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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.