl’s length and maturity

Axolotls stop growing at approximately 30 – 40 cm. Most axolotl keepers would have their axolotl at around 30 – 35 cm but if it is well kept, with the right conditions, there are some keepers who have reported to have grown their axolotls up to 40 cm.

You can tell if the axolotl is sexually matured through a couple of physical indications such as its toes are brownish-black, when its cochlea area is quite prominent or when it has passed 18 months or at least 30 cm in length.

Female axolotls usually take a longer time to grow as compared to the males, but give or take a month difference, and depending on its diet and frequency that it is being fed, your axolotl should mature at around 18 cm most of the time.

I would like to emphasize that the female axolotl will take a huge toll to her body whenever spawning seasons commences, hence after breeding, these females should be isolated or separated 1 – 3 months at least, away from the males for them to recuperate in peace.

Breeding periods

Axolotls tend to breed at least twice a year and it usually occurs during December till June typically. This should typically happen if an axolotl has reached maturity and is really well fed and taken care of.

If the space where you are housing your axolotls is being exposed to partial sunlight and heat, best from a window, breeding should take place naturally.

It has been recorded that breeding should happen in the early months of winter (December, January, February) and somewhere before spring (March, April, May) ends.

In rare occurrences, breeders mentioned that their axolotls would breed out of this specific duration (December – June), this is quite subjective as their breeding can be influenced by various factors such as the amount of light, water, and temperature as well.

Female axolotls tend to spawn as many as 1,000 eggs each time when she is ready to be bred.

The best time to have your axolotls breed is always during the months of December till June. Meaning you should pay extra attention to them during your festive seasons such as Christmas or New Years.

There is a high chance that breeding might take place while you’re having Christmas dinner or counting down to the new year.

This is the ideal setting or environment that you should have to further increase your chances of having your axolotls to mate.

Breeding tip 1

The tank should have plants around for the female to cling onto it and lay her eggs all around, this makes transporting and separating the eggs from the parents that much easier afterward.

Before mating season, if your axolotls are from the same tank, it is highly recommended to separate them for a couple of weeks (2 – 3 weeks) at around 20°C – 22°C before re-introducing them to each again at a tank which is at least 5°C lower to trigger courtship.

Breeding tip 2

Another effective technique which breeders have proven to be successful, which again is subjective when it comes to individual axolotls is to drop the amount of daylight exposure to your axolotls separately for 2 to 3 weeks, re-introduce both male and female again while gradually increasing the daylight exposure, chances are they will immediately mate at sight.

Breeding temperature

Through proven methods by several reputable breeders, the ideal temperature to kickstart this breeding is around 12°C – 14°C.

Breeders have feedback that this would only stimulate the male axolotls and incite it to mate with the female, but in order for breeding to take place, the female has to respond favorably and be susceptible to the male.

Bearing in mind that both axolotls have reached maturity and are ready to mate.

Water change should be done before the introduction of both male and female axolotls and after they have mated successfully, and no or minimal water changes should be done during the courtship phase as we wouldn’t want any interference even when we are having our own private time with our partners right?

After mating

After mating is done, either remove the eggs or the adults to avoid the adults from eating up the eggs.

If a majority of the eggs are being laid around the plants, it is advisable to remove the plant and not stress the adults.

After which, once you have already separated the eggs and parents, remove the male from the tank and allow the female to recover as the male axolotl would take lesser make slight water changes of 20% at least and water should be soft to prevent any spike in the perimeters which might further stress them especially the females as giving birth takes a huge toll on their bodies.

It is common for the females to fall sick after which. Do provide and spend more time on your female axolotl to help her recover her health. Make sure the water is well aerated at this point.

Taking care of eggs

A fertilized axolotl egg should be around the size of 1.1 – 1.5 cm or around half an inch whereas an unfertilized egg would be around 0.2 cm without the spermatophores.

The eggs should hatch anywhere from 14 – 30 days at least. Upon hatching, a baby axolotl depends solely on its egg yolk from the embryo as its only food source and until it fully consumes what is left of the egg yolk will it require food.

Be sure to monitor as close as you can as it is quite subjective when it comes to hundred and thousands of axolotls to care for.

This process will last for at least 24 – 72 hours where their food source has to be introduced once the egg yolk is fully consumed.

Taking care of younglings

Small Daphnia and newborn brine shrimps are ideal food sources for these little ones.

A good practice that breeders should take is to start lowering water levels to around 4 cm at least to congregate these brine shrimps or daphnia so that the baby axolotls need not require much effort to get their food source.

Young larvae axolotls can still be kept together until they hit about 2 cm in length where it is best to house them separately.

For first time breeders, though it might be a cruel thing to do, it is best to focus your attention and cull a batch of hundred instead of the full batch as you might have difficulty caring for such a big number of babies at one go.

Either give away the eggs or sell them as it would require an extensive amount of time to care for them individually.

Experienced or commercial breeders who have prior breeding experience would know/found an efficient method to raise the whole batch of axolotls.

I am not going to lie to you…

Young axolotls will start eating each other if you do not separate them.

Once they hit the size of about around 2 cm their natural cannibalistic instinct will surface. So before that happens, separate them.

Studies have shown that cannibalized axolotls will instigate their morphology and change its appearance and shape as it grows older especially in their teeth and head shape.

In order to minimize cannibalism, you should reduce the number of axolotls per containment as due to space limitations, I am sure not many of us would have the luxury to have 100s of individual containers or tanks to house each baby axolotl. Introduce lots of plants for baby axolotls to hide amongst them, and decrease the light exposure so that they will not move much.

Make sure that they are being fed once or twice daily as they are still in the infancy stage, last but not least, treat them like how you would treat babies, I am sure you would feed your newborn baby at least twice a day right?

Show them the same care and concern as if they were your own babies.

In essence, you should only breed your axolotls if they have passed 18 months and are at least above 30 cm in total length.

These neoteny salamanders can usually breed naturally several times during a year, most commonly during the months of December to June.

There are also ways to trick them into mating such as manipulation of the temperature and the exposure of daylight may help in promoting breeding. But the important thing to note here is that mating would cause tremendous strain to female axolotl’s body if she is being bred before she is fully grown whereas male axolotls are able to breed at an earlier phase.

Each time the female lays her eggs, she would have to reproduce eggs to replace those that have been laid, every time when this process happens, the pressure would increase and take a toll on her body. This is why she should never be bred if she is not fully mature to prevent any agitation to her metabolism, which might shorten her lifespan or lead to adverse effects of her development.

If there is any information which I might have missed out, do comment below and I will try to include those points in to make this a much better guide to help first-time breeders or even amateur axolotl breeders who have tried but failed along the way.

Thank you for taking time out to go through our axolotl breeding guide and I wish you the best and I hope it’ll all work out for you! Happy axolotl breeding!

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