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Tank Setup

Now you know what you need for your set up, lets talk about creating a nitrogen cycle in your tank to create a safe environment for your axolotl to thrive in.   <Tank Cycling Instructions >

What you will need:

1.  An appropriately sized aquarium


  • We recommend a  minimum of 20 gallon long for one adult axolotl, add 10 gallons for each additional axolotl at minimum. Bigger is always better though, and keep in mind that floor space is better than height since they spend most of their time on the bottom.


2.  Filtration


  • Strong water flow can stress your axolotl. Use a low flow filter such as a sponge or canister filter with a spray bar. Hang on the back filters are ok, if you can find one that has adjustable water flow that would be ideal. 

  • Air stones are not necessary, but some axolotls like them and we find that it helps with gill growth and fullness.  You can also add a sponge filter in the place of an air stone to add extra filtration and air for the gills.


3.  Seeded filter


  • A seeded filter is typically a smaller filter such as a sponge filter that has been running in an established tank, it may even just be media from an established filter.  It contains the beneficial bacteria that you are working on building up through the cycling process.  By adding a filter with some of that beneficial bacteria on it, it will help your cycle along much faster.  This is not a necessity but will save you a lot of time cycling your tank.  You can check with your local fish store to see if they carry these.  If they do not, a fellow breeder sells these on her site and she does ship, here is the link:


4.  Temperature gauge


  • You will need some sort of temperature gauge to monitor to water temperature and ensure it stays between 60-68  degrees Fahrenheit.  We personally prefer to use the digital thermometers, they are easy to read and you don't have the risk of a glass thermometer breaking inside of your tank.


5.  Substrate


  • Axolotls will fit anything into their mouth that is as large as their head, when they eat they vacuum up their food and anything else they made find.  Because of this it is not a good idea to use things like pebbles or gravel in your tank.  If you want a substrate on the bottom your best bet is to get a fine sand.   Anything larger will get stuck in your axolotls digestive system and it can be fatal.  One thing we love about sand is that it helps hold the tank cycle better.  Keep in mind however, if you are purchasing an axolotl under 5" they can not be safely housed on sand because there is a increased risk of impaction.  

  • Many axolotl owners prefer a "bare bottom" tank, meaning no substrate, just the glass of the tank.  Some also use tile cut to the size of the tank bottom, this is acceptable and also provides aesthetic to the tanks appearance.  Both options are great because it is easy to clean and eliminates to risk of impaction.


6.  Décor


  • Axolotls like to hide so it is a good idea to provide a couple hiding spots for your axolotl to hide in.  You can get creative with this; we like to use clay pots for hides, they are inexpensive and look nice.  You can also use things like PVC pipe, coffee mugs and aquarium décor from your local pet store.  When choosing décor it is important that there are no sharp edges inside or outside that may cut your axolotls skin.  Also, make sure it is clean and aquarium safe.  All décor must be twice the size of your axolotls head, this is to ensure it can not fit into its mouth.  Plants are also good to have in the tank, either artificial or live. 


7.  Water DE chlorinator


  • Lastly, when you fill your tank you are going to need to add a De chlorinator to make the water safe.  The only brand we use and recommend for axolotls is Seachem Prime.  You will need to add this to all new water you add to your tank moving forward as well, so always have it on hand! 


8.  Fan or chiller


  • Some axolotls keepers prefer chillers that are made specifically for aquatic use to keep the water at a  steady cool temperature, depending on where you live and where your tank will be kept this may be something you want to invest in.  Fans work well too, they can cause rapid evaporation, so just refill your tank as you need to.  There are fans made specifically for aquariums or you can use a household fan purchased online or at your local store. 


9.  Lid


  • Some axolotls worry about their axolotl jumping out of the tank.  If you are one of those you can purchase a lid that fits your tank wherever you buy the tank.  Keep in mind with a lid it may be difficult to cool your water utilizing a standard fan, you may want to look into a fan that is made especially for your size aquarium that you can use with the lid.  Some people prefer "egg crate" sheets that  you can purchase at most hardware stores.  These are typically white and used in commercial ceiling applications for return vent covers.  They are plastic and can be cut to size to fit on top of your aquarium while still allowing air circulation.  


When you have the necessary items to set up your tank, go ahead and set up the tank and fill it with water (use tap water or spring water; RO or distilled water are stripped of minerals and are toxic to axolotls unless you add in the minerals manually).  At this time the temperature doesn't matter, in fact warmer water may speed up the cycle so no need to run a chiller or fan at this point.  When you get the tank filled, plug in and start running your filter(s).  

Congratulations on setting up your tank! Now we will walk you through cycling your tank. 

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