Axolotl Set Up Tank: Step-by-Step Setup Instructions

Rate this post

Axolotls, those adorable aquatic creatures with a permanent smile, have become popular pets due to their unique appearance and relatively easy care requirements. However, setting up a proper tank for your axolotl is crucial to ensure its health and happiness. Let’s dive into the step-by-step instructions for creating the perfect axolotl habitat.

Axolotl Set Up Tank: Step-by-Step Setup Instructions

Axolotl Set Up Tank

Understanding Axolotl Needs

Before setting up the tank, it’s essential to understand the specific needs of axolotls. These amphibians are native to the lakes of Mexico, which means they have particular habitat and water quality requirements.

Habitat Requirements

Axolotls thrive in freshwater environments with plenty of space to swim and hide. Their natural habitat consists of still or slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation.

Water Quality and Temperature

Maintaining clean water is paramount for axolotl health. The ideal water temperature for axolotls is between 60-64°F (16-18°C). Temperatures above 75°F (24°C) can be harmful and even fatal. Regular water testing is necessary to monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, which should be kept as close to zero as possible.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Axolotls are carnivorous and primarily eat worms, small fish, and specialized pellets. Feeding them a varied diet ensures they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Choosing the Right Tank

Selecting the appropriate tank is the first step in creating a healthy environment for your axolotl.

Choosing the Right Tank

Tank Size Recommendations

A single axolotl needs a minimum of a 20-gallon tank, but larger is always better. For each additional axolotl, add at least another 10 gallons to provide ample space.

Glass vs. Acrylic Tanks

Both glass and acrylic tanks have their pros and cons. Glass tanks are more scratch-resistant and provide clearer views, while acrylic tanks are lighter and can come in more varied shapes.

Tank Placement Considerations

Place the tank in a low-traffic area away from direct sunlight and drafts. Ensure it’s on a sturdy stand that can support the tank’s weight when filled with water.

Essential Equipment

Equipping your axolotl tank with the right tools is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment.

Filtration Systems

A good filtration system helps keep the water clean by removing waste and toxins. A sponge filter is ideal because it provides gentle filtration without creating strong currents, which can stress axolotls.

Heaters and Chillers

While heaters are generally not needed unless your home gets very cold, having a chiller can be crucial in warmer climates to maintain the ideal temperature range.

Lighting Requirements

Axolotls do not require special lighting, and excessive light can actually stress them out. A dim or indirect light source is best, primarily used to observe your axolotl and for plant growth if you have live plants.

Substrate Selection

Choosing the right substrate is vital for your axolotl’s health.

Axolotl Set Up Tank

Sand vs. Bare Bottom

Sand is the preferred substrate as it mimics their natural environment and is safer than gravel, which axolotls can accidentally ingest, leading to impaction. Alternatively, a bare-bottom tank is easy to clean and also safe.

Avoiding Harmful Substrates

Avoid gravel and small pebbles. These can be ingested by axolotls, causing severe health issues.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Whichever substrate you choose, regular cleaning is essential to prevent waste buildup and maintain water quality.

Decorating the Tank

Decorating your axolotl’s tank can provide enrichment and make it visually appealing.

Axolotl Set Up Tank

Safe Decorations and Hiding Spots

Provide plenty of hiding spots using caves, PVC pipes, and other decorations. Ensure all items are aquarium-safe and have no sharp edges.

Plants: Live vs. Artificial

Live plants can help maintain water quality and provide a natural environment. However, artificial plants are easier to maintain. If choosing live plants, ensure they are low-light and can tolerate the cooler temperatures.

Creating a Natural Environment

Arrange decorations and plants to mimic a natural aquatic environment. This not only makes the tank look good but also provides comfort and stimulation for your axolotl.

Setting Up the Tank

Now that you have all the essentials, it’s time to set up your tank.

Step-by-Step Setup Guide

  1. Place the Tank: Set your tank on its stand in the desired location.
  2. Add Substrate: Spread a layer of sand evenly across the bottom.
  3. Install Equipment: Place the filter, heater (if needed), and chiller.
  4. Decorate: Add your chosen decorations and plants.
  5. Fill with Water: Fill the tank with dechlorinated water.

Adding Water and Treatments

Always use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramines from tap water.

Cycling the Tank

Cycling is crucial before adding your axolotl. This process establishes beneficial bacteria that help break down waste. Use an ammonia source to start the cycle and test water parameters regularly. The cycle can take 4-6 weeks.

Maintaining Water Quality

Keeping the water clean and balanced is ongoing work.

Maintaining Water Quality

Testing Water Parameters

Regularly test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and temperature. Keep a log to track changes and spot problems early.

Regular Water Changes

Perform weekly water changes of about 20-30% to maintain water quality and remove waste.

Handling Common Water Issues

Address issues like high ammonia or nitrite levels immediately. Use water conditioners and increase water changes as needed.

Feeding Your Axolotl

Proper feeding ensures your axolotl stays healthy and happy.

Feeding Your Axolotl

Types of Food

Offer a mix of worms (earthworms, bloodworms), small fish, and specially formulated axolotl pellets.

Feeding Schedule

Feed juveniles daily and adults every 2-3 days. Remove uneaten food to prevent water contamination.

Avoiding Overfeeding

Overfeeding can lead to obesity and water quality issues. Stick to the recommended feeding schedule and portion sizes.

Tank Mates and Compatibility

Choosing the right tank mates can be tricky.

Suitable Tank Mates

Axolotls can sometimes live with other peaceful, cool-water species like certain types of shrimp and snails.

Species to Avoid

Avoid fish that nip fins or are small enough to be eaten. Also, avoid other amphibians and reptiles.

Introducing New Tank Mates

Introduce new tank mates gradually and monitor for signs of stress or aggression.

Health Monitoring

Regular health checks can help catch problems early.

Signs of a Healthy Axolotl

A healthy axolotl is active, with bright eyes and smooth, unblemished skin. Its gills should be feathery and vibrant.

Common Health Issues

Watch for signs like lethargy, loss of appetite, or unusual spots on the skin. These can indicate issues like infections or water quality problems.

When to Consult a Vet

If you notice any concerning symptoms or your axolotl’s condition doesn’t improve, consult a vet experienced with amphibians.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning keeps the tank environment healthy.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Tasks

  • Daily: Check water temperature, remove uneaten food.
  • Weekly: Test water parameters, perform water changes, clean substrate.
  • Monthly: Deep clean filters and decorations, inspect equipment.

Cleaning the Tank and Equipment

Use aquarium-safe tools and cleaners. Never use soap or detergents.

Safe Cleaning Products

Vinegar and aquarium-safe algae scrubbers are great for cleaning tank walls and decorations.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Sometimes things go wrong. Here’s how to fix common issues.

Cloudy Water

This can result from bacterial blooms or unclean substrate. Perform water changes and check your filtration system.

Algae Growth

Control algae by reducing light and maintaining good water quality. Scrub algae off tank surfaces and decorations regularly.

Behavioral Issues

If your axolotl is acting strangely, check water quality first. Stress or illness can cause unusual behavior.

Seasonal Considerations

Different seasons require different care approaches.

Temperature Adjustments

In summer, you might need a chiller to keep the water cool. In winter, ensure the tank doesn’t get too cold.

Seasonal Health Checks

Regularly inspect your axolotl for health changes during seasonal transitions.

Preparing for Power Outages

Have a plan for keeping the tank at a safe temperature during power outages, such as using battery-operated air pumps or insulating the tank.


Setting up an axolotl tank might seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and tools, it can be a rewarding experience. By following these steps, you’ll create a safe and healthy environment where your axolotl can thrive. Remember, a happy axolotl is a healthy axolotl!



How often should I clean my axolotl tank?

Regular cleaning includes daily checks, weekly water changes, and monthly deep cleans. This routine helps maintain water quality and overall tank health.

What should I do if my axolotl stops eating?

Check water parameters first. Poor water quality is a common cause. If parameters are fine, try offering different types of food. Persistent issues may require a vet visit.

Can axolotls live with other fish?

It’s tricky as many fish either nip at axolotls or can be eaten by them. It’s generally safer to keep axolotls alone or with suitable tank mates like shrimp or snails.

How can I tell if my axolotl is stressed?

Signs of stress include lethargy, loss of appetite, and gill shrinking. Check water quality and temperature, and ensure the tank setup provides enough hiding spots.

What is the best way to transport an axolotl?

Use a container with water from its tank. Keep the container cool and secure to minimize stress during transport.

Leave a Comment