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How to Start an Axolotl Tank?

Have you ever seen (or even heard of) an axolotl? These distinctive aquatic creatures are often referred to as ‘walking fish’ but are, in fact, a type of amphibian – neotenic salamanders to be exact that remain in their larval stage, never losing their gills! Intrigued? Well, you should be! Want to learn how to start an axolotl tank?

Choosing the right aquarium and cycling it completely is key to starting your own axolotl tank. You also need the proper equipment including a filter, heater, light, water testing kit, and decorations. The type of food, compatible tankmates, and daily care needs must all be considered to prior to setting up an axolotl tank.

Now that you know what you need to begin your own axolotl tank, let’s explore this topic further and in more detail. I’ll explain how to set-up the tank step-by-step, how long it takes to cycle completely, and whether or not you can use tap water. I’ll also discuss if they should be kept alone or with other axolotls as well as what other creatures make the best tankmates.

So, if you’re ready to dive deeper into the aquatic world of the illusive and unique axolotl, then let’s begin!

What Aquarium is Best for Axolotls?

Setting up an axolotl tank begins with choosing the right aquarium. While some hobbyists may keep their axolotl in a 10-gallon tank, I personally believe this is too small. A 10-gallon tank may work for awhile with a single juvenile axolotl, but in the long run, your pet will eventually feel crowded once it reaches an adult size of up to 10 inches!

If you plan on keeping just one axolotl, then I recommend you purchase a long 20-gallon tank since this aquatic creature is a bottom-dweller and needs more space to move horizontally rather than vertically. For every additional salamander you intend to keep, you must add an extra 10-gallons of space so consider how many you want to have in advance and then purchase the tank based on that number.

What Equipment is Needed for an Axolotl Tank?

To set up an axolotl tank, apart from an aquarium, you need the proper equipment. These include the following:


Every aquarium needs a filter and when choosing one for an axolotl tank, you must remember that this creature doesn’t like a strong current. For this reason, a sponge filter works best. You’ll also need an air pump to ensure good filtration. Opt for a high-quality, low-noise pump and you’ll be good to go!


Even though axolotls are cold water creatures, they still need a heater in their tank. Luckily, they don’t need a very powerful one – just one that prevents the extreme day/night climate swings, especially if the tank is placed in a room with windows and/or doors and is prone fluctuating temperatures.


Choosing the right light for your axolotl tank can be tricky. If you’re planning on growing plants in your aquarium, then you may be tempted to buy a strong one – don’t! Axolotls don’t like intense light and a powerful lamp will only stress it out. Instead, choose one with a softer ambient LED or blue light feature.

Water Testing Kit

A water testing kit is a must! I can’t stress enough how important good water parameters are in maintaining both the safety of the tank and the health of your aquatic pets. A liquid testing kit – not a strip version – that monitors ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and pH is your best option.

***Check out the following water testing kits available online through Amazon.***

white axolotl

What Kind of Water Conditions do Axolotls Prefer?

Though axolotls are cold water creatures, temperatures that too low will lead to decreased appetite, slower metabolism, and sluggish behavior. Conversely, if the tank is too warm, there’ll be less oxygen in the water which can be problematic and result in stress or illness. That said, the best temperature for an axolotl tank is between 63-and 67-degrees Fahrenheit.

The ideal water pH for an axolotl tank is around 7.4 and 7.6, although this creature can tolerate a range between 7.0 to 8.0. For optimum health, it’s important to keep the pH level stable and test it regularly. Relative hardness is best, which is water with a good concentration of dissolved salts. Slightly harder water helps improve axolotl gill function and increases the production of slime coating.

Ammonia is extremely dangerous for axolotls. In fact, a reading as low as 1 ppm can pose serious health risks to your pet. That said, you must test the water frequently to ensure it’s toxin-free. If left unchecked over time, this will ultimately lead to death. To prevent ammonia spikes, make sure the tank has cycled completely before adding axolotls. As well, install a biological and chemical filter during the set-up.

What Kind of Decorations Can You Have in an Axolotl Tank?

Rocks, driftwood, plant, etc. are all possible decorations for an axolotl tank. Normally, you add them to the aquarium during the setting up/cycling phase before the creatures are introduced. When choosing decorations for an axolotl tank, choose strong and sturdy plants like java fern or anubias, soft and sandy substrate, smooth rocks, driftwood, caves, and other aquarium-safe ornaments that help provide cover.

A particular favorite among axolotls are moss balls. They’re easy to maintain and don’t require a lot of light or heat. Floating plants also work well in an axolotl tank. When decorating an aquarium for axolotls the main thing to keep in mind is never to use anything with sharp edges. Not only could the salamander get caught up on it, but it could also physically harm your pet as well.


What Type of Food do Axolotls Eat?

For optimum pet health, it’s best to axolotls a variety of foods. As a type of carnivore, this aquatic creature prefers live, meaty foods such as freshwater shrimp, insects, tadpoles, and even raw beef. They’ll even accept frozen edibles such as brine shrimp and bloodworms as well as some pellet foods. Depending on what and how much your axolotl eats, this can run anywhere from $20 to $40 per month!

The key is not to overfeed your axolotls. Too much food can lead to increased toxins in the water. An accumulation of waste from both uneaten food left to rot as well as higher amounts of fish poop in the tank are the culprits. Feeding your axolotls 3 times a week is sufficient as they have a slow metabolism and it takes longer for their food to fully digest.

How Long does It Take to Cycle an Axolotl Tank?

It takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks to cycle an axolotl tank completely. You can introduce these aquatic creatures to the tank once the ammonia and nitrite levels are so low that they can’t be detected using a water testing kit. If you want to add other amphibians and/or fish to the tank, you must do so slowly and gradually one-at-a-time.

To cycle the tank properly, start by choosing a room in your home that stays cool year-round. Next, fill the tank with treated water and turn on both the filter and heater. You can also place any decorations you have in the tank at this time. Then, add ammonia slowly and test the water regularly. It usually takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete the process at which point, you can start to add your axolotls.

Can I Use Tap Water for My Axolotl?

While it’s perfectly fine to use tap water for you axolotl tank, you must pre-treat it first with a water conditioner or de-chlorinator. Though axolotls are more forgiving than many aquatic creatures when it comes to water quality, you still need to do your best to keep the aquarium environment clean and healthy. Regular partial water changes and a filter are highly recommended.

Can I Put Fish with My Axolotl?

Contrary to what you may have heard you absolutely can keep fish in an axolotl tank. You just need to choose the right ones. Peaceful herbivores of like size or smaller that prefer cold, hard water are ideal. You definitely don’t want ‘fin nippers’ as those long, flowing axolotl gills can look like food to opportunistic fish looking for an easy meal!


In summation, setting up an axolotl tank is easy, provided you choose the right aquarium and cycle it properly. Ensuring you have the right equipment (a filter, heater, light, water testing kit, decorations, etc.) is also important. The type and amount of food required, possible (if any) tankmates, and how much daily maintenance must be done should all be considered in advance.

I hope this article has been of help and answered all your questions regarding how to set-up an axolotl tank. Thanks for reading and good luck!

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