Axolotl Care

Caring for your axolotl appropriately is important to their health, well-being, and happiness.
Axolotls can, if well treated, reach the ages of 15-20 years old.

Tank Setup
With axolotls, the bigger the tank the better.
Length is more important than height, as axolotls tend to spend most of their time walking around the tank floor. 
An adult axolotl can reach the length of 30cm (11.8 inches).
For one adult axolotl, a 2ft tank is the minimum size, smaller than that is too squeezy for them. 
After that, a good rule of thumb is 1ft per axolotl. Although, this also depends on tank height and width, not just length.

This is my axolotl tank. It is 4ft long, and 400L (105.6Gallons). The light is only for photographic purposes.
Since then, the aquarium rock (rock on the far left) has been removed, as I believe it may be too sharp for them. Water has been filled more, and plan to add more plants.
At the moment three adult axolotls are living in it, but there is room for more.

Here is a list of different substrates available, and whether they are suitable or not.

Bare Bottomed Tank
Substrate is not required for axolotls, although it does look better - and they do seem to prefer to have something to 'grip' to as they walk around.
Bare bottomed tanks are easy to maintain, as uneaten food/poo is easily spotted and removed.

Some say that axolotls may get stressed on bare-bottom tanks over time, as they like to have the traction of substrate to walk on. I personally have found this false, I've had many axolotls - both young and adults - on bare-bottom tanks without difficulty. I have found they can move a little bit easier with substrate, though - but have not found it to be stressful.

Sand is the ideal substrate for axolotls. It looks good, and is safe from them being impacted. The very best thing about it, is seeing those adorable little axolotl footprints in it... and seeing them gallop across it with grace!
Sand comes in lots of different types and coarseness. You want to choose a fine sand, not a gravelly sand. 
I find play sand/fine builders sand is perfect.
Make sure to rinse the sand lots and lots, until it really runs clear before use.

River Rocks or Large Pebbles
River rocks, when they are all bigger than the axolotls head, can be a nice substrate. Although, food and poo get caught in it easily - and it is very hard to keep clean; so for that reason, I wouldn't recommend it. From experience, I've found axolotls also seem to be able to move around on sand or bare-bottom tanks a bit easier than river rocks.

Axolotls can, and will, eat anything smaller than the size of their heads. Impaction is a common occurrence, with often results with death.
You may not see your axolotl eat gravel, but you cannot watch them 24/7. It doesn't take much for an axolotl to snap at something, either, so if you have your axolotl on gravel, it is a matter of when - not if - they will eat some, and get impacted.
Gravel is a major no-no for axolotls.

Decorations, Plants and Hides
Axolotls need to have hides to feel secure. It is recommended to have at least two hides per axolotl. 
Aquarium ornaments, PVC pipes (a good cheap hide), plants, or terracotta pot plants are just a few of possible hides for axolotls.

HERE is a very helpful topic on on things that are aquarium safe.

As for plants, which is better - fake or live?
I've found axolotls to be very destructive, and tend to tear up live plants. They also don't like light, so live plants in an axolotl tank can be difficult. You can use low light plants, and plants such as Java Moss that don't need to be planted are perfect.
I personally use fake plants in my axie tank for ease.

Axolotls do not have eyelids, so lighting can be stressful for them. 
Unless growing live plants, aquarium lights are not recommended. If you do have live plants, make sure there are hides that the axolotl can hide away from the light in.
Room lights, windows, etc. are all OK, as long as the lighting is not direct.

Axolotls excrete lots of waste, so filters can really help keep the water levels cleaner, and lessens water changes (although does not eliminate them).
There are lots of filters out there. I find external/canister filters to be the most efficient, although they are more expensive than other options.
Axolotls don't like currents, so having a spray bar helps push the water out evenly.
Putting a few tall plants near the out-take also lessens the currents, but doesn't interfere with the filtration.

Under-gravel filters tend to not be the best options for axolotls, especially since the best substrates for them are sand, or bare-bottom.

As for water-changes, depending on the size of your aquarium, the filtration, and how stocked it is will determine how often water changes are to be done. 20-30% weekly water-changes are recommended, although as above - it does depend. It is a good idea to get a test kit, and determine how often water needs to be changed.

Temperature is very important to axolotls, although they are from Mexico, their native lakes were glacial fed - so were quite cool.
Their temperature should be between 14°C-19°C (57°F-66°F).
Higher temperatures than that is very stressful to axolotls, and long term can result in death.
Temperature fluctuations is also stressful for them, even if only a few degrees.

HERE is a very good article on aquarium cooling.

Cycling Your Aquarium
An aquarium is basically a mini ecosystem, and it does not instantly establish itself.
For information of cycling, please visit HERE.

Axolotls are carnivores, so meat is essential for their diet.
They do have small teeth, but these are used to grab their prey, holding them in place, rather than chewing. They swallow their food whole.
When an axolotl goes to eat something,  they open their mouth, vacuuming in water, and anything else that is close (food, gravel, etc).
Axolotls will eat non-live food, but the movement of live food entices them to snap.

Adult axolotls are best fed every other day, rather than every day.
Try to aim for their stomach to be as wide as their head.

Here is a list of the different food choices for adult axolotls -


Earthworms are the best possible diet you can give your axolotl, and are a perfect staple.
You can dig them from a garden, if no pesticides/other chemicals are used in that area. Earthworm farms are also another good option.

It is best to soak the worms before feeding, as some earthworms excrete a yukky tasting substance when stressed. Soaking is said to remove this.

A video of my axolotl, Banana, eating an earthworm - 

Pellets are also a good staple diet for axolotls.
Pellets are available for axolotls, or soft salmon pellets are also another popular choice.

Are available online, or from some fish stores. They are aquatic worms, so will not die in the tank which is a plus.
Blackworms are very nutritious, although are small, and may not hold much of an interest for adult adults.

None other than midge fly larvae, live or frozen bloodworms are also a nutritious meal for axolotls, although are very messy to deal with.

Are good, but too small to hold interest for adults.

Grubs and Maggots
Are a great meal for axolotls, and they just love them!
Can be hard to find, my axolotls get the odd treat of them.

This is a video of my leucistic axie, Tenedor, eating a grub -

Can be OK as a treat. They aren't the best nutritionally - and can be difficult to get underwater!

Meal Worms
Again, can be OK as a treat, although are best avoided.
They have a hard exoskeleton which is difficult for axolotls to swallow. Their heads must also be incapacitated as there are horror stories of them hurting your axolotl from within.

Raw Prawns
Are alright as a rare treat.
Frozen Food
Is wildly available, and can be good treats, although not the best staple available.
Popular frozen food can include: Brine Shrimp, Glassworms, Tubifex and Bloodworms.

Frozen Beef-heart
Is very fattening and messy, this should be avoided. 

Feeder Fish
Are also a fatty food, and best avoided. Fish brought as feeders often carry parasites and disease.

There are lots of different bugs that can be fed to your axolotl. If you don't use pesticides/other chemicals, you can collect different bugs to feed your axolotl as a treat.

Are a poor source of food, and should be avoided.

Other Amphibians
Are a very poor food source, and should be avoided. Not only can you bring in disease, they may cause injury to your axolotl - or even be toxic.

Tank Mates
Axolotls cannot be housed with any other animals, other than other axolotls.
If you house axies with other creatures, one creature will get injured or eaten.

Housing fish with axolotls is a common mistake; the fish nibble at your axolotl's gills, probably thinking they are bloodworms, or the fish get eaten.

Snails are also another common tank mate problem - it is heard of that snails can climb onto the axolotl and damage their slime coating... or that the axolotl tries to eat them, where the shell can then inflict damage.

Have a look HERE, at Species Mixing Disasters.