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We Believe in Axolotls

Housing Axolotls


Aquarium

An Axolotl requires a tank of at least 10 gallons.  You want to use a larger aquarium for multiple axolotls. A good rule of thumb is an inch per gallon. An adult Axolotl will be about 10 inches when full grown so for one Axolotl, a 10 gallon will be fine. For 2 Axolotls, you will want a 20 gallon, for 3 a 30 gallon, and so on. The tank should only be filled up to about 11 to 12 inches of water. Axolotls have gills as well as lungs to supplement their gills if water quality is poor. Due to this, they do not like to go a long way to take a breath of air. So if you have the choice to choose between a tall or long aquarium, the long is better. Also, since Axolotls are bottom dweller, a long tank is preferable over a tall. A mesh top or an aquarium lid is best to prevent an escape if tank is filled all the way to the top. They cannot climb but they have been known to leap out of their tanks when startled. Since Axolotls are amphibians that spend their entire live in water, they will die if out of the water to long, the lids are also good to prevent debris from getting in tank. The tank should also be glass or acrylic to prevent getting ill from plastic tanks which can house bacteria.



Substrate

There are three options for the bottom of your tank: 


1) Bare Bottom

2) Large Rocks

3) Fine Sand


Make sure not to use regular aquarium gravel, which axolotls can end up swallowing.  This can be fatal to your Axolotl because the gravel can cause a blockage in their stomach. Gravel swallowing can be avoided by using either a bare bottom tank, gravel that is very large (larger than the Axolotls head), or sand. Substrate is not necessary for your axolotl, many use bare bottomed tanks. They are easy to maintain, making uneaten food and waste easier to remove. Some people however, feel that axolotls can't grip the bottom of the tank, causing stress on the Axolotl. If you feel this is true, you can use large rocks or sand. Large rocks tend to let debris accumulate in the tank under the rocks where the filter cannot remove. It is advisable to siphon the waste out with a gravel cleaner to keep the bottom clear of solids.  Fine sand is also a good substrate, as it will not clog the digestive tract if ingested by the Axolotl (passes through).  Sand comes in lots of different types and coarseness. You want to choose a fine sand and not gravelly sand. Aquarium store fine sand, fine builders’ sand, and play sand if strained through mesh strainer all will work.  Make sure to rinse new sand until it runs clear before using.



Temperature

The water should be kept between 50-68 °F. Anything below about 50 °F leads to more sluggish behavior and a lower metabolism. At lower temperatures, axolotls will eat less frequently and may even refuse food altogether. Also, Axolotls don’t hibernate, they simply have reduced metabolism.  If the water temperature falls below 50 °F then regurgitation may occur. This is a survival mechanism to avoid any food getting suck in the intestine due to the low temperature. If food did get stuck in the Axolotl's intestine, the Axolotl may be poisoned by any toxins released from the decomposing food. Note: Many people fridge their Axolotl when they are sick to help aid in the healing process. This is best done when there is not food in the belly of the Axolotl.


When Axolotls are above 72 °F, it causes their metabolism to increase, and therefore, an increase in appetite. However, the stress resulting from more than a day or two at these high temperatures will quickly lead to disease and death. In other words, your axolotl will die if temperatures are 72 °F or above for more than a couple of days. Also, temperature fluctuations can also be stressful. It's a good idea to keep the temperature stable on a day-to-day basis. If you cannot provide stable temperatures, try placing your aquarium on a lower floor in the house like a basement which will be cooler than rooms on higher floors, or place in front of an AC vent. If you have an axolotl but are having temperature problems, consider buying an aquarium chiller for the warmer parts of the year. It is also recommended to buy a thermometer to help keep an eye on the temperature in the tank since the water should be kept between 50-68 °F. This is such an inexpensive item, that can prevent detrimental to your Axolotl's health and is well worth the few dollars it costs.



Cycling

 It is best to have an already cycled tank before adding Axolotls. If not, the Axolotl will be doing the cycling for you, which can be dangerous for Axolotls and possibly cause death. Cycling is preparing a tank for the Axolotl to live in with beneficial bacteria established. Basically an Axolotl gives off Ammonia (NH3 and NH4) from fecal matter which is broken down by bacteria into Nitrite (NO2) which, in turn, is broken down to Nitrate (NO3). Ammonia and Nitrite can be harmful and lethal to Axolotls at any level. In a fully cycled tank, both should read 0. Nitrates are not as lethal and some Axolotls can live in high levels but its best to keep it under 40ppm (parts per million) once the tank is fully cycled. 


There are many ways to cycle a tank. First, make sure the water in tank being used is dechorinated. Like fish, Axolotls are sensitive to chlorine. This can be done by using a water conditioner or by allowing water to sit for the chlorine to dissipate.  It does take a while longer for chloramines to reach safe levels in water, if just left to stand. Now for the cycling of your tank, you can obtain filter media, rocks, ornaments, or water from a healthy established tank to be placed in your tank to jump start getting beneficial bacteria so the Axolotl does not have to do all the cycling. Water from an old tank will be less effective than the transfer of substrate, ornaments, or filter media due to the beneficial bacteria usually will cling to solid surfaces inside a tank. This is my preferred method. Another is use household ammonia in aquarium to help cycle your tank (dangerous due to being very strong as well as requires close monitoring the pH) or you can use fish like Roseys to do the cycling for the tank. These fish should be healthy when they are purchased and only 2 or 3 will be needed to do the cycling. The complete cycle with the fish takes about 30 days to get levels under control and can be dangerous for the fish. Once the tank is fully cycled the nitrates can be kept to a safe level with regular weekly water changes.


Tip: Heavily planted tanks will cycle your tank more quickly. Live plants will consume some nitrogenous waste. Recent evidence suggests that live plants can directly consume ammonia and nitrite which in turn will decrease the toxicity during the cycling process. Live plants also may bring beneficial bacteria with them. If having plants, make sure to have appropriate plant lighting.



Water Changes

When doing water changes, water should be dechlorinated with aquarium dechlorinator (water conditioner).  Most de-chlorinators also remove traces of metals such as iron, mercury, copper, lead, cadmium, and manganese that are found in water due to the pipes through which it must travel. Alternately, water may be left to sit for several days to get rid of the chlorine. It does take a while longer for chloramines to reach safe levels in water if just left to stand. Water conditioners also remove chloramines. If you wish to let the water sit for a few days before using, you can purchase a gallon of water and just refill gallon for next use. Make sure the lid is left off the gallon to let chlorine gas escape. May also use a gravel cleaner to clean substrate.


You should also do a 20 % water change weekly with new water to keep the tank clean even with the use of a filter. If you are not using a filter, you will have to do a 20% water change every day or every other day. Never do a full water change, as this creates a situation where the water chemistry changes too drastically. Axolotls excrete a lot of waste. This is mainly in the form of ammonia (NH3). Ammonia is a very toxic substance, so doing these water changes are necessary.


Hard Water

Axolotls actually prefer somewhat hard water and Axolotls that live in soft water will often suffer from temporary anemia. The Axolotl becomes pale and its gills lose their coloration for a few minutes or hours. This is not a dangerous condition, but it can be prevented by supplementing the water with added salts. Laboratories use one of two types of salt mixture in their water: Holtfreter's solution and Steinberg's solution. There are pH testing kits at the stores to test your tank if you feel this is a problem.  To get the tank to appropriate pH for axolotls, a pH of 6.5 to around 8.0 is acceptable, but 7.4 to 7.6 is probably ideal.


Chances are if you live in a hard water area, you've seen limescale around your faucets, in your kettle, or inside your pipes. This is caused by deposits of dissolved salts, calcium, and magnesium on these surfaces. Soft water contains little dissolved salts while hard water contains

substantial amounts. There tends to be a correlation between soft water and an acidic pH, and hard water and an alkaline pH. Water with a pH less than 7 are more  acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are alkaline, which is better for your Axolotl. Water processed to be cleaned for consumption has a pH very close to 7. You will never want use distilled water. It is too pure to sustain proper chemistry to support an aquarium ecosystem.  It has no hardness to water, which is the dissolved minerals needed for your aquarium water. This means there is nothing to buffer the pH to keep it stable. This is also true for fish aquariums. So filling your tank up with distilled water is both expensive and dangerous.



Filter

Filtration is not essential for axolotls, providing you are willing to change the water very frequently. Filters help keep the ammonia level down in your tank. Most hobbyists prefer to include a filter for this purpose and there are a number of options including under-gravel filters, internal power filters, external "hang-on-the-tank" filters, and canister filters.


Axolotls excrete a lot of waste and filters are a great way to keep water quality optimal. Make sure to choose a filter that is the correct size for your aquarium. The water turnover through the filter should not be more than what is required. A large filter is not suitable for a small tank and will usually create far too much water flow in the tank. This is possibly the biggest cause of stress-related disease in axolotls and an excessive amount of water flow can lead to disease.


Also, you will need to be very careful about the inlet area (the part which sucks water in) as axolotls can get legs and tails caught in there when juveniles and though they can regrow limbs it's best to be careful. If axolotls are very small they can also get trapped against it. You can angle your inlet to an area they can't readily get to or use panty-hose to cover the area if needed. If using an underwater filter, angle the filter so that the water flow is directed upwards towards the water's surface. If using a hang-on-the-side filter you can partially obstruct the filter's output by positioning ornament to disperse water or using a spray bar. 



Air Pump
Air pumps help oxygenate water for the Axolotl's gills. Air stones are fine in an axolotl tank and a 2 way airline plastic valve on the air line is a good idea. It helps to calm the outflow and without a valve, bubbles can be sometimes noisy. Ornaments needing an airline for that "bubbling" effect shouldn't be an issue within an axolotl tank. Just check for any sharp or jagged edges before placing it in the tank and sand them down if needed. The water movement from an air stone is so minimal and concentrated that it rarely affects axolotls. The water movement you're trying to minimize in the tank is tank-wide flow or current. An air stone just doesn't have that much power, no matter how big your pump is to create enough current to stress your Axolotl. It is also nice to have an oxygenated tank so your Axolotl does not to go up to the top to breath as much since they do have gills.


Lighting

Like with most amphibians, axolotls do not require lighting and have no eyelids to shelter from light.  Juvenile Axolotls may be shy if kept under bright lighting, but can become accustomed to it if provided with some hiding places such as aquarium decoration, caves, wood, plants, and rocks. Please limit the use of a light and keep in mind that lighting fixtures often generate a lot of excess heat, so keep an eye on the thermometer. Lighting is generally for the owners viewing pleasure and for any live plants in aquarium.



Plants

Plants are not essential, unless breeding is planned. There are 2 different types of plants you can put in your aquarium, live plants and fake plants. If you do choose to do live plants, keep in mind Axolotls don't like temperatures too warm or too bright which narrows your choices for aquatic plants. There are a lot of plants that simply will not survive unless they get a lot of light and live in warm water. However, there are also plenty that will work with Axolotls and are also hardy plants since Axolotls tend to dig up plants. Great plants are any Anubias, Java Fern, Java Moss, Moss Balls, Lilaeopsis (this is like grass, you can make a lawn with), Eleocharis (Hairgrass), Congensis, Narrow Chain Sword, Ambulia, Water Sprite, Duckweed,  Valls, and Liliopsis. If the tank has live plants, remove any decaying or dying plants to keep ammonia level down. Make sure to choose a plant-friendly bulb if using live plants to help plants get correct nutrients. Many use ordinary aquarium lighting (a hood with a fixture for a fluorescent aquarium bulb). Fake plants are just as wonderful if you choose to put them in your tank. They don’t require light, you are not limited on the type you can place in your tank, and are just as great for hiding.



Hiding Spots
Provide your Axolotl with lots of hiding spots such as tunnels, crevices, caves, plants, rocks, and aquarium decorations. This must be provided as they need to have shelter and prefer dark places since axolotls have no eyelids to shelter them from  the light. If having multiple Axolotls, make sure to have plenty of hiding spots to provide enough areas for all to be sheltered from light.