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Axolotl Care: Everything You Need To Know About – Tank Setup, Diet, TankMates

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As an aquarist who loves to set up new aquariums with varieties of species of fishes, you will love the Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) as a pet. The main problem lies in how to manage to set up the tank for it.

The axolotl is not a fish in itself. It is an amphibian. Though it is simply referred to as a walking fish in many cases, it is a neotenic salamander having external gills, limbs as well as a tail. Since it is a purely unique Mexican species than you might have thought, it requires special care while being set up in its home.

If you are a fishkeeper, you probably know the struggles of hurting your pets due to the unmanaged setup of the tank in the first place. Hence, we are going to provide you with a step by step guide about how to set up the tank and care for your new pet buddy. We are here to help you!

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What Equipment Should I Keep in the Tank for the Axolotl?

There is always a lot of equipment that you can use in an aquarium and these change as per the requirement of the species you land your interest on. Similarly, to set up a perfect tank for Axolotl, you will need the following equipment:


First of all, to set up a tank, you need a tank! We think that you might have taken care of this step as you are already looking for how to set it up.

As an enthusiast of healthy aquatic animals, you will find out that selecting the right tank is the central part to start with. The size of the aquarium determines whether your pet can move freely inside the tank or not in its full length.

Apart from what most sites suggest you, an Axolotl might find it difficult to adjust in a 10-gallon tank for the long run. If you plan on for the future, a full-grown Axolotl, which can grow up to 12 inches, will need an aquarium of 20 gallons. The size should increase by 10 gallons each if you plan on adding up the numbers.

Moreover, it is better to buy a horizontally long tank since your Axolotl will stay on the bottom of the aquarium mostly.

You can learn a lot from How To Setup A 20-Gallon Fish Tank: Livestock and Equipment List.


The Axolotl only stays at the bottom of the tank. Hence, you must consider the low flow filter to avoid any disturbances. A discerning aquarist will choose to add a sponge filter for such works.

Further, you need to make sure that this filter is of high quality and of powerful nature such that it filters out the specks of dirt pretty well.

Hikari sponge filters would be best because it is easy to install and clean up as well as has the quality I have mentioned above.

Does Axolotl Filter Need an Air Pump?

The most frequently asked question about the filter of the tank is if they need an air pump. The answer to such a question is yes. The sponge filter requires you to add an air pump. We suggest you check the noise level of the air pump before you buy one.

It is better to have a soothing view of your axolotl than to get carried away by the noise now and then. One of the best options out there is Tetra Whisper Easy to Use AP150 Air Pump for Aquariums.


If you are new to aquarium settings, your bright idea might be lighting up the aquarium well for a visual treat. In contrast to this view, that may not be the most excellent idea at all.

Axolotls are light-sensitive creatures. You have to set hideouts for them even to skip the sunlight that may damage their eyes. Hence, bright lights are not an option for you in such a case.

Unless you want your axolotl to be stressed and hideout of your sight almost all the time, you should fix a soothing dim light for it.

NICREW ClassicLED Aquarium Light, Fish Tank Light with Extendable Brackets, 48-Inch, 32 Watts is perfect for this case as you can adjust the light as per the behavior of the axolotl in the tank.

Water Test Kit

It is indispensable for an owner of the axolotl who is as caring as you are to have a water test kit as an accessory for a perfect aquarium. I including some of my aquarist friends have found API Aquarium Test Kit really helpful in the past few years.

These water test kits assist you in checking the level of ammonia/ ammonium (NH3/NH4), nitrite (NO2), nitrate (NO3), and pH of the water in the aquarium.

Since axolotls require immensely qualitative water in the aquarium, you find it easier to maintain such a need with the water test kit.

Make sure that you Start the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle.


It is not the most needed equipment for your axolotl since they are very prone to living in cold temperatures.

However, if your room has open windows or even a place where temperature changes more often, you might need to reconsider having a heater for a change.

Axolotls are very sensitive to aquatic animals. This is why you will need to regulate the temperature of your aquarium through a heater even when it is a small change, like the temperature fluctuation between day and night.

Though you will not need a powerful heater for such purposes, which is a good thing!

hygger 50W Mini Submersible Digital Display Aquarium Heater would be best as it is a Compact and Fast Heating Thermostat, with External Controller and Built-in Thermometer.

What Mistakes Should I Avoid in Preparation?

There are some mistakes that you can encounter while having the aquarium set. This might reduce the life of axolotl from its expected lifespan of 15 years.

Some mistakes seem quite repeated by most aquarists, even the experienced ones.

Here are some things you should consider to avoid mistakes while preparing the tank.

  • You have to maintain water quality.
  • You cannot put big fishes in the axolotls’ tank.
  • Similarly, you have to consider the size and age if you plan on keeping many axolotls in the same tank.
  • You should not use bright lights in the tank directly.
  • Boil and sand the wood pieces if you decide on using one of your own.
  • Avoid having any sharp objects inside your tank that could harm the soft external gills of your axolotl.
  • Put in some hideouts as well as a firm ground that axolotls can grab on to.
  • You should avoid using gravel in the aquarium.

How Do I Prepare an Axolotl Tank?

It is quite tempting for you to run to the store and buy an aquarium as soon as you get the idea of petting an axolotl. But like any other idea, having a pet also requires a little planning before you go ahead.

So here is what you should do in specific steps to make it easy and avoid problems for the long term.

Setting Cycled Aquarium for Axolotl

Like many people who keep their interest in keeping axolotl as a pet, you should first start with an aquarium with the cycle. Beginning with an uncycled aquarium is the most frequent mistake made by people.

Next in line is finding a room that is cool for most of the time around the year. Axolotls are cold-blooded and stay in colder areas. This is why you need to set the aquarium in a cool place to avoid overheating.

Since we have already talked about the equipment we are going to use in the tank, it is time for you to use that equipment and decorate your aquarium. Alongside these, you can now turn on the filter and heater of the aquarium.

Moreover, by cycling aquariums, you are adding up the good bacteria that keep your axolotl healthy. These beneficial bacterias stay in your filter and substrate, which you to decorate your aquarium with.

For cycling the tank, you start by adding the ammonia (we suggest you use the unscented one used for household purposes creating less of a mess).

Setting Water Values

Axolotls are cold-water animals. You will find them slacking at the bottom of your aquarium. Even though they are from Mexico, they live in lakes of higher altitude.

Adjusting Temperatures

This is why you will find it necessary to maintain the temperature of the water they live in.

The temperature below 70 degrees is perfect for your axolotl. If the temperature rises above 75 degrees, it becomes problematic for your axolotl as it may lead to sickness and death.

Besides, if the temperature of your aquarium rises from 70 degrees to 74 degrees, it can be problematic, but it can also be handled.

Hardness of water

Since axolotls have natural habitat in the lake, they are used to hard water. As a result, you need to set the water hardness from 100ppm to the least to 200ppm to the most.

How to maintain the hardness of the water in the aquarium? Learn here.

pH of water

You can set a pH range between 6.5 and 8. In between the numbers, pH levels of 7.0 to 7.5 is the best you can do. This gives the balance to the acidity or alkalinity of the water in your tank.

Formula of water

The formula of the water should consist of low or no ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. We hope you have understood the cycling part of the aquarium mentioned above. Ammonia and nitrite should always be zero, as they might be harmful to your axolotl.

On the other hand, nitrate can be kept on low levels. However, if it rises in amount, you will need to change the water of the aquarium.

Choosing a substrate

Choosing a substrate is an essential part of the aquarium for an axolotl. As we have discussed earlier, an axolotl stays at the bottom of the aquarium. So, you should set a substrate properly.

Many aquarists that pet it add sand as a substrate. Carib Sea Super Natural Moonlight is a good one for an example.

Some owners find it okay to leave their bare aquarium bottom. However, this is not a good idea for axolotls’ tanks since they need something to grab on. A bare bottom can cause stress and peel off some skin of your beloved axolotl.

You wouldn’t need one that, would you?

The second mistake you can make is adding gravel, stone, and marbles to your aquarium. This can cause your axolotl to have problems in the digestive system because they can easily mistake the gravel for food and eat them up.

As a result, they cannot pass it through the digestive system, causing them agony.

Besides, it becomes hard for you to clean the aquarium if you use gravel as the food gets stuck in the gaps.

The best option for you is to use sand since it can be easily swallowed and passed out through the digestive tract. You can clean it easily as well as your axolotl is happy to grab around something.

Best Foods for Axolotl

Since axolotls are carnivores, it is a tricky little business to decide what you can feed them with. Though they might seem to swallow anything you give is the right pet, you should understand that they have a weak digestive system.

This is precisely why you should give them soft foods. Moreover, some people make the common mistake of feeding them with goldfish, which is a no-go because it lacks the nutrients that your axolotl needs.

Pellets are an excellent way to make your axolotls healthy. Conversely, some axolotls may not be fond of it. If you can make it eat one of these, it is the best option available.

Nevertheless, if it does not eat pellets, another option for you is to feed axolotl some worms. Bloodworms, home-cultured species like black worms, and earthworms are some of the frozen foods that axolotls eat deliciously.

You can now assure yourself that your axolotl has a belly full of nutritious and low in fat food.

Some of the suggestions I would give to you are:

What Fish Can I Feed My Axolotl?

Then again, you can feed them with live guppies or minnows, small insects, or raw fishes such as codfish.

Despite this, you should make sure that the minnows are home bred to avoid any parasitic insects breeding inside their body without you having any prior knowledge.

Nevertheless, make sure you do not feed them anything with a hard exoskeleton as they might not be able to digest them. Apart from these, other foods that you should avoid are beef liver and heart as well as wild-caught minnows.

Some of these might cause them to grow parasitic insects. As a result, they become unhealthy and, in worst, say, cease to live.

Socialization of Axolotls

The central part of petting any animal requires you to think about other animals kept alongside them. So, should I keep my axolotl alone, or do I add some tankmates for the little creature? Here are your answers to your questions.

What Fish Can An Axolotl Live With?

Typically axolotl cannot survive with any other fish. Two big reasons restrict you from having tank mates for an axolotl.

Harm To Axolotl

As I have mentioned above, the axolotl is a sensitive animal; you can harm your axolotl by adding fish to its tank.

Even though some fishes seem to be relatively peaceful, they can cause harm to the soft external gills that your axolotls have.

Harm To Tank Mates

Even though axolotls seem to be friendly and peaceful to you, they are carnivorous. They might act decent. You will not even notice if it is trying to pray the small fishes.

In some cases, your axolotl may not harm the fish at first, but eventually, the small fishes will reduce in number as they become lunch for your axolotl.

Can I Keep Many Axolotls Together?

After having said that axolotls do not enjoy tank mates, it is a good thing to know that you can at least add axolotls in a single tank. However, there are things you need to be careful about before you do this.

Tank with Adequate Water

As mentioned earlier, first of all, you need to have a bigger tank so that each axolotl has its own space. You may add up 10 gallons of water for each new axolotl you plan on keeping in the tank.

One Hideout For One Axolotl

Similarly, you need to add at least one hiding place for each axolotl. You might be thinking why at this moment. This is because axolotls love their own space.

Enough Space

If they find the space running low, you can be troubled with skirmishes here and there. In some cases, you might notice lost limbs.

As a result, the weaker axolotl eventually cannot survive. This is why you have to consider a fair amount of space for the number of axolotls you are trying to pet.

Same Size and Age

Besides, you should never keep a younger axolotl with the older one or even consider having axolotls of two different sizes in a single aquarium.

As long as they are the same size, you can be carefree to put axolotls in the same tank having enough space for all of them.

How Do You Decorate an Axolotl Tank?

An aquarium becomes unique when you give your personal touch to it! A visitor always admires your aquarium based on how you use your creative mind to create something extraordinary!

Here are some items you can use to decorate the aquarium. However, you should use your instincts to make it look one of a kind!


What is the best decoration to make axolotl feel at home? The answer is to plant. The lake water always has plants in some areas.

Plants help to regulate the oxygen levels in the water. They also make the salamander comfortable in its new home!

However, you have to be careful about which plants you choose. Java Fern, Water Wisteria, and Anubias Nana are the most suitable plants you can keep!

Most importantly, choose the plants that require less lighting and are a little firm since axolotls tend to destroy the soft ones.

Marimo Moss Balls take away the limelight for an axolotl tank. Besides, you should make sure they do not fit in your axolotl’s mouth.

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Driftwoods are a great option to decorate your aquarium to give it an antique look. Your axolotl may love this as well since there are driftwoods in Mexican lakes where they come from.

You have to make sure these driftwoods do not have any sharp edges, though. If you want to make the water safe from bacterial infection, you should boil the driftwood before keeping it in the aquarium.


Hideouts are essential for the neotenic salamander. You will find it unique how often they go into these hideouts when they are stressed out when they want to protect themselves from massive bright lights.

These hideouts reassure you that your pets remain healthy and happy. You can use PVC pipes for hideouts or any other pipes.

To make the hideouts more attractive, you can paint them with your favorite colors and designs. Be sure to use some water-resistant colors, though!

Despite you can use rocks as decorations as well. However, it makes it harder for you to clean the aquarium altogether. Though they look like a visual treat, there are always chances of you using the wrong size of rocks.

Eventually, small rocks or gravels can be swallowed by your axolotl, causing trouble!

Last words

So, this is how to set your axolotl tank. In short, you are unique and thoughtful when it comes to your aquarium.

Most parts of what makes it even better is covered in the above sections. Though, we believe the learning process continues as you spend time with your axolotl.

You will have to maintain the aquarium after you set it now and then. This covers vacuuming substrates, removing the excess food as well as cycling the water. You can also clear the filter bi-weekly.

We wish you the best for your new and unique salamander friend!

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