The Beginner's Axolotl Care Guide
Updated: May 3
Axolotls are strange amphibians because they can reach adulthood without needing to metamorphosize the same way a frog does. They live their entire lives under water, never emerging on to land despite having arms and legs. They’re hardy, easy to care for and care requirements are quite minimal. They’ve been known to live past 20 years, but it’s hard to find one older than 10.
These guys are great display pets as they’re really unique looking and they’ll live happily in an aquarium! You will need an aquarium on the larger side as they’ll grow up to a foot long - we recommend a 25 gallon / 95 litre tank or higher to combat the waste produced by them. Having a larger tank with lots of live plants will help keep on top of imbalances in the water, you should also test their aquarium water weekly with an API Master Test Kit. You will need to cycle the tank as if you were keeping fish, we’ve got a guide on that over on our fish section that you can read here.
For a filter we recommend a canister filter equipped with a spray bar to give surface agitation which will aid oxygen levels. Axolotls do not like a current, so having a submerged filter will cause them stress over a longer period and they’ll eventually go off their food as well as develop stress related diseases. Lighting is for your benefit only, as like most amphibians, they do not require lighting and new ones may even by shy if kept under bright lights. You should equip the aquarium with some hiding places for them, the typical caves, wood and plants for aquariums will do the trick. Choose a plant friendly bulb to keep your live plants happy and keep in mind that a lot of lights can generate plenty of excess heat which will be detrimental to your axolotl. Temperatures above 74F should be avoided as this will lead to heat stress, axolotls prefer temperatures around the low to mid 60s.
Axolotls have a bad habit of ingesting aquarium gravel, so you should opt for aquarium sand instead. If sand isn’t aesthetically for you, then opt for a large substrate such as pebbles instead, anything up to the size of your axolotl’s head can and will be consumed! Substrate isn’t actually vital - some axolotl keepers don’t use any, but having a substrate will be beneficial for your tanks cycling process and will be a great place for beneficial bacteria to build up which will help keep on top of ammonia and nitrite within the tank. Keep on top of regular water checks and once your Nitrates reach 30ppm, conduct a 30% water change. For food, you can cook up some frozen shrimp from the supermarket or even lean pieces of beef or chicken. Traditional aquarium foods for them include night crawlers (large earthworms) and frozen bloodworm cubes. You won’t need to give them vitamin supplements and avoid live food as axolotls are more susceptible to parasites and diseases from their food. Axolotls have no actual bones in their bodies, their skeleton is mostly made up of cartilage. As such, they’re delicate and they’ve also got permeable skin which means they shouldn’t ever be handled unless absolutely necessary. If you’re needing to move them, use a net with a very fine meshed, soft net. Regular nets often have holes big enough for your axolotl’s fingers to get trapped in and damaged.
Fish shouldn’t be kept with your axolotl at all. Older axolotl’s, larger than around 5 inches tend to be safer tank mates but young ones do tend to be nippy and if you’re keeping several together expect to see some carnage as legs and gills are bitten off. They don’t benefit from having tank mates as they aren’t social animals. There’s no need for a tank mate other than for your own benefit or for breeding. Thanks for reading our guide on Axolotls! We've recently expanded our social media into Facebook and Instagram as well as pinterest, please give us a follow/like! :) Happy pet owning!
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