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How to correctly keep Axolotl in your aquarium

17.02.2024 - Reading time: 8 minutes

Axolotl schwimmend im Aquarium neben Wassepflanzen

The axolotl is an ancient breed of salamander that originally comes from Mexico. This type of salamander resembles salamander larvae. They use their wide tail to swim. They have gill appendages around the neck that protrude into the water like small trees. Bearing in mind just a few considerations, you can enjoy having this bizarre creature as a pet.


Are axolotl difficult to keep?

Axolotls are not generally considered complicated animals to keep. It does depend, however, on how well informed an owner is in advance and how much attention they pay to the animal’s living conditions. This is necessary to know in order for an axolotl to stay healthy.

What does an axolotl cost?

The cost of the special animal can vary, but is usually around 25 to 35 euros. Before deciding to buy an axolotl, inform yourself about the additional costs associated with keeping them. In order to ensure the best conditions for this exotic creature, you will require some special equipment. Also bear in mind that your axolotl may sometimes need to see a vet. Not all vets are familiar with amphibians – often only dealing with pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs. If you axolotl needs medical assistance, then an expert for amphibians will be necessary. Alongside the costs of buying the equipment for keeping your axolotl, you should think about the potential costs of veterinary care.

Newsletter Axolotl

Axolotl, also known as Ambystoma mexicanum, is an amphibian
Average around 23 cm, but a little over 30 cm possible
Approximately 200g
Physical build
Fully grown, strong stocky body, short limbs, rudder-like tail fin, flat, wide head with wide mouth that resembles a smile
Volcanic basin near Mexico City
Wild type: Ochre to brown; melanoid: dark to black; golden albino: golden with yellow eyes, red gills; melano albino: white, red gills; xanthic albino: white, metallic shine; albino: white with dark eyes. Other genetically influenced colours are barely visually discernible from the colours stated

Keeping axolotls: What to consider

You will need to maintain a particular water temperature to ensure your axolotl is happy in your aquarium. It is important that this temperature is maintained at all times. The animal is most comfortable at temperatures between twelve and 20 °C. This might initially sound simple. However, it is important to give consideration to seasonal variations in the outdoor temperature: During hot summer days, the indoor temperature can quickly rise above this value. Exposure to temperatures above 23 °C for extended periods can be harmful to these animals. The additional heat is stressful for the these humble creatures and makes them susceptible to illness. The axolotl can indeed survive temperatures above 22 °C, as long as the temperature drops again after a short time. It is therefore important to acquire a suitable cooler. We recommend using an automatic circulating cooling system for aquariums. Fan systems can only bring the temperature down by 2–4 °C.

If the water is too cold, the axolotl goes into a rigid state and waits for the temperature to improve. As long as the temperature does not drop below 2 °C, they will usually survive unharmed. If you keep your axolotl at home in an aquarium, it is extremely unlikely that the temperature will drop to frosty levels.

Where can I buy an axolotl?

Axolotl can often be bought in pet shops. Axolotl breeders are also an option. Private sellers can also be found in the classified ads. However, caution is advised when buying via this route, as it is difficult to judge if the animals are being kept responsibly.

What costs are associated with getting an aquarium?

The costs of an aquarium can vary greatly and depend not only on its size, but also on other factors such as whether it comes as a full set or is just a simple tank. The cost of fitting out an aquarium for an axolotl is roughly around 300 euros.

How large does an aquarium need to be for an axolotl?

For your axolotl, we recommend getting an aquarium that is at least 80 x 40 cm in size. The size of the axolotl will of course play a role, and whether you have one or several animals. An axolotl that is 25 to 30 cm in length (or even longer) will need a larger aquarium as appropriate. But the aquarium is not the only thing you need: What else do you need for an axolotl? It is important to install a cooling systems, ideally a circulating flow cooler. The basic setup for your aquarium must include a filter. You will also need a test kit for regularly testing the quality of the water. Equip the aquarium so that your axolotl can feel ‘at home’. This means providing appropriate place to hide and various plants such as water hyacinth, white adder’s mouth or fanwort. It is essential to provide an appropriate and non-toxic ground layer such as sand.

Can you pick up an axolotl by hand?

Axolotl are not cuddly animals, and will not become cuddly animals as they grow. They do not develop a relationship with humans and have no need to be around them. As tempting as it might be to touch these animals or pick them up, you should not do so. Doing this will just cause stress for an axolotl. It is absolutely necessary to remove your axolotl from the aquarium, first thoroughly wash your hands so that you do not contaminate the water with any pathogens.

Socialisation: Which fish can you keep together with an axolotl?

If you plan keep your axolotl in a tank with other species, then you should carefully research which species make appropriate tankmates. The same rules applies as for most other species: Eat or be eaten. The axolotl, with an adult body length of 30 cm, lurks in the water and hunts its prey without caring about the size of its rivals. If, however, you want to have more than just axolotls in the tank, then you should keep other species limited to slugs and guppies – but even these fish will often be a source of nutrition for axolotl. Generally speaking, it is not recommended to keep fish together with an axolotl. These may bring in parasites that can fiercely attach themselves to your axolotl.

When can you start breeding axolotl?

The young animals reach maturity at the age of 24 months. When breeding young animals, the aquarium should not be too densely filled as they make begin biting each other when searching for food. When kept properly, an axolotl can live for 20 years or more.

What are the special characteristics of axolotl?

Amphibians normal undergo a metamorphosis, such as turning from tadpoles into frogs. However, the axolotl does not undergo this change, remaining in its larval state for its entire life. In frogs, the metamorphosis is triggered by the release of a particular hormone which axolotls do not have. Despite this, axolotls are still able to reach maturity. This phenomenon is known as “neoteny”.

For further fascinating characteristic of these animals is their ability to regenerate. For example, if an axolotl loses a body part, e.g. a limb or organ, it will grow back again completely within a short period of time. This amazing capability has made the axolotl a popular subject of research. Scientists make precise observations of this regenerative ability and try to understand the genetic basis for it. For this reason, axolotl are kept as lab animals all over the world.

What does an axolotl eat?

Axolotls are pure carnivores – their daily diet should consist of frozen or live earthworms, tubifex worms, freshwater shrimp and similar insects. Axobalance or Axolotl Pellets are specially formulated to the nutritional needs of the axolotl. They can a high proportion of fish, shrimp and natural fibre for a balanced diet. Depending on the amount of food needed and the age of the animal, feeding times can be adjusted. An adult axolotl can generally be fed every two to three days.

There is also a feeding rule based on body length:

  • An axolotl with a length up to twelve centimetres should be fed daily, animals longer than 16 cm should only be fed every two days. If the axolotl is 18 cm or longer, then every three to four days is sufficient.

What to consider for an axolotl’s tank

Axolotl take in food from the base of the tank and therefore swallow a good amount of the material there. To prevent hazardous substances getting into their digestive systems, you should ensure to use a untreated base material. Sand and rounded, undyed natural gravel are good choices for an axolotl tank. The grain size should be between one and three millimetres in order to avoid blockages in the animal’s digestive tract.

Keep chemicals out!

Chemical agents should not be used in axolotl tanks. In order to achieve optimal water values, the tank should be “broken in” for two to three weeks. The nitrite value must steadily remain at zero before the animals can move in. Any nitrite present in the water can harm or even kill the axolotl. If you are still detecting any nitrite in the water after this period, then a longer breaking in period is needed.

Key water values for your axolotl tank

  • Nitrite: 0 mg/l
  • Ammonia: less than 0.2 mg/l
  • Nitrate: optimal is up to 25 mg/l, maximum 40 mg/l
  • Carbonate hardness: approx. 80 percent of total hardness
  • Optimum pH value between 7 and 7.5 (6.5 to 8 possible)