A quick guide to keeping Axolotls

Keeping axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) can be a rewarding experience as they are fascinating amphibians with unique characteristics. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you set up and maintain a healthy environment for your axolotls:

1. Setting Up the Tank

Tank Size

  • Minimum Size: A 20-gallon tank is suitable for one axolotl. For each additional axolotl, add at least 10 gallons.
  • Tank Shape: A long, low tank is preferred over a tall one because axolotls spend most of their time at the bottom.


  • Sand or Bare Bottom: Fine sand is recommended. Avoid gravel, as axolotls can ingest it, leading to impaction. A bare bottom tank is also an option for easier cleaning.

Water Quality

  • Dechlorinated Water: Use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine from tap water.
  • Cycling the Tank: Ensure the tank is fully cycled before introducing axolotls. This involves establishing beneficial bacteria that break down ammonia and nitrite into less harmful nitrate.


  • Gentle Filtration: Use a filter that provides gentle water flow. Axolotls prefer calm water.
  • Maintenance: Clean the filter regularly but avoid disrupting the beneficial bacteria.


  • Cool Water: Maintain a temperature between 60-68°F (16-20°C). Avoid temperatures above 72°F (22°C) as axolotls can become stressed and prone to illness.
  • Cooling Methods: Use an aquarium fan, chiller, or place frozen water bottles in the tank during hot weather.


  • Low Light: Axolotls do not require special lighting and prefer dim environments. Avoid strong lighting which can stress them.


  • Hiding Spots: Provide plenty of hiding places using caves, PVC pipes, or aquarium decorations.
  • Plants: Live or silk plants can offer additional cover and enrichment.

2. Feeding


  • Staple Foods: Earthworms, bloodworms, and axolotl pellets.
  • Occasional Treats: Small pieces of fish, shrimp, or other high-protein foods.

Feeding Frequency

  • Juveniles: Feed daily.
  • Adults: Feed 2-3 times per week.

Feeding Method

  • Hand Feeding: Use feeding tongs to offer food directly.
  • Spot Feeding: Place food in a specific area of the tank.

3. Maintenance

Water Changes

  • Frequency: Perform 20-30% water changes weekly.
  • Method: Use a gravel vacuum to remove debris from the substrate.

Monitoring Water Quality

  • Test Kits: Regularly test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH.
  • Ideal Levels: Ammonia and nitrite should be 0 ppm, nitrate below 20 ppm, and pH between 6.5-8.0.

Health Checks

  • Observation: Watch for signs of stress or illness, such as changes in appetite, skin lesions, or abnormal behavior.
  • Quarantine New Arrivals: Isolate new axolotls for at least 30 days before introducing them to the main tank to prevent disease transmission.

4. Handling and Interaction

Minimal Handling

  • Stress: Avoid handling axolotls unless necessary as it can stress them.
  • Gentle Handling: If you need to move them, use a soft, wet net or your hands (wet them first) to support their body.

5. Breeding


  • Maturity: Axolotls reach sexual maturity around 18 months.
  • Temperature: A slight temperature drop can induce breeding behavior.
  • Separation: Separate the eggs from adults to prevent them from being eaten.

By following these guidelines, you can create a suitable environment for your axolotls, ensuring they remain healthy and happy. Enjoy the unique experience of keeping these fascinating creatures!

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