Bringing a new Axolotl Home
Everything you need to do to keep an Adult Axolotl Healthy and Happy
I have been keeping axolotls for years. I like to think that I know a thing or two about caring for them after all that time. Once you have everything set up there isn’t that much daily or weekly maintenance that needs to be done with them. But to begin the setup.
The rule of thumb for axolotls is 20 Gallons for the first axolotl and ten for everyone after that. So this means that you can keep two in a 30 gallon, but not one in a 10 gallon. So when you get a new tank that you want to set up there are a couple of important things to remember. You want the tank to be clean, but you don’t want to use soap to wash it. Bleach that has been diluted and is thoroughly rinsed out is a good alternative to using soap. So you now have a clean empty tank. The next thing to think of is the placement of the tank because once you add water it will be hard to move. So you want it somewhere cool, that isn’t very well lit. Axolotls don’t like much light and prefer cooler water. So when you go out shopping for things for your axolotl you don’t need a heater. Now that you have your tank in a nice place, that isn’t well lit and is cool its time to talk about something else, substrate.
So for many fish tanks, you put gravel at the bottom of the aquarium. But for axolotls ingesting a piece of gravel could be dangerous and even deadly to them. So the gravel substrate is a bad idea for them. So there are two options for your axolotl, the first and one I recommend is no substrate at all. They don’t really need it, so why bother having it. The other option is sand, and that one can be dangerous if you don’t regularly clean it out. So up to you what you use, but nothing is the cheaper and safer option.
The next thing to think about is what you are going to feed your axolotl. This is where I have some controversial opinions. So, in my opinion, there are three options the first is an earthworm or similar worm that you get from something like a bait shop. This is what is recommended by many places and what is healthy for the axolotl. I found it difficult to feed the worms to the axolotl and harder to get during the pandemic lockdown. So axolotl stick are a viable alternative. Some axolotls will readily eat the pellets that are dropped into their tanks, others may not adjust to them, and may stop eating. This is were my controversial opinion comes in, I think that you can feed live fish to your axolotl if you have the right fish. So I have white cloud minnows as well as zebra danios in my tank with my axolotls. They get eaten on a regular basis and I keep an eye on how many get eaten how often. I get more of them and add them to the tank after quarantine on a regular basis. This was my axolotls always have fresh, healthy living protein and nutrient sources to eat. I don’t find that any of the fish bother my axolotls, and if they try to they tend to be eaten. I find this is a safe and healthy way of feeding my axolotls, but I understand that it isn’t for everyone and that it is quite controversial. I have my axolotls in a 90-gallon tank with just the two of them, and they seem to be doing much better eating the fish as food. But if you don’t want to, keep feeding those worms and sticks.
Once you have decided what you are going to feed your axolotl, and you don’t need it the day you set up your tank, as there is what is called cycling to do. In any fish and there is a balance of chemicals in the water, they follow the nitrogen cycle. So when you set up a brand new tank, you have to cycle it to get the nitrogen cycle working. Put everything together in your tank as you would if there was an animal in it, and feel the tank as you would if there were an animal with some kind of flake or pellet food. Do this for at least five days, then do the first water change on the tank. A water change is where you use a siphon or some other system to take the water and dirt out of your tank, and then replace the water. Make sure to treat the water with a de-chlorinator as chlorine is toxic to aquatic creatures. Ideally, you have a water testing kit and you can test the different levels of chemicals in your water as to see the nitrogen-rich bacterial form that eats the ammonia, so it can’t hurt your fish. But if you don’t have a test kit, it may be offered at your local pet store, or you can cycle it for at least two weeks which should be all the time you need.
Now that it’s cycled you are ready to add your animals. Pick up your axolotl from where ever you are getting them, and bring them home and put them into your tank following this procedure. Float the bag of the animal in the tank until the temperatures acclimate to each other. Then dump the water from the bag along with the animal through a net into a separate bucket. So you will have all the animals in the bag in the net and all the water from the pet store in the bucket. Then add your animal to the tank. This will prevent the water from the pet store form mixing with yours and will help prevent bacteria from the pet stores water from getting into yours.
Now some things to remember, axolotls, or really any animals that you bring home may not eat the first or even second day you have them. Don’t be worried unless it lasts more than two days, this is normal and is the animal acclimating to your environment. Second, you should have some kind of tube in the tank for your axolotl to hide in, the more the better, without having the entire tank be tubes.
Now you are ready to enjoy your new friend but remember your weekly maintenance. Every week you need to do a water change on the tank, where you siphon out water and replace it with conditioned water. Second, remember when you do this maintenance to follow the instructions on the filter you got about how often to change the filter cartridges. This is all an important part of tank maintenance.
The last thing is daily maintenance, of which there is only one thing. Cleaning out poop and uneaten food with a turkey baster every day, or when you see it. Doing this will help your water quality significantly.
Following all the steps that I have outlined above will help you have a great experience with your new pet. So enjoy your new amazing friend.