As a pet owner, you have to ensure your pet is in peak physical and mental condition. While feeding them regularly is one of the most important parts of ensuring this, you also have to keep them in suitable living conditions. For aquatic pets such as axolotls, knowing whether they are solitary or social is very important to ensure the best living conditions.
So, are axolotls social? Well, in the wild, axolotls live a solitary life, and they mostly interact with other axolotls only during mating seasons. But this doesn’t mean that they can’t live with other axolotls. You can house more than one axolotl in a single tank, provided the conditions are right. Even in the wild, despite them not living in a group, they live close to each other.
Understanding the social behavior of axolotls is not just a matter of curiosity; it’s crucial for anyone who plans to keep them as pets or study them in their natural habitat. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the social lives of axolotls, exploring their interactions, mating behaviors, and much more.
When people own pets, they need to make sure their pets are in peak health, both physically and mentally. One of the best ways to ensure both of them is to keep them in optimal living conditions. These living conditions include where they are kept, the conditions inside the place, and of course, who they are being housed with.
Living conditions have a greater impact on the well-being of aquatic pets than on pets such as cats and dogs. While these mammalian pets can roam around the home, aquatic pets have to remain inside their tanks at all times.
Axolotls have taken the pet community by storm over the last few years. As more and more people are leaning towards having an axolotl or two as pets, knowledge about their welfare is becoming more and more important. And very few pieces of information about axolotls are as valuable as how many axolotls you can keep in a tank.
In general, axolotls are not the first animals that come to your mind when thinking about social animals. These amphibians, which are found in cooler rivers of Mexico, usually keep to themselves. Hence, they do very well when kept alone in a tank.
But does that mean that axolotls are not social? No, and here are a few proofs that they display some social behaviors.
1. You can keep more than one in a tank
The first sign of axolotls being somewhat social is that they tolerate others of their species in the same tank. Although the tolerance level depends on a few factors, you can keep more than one axolotl in the same tank. Since they tolerate other axolotls in their tank, axolotls can be said to be moderately social.
2. They remain near others in the wild
I have mentioned above that axolotls lead a solitary life in the wild. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they live far from each other. Even when they live by themselves in the wild, they remain near each other. So, although they are not pack animals that live in groups, you can’t say that they aren’t social at all.
3. They display courtship and mating rituals
Although this should be a no-brainer, axolotls display detailed courtship and mating rituals during the breeding season. Yes, they are driven to do this by their basic instinct, but this can also be considered a social behavior of sorts.
How Do Axolotls Interact with Each Other?
These intriguing amphibians have their own unique ways of interacting with each other, which can be quite different from what we’re used to seeing in other animals.
Communication is key in any social setting, and axolotls are no exception. While they don’t have vocal cords to produce sounds, they have developed a rich array of non-verbal cues to communicate with each other.
1. Body Language
Body language is the primary mode of communication for axolotls. For instance, a raised tail often indicates excitement or a willingness to interact. On the flip side, a lowered tail and retracted gills may signify stress or a desire to be left alone.
2. Color Changes
Axolotls can also change their body color to some extent, although not as dramatically as animals like chameleons. These color changes are usually subtle and serve as a way to communicate mood or social intent. For example, a darker color might indicate stress or aggression, while lighter shades could signify relaxation or contentment.
3. Chemical Signals
Axolotls also use chemical signals, or pheromones, to communicate, especially during mating season. These chemical cues can provide a wealth of information, such as the readiness to mate or territorial boundaries.
Axolotls don’t form structured communities like a wolf pack or a primate troop, but they do have some semblance of group dynamics.
1. Hierarchies and Roles
While there’s no strict pecking order, axolotls do show preferences for certain individuals within a group. These preferences can be based on various factors such as size, age, or even past interactions. For example, a larger, older axolotl might be more likely to take the lead during group activities like hunting.
2. Social Bonds
Axolotls can form loose social bonds, especially if they’ve been living together for an extended period. These bonds are not as strong or enduring as those seen in highly social animals like elephants or dolphins, but they do influence how axolotls interact with each other.
Conflict and Resolution
Life isn’t always smooth sailing, even for axolotls. Conflicts can and do arise, but how do they handle these social hiccups?
1. Display of Dominance
When a conflict occurs, axolotls usually resort to displays of body language to establish dominance. This could involve puffing up their gills, raising their tails, or even changing colors. Physical fights are rare and usually only happen under extreme circumstances, such as limited resources or severe territorial disputes.
2. Avoidance and Retreat
If a dominant axolotl has been established and the submissive one accepts its role, the latter usually retreats to avoid further conflict. Axolotls are generally good at reading each other’s cues and will often choose to avoid confrontation if possible.
While axolotls don’t have complex social rituals for reconciliation like some animals, they do tend to resume normal interactions after a conflict has been resolved. This usually involves returning to their usual activities and body language cues, indicating that the tension has been diffused.
Axolotl Mating Behavior
When discussing the social nature of any animal, mating behavior often serves as a critical indicator. For axolotls, their unique mating rituals and interactions during the breeding season provide valuable insights into their social tendencies.
Ah, the dance of love! Axolotls have a fascinating courtship ritual that involves more than just a simple meeting.
The Male’s Dance
The male axolotl initiates the courtship by performing a specialized “dance” that involves tail-wagging and circling around the female. This dance serves to attract the female’s attention and also to disperse pheromones into the water, signaling his readiness and desire to mate.
During the dance, the male releases pheromones from glands located near his cloaca. These chemical signals serve to entice the female and inform her of his genetic fitness, essentially saying, “Hey, I’d make strong offspring!”
The female axolotl, upon receiving these signals, will either accept or reject the male’s advances. Acceptance is usually signaled by following the male, indicating she is ready to proceed to the next stage of mating.
Timing is everything, especially when it comes to axolotl love. So when do these creatures decide it’s time to start a family?
Axolotls generally mate during the late winter to early spring. This timing is thought to coincide with optimal environmental conditions for the survival of their offspring.
Changes in temperature, light, and even water quality can serve as cues for axolotls to begin their mating season. These factors often mimic the natural changes that occur in their wild habitats, signaling that conditions are right for reproduction.
Once the eggs are laid, what happens next? Do axolotls share parenting duties, or is it every little axolotl for themselves?
After a successful courtship and mating, the female axolotl will lay her eggs, attaching them to a stable surface like a rock or plant. She can lay hundreds of eggs at a time, depending on her age and health.
Lack of Parental Care
Once the eggs are laid, don’t expect a “Mom of the Year” award. Axolotls exhibit little to no parental care. The female usually leaves the area soon after laying her eggs, and the male shows no involvement in their care.
The eggs are left to hatch and fend for themselves. While this may seem harsh, it’s a common strategy among many amphibians to ensure that at least some of the offspring survive to adulthood.
Debunking the Idea That Axolotls Are Anti-Social
Some people believe that axolotls are anti-social creatures who do not enjoy any form of social interaction. This myth is often based on a misunderstanding of what “social” means in the context of animal behavior.
Axolotls are not anti-social; they have a moderate level of social behavior. They can tolerate the presence of other axolotls and even engage in mutual activities like hunting. Their level of social interaction may not be as complex as that of more social animals like dolphins, but it is incorrect to label them as anti-social.
Knowing that axolotls are not anti-social can guide efforts to socialize them, whether in captivity or in research settings. Providing opportunities for safe and stress-free social interactions can enhance their well-being and offer valuable insights into their social behavior.
It is easy to believe that axolotls are solitary animals because they mostly keep to themselves. However, a deeper look into their psyche and behavior reveals that they also have a social side. As a pet owner, you should keep this in mind and responsibly keep more than one axolotl in a tank.