5 Things To Know About Axolotls, The Amphibian Pet That Appears In Video Games Like Minecraft | Entertainment
“They are there.” Those words were all That Fish Place / That Pet Place needed to post to ignite social media with the store’s first delivery of a trendy amphibian. “It was really cool to see everyone flocking to these axolotls,” says Tanner Bauman, fishmonger’s manager at the Centerville Road store. Priced at $69.99 for the jumbo size, the axolotls have sold well since their appearance in late July, Bauman says.
Axolotls – famous for their sophisticated gills, difficulty surviving in the Mexican wilderness, seemingly smiling faces and ability to regenerate body parts – are named after the Aztec god of fire. Appropriate, because the axolotls are hot right now. Here are five things to know about them.
They disappear from nature
“Once widespread in the high-altitude lakes surrounding Mexico City, these one-foot amphibians are now restricted to a few inland channels near Lake Xochimilco, where only between 50 and a thousand survive,” National Geographic reported in January. “This precariously small population faces a barrage of threats: water pollution; predation by invasive carp and tilapia; and most importantly, habitat loss.
Mexico put an axolotl on its 50 peso bill last year. Mexican scientists are raising axolotls in labs and keeping them in university ponds, but have no plans to release them to Xochimilco unless the native population disappears, reports National Geographic.
Normally brown or gray in the wild, the magazine says white axolotls with pink highlights come from a genetic mutation caused by captive breeding. That Fish Place / That Pet Place offers both color combinations, as do a handful of breeders in Pennsylvania.
They have game
Wondering why your kids already know all this? You can probably thank the games. When axolotls were added to Minecraft in the summer of 2021, Minecraft-adjacent YouTubers with millions of subscribers started talking about axolotls. Axolotls made it into a LEGO Minecraft set released this year.
“Minecraft was actually behind the times for axolotls,” says James Farbo, owner of Farbo Co. in downtown Lancaster. Farbo first read about amphibians after an axolotl-inspired Pokemon character named Wooper hit the scene years ago. He says they were already a thing when he first opened his “general nerdery” game store in 2018. Farbo says that while the popularity of creatures that appeal to his customer base often rises and falls rapidly, items on the theme of the axolotl always fly from the shelves. “One way or another, axolotls have stamina,” he says.
They take TLC
“(T)heir care is extremely demanding and specific and any potential owner should be prepared to meet their needs,” say the That Fish Place / That Pet Place axolotl care guides, which must be constantly updated. Bauman says the store first sold axolotls a few years ago, but stopped because it was hard to keep coolers in stock and cooling fans weren’t yet currency. current. It’s no longer a problem to keep the things that keep axolotls comfortable, he says. “They come from these rather dark… rather cold caves,” he said. “So the (recommended) temperatures to maintain them are usually 60 to 68. Our tank we keep at 67.”
Axolotls should eat things like earthworms, black worms, frozen or freeze-dried clams, mussels or shrimp, according to the care guide. Some online discussions say it is okay to keep fish with axolotls.
“We don’t recommend it. It’s usually very risky,” Bauman says. “They are very delicate animals. They can be damaged very easily. Most fish tend to be nippy around each other, and they usually see their gills as food and they will try to bite into that.
Bauman says keeping axolotls of different sizes in the same tank usually doesn’t end well either. The store keeps slick items like driftwood, pieces of PVC pipe, and random reptile hideouts with its axolotls. “They don’t like a lot of light,” he says. “So they’re usually going to chill under there most of the time.”
They are illegal in some states
When the Lancaster store announced on Facebook that the axolotls were in, commenters chimed in from across the country, including some who lamented their state laws making it illegal to own axolotls. They are legal in most states, including Pennsylvania. Virginia just changed its law last year to allow them.
They are merchants
More interested in inanimate axolotls? YouTube is full of tutorials on how to crochet them. Alison Liebgott, owner of Switchboard Studios & Gallery in Columbia, hosted an axolotl-themed children’s event this year and says painting an axolotl isn’t difficult. “Just… break it down into simple shapes and do it,” she says.
Amazon has pages of axolotl backpacks, blankets, water bottles, and more. Go to the retail group. These stuffed animals are easier to cuddle than amphibians living in tanks.
“It was funny,” says Jennifer Schubert, executive vice president of merchandising at Go Retail. “One of my employees went to an aquarium in Houston…and she sent me pictures of the axolotls – the real ones – and she was like… ‘Those aren’t cute.’ ”
Cute and cuddly was Schubert’s goal when she led the launch of a Snoozimal axolotl about three years ago.
“If you were watching Google Trends and all that, you could see that (the axolotl) was starting to pique people’s interest,” Schubert says. The Snoozimal axolotl now outsells the company’s second-best – the turtle – four to one, she says, adding that axolotls are the company’s biggest revenue generator.
“The exponential growth really happened once characters hit Minecraft,” she says. “It’s become this phenomenon.”
That’s why axolotls are on such great display in places like Park City. Other trending animals are also in the fore.
“Sloths are always good,” says Schubert. “But they are far behind the axolotls.”