The average cost of an Axolotls will be between $200 and $700. After the initial equipment purchases, the costs drop significantly to an average yearly cost between $35 to $65.
These little frilled creatures are gaining popularity quickly. They are easy to care for, are nearly too adorable, and are just plain fascinating. So, before you purchase one, you need to know what kind of initial investment you are looking at.
They live their lives in water so you will need an aquarium set up, but with a few differences from a typical fish setup. If you have ever owned fish, you know sometimes the initial setup can quickly add up. The biggest investment will be the tank and filter, but these should last the life of your new pet.
Below we will get into the different options for setups which is where the large range in cost comes from.
But before that here is a little introduction about Axolotls.
Table of Contents
What is an Axolotl?
These cute, little, one-of-a-kind creatures look suspiciously like a real-life Pokémon. They have permanent smiles plastered on their faces, never seem to grow up, and have external gills.
They are sometimes also called the Mexican Walking Fish because of their little legs. With adorable features like that, it’s no wonder these pets are gaining in popularity.
An axolotl is a very unique type of salamander originating from the freshwater Lake Xochimilco as well as Lake Chalco both in the Valley of Mexico. What makes them different from salamanders is the fact that they never leave the water and remain in a sort of suspended larval state all throughout their life.
Fun fact: Aztec legend says that the axolotl came about from the god of fire and lightning called Xolotl. To avoid being sacrificed he transformed himself into a salamander.
What do Axolotls eat?
These smiling little salamander cousins are carnivores. The wild axolotl will eat worms, insects, mollusks, and small fish.
As a pet, they can easily survive on worms like bloodworms, red wrigglers, or nightcrawlers. You can also feed them small guppies or ghost shrimp as some axolotls will like to hunt their food.
How Long Do Axolotls Live?
Healthy, happy axolotls will live approximately 10 to 15 years, about as long as cats and dogs. They aren’t as long-lived as most parrots or tortoises—which can often live over 100 years—but axolotls should provide you with over a decade of companionship.
How Big do Axolotls Get?
Axolotls do not grow very large, so they won’t need a huge setup. The average, full-grown adult axolotls are between 6 to 18 inches (15 to 45 centimeters).
What do Axolotls cost?
You might think because of the exotic nature of these little creatures, they would demand a hefty price tag, but you’d be pleasantly surprised to know that they usually go for $30 to $50 each for younger axolotls. The axolotl price can quickly creep up to $100 or more for rare colorations and older, larger versions.
Delivery Fee Not Included
The unfortunate reality of axolotls is they are not always readily available at your local pet store, so you may have to rely upon an online vendor. Shipping for these pets can cost as much as the pet itself. Expect to pay around $40 to $60 to ship your axolotl.
Do your research to make sure you are not accidentally buying a wild type or baby axolotls if you are not ready to care for or handle them. You will want to do some research beforehand.
Axolotls don’t get very large, but they need plenty of space to stretch their gills. The bare minimum for a full-grown adult axolotl is a 20-gallon axolotl tank. If you can afford it, a 40-gallon tank would be best, as these amphibians like to crawl along at the bottom exploring their environment.
A simple 20-gallon tank with no accessories will run you around $100 to $150. You might be able to find used tanks for much cheaper, but they will have to be properly cleaned and disinfected so no illnesses get passed to your new pet.
We recommend this Aqueon Aquarium 20 Gallon Long. It is longer than it is tall which works out great for axolotls because there is more surface for them to explore.
You can find full aquarium setups complete with lighting and filtration for about $150 but as we will get into more later, you’ll likely need better filtration, lower lighting, and most regular aquarium substrate is not recommended for axolotls. It’s best to purchase all these items separately.
Axolotls are sensitive so it’s best to find a great filter for your tank, which means spending more money initially. This will work out better in the long run as you won’t have to clean the tank as often and it will keep your new pet healthier, so you’ll spend less on keeping them feeling their best.
A great quality filter will set you back about $100 to $190 depending on the size of the tank. Axolotls often gulp down water when they eat, so clean water is imperative because if there is anything bad in the water, it will go into their digestive tract. The tank and filter will be your biggest investments concerning your axolotl, but the extra money spent will be well worth it.
They are used to living in slower flowing waterways, so you’ll want a good filter, preferably a canister that doesn’t create a lot of currents.
We recommend the Fluval 07 Series Performance Canister Filter for Aquariums.
Axolotls don’t require much in the way of lighting. In fact, less is more here because they are quite sensitive to lighting. You should never set up their tanks directly in a window. In the wild, axolotls live in dark, shady waters.
Like fish, axolotls don’t have eyelids, so they can’t close their eyes if the lights are too bright. Their skin is also sensitive to bright lights; indirect sunlight is best, but if that can’t be achieved, you’ll need a dim tank light. The typical bright lighting most aquarium sets come with will be too intense for your axolotl.
This expense might be optional depending on where you are able to set up your aquarium. 10 to 12 hours of indirect light per day is good for your axolotl. If you have to get a light for your setup, expect to pay between $20 to $50 for lighting.
A dimmable LED light like this Hygger Full Spectrum Aquarium Light has several settings, is dimmable and you can even set it on a timer.
Substrate for axolotls is not an absolute necessity. Some people keep them just fine on the bare bottom of the tank. This may make it a little harder to anchor plants, especially if they have a tendency to float.
If you do go with a substrate you have to be sure not to buy anything your axolotl can swallow. They are very curious creatures and will try to eat many things that are not good for them including a substrate.
Typical, small pebble, aquarium substrate should never be put in with axolotls. The tiny, colored pebbles will probably end up getting swallowed, causing major digestive tract problems. Fine aquarium sand is recommended for axolotls.
Another problem with gravel substrates is the sharp edges can damage thin axolotl skin. If you feel you absolutely need gravel substrate, you need smooth, larger pieces that can’t be swallowed and won’t damage their skin (but we still recommend getting sand…it’s just easier).
If you go with a substrate, depending on the size of your tank, you will probably spend around $5 to $30 for enough to cover the bottom of the tank with about an inch or two of the substrate.
Most fish aquariums require some sort of aeration for them to get enough oxygen to breathe, but axolotls do not need extra aeration. They are used to low oxygen levels in the wild, and their external gills are quite efficient. Another fascinating fact about little axos is they can swim to the surface and gulp air if they need an extra breath.
Plants are a near necessity for your axolotl. They love to hide in them, and the extra green in the tank can not only make its home more aesthetically pleasing, but they help with boredom.
You can use live plants, but they will have to be tolerant of low light. Artificial plants are an easy alternative. Just make sure you clean them whenever you clean your tank. They can attract a lot of algae that might be overlooked because they are both green.
Plants in your tank will cost you about $5-$20 depending on how many you get, how big they are, and how realistic. You can always get a few at the beginning and add to them later if you’re looking to keep to a smaller, initial budget.
Most tap water contains plenty of chemicals that can be damaging to your delicate axolotl. Chlorine, ammonia, and other chemicals are found in most states’ tap water, so a water conditioner is a must for aquatic pets.
Water conditioners do not cost a lot, and you usually don’t need a lot to make the water safe for your pets. TankFirst Complete Aquarium Water Conditioner is a highly rated product that is safe even for sensitive axos. Expect to pay between $10-$20 for a decent-sized bottle of water conditioner.
Unlike most tropical fish, axolotls don’t require a warm environment. In fact, if the water is too warm it can threaten their lives. These little smileys live in cooler waters and require a water temperature between 59℉ to 65℉ (15°C – 18°C).
A heater won’t usually be necessary. In fact, you may even need to get an aquarium chiller or an aquarium fan to keep the water a little cooler. If you do need something to help cool the water off, this Petzilla Aquarium Chiller will help lower the water temp 2 to 4 degrees.
This cost usually isn’t necessary but if you do need something to cool the water, a fan will cost you around $20, whereas an aquarium cooler can cost in the hundreds of dollars.
After the initial cost of setup, the only real recurring cost will be feeding your axolotl. Luckily these smiley water dwellers don’t eat a lot. You can probably get away with spending around $50 a year for feeding them.
You can use worms—nightcrawlers or red wigglers—brine shrimp, or even feed pellets. The only thing about pellet food is, that if you start off feeding them live food, they could become finicky and refuse to eat the pellets.
As a treat, you can feed your adult axos ghost shrimp or feeder guppies. They like to hunt, and it can be quite exciting to watch them chase fish or shrimp around the enclosure.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are not really a necessity for axolotls. They usually get enough nutrients from their food, so you won’t have to shell out for extra supplements.
On the off chance your axolotl needs medical attention you could spend a couple of hundred dollars. The good news is most of them will never require serious medical coverage. As long as you keep them from ingesting things that will cause blockages, you shouldn’t have to visit the vet often for your axolotl.
Initial Average Cost for Your Axolotl
|Food (for the first month)||~$10|
Not That Bad
As you can see from the above chart, the initial cost of getting and setting up your axolotl isn’t really that bad. Especially if you consider the cost of owning a dog. You can spend over $500 for just the puppy, nothing else!
After the initial cost, feeding and upkeep are minimal per month. Vet fees can increase the cost dramatically, but it’s not often you will have to take an axolotl to the vet. For an exotic pet, axolotls are not horribly expensive.
We hope this answered your questions about the initial setup of axolotls and gives you a ballpark figure of what you can expect to spend on these funny looking little frilled salamanders.
More Axolotl stuff