Pin up of the day – Full Throttle Axolotl


This is Full Throttle, she is an Axolotl. A Mexican walking fish.

She spends most of the day glaring at me as I work, willing me to go into the garden and dig up a worm for her.

She is about 7 inches long and a teenager in our years, 2 years I think in real time. I have another but he is having a sulky stay in his room period at the moment, he didn’t ask to be born (slams door).

They are pretty mad creatures, they can grow back most of their bodies if they get damaged, including their brains and hearts (I am reliably told this by a 10 year old and I have not cross referenced). I’m pretty sure that if I add iodine to the water in their tank they will morph into salamanders which live above the water. The morphing is a pretty painful process I’ve read though, and it shortens their 20 year life expectancy so unless they really piss me off I won’t be adding iodine any time soon.

Keeping Flower Beetles – Smaragdesthes (or Chlorocala) Africana Oertzeni Tank Setup

This is how my beetle tank is set up. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I still have to get the substrate to retain a bit more moisture but they are breeding and it’s working for me.

The tank is a starter fish tank – 12 inches x 8 inches x 10 high.

At the base of the tank put some white rotting wood and some bark. They seem to like to attach their cocoons to something. Avoid conifers and aim for oak or beech.

Setting up a pet beetle tank Add substate. A good 5 inches at least. Mine is a mixture of rotted down oak and beech leaves, some peat, some moss, twigs, some special soil to keep spiders in and some John Innes Number 3. It’s quite course and I think if it was finer it would retain water better. I collect leaves and put them in bags to rot down but I’m careful not to get them from very polluted areas or areas where they spray insecticide.

Sunstrate for a pet beetle tank

Add larvae. Here’s some I made earlier! I’m really proud of these because they are the first ones born at home.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni larvae

They will burrow down to the depths and you won’t see them for months.

They then form a coccoon out of whatever is at hand, mine are mostly using moss. These look a bit like large, egg shaped maltesers and are easy to miss as they do like to stick them to things.

On top of the substrate I have some slightly rotting leaves, some twigs for the adults to climb on and some mossy and licheny twigs. They love lichen.

I feed mine fruit and veg. They like sweet potato, cucumber, sweet pepper, courgette, banana (banana skin is just as good), mushrooms and sometimes carrot. They like their food slightly on the turn.

I spray with water every few days, if it looks like it needs it.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni

This is what the tank looks like from the side.

The top is covered with a sheet of perspex that I can slide back under some aluminium mesh. This is my air hole control method.

I have a heat mat to the side of the tank, it’s on a thermostat and set to 22. It is bitterly cold in my house most of the year, sometimes 8 degrees or less and I don’t think they would appreciate that.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni

There is a really good forum called which, unlike most of the other invert forums has a special section for beetles, so you don’t have to trawl through loads of posts about spiders. I learnt all I know from BugNation and I still have a lot of learning to go.