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How to Care for an Axolotl

This article will tell you how to care for an axolotl. An axolotl is an aquatic salamander related to tiger salamanders; in a tank environment, they will never transform into the adult form, but will remain larvae. They are easy to care for and make enjoyable pets. They have a lifespan of 10-15 years in aquariums, so take this into account before making a long-term investment in the care of an axolotl.


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    Provide suitable housing. The tank should be at least as long as twice the size of an adult axolotl, so choose a tank of 30 inches in length (45 inches would be perfect). Any smaller tank is only suitable until the axolotl is half the size of the tank. The tank can be 15 inches wide and deep, making the ideal tank 21 gallons (81 litres). A mesh top is best to prevent escape, or else make sure the tank is not completely full (one inch below the top would do). The tank should be glass or acrylic. At least one hiding place (tunnel, crevice, cave, etc) must be provided as they need to have shelter and prefer dark places and a place to sleep.
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    Provide a filter. Axolotls need a filter. If the filter has a tube, hide it behind something or aim it at the glass so it does not destroy their gills if they get near it, or keep the filter on a lower power.
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    Keep the water temperature the same. The water temperature of an axolotl's house is very important. You should keep it 10°C (50°F). temperature above 24°C (72°F) are very stressful to axolotls. Water temperature above 72°F will kill your Axolotl.
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    Perform weekly water changes. Change 1/4 of the water in the axolotl's tank weekly with new water to keep the tank clean. To take your axolotl out of the tank for cleaning, either fill a large container with water, or you might want to buy a second small tank. This is ideal if you want breed your axolotls so the bigger ones don't eat them. Remember to be gentle with your axolotl, you don't want any injuries.
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    Supply appropriate substrate in the tank. Small pebbles are bad because when feeding the axolotls open their mouths quickly and suck in anything around their mouths. They could accidentally swallow a small pebble and this could lead to death. Usually they will spit them back out, but not always. If you get pebbles, get some that are at least twice the width of an ADULTS head. Sand is the best option for substrate. If it is ingested it can be easily passed. A bare bottom tank is also an option, but this makes it difficult for an axolotl to grip the bottom, so it is harder for them to walk. Sand is highly recommended.
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    Feed your axolotl once a day, some choose every other day. The ideal and most nutritious food is earthworms, this should be the staple of their diet, you can also add sinking pellets(such as salmon), small feeder fish such as guppies as long as you breed them yourself to minimise risk of diseases. You can also feed adults with Bloodworms, Brine shrimp and Daphnia but not as a staple as these aren't nutritious enough for an adult.
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    Foods such as liver and heart, or any other meat 'humans' eat is NOT suitable as they contain too much fat so best to avoid these altogether.
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    Remember to keep their diet varied. If there is any left over food, clean it up immediately with a net or siphon.
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    Keep well fed but not over fed. If housed in pairs or more they are likely to eat limbs off other axolotl if not well fed. Axolotls generally eat smaller axolotls, too, so keep the ones you have about the same size. But watch out that your axolotls do not get over fed; obesity can cause a stressed and unhealthy axolotl.


  • A stressed axolotl has gills pointed forward and, when really stressed, the tip of the tail curls. Stress is caused by: sickness, being over or under fed, bad water quality, injury, long exposure to water temperature below 10°C or above 20°C.
  • If you are hesitant to take out your axolotl when cleaning the tank, try siphoning the water inside the tank with a small tube.
  • Axolotls do not like fast water movement. Use a filter that doesn't cause fast water flow. They are also very sensitive to water quality, so keep the temperature and cleanliness at optimal levels.
  • When taking your axolotl out of the tank for cleaning, use a net with a very fine mesh (that the toes will not go through) and never use your hands.
  • When feeding an axolotl try to vary the diet and only offer food that is high in fat as a treat. Let frozen food thaw before offering it to an axolotl.
  • To keep a healthy and active axolotl, make sure that they have a natural day/night temperature and light cycle. Light that is too bright scares them; too dark makes them sleepy.
  • Axolotls are not so picky about what they eat, but more about their feeding times. Try to adjust feeding times to what they like/need. Sometimes an axolotl wants small bits of food once or twice a day or a lot of food once a week. Make sure to remove uneaten food as soon as possible!
  • While axolotls may eat small fish, larger fish can bother them and even nibble on their gills. It is best that they do not share with other creatures.
  • As a rule of thumb, the length of the tank should be as long as the total length of all axolotls combined, but not smaller than 30 inches. For example; a length of 30 inches is enough for up to two axolotls, a length of 45 inches for three, 60 inches for four, etc.
  • The accepted minimum of water per animal, by enthusiasts, is ten gallons. For every additional axolotl, add fifteen.
  • Make sure to get a proper Eco Cycle before you purchase an axolotl. This will take a few weeks and get a water testing kit. Ammonia and Nitrite should be at 0, Nitrate should be under 20ppm and Ph should be between 7.2 and 7.4. There are filters that contain bio chemicals that regulate the above or buy some sachets that contain bacteria to regulate water quality. If there is no proper Eco Cycle anything living will die.


  • Axolotls will try to eat anything of which they think it fits in their mouths. Therefore, pebbles, small fish, plants, rocks, sand, even other (smaller) axolotls are all potential food in the eyes of an axolotl. Some of these can even be lethal, but only if it can get stuck in their throats (axolotls do not chew, but swallow everything whole).
  • A healthy axolotl can grow up to 15 inches (30cm) and can live for 20 years. So think carefully before getting an axolotl.
  • An axolotl is capable of regrowing limbs (and even organs!) and a loss of a limb or gill is not lethal as long as the injury is not too large. If this happens an axolotl will form a white/light grey kind of mold on the wound; this is natural and helps the healing process. Keep an eye on the axolotl and make sure to feed it as much as it wants.
  • Light that is too bright frightens axolotls; yet, if it is too dark, the axolotl will grow lazy and fail to thrive.
  • Any sharp edges in your tank can cause harm to the soft skin and external gills of an axolotl.
  • Sometimes an axolotl is being bullied (nibbling on limbs, kicking, stealing food, etc.) by another axolotl because of its size. If this occurs frequently think of separating them until both are equal in size, or the smaller axolotl is old enough to defend himself (at 2 or 3 years they are adults).
  • Being amphibious, axolotls are very sensitive to water quality. A water conditioner can be used on tap water to create water that is clean enough for them; tap water that has been dechlorinated is actually better for axolotls than distilled water, because they benefit from minerals in water. In fact, experts recommend using dechlorinated hard water for best health. Also make sure the difference in temperature is not too large.
  • Axolotls breed fast and a lot, so watch out when you have a female and a male axolotl (male is larger, has a squarer head and will most definitely have a large cloaca). If a female axolotl gets pregnant (noticeable by the round almost transparent belly) try to keep an eye on her and give her enough food. Axolotls will eat their own fry, therefore breeding should be done in a different tank to prevent this. A female axolotl can lay between the 100 and 300 eggs.

Things You'll Need

  • Tank
  • Pebbles larger than an inch around
  • Filter
  • Food (worms etc)
  • Clean water (use a water conditioner)
  • A bit of free time

Article Info

Categories: Amphibian