Set Up an Axolotl Tank

How to Set Up an Axolotl Tank?

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Axolotls are commonly called Mexican walking fish.

They hail from a small region in eastern Mexico and are a kind of Salamander. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind fish with a lovely fish, then it might be an ideal choice.

Requiring no specialist equipment, axolotls are not difficult to handle but do need the proper aquatic habitat to survive and thrive.

This guide will show you how to set up an appropriate axolotl tank, in addition to some necessary information to keep axolotls in the best condition.

Now let’s explore!

Axolotl Overview

Axolotl, also called Mexican walking fish and Mexican Salamander, is native to some freshwater lakes in Mexico.

In spite of being classified as a fish, the axolotl is an amphibian from the Ambystomatidae family. Nevertheless, different from other amphibians, the axolotl becomes mature without experiencing a metamorphosis. Never taking to land, this species will remain aquatic and gilled.

The axolotl was initially introduced to Europe in 1863 to learn about their ability to regenerate their limbs. Then axolotls rapidly become a darling of the tank hobby, thanks to their special biology and adorable faces, and infectious smile.

A completely grown axolotl will develop up to 8-16 inches long. They tend to be quite the looker with their big head, lidless eyes, and four long thing legs with elongated fingers.

These species also contain filament-lined gill stalks (rami) that stand out from the back of the necks.
Importantly, it’s their regeneration capability that stands out. Axolotls can recreate almost any body part – feet, legs, arm, heart, or even brain.

Behavior and Temperament of Axolotl

Though axolotls are comparatively stalwart to slight fluctuations in their habitat, they also feature delicate, soft bodies with permeable skin. There is a face that their body is mostly made of cartilage instead of bone. This means they should not be handled unless seriously necessary. In case you need to bring them out of the tank, let’s use a fine mesh net that won’t entangle any of their body parts.

When you have set up their house correctly, you generally only need to spend several hours per week on feeding and cleaning. The rest is just observing them as a quiet, aquatic companion. Axolotls have a tendency to be relatively bold and move around their tank when they’re watched by humans.

Nevertheless, they are not particularly social fish and do not need any tank mates. You should not keep them with other species because axolotls might attempt to eat pet fish, and the fish might nip at them as well.

Moreover, you even should pond over housing them with other axolotls. Juvenile ones can be cannibalistic toward one another; thereby, they are best kept in separate aquariums. Plus, adult axolotls can potentially be raised together but still, keep eye on cannibalistic tendencies. If one body part is bitten by a tank companion, an axolotl can regrow it over time. However, it would be best if you prevented this situation altogether.

How to Set Up an Axolotl Tank?

How to Set Up an Axolotl Tank?
How to Set Up an Axolotl Tank?

Axolotl Tank Size

For one axolotl, you have to use tanks of at least 15 gallons in capacity. Make sure that the aquarium has a completely secure lid because it is not uncommon for such fish to jump out of their tank.

For such aquatic critters, the aquarium’s land area is nothing but unnecessary. The water depth should be at least a bit more than the axolotl’s length. Nonetheless, adding extra depth would aid in water quality and provide animals with enough space to move freely.

It’s vital to keep the aquarium in an absolutely cool room and mostly away from bright sunlight, with a water temperature ranging from 57 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Axolotls don’t require any particular lighting. For them, a dark hiding place, laid beside their side or any tank castle would be ideal. Some keepers generally leave the bottom of the aquarium empty, while others assume this may stress them if they cannot build a proper foothold on the smooth bottom.

If you choose to use gravel bottom, you had better use coarse gravel, which is larger than the head of the fish. Fine gravel might be consumed by them, which might result in obstruction.

Tap water treated with tank water conditions that remove chlorine and chloramines is great for this species. Do not use distilled water and make sure the water’s pH varies from 6.5 to 7.5. Many owners often find the filtered tank is easier to maintain because unfiltered water needs continuous changing to discharge the waste.

Nevertheless, those who use filters for their axolotl tank must keep the filtration rate slow. A robust filter that generates extremely strong currents can make axolotls stressed.

For the filtered aquarium, cleaning will cover 20% water change on a weekly basis and siphoning waste from the tank bottom.

Owners who don’t use filters should perform a 20% water change each day. Do not conduct an entire water change since the water chemistry can change dramatically and stress your fish.

Type of Axolotl Tank

Small and young axolotls can be raised at the standard 10-gallon tank, while adults should be kept in bigger aquariums.

The fish are nocturnal. Therefore, bright lighting with few hiding spots would be bad for them. They love living in areas where they can hide during the daytime. Your axolotl tank should contain a hiding shelter like stacked rock, PVC pipes, hollow ceramic decorations, and even hollow ceramic rocks used for cichlids.

Bear in mind that anything in the aquarium must be smooth with no dangerous sharp points or rough edges. There must be more hiding spots than other creatures in the aquarium. It helps them avoid each other with ease and can prevent their aggressive behavior, resulting in missing limbs, stress, and death in the worst situation.

Water Parameters

Axolotls are not demanding in terms of their water parameters. Provided that you keep them in the tolerated range, you should face minimal issues.

  • Water temperature: 59 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • GH: 125 to 250 ppm
  • kH: 53 to 143 ppm
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <60 ppm


Filtration might be too tricky when considering axolotls as few fish rules do not apply. Axolotls like slow-moving water & high flow.

Proper filtration to keep the aquarium clean is substantial for water quality, but water flow should be maintained low. One of the best choices is sponge filters because they provide efficient filtration when generating a comparatively low flow, compared to other power pumps and filters. Besides, they also assist in boosting oxygen levels and aeration.

If you employ any other filter, make sure that axolotls cannot get stuck to intake and the filter does not generate much flow. Excess stress from the high flow is seen by those axolotls that keep their gills curved way forward than normal.


As axolotls belong to coldwater species that are highly intolerant of high temperatures, you do not need a robust heater in the axolotl tank.
You should pick some types of heater that can prevent temperature swings between daytime and nighttime.


Many owners often build their axolotl tank with a bare bottom. This can help keep the tank clean but might impact your pet’s health.

Leaving the aquarium bare means that you perform fewer water changes. You just suck up any waste at the bottom of the aquarium.

However, bare-bottom aquariums might cause some stress to your fish. They don’t like slipping on the tank’s bottom and may have sores on their toes, as they exert to hold on.

Sand is the most appropriate substrate for axolotl tanks. Fine sand will significantly reduce the chance of slipping while creating an endless environment. Axolotls enjoy digging and sifting through sand to replicate natural foraging behaviors.

In case your fish absorb some of the sand, the particles are so small to move through the digestive system without any issues.

You should NOT choose fine gravel or coarse gravel, as these particles cannot pass through the digestive system of your pet.

Axolotl Tank Decorations

Axolotl care covers creating enrichment and escapes. Here are some decorations you can add to your tank.


Driftwood with no sharp edges is a good option for axolotl tanks. You can build beautiful aquascapes as well as some ideal spots for them to hide.

Besides, you can also use driftwood to grow plants such as anubias nana and java fern. These plants likely grow attached to objects, like driftwood, with their roots sinking in the water.


It’s a great idea to add rocks to your axolotl tank. River rocks can be stacked to build tunnels and caves for your pet to hide in and swim through.


In addition to driftwood and rocks, live plants are also suitable for axolotl tanks. They release a lot of waste that will be turned into nutrients with the aid of beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.

These nutrients are considered incredible plant fertilizers. Live plants do a good job of eliminating excess nutrients in the tank, improving the quality of the water.

Axolotl Tank Mates

Axolotl Tank Mates
Axolotl Tank Mates

Compatibility is a controversial topic for any aquatic creature, including axolotls.

Most of the owners believe that you should not house them with any other type of animals for some reason. One of the reasons is their external gills, and slow nature turns them into easy targets for other species. Even the slow ones find the external gills very appealing and have an urge to eat them.

In addition, axolotls are naturally nocturnal and can be a delicious meal for those sleeping fish during the night. Therefore, it is hard to have an acceptable axolotl tank companion that is neither very tiny to get eater nor aggressive to consume axolotl’s gills.


Axolotls are carnivores that will feed on aquatic worms, insects, larvae, small fish, and other amphibians in the Mexican lakes. They hunt by opening their mouths fast to create suction. The suction will pull prey into the mouths.
Here is some food you can add to your axolotl tank:

  • Bloodworms – if fed whole worms, they won’t require any additional supplements
  • Live Nightcrawlers
  • Mysis Shrimp
  • Frozen Brine
  • Red Wigglers
  • Small Bits of Raw, Lean Beef Heart

Besides, you can find axolotl food pellets.

A completely-grown adult will consume 2 to 3 medium-sized nightcrawlers or one teaspoon of bloodworms every 2 days. You should not use shrimp or beef as a staple diet but can use them as treats once per week.

Meanwhile, young and growing axolotls will eat 4 small worms each day. Their appetite will decline when they’re growing up.

The feeding schedule of each axolotl will be a bit different based on the individual. This species will stop eating when they’re full. Simply increase or decrease the amount of food you’re giving your axolotl until it is full.

Size and Weight

Axolotls can vary in length between 6 and 18 inches but are usually from 7 to 9 inches long. Adults can weigh from 5 to 12 ounces.

Females tend to be slightly heavier than males, but they are not longer. Males feature a large vent and deep verticle grooves on the sides of their bodies.

These fish grow slowly and gain the most body mass in their first two years. They keep growing for their whole life at a far slower development rate.

Lifespan and Health

Axolotls are generally stalwart species that do not easily get sicked. With clear water, cool temperatures, and a balanced diet, they can survive up to 15 years.

The primary causes of illness in axolotls are low water quality and chronic stress. You had better check your water parameters on a regular basis. Poor water quality can result in secondary infections from bacteria or parasites.

Unhealthy axolotls tend to move stiffly, have pale gills, and might become thin and unresponsive.
High levels of ammonia, nitrites or nitrates, or high temperatures can make your axolotl get burned. It might even be fatal if not treated timely. Good tank maintenance and water cycling will stop this from occurring in the first place. It’s important to keep checking your water parameters and set up every watering cycle.

Overcrowding or dirty water might lead to bacterial infections.

Overcrowded axolotls tend to nip at each other’s gills, resulting in open wounds that can quickly get infected. Signs of a bacterial infection include red patches, streaks, or small open sores. You need to isolate your infected axolotl in a “hospital tank” for treatment.

What’s more, axolotls can get external or internal parasites from their food. Thus, remember to buy prey from reputable sources.

Are Axolotls Suitable for You?

If you’re ready to spend time providing the right aquarium, water parameters, and diet for an axolotl, then it’s worth owning one.

These species are not demanding when it comes to regular husbandry and care. Proper knowledge of aquarium cycling and water quality will make it easier to keep them.

Have you owned this one-of-a-kind amphibian? If yes, we would love to hear about your interesting experience in the comment section.


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