Axolotls are unique, and this makes them really in demand. Recently, the number of axolotl owners has been increasing, and these pet lovers are coming up with new ideas or settings to ensure proper habitat for the Mexican-born creature. 

So, sticking with the age-old tank setup isn’t a wise idea for this cute guy, is it? Moreover, an appropriate tank configuration will help reduce unnecessary costs that don’t add any value. But, for that, you must pay attention to every detail.

You’re in luck! I’ve put together a step-by-step Axolotl tank setup guide for you to make things easy. Even though this article is aimed at beginners, I believe there will be some tips that will prove useful to experts as well. So, let’s have a look…

Things to keep in mind before setting up an axolotl tank 

Things to keep in mind before setting up an axolotl tank

Before building a well-equipped axolotl tank to pet an axolotl, make sure you do the following:

1. Research Axolotl Care Requirements

Before setting up an axolotl tank, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with their care requirements. Different Axolotls have specific needs when it comes to water conditions, temperature, diet, and tank setup. 

By doing thorough research, you’ll gain valuable insights into how to create an optimal environment for your axolotls to thrive. If you want to raise those glowing axolotls, this GFP Axolotl care guide will help. 

2. Careful Handling 

Axolotls possess a tender and fragile physique, characterized by permeable skin. Furthermore, their anatomical structure primarily comprises cartilage rather than conventional bones. So, avoid handling them unless absolutely necessary. 

When you want to relocate your cute friend, you must employ a fine-mesh net to prevent the entanglement of any body segments. Read “Can You Touch An Axolotl?” to learn more about handling your axolotls. 

3. Cannibalistic tendencies

As they grow older, axolotls have a natural inclination to consume pet fishes, and in some cases, these fishes may bite them as well. Therefore, you shouldn’t keep them with any other small or large creatures.

In the case of juvenile axolotls, they display cannibalistic behavior towards their fellow companions. Hence, keep them in separate tanks to prevent such instances. 

Adult axolotls, on certain occasions, can coexist peacefully; however, one must remain vigilant for any signs of cannibalism. While axolotls possess the remarkable ability to regenerate lost body parts over time, it is still best to avoid situations that may lead to such occurrences. 

Also, don’t put male and female axolotls together unless you want to breed them. To confirm the sex of your axolotl, you can check this article-  Male Or Female: How To Confirm Sex Of An Axolotl?

4. Water Parameters

No matter how perfectly you set up the entire tank, failing to provide balanced water parameters will cause lots of discomfort for a newly bought axolotl. The parameters are as follows:

Parameter Range  
Temperature60-70°F (15-23°C)
Chlorine and Chloramines0 ppm
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate0-10 ppm
General Hardness7-14 GH
Carbonated Hardness3-8 KH

You can test these water parameters using reliable aquarium test kits. Regularly check them to ensure optimum water quality.  

Moreover, maintaining clean water is essential for axolotl health. Regular water changes also help remove accumulated toxins and maintain optimal water conditions. Aim to perform a 25% water change every week, ensuring the new water is properly treated and matched in temperature and pH to avoid shocking the axolotls.

5. Is keeping axolotl legal in your area? 

Axolotls are endangered species and some states have strict laws against having an axolotl as a pet. So, you need to be careful about these laws. However, if you live in an area where there are legal restrictions on having one, you may get special permission from the government or law enforcement authority to pet an axolotl if you talk with a lawyer. 

Related Article: What is An Axolotl?

Setting up an Axolotl Tank: A step-by-step procedure

Setting up an Axolotl Tank A step by step procedure

If you’re a fan of unique and fascinating aquatic pets, setting up an axolotl tank can be a rewarding experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up a comfortable and suitable habitat for your axolotls.

Step 1: Selecting the Right Tank

The first step in setting up a comfortable habitat for your axolotls is choosing the right tank. Remember, it is essential to provide ample space for your axolotls to swim and explore. A 20-gallon large tank(30” X 12” X12”) is considered to be the proper size for a single fully grown axololt.

However, larger tanks are preferred, especially if you plan to keep more than one axolotl or wish to breed them. For instance, you should make sure that the tank size is at least 40 gallons if you intend to place two axolotls in it. Having a big tank will reduce the need to change the water frequently, so your time will be saved. In general, It is okay to keep young or small guys in 10-gallon tanks.

Glass tanks are the most popular choice due to their transparency and ease of cleaning. Alternatively, acrylic tanks are lightweight and less prone to cracking. After all, choosing an aquarium will depend on what you and your pet need.

Step 2: Setting up the tank’s bottom (Substrate)

When it comes to flooring options, you got 2 choices to go. Some axolotl owners prefer to provide substrates at the ground of the tank while other likes to keep it bare. As far as preferences go, both groups have their own explanations. Those who want to keep it bare think it will minimize tank maintenance efforts. Regardless of the size of the tank, a bare tank can be cleaned effortlessly. 

Additionally, the axolotl wouldn’t be ingesting anything unwanted, so there is no risk of such an incident. However, you may lose some aesthetic appeal to the aquarium since you can’t add beautiful plants.  

On the other hand, other groups of pet lovers don’t agree with the concept of keeping the aquarium bottom empty. They are concerned that the Axolotl might become stressed if it cannot grip the smooth surface. I mean, the bottom will be slippery. 

Adding sand as substrate inside the tank would be a good idea. In contrast to other substrates, Sand does not lead to axolotl impaction or ingestion issues. Also, axolotls enjoy digging in the sand.

Moreover, your cute axolotl will also look more shiny and the aquarium will look better. Using play sand inside the aquarium will also promote beneficial bacteria growth. You can also use fine aquarium sand or pool sand. However, a sandy tank can be challenging to clean.

You can also place rocks inside the tank. Rocks  Just make sure you don’t use any kind of small coarse or fine stones as this may lead to impaction or ingestion problems. In the worst-case scenario, it can even lead to the death of your beloved pet. Therefore, stones with no sharp edges, slate rocks, and slate tiles are good options for rocks. 

If you ask me to suggest, I would recommend anything among river rock (commercially available), crystalline quartz, microcrystalline quartz, petrified wood, jade, Onyx, porphyry, mica, schist, and obsidian. It is common for aquarists to mix sand with different types of rock in order to create some variations. You can also try this. 

No matter what you add as substrate, make sure it doesn’t do any harm to your cute friend’s health. Also, the substrate shouldn’t be added in excess. Just ensure that the tank’s ground is completely covered.

Step 3: Adding some plants

Your axolotl tank should be filled with plants for creating a stimulating and comfortable environment for these fascinating creatures. Not only do these natural elements enhance the overall aesthetics of the tank, but they also play a vital role in promoting your axolotls’ well-being and natural behavior. 

When it comes to adding live aquatic and semi-aquatic plants to your axolotl tank, there are numerous benefits. They not only improve water quality by absorbing nitrates and other waste products but also provide hiding spots and resting places for your axolotls. 

Some suitable aquatic plants for axolotl tanks include Java Fern, Anubias Nana, Java Moss, Water Lettuce, Frogbit, Hornwort, Lilaeopsis, Anubias Isabelle, Anubias Barteri, Amazon Sword, Salvinia Minima, Banana Plants, Brazilian Pennywort and Water Wisteria.

When adding plants, ensure that they are free from pesticides or harmful chemicals. Also, avoid using plants with sharp or thorny leaves that might harm your axolotls.

Step 4: Providing proper hiding places and decorations

Axolotls are naturally shy and prefer to have plenty of hiding spots in their environment. Hiding places help reduce stress and make axolotls feel secure. You can use various items to create hiding spots. As a cheap and effective hiding spot for axolotls, PVC pipes are an excellent choice. You can also use clay pots. When they are turned on their sides, they create cozy hideaways.

Another interesting choice is adding aquarium caves. These are specifically designed for fish and amphibians. So, these caves provide excellent hiding places.

Ensure that the hiding spots are large enough for your axolotls to enter comfortably and that there are no sharp edges that could cause injury.

Moreover, you can decorate the tank of your axolotl to add visual interest as well as provide them with additional exploration opportunities. However, it’s crucial to choose decorations that are safe and non-toxic. Avoid using decorations with small parts that axolotls might accidentally swallow.

You can go for smooth rocks and driftwood. These will create natural-looking features and serve as resting spots. Also, if live plants are not an option, consider using soft, silk-like artificial plants that won’t harm your axolotls.

Natural-looking ornaments are also a fantastic option. If so, choose decorations that mimic natural habitats like caves, roots, or submerged ruins.

Remember that axolotls have delicate skin, so anything you add to the tank must be smooth and gentle to avoid causing injuries. You must avoid any object with sharp edges, items that are small enough to fit in their mouths, or anything that has fishing lines attached to it.

When arranging plants and decorations in your axolotl tank, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Create Open Spaces: Leave enough open space for your axolotls to swim freely. They are not very agile swimmers, so open spaces are crucial for ease of movement.
  • Balance the Aesthetics: Aim for a balanced and natural-looking setup. Avoid overcrowding the tank with too many decorations and plants, as this can stress your axolotls and impede their movement.
  • Provide Different Levels: Use a combination of tall and short plants, along with decorations placed at various heights. This creates a multi-dimensional environment that your axolotls will enjoy exploring.

Read Also: How To Tell If My Axolotl is Happy

Step 5: Installing necessary equipment

Axolotls have specific requirements for their habitat, and having the right equipment in place is essential to maintain a healthy and thriving environment. Here are some key pieces of equipment you’ll need:

1. Heater

Axolotls are cold-water creatures, and it’s essential to maintain a stable and suitable water temperature for their well-being. The ideal temperature range for axolotls is between 60°F to 68°F (15°C to 20°C). In areas where the ambient temperature falls below this range, a reliable aquarium heater becomes necessary.

Choose a submersible heater that allows you to set and control the desired temperature accurately. Additionally, opt for a heater with built-in safety features like automatic shut-off in case of overheating to prevent any harm to your axolotls. 

To find out whether or not you should add a heater, check out this article- Do Axolotls Need a Heater?

2. Thermometer

To ensure the water temperature remains within the appropriate range, use a good-quality aquarium thermometer. A digital thermometer is more accurate and easy to read compared to traditional analog thermometers. Place the thermometer in a location where you can easily check it without disturbing your axolotls.

3. Underwater Filter

Your axolotls are going to need a filter to survive. Also, a proper filtration system is vital for maintaining clean and healthy water in the axolotl tank. An underwater filter is an excellent choice for axolotl tanks as it provides mechanical and biological filtration.

  • Mechanical Filtration: The filter’s sponge or foam captures debris and particulate matter, preventing it from clouding the water.
  • Biological Filtration: Beneficial bacteria grow on the filter media and break down harmful ammonia and nitrite into less toxic nitrate.

Regularly clean and replace the filter media as per the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure optimal filtration efficiency.

4. Bio-Sponge Filter Kit

In addition to the main filtration system, adding a bio-sponge filter kit can provide supplementary filtration and aeration. Bio-sponge filters are air-driven and work by pulling water through a sponge, which hosts beneficial bacteria that help in the nitrogen cycle.

Bio-sponge filters are gentle on axolotls and create minimal water movement, making them an excellent choice for tanks housing these sensitive creatures.

5. Air Pump

An air pump is essential for powering the bio-sponge filter and providing additional aeration to the tank. Adequate oxygenation is crucial for the well-being of your axolotls, as they absorb oxygen through their gills.

Choose a quiet, reliable air pump that is appropriately sized for your tank. You can use a control valve to adjust the airflow as needed, ensuring a gentle and steady stream of bubbles.

6. Hydrometer

Axolotls are sensitive to changes in water quality, including salinity. While they are freshwater creatures, it’s essential to monitor the salt levels if you plan to add any aquarium salt to treat certain health conditions.

A hydrometer allows you to measure the salinity levels accurately, and you can adjust the salt concentration as required to maintain a stable environment for your axolotls.

7. Lighting features

Some believe lighting isn’t necessary for axolotls at all. But, they aren’t 100% true. Yes, it’s right that axolotls don’t need too much lighting but you should add minimal lighting into their tank. You need to keep the light turned on for some hours and off for some hours. It will give them the feel of day and night rotation. As a result, their new habitat will appear more natural to them. 

Also, lighting is beneficial for the growth of live plants inside the aquarium. Adding lights with an automatic timer will help you eliminate the hassle of manually adjusting them. Nevertheless, you need to consider many things while adding lighting features and checking out our article about Axolotl’s lighting requirements will certainly be helpful.

8. Backup Power Source

As a precautionary measure, consider investing in a battery-operated air pump and backup power source in case of power outages. This ensures that your axolotls continue to receive adequate oxygenation during such situations.

Step 6: Start Cycling the Tank

After setting up the aquarium and keeping all decorations and plants in place, you should begin the cycling process. Also, place your aquarium in a cool spot in your home that stays chill all year long. This keeps your axolotls comfy, especially when it’s hot outside.

Remember, the nitrogen cycle is a natural process that involves the conversion of toxic ammonia, produced by fish waste and decaying matter, into less harmful substances like nitrite and eventually nitrate. Beneficial bacteria play a crucial role in this cycle, as they colonize the filter media and substrate, breaking down these harmful compounds.

In order to cycle your tank, you need to allow it time to gather good bacteria in the filter and stuff at the bottom. These bacteria get rid of bad stuff like ammonia, nitrogenous, and other yucky waste. 

They munch on these harmful things and change them into less harmful stuff, which you can get rid of when you change the water. Without these good bacteria, unwanted stuff like ammonia would build up and harm your axolotls.

It is possible to speed up the cycling process by adding a bit of ammonia. However, you should not do this in the presence of your axolotl as this is known as fishless cycling. Instead, you add just a little ammonia and let the bacteria grow until there’s enough to gobble up the waste your axolotl makes.

Another way to cycle the tank is by using special bottled bacteria that help with nitrification. This is the quickest way to get your axolotl aquarium all set up and ready to go.

If you want to learn more about cycling an axolotl tank, you can read- How to cycle an axolotl tank?

Step 7: Adding Axolotls into the tank

You can now put your little buddy in the aquarium. To ensure your Axolotl’s well-being and adaptability, you must introduce it to its new tank the right way. Follow these steps to create a smooth transition for your aquatic friend.

1. Acclimatization

Before adding your axolotl, ensure that the water temperature in the tank matches that of the water it’s coming from. Gradually acclimate the axolotl to the new water by floating its transport container in the tank for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the temperatures to equalize without causing shock.

2. Dim Lighting 

Axolotls are sensitive to bright lights. Keep the tank’s lighting dim for the first few days to help reduce stress on the axolotl as it adjusts to its new environment.

3. Slow Release 

Gently release your axolotl into the tank. It’s best to let the axolotl swim out of its container on its own rather than pouring it in. This minimizes stress and potential injuries.

4. Monitoring

After introducing your axolotl, closely observe its behavior. Some initial stress is normal, but ensure it starts exploring and swimming around within a day or two. If it continues to hide excessively or shows signs of distress, investigate and adjust the tank conditions accordingly.

5 things to avoid while setting up the axolotl tank 

5 things to avoid while setting up the axolotl tank

Here are a few things you shouldn’t do while making a suitable home for your axolotls. 

  1. Don’t make a lidless tank. Your axolotl may jump out of the container if you don’t cover it securely with a lid. 
  2. The tank should not be filled with distilled water. Also, your pet’s length shouldn’t be less than the water’s depth.
  3. Avoid installing any powerful filter as this will generate strong waves that may stress your axolotls.
  4. Keep the tank away from direct sunlight. And, don’t make the tank too much bright with excessive lighting features. 
  5. Never keep the tank dirty for a long period of time. There is no doubt that it will negatively affect the axolotl’s health.

Final words

And there you have it; You’re now armed with a solid 7-step roadmap to create a cozy habitat for your aquatic pals. Don’t worry, this guide has everything you need to make a perfect shelter for your axolotls.

Remember, setting up their tank is just the beginning of this underwater adventure. Watching those little frilly friends glide around their new home is gonna be pure gold. So go on, sprinkle some love into every step, and don’t hesitate to show off your masterpiece to the world.

Oh, and don’t overthink it. Axolotls are pretty chill creatures, and they’ll appreciate the effort you put into making their home. Now, dive in and enjoy the awesomeness that’s about to unfold right in front of your eyes.

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