CHARLISE De Francesco loves dragons, and for her ninth birthday she asked her parents for one as a pet.
But what Charlise got was an axolotl, which was close enough because when she was younger she had always called them dragons.
She has little statues of dragons in her room and recently went to see the computer-animated fantasy movie, ‘How to train your dragon’.
Charlise said she thought the dragon character looked a lot like her pet axolotl, ‘Chomper’.
“I always wanted an axolotl,” she said.
“I always asked when I went to the pet shop, because they look like dragons. And because I didn’t know what they were called I used to call them that.”
Her parents, Esther and Mel first thought Chomper was a boy, but ‘he’ was actually a ‘she’.
“Charlise named her Chomper because she takes only a second to eat her food,” Esther said.
“We have a worm farm and fish specifically for feeding to other animals, called feed-a-fish. She eats one every few weeks and has a worm a day, which she loves. Plus she has some pellets.
“We looked up what was best for this type of pet and if you look after them, and keep them in good health they can live for 15 years. So we keep her tank at 16 to 17 degrees. She is the wild type because she is black, which is more closely related to the native variety that live in cold lakes in the high mountains of Mexico.”
Chomper is roughly a year old and has almost reached her adult size, but as the De Francesco family explained, her gills will change colour as she matures to pink.
“If she grows much more we will have to upgrade the tank,” said Esther.
“Although she looks docile she is a dart when she swims. She tucks everything back and becomes streamlined and darts around.
She has a fair bit of character actually. She knows when you’re standing at the front of the tank and it’s entertaining watching her chomp her food.
“She doesn’t have teeth she has plates, but she stays very still and when it’s in front of her she dashes for her food. When there is food she reacts in seconds.”
Charlise said her family has a lot of pets but Chomper is the most unusual.
“My friends think she is cool when they see her and it’s funny watching her eat,” she said.