Axolotl behavior

Can You have an Axolotl as a Pet? What You Should Know

Can You have an Axolotl as a Pet? What You Should Know

What's not to love about axolotls?

If you've been captivated by the adorable smile and are wondering about a new pet...

... You're not the only one.

So today I'm going to tell you all about keeping axies as pets - and what you should know before getting one.

Do Axolotls Make Good Pets?


I may be biased when I say this, but many others agree:

Axolotls make AMAZING pets.

If you have any experience at all with aquariums, I can almost guarantee they will be hands-down the easiest aquatic pet you'll ever own.

If you don't have experience with aquariums - no worries.

Learning the basics of aquarium care is very straightforward, and the needs of ambystoma mexicana are very simple.

To me, I see axolotls as kind of the bridge between the aquarium world and the reptile world.

People get into them from both hobbies.

Here are just a few benefits of pet axolotls:

  • Easy to care for
  • Fun personalities
  • Educational
  • Do not bite or scratch
  • No heater required
  • No special lighting required
  • Unusual pet
  • Awesome appearance
  • Can be kept on a budget
  • Live 10-15 years
  • Generally forgiving of mistakes
  • Not destructive of aquarium plants
  • Comes in lots of different varieties


The main things they need are clean, cool water and food.

How Much Does an Axolotl Cost?

While there is some basic equipment that will make your life easier, that minimizes the maintenance and is not costly, especially compared to animals such as cats or dogs.

Did you know that a pet dog or cat costs the owner on average upwards of $1,000 a year to maintain?

Whereas the humble axolotl can be kept as a pet for a fraction of that.

That said:

There are some "designer axolotls" that can cost a pretty penny, if you have expensive taste.

These are usually the rarer morphs.

Some chimera axolotls have been known to go at auction for thousands of dollars due to their rarity.

However, most can be purchased within the $50-100 price range.

If you're really on a budget, you don't even need a glass tank, they can live very well in plastic storage totes or large buckets.

You can usually get secondhand tanks for inexpensively locally, or wait until the dollar-per-gallon sale at Petco.

A 10 gallon tank at Walmart usually goes for $15, or a 20 gallon at Petco during the dollar per gallon sale would be $20.

The other equipment needed to set up and maintain the tank is pretty affordable.

You can see a full list of recommendations here.

"Can I have a pet axolotl?"

So this is not really a straightforward question.

If you live in the US, yes...

But there are a few caveats to know to make sure you are able to own them without running into trouble.

1. You have to be located in an area where it is legal.

The following states ban the importation or possession of these water dragons:

  • California
  • New Jersey
  • Maine
  • Virginia
  • DC

If you get caught with an axolotl in these states where it is a crime punishable by law, you can face major fines up to $25,000.

2. You have an import permit (in certain states)

In the following states, they are legal to own but require an import permit:

  • New Mexico
  • Hawaii

If you can obtain a Mexican water dragon from someone else who lives in your state, that is perfectly legal as well and does not require a permit.

You can also get a permit for importing axolotls into your state.

The permit (CITES license) can be costly, but if you really want a pet axolotl it may be your only option.

No permit is necessary if you live in other states where they are legal.

For all other states in the US, it is perfectly legal and you can have a pet axolotl there.

Why Are They Banned in Some States?

California publicly says that they do not ban these animals because they are endangered in the wild.

They say that they do not want them potentially competing with native wildlife if someone releases them.

Therefore all animals from the genus Ambystoma are banned, meaning all salamanders as well.

Other states have restrictions on them because of their endangered environmental status.

Whether or not this should be the case, it is what it is.

If you are dying to have a pet axolotl, unless you want to be a criminal you may just have to move to a place without these regulations.

Where Can You Buy Pet Axolotls?

Some people are able to obtain the morphs they want locally or by visiting reptile expos.

For most people, axolotls can be hard to find, especially with the more unusual varieties.

So for them, they turn to the internet.

While there is the disadvantage of not being able to see the animal in person as with a brick and mortar pet shop, many times you can buy from a reputable seller that understands the needs of axolotls to ensure you get an animal in good physical condition.

Not to mention, find the one you really like by looking at photos before purchasing.

A responsible seller will ensure they properly ship the animal so it arrives to you safely.

It is nice being able to have an expert to talk to about caring for their axie as well.

How to Take Care of a Mexican Water Dragon?

Axolotl care is very straightforward.

They should have the following basics:

  • Cool, clean water
  • A place to hide
  • Not too bright light
  • Food

Some other things can be useful as well, such as Indian almond leaves (IAL) or Himalayan salt to prevent fungus, as well as live plants or decor.

A lid on the top of the tank can help prevent them from jumping out too.

Disease is usually easy to treat and prevent, and I would venture to say generally less prevalent than among fish.

You can check out our care guide for information on how to take care of an axolotl.


Is an axolotl the right pet for you?

I hope this post has helped to give you some pointers and help you to prepare to own one of these amazing creatures...

... Or not get in trouble, if you can't :P

Thanks for reading!

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