Pet Axolotl: Tank Setup

Creating a perfect environment for your pet axolotl is a crucial part of ensuring its health and happiness. As denizens of the mystical waterways of Xochimilco, these exotic creatures require specific conditions to thrive.

Your axolotl’s tank is more than a home—it’s a personalized ecosystem. The right setup, from substrate selection to maintaining ideal water parameters, can ensure your axolotl’s longevity and well-being.

Axolotl Behavior And Personality

Axolotls are known for their calm and tranquil demeanor. They spend most of their time floating near the bottom of their tank, occasionally rising to the surface for a gulp of air. Their peaceful nature makes them pleasant and non-disruptive pets.

Though they aren’t highly interactive, axolotls often show curiosity towards their environment. They can recognize their caretakers and tend to approach the glass when someone is near, adding a degree of interaction that owners cherish.

In terms of behavior with other axolotls, they are generally solitary but can cohabit peacefully if the tank is spacious enough. However, caution is advised as they have been known to nip at each other’s limbs during feeding.

Axolotls don’t display a wide range of emotions, but stress can be evident through physical signs such as loss of appetite, faded colors, and lessened activity. Careful observation can ensure a healthy, content axolotl.

Tank Size

Choosing the right tank size for your pet axolotl is crucial. It impacts the health and wellbeing of your axolotl and can make a significant difference to its lifespan. As a rule of thumb, more space is always better for these aquatic creatures.

For a single axolotl, a 20-gallon tank is the minimum requirement. This ensures ample space for movement and exploration, contributing to a healthier and happier pet.

If you plan to add more axolotls, each additional pet will need at least an extra 10 gallons. So, for two axolotls, a 30-gallon tank is advised. This helps prevent territorial disputes and gives each axolotl its own space.

It’s important to remember that axolotls are not vertical swimmers and prefer to stay near the bottom. Hence, a longer tank is preferable to a tall one as it provides more surface area at the bottom.


Tank Type

Axolotls require a specific type of tank setup that mimics their natural aquatic habitat. The tank itself should be sturdy and water-tight, typically made of glass or acrylic, capable of holding the necessary volume of water for your pet.

The tank’s design should prioritize horizontal space, as axolotls are bottom-dwellers and appreciate room to move around on the tank floor. Hence, a longer tank is more suitable than a taller one.

The tank should also have a secure lid to prevent any adventurous axolotls from accidentally escaping. It’s important to ensure that the lid allows for adequate ventilation while preventing any potential risk of escape.


A suitable filtration system is vital for maintaining water quality in your axolotl’s tank. Filters help remove waste, leftover food, and harmful chemicals, ensuring a healthy environment for your pet.

However, axolotls are sensitive to strong currents, so choose a filter that has a gentle flow. Sponge filters are often recommended due to their low output flow and efficient biological filtration.


Axolotls thrive in colder water temperatures, which is a critical factor to keep in mind when setting up their tank. The ideal water temperature for an axolotl is between 60-64°F (15-18°C).

Exposure to prolonged high temperatures can cause stress and health problems for an axolotl. Therefore, it might be necessary to use a tank cooler or to place the tank in a cool room, especially during warmer seasons.

In contrast, temperatures below the ideal range can slow down an axolotl’s metabolism drastically. It’s crucial to maintain the water temperature within the optimal range for your axolotl’s wellbeing.

Fish Mates For Axolotl

Choosing tank mates for an axolotl requires careful consideration due to their unique needs and behaviors. Generally, it’s not recommended to house axolotls with fish for several reasons.

Firstly, many fish species prefer warmer water than axolotls, and these differing temperature requirements can be challenging to reconcile. Secondly, some types of fish may nibble on the axolotl’s delicate gills and skin, causing them harm.

Moreover, axolotls may view smaller fish as food and try to eat them. Fish that are too large for the axolotl to consume can become territorial and stress the axolotl.

Therefore, the best option is usually to keep axolotls either on their own or with other axolotls, assuming the tank is large enough to prevent territorial disputes.

Two Axolotls In One Tank?

When keeping two axolotls in the same tank, it’s important to follow certain guidelines to ensure a healthy and stress-free environment for your pets.

Things to Do:

  1. Provide Ample Space: Ensure the tank is large enough. The rule of thumb is a minimum of a 30-gallon tank for two axolotls.
  2. Monitor Feeding Times: Keep a close eye on your axolotls during feeding to ensure one doesn’t nip the other, mistaking a limb for food.
  3. Maintain Water Quality: With more waste being produced, regular water changes and efficient filtration are crucial to maintain clean and healthy water.
  4. Ensure Suitable Environments: Provide hiding spots like caves or plants for each axolotl, so they can have their own territory and feel safe.
  5. Observe Interactions: Keep an eye on your axolotls’ behavior towards each other. If you notice signs of stress or aggression, they may need to be separated.

Things to Avoid:

  1. Overcrowding: Too small of a tank can lead to stress and territorial disputes. Ensure each axolotl has enough space.
  2. Feeding in the Same Spot: To avoid potential nipping, avoid feeding your axolotls in the same area of the tank.
  3. Poor Filtration: Inadequate filtration can quickly lead to poor water quality, harming your axolotls.
  4. Uncontrolled Breeding: If you’re not prepared for the responsibility of breeding, avoid keeping a male and a female together.
  5. Different Sized Axolotls: Significantly different sizes can be problematic, as the larger axolotl may see the smaller one as prey. Aim to keep axolotls of similar sizes together.

Tank Companions For Axolotl

While axolotls can be fascinating pets, they have specific needs that can make it challenging to find suitable tank mates. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Fish: Generally, it’s not recommended to house axolotls with fish. Many fish species prefer warmer water than axolotls, plus they may nibble on the axolotl’s gills. In addition, axolotls might view smaller fish as food.
  2. Other Axolotls: Axolotls can cohabit with others of their kind, given enough space. However, be mindful of their feeding habits as axolotls can mistake a fellow axolotl’s limb for food and accidentally cause harm.
  3. Other Amphibians: Other amphibians, like frogs or newts, aren’t ideal companions due to different habitat and dietary requirements. They may also pose a risk of transmitting diseases.
  4. Snails: Some owners have found success with certain types of snails as tank mates. Snails can help keep the tank clean by eating leftover food, but they can become a snack for an axolotl if they’re too small.
  5. Shrimp: Similarly, larger varieties of freshwater shrimp can sometimes coexist with axolotls. However, there’s always the risk of the shrimp becoming an axolotl’s meal.

In general, axolotls are best kept alone or with other axolotls in a suitably sized tank. Their specific needs and behaviors mean they are often happiest and healthiest when not required to share their space with different species.


Setting Up And Maintaining Axolotl Tank

Setting up and maintaining an axolotl tank involves several steps to ensure a healthy and safe environment for your pet.

Setting Up:

  • Tank Size: Choose a tank that’s at least 20 gallons for one axolotl. If you plan on keeping more than one, add an extra 10 gallons per additional axolotl.
  • Substrate: Use fine sand or leave the tank bottom bare. Gravel or large stones can be dangerous, as axolotls might ingest them while feeding.
  • Filtration: Install a water filter with a gentle flow, as strong currents can stress axolotls. Sponge filters are often a good choice.
  • Decorations: Include hides and plants (either live or artificial) for your axolotl to explore and hide in. Make sure there are no sharp edges that could hurt your pet.
  • Temperature Control: Maintain a water temperature between 60-64°F (15-18°C). You may need a tank cooler to achieve this, especially during warmer seasons.


  • Regular Cleaning: Perform regular water changes. About 20% of the water should be replaced weekly to remove waste and keep the water quality high.
  • Testing Water Parameters: Regularly test the water for pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Axolotls prefer a pH of 7.4-7.6 and ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels should be as close to zero as possible.
  • Feeding: Axolotls are carnivores and can be fed a diet of live earthworms, brine shrimp, or specially formulated axolotl pellets.
  • Monitoring Health: Watch for signs of stress or illness in your axolotl, such as loss of appetite, lessened activity, or faded colors.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: If you have more than one axolotl, ensure they each have ample space to avoid stress and territorial disputes.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can provide a thriving environment for your axolotl to grow and live a healthy life.

Water Parameters

Maintaining proper water parameters is essential for the health and well-being of your axolotl. Here are the ideal ranges you should aim for:

  1. Temperature: The water temperature should be kept between 60-64°F (15-18°C). Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 75°F (24°C) can cause severe stress and health issues for axolotls.
  2. pH Level: Axolotls prefer slightly alkaline water with a pH range of 7.4 to 7.6. Significant deviations from this range can cause stress and health problems.
  3. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: These are by-products of waste breakdown and should ideally be close to zero. High levels can indicate issues with your tank’s cycle or filtration. Ammonia and nitrites are particularly toxic and should always be at zero. Nitrates should be kept under 40 ppm, but ideally under 20 ppm.
  4. Hardness: Axolotls can tolerate a range of water hardness, but generally prefer softer water. Keep the general hardness (GH) between 7-14°dGH and the carbonate hardness (KH) between 3-8°dKH.
  5. Chlorine/Chloramine: Tap water often contains chlorine or chloramine, which is harmful to axolotls. Use a water conditioner to neutralize these chemicals before adding tap water to the tank.

Regular testing is crucial to maintain these parameters. Using an aquarium water test kit, you can easily monitor pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Regular water changes will also help to maintain ideal water conditions.


Axolotls, with their fringed gills and wide smiles, are indeed intriguing pets that add a unique flair to any aquatic collection. However, their unique needs make it vital for pet owners to invest time and effort into understanding and implementing the correct tank setup and maintenance practices.

Providing the appropriate tank size, maintaining optimum water parameters, feeding a nutritious diet, and managing tank mates are all essential aspects of caring for these unique creatures. While it may seem like a lot of work initially, seeing your axolotl thrive in the environment you’ve created makes the effort worthwhile.

Remember, responsible pet ownership involves ongoing learning and adaptation. As you continue on your axolotl-keeping journey, stay curious and receptive to new knowledge. Your axolotl is counting on you to provide the best care possible. Happy axolotl keeping!

About The Author

Ellie McDaniel is an experienced aquarium pet owner, whose expertise infuses her informative articles. She shares her deep understanding of aquatic pets, their care, and maintenance through engaging and insightful writings.

Ellie’s knowledge and passion for aquarium pets shine through her articles, providing an invaluable guide for fellow enthusiasts. Her practical experience resonates with readers, making her a trusted resource in the diverse world of aquarium pet care.