AXOLOTL CARE GUIDE
Owning a pet adds love and purpose to your life, but it’s natural to encounter a few challenges along the way. Caring for your animals, whether they’re birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians or mammals, begins the moment you make them a part of your home. To make sure your axolotl lives a long and healthy life, proper care is essential. Here at Gulf Coast Axolotls, we want to help provide the basic information you need to get started. As always, if you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.
Basic Set-Up (for one axolotl)
20 Gallon (long) Aquarium
Water Dechlorinator/Conditioner (Prime by Seachem is the gold standard)
Freshwater Test Kit (we recommend the API Freshwater Master kit - test strips are not accurate enough, so a chemical kit is recommended)
Substrate (optional) - including ultra fine sand, tiles, or large rocks. NO GRAVEL.
Décor - Axolotls need places to hide
Food - Soft Axolotl Pellets, Bloodworms, Earthworms, Repashy Grub Pie
Always use an aquarium thermometer. The water should be kept between 50-68 °F (10 -20 °C ), with an absolute maximum temperature of 70°F. Anything below 50°F will lower your axolotls metabolism and cause them to be less active and eat less frequently. They may even refuse food altogether. Above 68 °F, axolotls can become stressed and they may be more susceptible to disease. Temperature fluctuations of more than a few degrees in a 12 hour period (such as between day and nighttime temperatures) can also be stressful.
A heater is rarely, if ever, necessary. If needed, standard aquarium heaters are ideal for axolotl tanks. A heater set at 65 °F (18 °C) is a good idea if your axolotls is kept in a very cold room, or if there is any chance of freezing during winter.
More often, keeping the aquarium cool enough during warm weather is the bigger concern. While whole-room air conditioners and aquarium chillers are expensive, they are the most-effective ways to significantly decrease the temperature of aquarium water. If lowering the temperature by just a couple degrees is all you need, evaporative cooling is an effective way of lowering the tank temperature. When water evaporates, the temperature drops. By using a simple desk fan blowing across the surface of the aquarium water, evaporation is increased and therefore lowers the overall temperature of the aquarium.
Axolotls have a tendency to eat normal aquarium gravel. This can be fatal as the gravel can cause blockages in the gut (impaction). In short, gravel is not recommended for axolotls.
As an alternative, fine sand is an excellent substrate for axolotls since it will not cause blockages if it is accidentally ingested. It has been our experience that glass bottom aquariums, while easy to clean, do not provide your axolotl anything to grip. This can lead to stress and in some rare cases, lesions on their toes. Other alternatives for substrate include large flat pieces of slate, large stones, or tiles.
Proper filtration is extremely important in keeping your axolotl healthy. A filter that provides chemical, biological and mechanical filtration is best. There are many filter options out there, including canister filters, hang on the back filters (HOB), and sponge filters. Both canister filters and hanging filters provide all three levels of filtration, while sponge filters typically lack chemical filtration. Axolotls produce a lot of waste. This is mainly in the form of ammonia. Ammonia is a very toxic substance. Nitrifying bacteria located within the substrate and filtration system are the key component of biological filtration (see Aquarium Cycling for details).
Canister filters (like the Fluval 307 shown to the right) are our filter of choice, however they do tend to be the more expensive options. If using a canister filter, it is important to choose one that is correctly sized for filtering the aquarium's water volume. A large filter on a small tank will generally create too much water flow. This is one of the number one causes of stress-related disease in axolotls. A spray bar, or flow tamer, can help disperse the outflow from a canister filter and lower the amount of current produced. Plants and decor can also be strategically placed to disrupt current from the outflow. Our personal favorite is the spray bar designed and sold by Flow Tamer, shown below.