How to set up an axolotl tank

Introduction: How to Set Up an Axolotl Tank

Having a fish tank in your home can be fun and exciting, but how well do you actually know how to set up a tank for your Axolotl? Not setting up your tank properly can be damaging to your new friends health and may even lead to their ultimate demise. This istructable was made to help save your Axolotls life and honestly your mental state. It will also teach you how to set up a tank to both yours and your Axolotls liking.
Here are something’s you will need.
1) 10 gallon long fish aquarium
2) Axolotl
3) fish hide-outs
4) low flow filter
5) aqaiarium thermometer
6) larger rocks
7) aqua safe
8) Tetra-O Start-Zyme
1) aquarium water cooler
2) gallons of spring water

Step 1: Clean Your Tank and Accessories in HOT Water.

If you don’t clean your Axolotls tank any remaining bacteria from shiping or in the store you got it from can mix with your amphibian friends water and potentially make them very sick. This step is especially important if the tank you are buying is used. Most used tanks are being resold because of past failures with aquariums. That could mean that there could be any number of harmful bacteria’s still within the tank. So always be sure that you clean your materials.

Step 2: Add Your Water

I recommend using the 10 gallons of spring water for this step. If you don’t have spring water use 10 gallon of your tap water. Add two teaspoon of your aqua safe and One Tetra-O Start Zyme tablet. And let it sit. Now is the best time to add your aquarium thermometer.

Step 3: Add on Plug-In’s

Put your low flow filter onto the back of your tank and plug it in. You can add a light to your tank but lights tend to make Axolotls anxious and cause them to get sick. They also like less flow in the tank with more room.

Step 4: Place Your Axolotls Hideouts in the Tank

Pick spots to place your hideouts and put them in! Make sure your Axolotl can get to them and fits inside of them. Axolotls don’t tend to like bright lights so they always love to find places that are dark to hide. Make sure they are comfortable.

Step 5: Acclimate Your Axolotl

Your Axolotl may already be in a bag if you just got them from the store. If not use an simple ice bag with no holes in it. Fill it half way with water and place your Axolotl into the water. Close the top quickly to seal air inside and wrap the top with a rubber band. Set the bag inside the new tank for 15 minutes.

Step 6: Put Your Axolotl in Their New Tank!

Put your Axolotl in their new tank. This is a great time to check on everything. Make sure the water is staying between 60 and 65 degrees. Give your new friend some food and shut his light off. I hope you have fun with your marvel of nature.

Axolotls are unusual pets who are fast becoming more popular. Before you bring your axolotl home, make sure you have the right tank set up for them to be happy and healthy.

Get The Right Size Tank

Axolotls start off very small, but quickly grow so it is best to get the largest tank you can afford to save you upgrading at a later date. Axolotls walk along the bottom of their tank, as well as swimming so with that in mind, they need a tank that is long, rather than tall. An adult axolotl will grow to between 7-14 inches, and if you have more than one, you will obviously need more room for each animal. A 2ft tank is the minimum size for one adult axolotl, but as with any pet, the more space you can give the better.

They Need Good Water Quality

Chlorine in the water can hurt your axolotl, so never use water straight from the tap. You can either leave the water sitting in a bucket overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate, or you can buy water treatment which will remove the chlorine, making it safe for your pet. You will also need a filter to improve the water quality, however as axolotls are sensitive creatures, you need to put the filter on a low setting so it doesn’t disrupt the water too much. I like the Fluval as you can change the speed the water comes out to make it quiet and it’s an efficient filter. Just make sure you get the right size for your tank.

It is a good idea to put plants in front of the filter to lessen the flow. Like fish, the water will need changing every week, but you should only take out around 25% a week and change it – don’t forget to treat the water before putting it back in! It is also a good idea to get a siphon to pick up uneaten food and poop in the tank.

They Need Places To Hide

Axolotls are shy creatures who like to hide. They have very sensitive eyes and need to avoid the light, so it is important to give them lots of places to hide in their tanks and keep the tank away from direct sunlight. Their skin is very delicate, so anything you put in the tank needs to be smooth so they don’t injure themselves. There are lots of hides you can buy for fish tanks, or you can even use a terracotta flower pot on its side.

How to set up an axolotl tank

They Need A Suitable Substrate

Gravel is not a suitable substrate as Axolotls will eat anything that fits in their mouth, the same goes for small decorative stones. You can use sand (I use this brand) as this is small enough to pass through their digestive system should they accidentally get a bite, you can even keep them bottom bare if you prefer.

Some keepers use large pebbles, and whilst this works for some, it can be hard to keep the tank clean, as dirt and uneaten food can get caught underneath the stones.

How to set up an axolotl tank

They Need A Varied Diet

Like all animals, varied diets are best to keep them healthy. You can buy pellets as a staple, but you can offer extras such as bloodworm, tubifex, brine shrimp and earthworms.

You Need To Be Committed

Axolotls can live up to 15 years, so you need to make sure you can commit to them for that long. Make sure you have thought about how they will fit in your life in the future and who can look after them for you when you are away.


New member
  • Mar 16, 2015
  • #1
  • My husband and I picked up a baby axolotl at a reptile show yesterday. He/She is only about 1.5 – 2 inches in length. Tiny little guy. The breeder told us that since it is so small to keep it in the container it came in or get a small tank for now until it gets a little larger. That away it can find it’s food and is not overwhelmed etc. We have a 10 gallon tank lined up for it but right now we have it in a 1 gallon tank we picked up at Petsmart. It seems to have plenty of room to swim and can easily find it’s food when we put it in the tank. It being such a small tank we have not bought anything decorative or plant like for it yet. Any suggestions?

    When would it be at the proper size to move it to the 10 gallon tank or do we need to transition it from the 1 gallon to say a 2.5 or even a 5 gallon before we move it to an even bigger one.

    Also I am getting mixed visuals as far as how we will need to set up the 10 gallon tank once it is ready to move into that one. Some people have their tanks filled to the top and then others have them filled only partially full. I read that the partially full is the way to go so they can swim up if they want to etc.

    Thanks for all your help!


    New member
    • Mar 16, 2015
  • #2
  • A 1 gallon tank is a good size for a little one. Remember, you will need to do frequent partial/total water changes to keep the ammonia low. (A 1 gallon pitcher is useful to age the water so it is at the same temperature as the tank.) You should get a master test kit so you can keep an eye on ammonia, nitrite, etc.

    Your axie would appreciate some place to hid in. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – half of a clean clay pot would do.

    Are you familiar with cycling a tank? One advantage of housing your axie in a small tank at first is you can do a “fishless cycle” in the 10 gallon while he is still in the 1 gallon. A 10 gallon is small enough that by the time the cycle is established, he will be big enough to go in there.

    Some people fill their tanks all the way up, some don’t. The larger the volume of water there is, the better (a reason for filling the tank), but then you should have some sort of cover for the tank to keep a startled axie from jumping out, which reduces evaporative cooling.

    Field Herper


    New member
    • Jan 27, 2008
  • #2
  • Hi Whoo, welcome to the forums.

    Not sure how much help you need or what kind of questions you have but here is a good place to start: If you still have some questions, come back here and I am sure someone can help you out


    New member
    • Jan 27, 2008
  • #3
  • I have made a dutch article about setting up a tank for axolotls. The text is not all too important (enough explanations on this forum and but the photo’s could give you a pretty basic idea.

    Field Herper
    • Jan 27, 2008
  • #4
  • coendeurloo

    New member
    • Jan 27, 2008
  • #5
  • Casaloxl

    New member
    • Jan 27, 2008
  • #6
  • Plonk

    New member
    • Jan 29, 2008
  • #7
  • coendeurloo

    New member
    • Jan 29, 2008
  • #8
  • Plonk

    New member
    • Jan 29, 2008
  • #9
  • coendeurloo

    New member
    • Jan 29, 2008
  • #10
  • yes, the stream of water will remain bundled until it hits the bottom, even when it is full of water (this depends on the height of the waterlevel of course).

    This is also a reason why I place some flagstones on the bottom of some of my tanks, it provides a place to pour water on, plus it creates a place for newts to breed and exchange spermatophors.

    One of the first decisions you should make before acquiring an axolotl is what you will use for housing. While maintenance should be relatively easy, getting the initial setup done well can take a bit of time and money. Before purchasing, make sure to give a fair amount of thought to your axolotl tank size and setup. We recommend reading through the rest of our care sheet for an idea of what to expect in the course of axolotl ownership.

    Here are a few things to consider when choosing suitable housing for your axolotl.

    Axolotl Tank Size

    An adult axolotl will generally reach a length of 7-14 inches, although a size closer to 9 inches is most common and above 12 inches is rare.

    With this in mind, you’re going to want to get a 20 gallon tank (24” long, 12” wide) for your first axolotl to make sure it has adequate space to move around. This is considered the minimum axolotl tank size for an adult, and smaller tanks will leave your axolotl cramped and stressed.

    The only exception to this is when your axolotl is young and hasn’t hit the 4-5” mark yet. At that point you would be fine housing it in a 10 gallon tank, but you would definitely need to upgrade once it gets bigger. A 10 gallon tank is also the minimum you can get away with in terms of starting a good nitrogen cycle.

    For the recommended tank size with more than one axolotl, see below.

    Axolotl Tank Mates

    Fellow Axolotls as Tank Mates

    Axolotols are not social animals, and don’t actually require any company in their tank.

    Young axolotls are cannibalistic until they reach a length of around 3 to 4 inches. If you’re planning to get more than one baby or juvenile you need to house them separately, or they will most likely injure or kill each other. Another solution is to either buy an aquarium divider or use a guide to make one yourself .

    If you are planning to have tank mates for your axolotl, keep in mind that this is only a good idea if your axolotl tank mates are adults of the same size . Axolotls are curious nibblers, and anything in their tank big enough to fit in their mouth will probably end up there. If you have axolotls of mixed size together, this can mean accidental nipping, lost limbs, or in the worst cases outright cannibalism. If you are housing axolotls together, make sure to feed them well and also feed them on opposite ends of the tank (this will also help avoid accidental nips).

    There is also a simple and helpful formula for finding how much space you will need to house your axolotls together comfortably. For each additional axolotl, you want to have an additional foot of length in your aquarium.

    • 1 Axolotl – 24 inch long tank
    • 2 Axolotls – 36 inch long tank
    • 3 Axolotls – 48 inch long tank

    Of course, keep in mind that bigger is better, and this guideline represents a minimum requirement.

    Fish, snails and other tank mates

    The long and short of it is that other than fellow axolotls, you should not introduce additional creatures into the tank. As mentioned before, axolotls have a tendency to take a nibble at anything they can, and this means any snails or fish can wind up eaten (and pose a choking hazard).

    This also works in the opposite direction. Fish in the tank can mistake an axolotl’s colorful gills for worms or other food and takes bites out of them, causing great harm to your pet.

    If you’re not convinced, you can take a look at the results of mismatched tank mates on’s species mixing disasters page.


    As far as lighting, it is important to note that axolotls do not have eyelids and prefer dim lighting. The lighting in your tank will be primarily for the benefit of aquatic plants or to create a day/night cycle. This means that regardless of the lighting you use in your tank, you will want to make sure that your axolotls have some good hides that allow them to escape the light if they want.

    The best option in terms of lighting is an LED tank light. It is energy efficient, long lasting, and doesn’t produce as much heat as other types of light (remember that axolotls need a low water temperature!).


    Regardless of what type of lighting you decide on, a lid is a crucial investment for your axolotl tank. Axolotls cannot climb, but they have been known to leap out of their tanks. That is not something you ever want to come home to. Also if you have children, dogs, cats, or any other type of curious pet, you don’t want them to have easy access to your tank.

    A screen lid would be the most preferable option, as axolotls need cool water to stay healthy. A screen lid helps with this by allowing for easy evaporation, and also allows you to angle a fan as the water to help keep it cool during summer months.

    When you buy through my referral links, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

    An Axolotl is an outstanding pet for those who are looking for something different. It is an aquarium project where some completely new requirements need to be met.

    Nonetheless, you can nicely decorate an Axolotl tank just like when you keep aquarium fish.

    How to set up an axolotl tank

    These little pets can be bought in many pet stores and keeping them at home doesn’t require any experience. It is important, however, to do some research before you begin. Setting up an Axolotl tank requires careful planning beforehand.

    You want to make sure that this little salamander stays happy and healthy by providing the right conditions.

    For example, you can’t just put an Axolotl in an uncycled tank. It has to be cycled and all the preparations have to be done correctly.

    In this article, we are going to explain how such an aquarium has to be set up.

    Substrate for Axolotl

    In order to avoid impaction, you should definitely use sand substrate in your tank. Axolotls are basically bottom dwellers, meaning that they spend most of their time on the substrate. This is why it’s important to choose the right substrate for your pet.

    Other people might suggest to keep your Axolotl in a tank that has no substrate in it.

    Although we can’t say that this is bad, yet many professionals say that this option can cause some stress to your pet due to the lack of foothold. If you like the idea of the bare-bottom tank, then it is best to lay down some tile or slate.

    Either of them can provide some extra grip for your Axolotl. The rule of thumb is to avoid coarse substrate because these salamanders are going to eat literally anything of that size when they are hungry.

    Live Plants

    One of the habits that makes Axolotls fun to watch is that they like to sit on plants. Weaker plants can’t really take this load.

    They often break under their weight, which is why you need to look for stronger ones. There are a handful of strong live plants that are going to be ideal for your Axolotl.

    These include Java Fern, Eludia, Marimo moss ball and floating plants like Amazon Frogbits and Water Lettuce.

    The thing about Eludia is that it grows really fast so you need to take that into account. All these plants are decorative and they are going to make your aquarium look fresh and exciting.

    But most importantly, they are not going to get uprooted or breaked. If you take into account that Axolotls require an unusually low water temperature, it is surprising that you can even find some plants for them.

    Hides for Axolotls

    Instead of rock caves and such, ceramic object are much better hiding places for Axolotls. Just make sure there are no sharp edges where your pet can hurt himself.

    Plenty of decorative and natural-looking ones can be bought in a pet shop.

    Axolotl owners usually buy cichlid rocks or ceramic pipes for their pet. For these salamanders, it is important to have hiding places where they can retreat. Otherwise, they can get stressful and threatened at times.


    Driftwood is a great idea as well. You can put plenty of them in an Axolotl cage and the little guy is going to love it.

    The same applies to driftwood, however, as to the ceramic object we talked about above. You need to pick the ones that don’t have sharp edges so that your pet won’t hurt himself.

    You can get your aquarium even more natural-looking by placing a few pieces of driftwood into it.

    There can be random edges on a piece that you might not notice at first sight so it’s always better to double-check it. The most ideal types of driftwood are Mopani and Cholla Wood.

    These are going to look amazing when combined with plants and by themselves too.


    You can use a few bigger rocks as decoration in your Axolotl tank. Rocks can be so different in their shapes and colors that you can set up the aquarium according to your taste.

    They have to be big enough because otherwise your Axolotl is going to swallow them and things are not going to end well.

    When it comes to rocks, there are always beautiful dragon stone or river rocks to choose from. It is important to look for the ones that don’t dissolve any metals into the aquarium water. Calcium, for example, can be rather harmful for Axolotls.

    If you are not sure about looking for rocks out in nature, you can just go to the pet shop and buy some decorative ones there.

    Aquarium Decorations

    As you might suspect from the abovementioned examples, the point is to not use sharp objects.

    You can always find some safe aquarium decorations to make it look unique. This is where you can get creative, as the possibilities are endless when it comes to decorations.

    In the end, pretty much all the décor in the aquarium will become a potential hiding place and your Axolotl is going to love it.

    Although not every type of decoration works for them, there are still plenty of things to choose from. If you like to get creative and play with colors, then you are going to be able to set up a beautiful tank.

    Aquarium Equipment

    Beside the aquarium decorations and hideouts, you will also need some equipment for your axolotl tank. The most important is to have in your axolotl’s tank a good aquarium filter, which will take care of the ammonia and nitrate levels.

    An air pump is not necessary for your axolotl tank, because a good filter will do a good job in dissolving enough oxygen in the water.

    However, an aquarium chiller might also be essential, to cool down the water in your tank. Axolotls like cooler water, they feel comfortable in temperature between 60-64 °C (16-18 °C), so if the room temperature is above these values, you will want to cool the water.

    Axolotls might have unique needs but it’s absolutely worth it to get familiar with them and set up a wonderful aquarium.

    It is a lot of fun to keep them and to gain some experience so that you can keep even more. You are going to be amazed by this unique creature day by day.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of options when it comes to aquarium decorations. Even though Axolotls have specific needs, this still leaves you with a wide range of attractive ideas for a decorative aquarium.

    This type of salamander looks amazing by itself and with a nice environment, it will be healthy and happy as well.

    When you buy through my referral links, I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Axolotls are creatures that can demand quite a lot of space. Once they are fully grown, they can reach sizes of between 15-25cm (6-10 inches). But what does that mean for their aquarium? When you’re considering getting an axolotl, one of the first things you have to consider is the tank size.

    How to set up an axolotl tank

    The tank has to be big enough for the axolotl to have enough space to move around. If you don’t give them enough space, you will stunt your growth, and the axolotl might feel stressed. And that is even more so when you want to have more axolotls at the same time, or if you want to have other animals with it.

    Overcrowding can be a serious problem that many axolotl owners have to go through. But that’s mainly because of bad preparation, and a lack of knowledge about axolotls and their spatial requirements. They will need much more space than some people imagine.

    In this article, we’ll take a look at what the ideal tank size for a single axolotl is, and what the ideal sizes for the tank are if you have an axolotl together with other animals.

    Minimum Tank Size for Axolotls

    Axolotls are deceptively large. While they might not look like it, they will grow to a size of almost 10 inches, sometimes maybe even more. When they’re babies or still young, having a smaller tank is ok, but what about when they grow up?

    We have to plan this in advance. The axolotl will usually complete its growth when it’s about 2 years old, and that’s when we will need a larger tank. As they demand quite a lot of space, you’ll need an appropriate tank. The minimum tank size for a single adult axolotl is 15-20 gallons (55-60L). Keep in mind that it’s the minimum that an axolotl needs, although you might need more.

    If the tank is any smaller than that, you won’t see the full growth of your axolotl, as the animal will adapt to the smaller tank. You will stunt their growth, and the stress levels will be quite high. The number gets significantly higher if you own two axolotls together, or if you have other animals with it. It will be at least 55 gallons, but we’ll talk more about that later on.

    So even if you’re looking to get a baby axolotl, you still want to buy the minimum required tank to allow them to grow fully once they grow up.

    Best Tank Size for Axolotls

    To ensure that your axolotl will have more than enough space, and to house everything that’s included in the aquarium, you will have to purchase a 40-gallon tank at least. This will give the axolotl more than enough space to freely move around and live fully.

    Of course, this type of tank will be able to accommodate plants as well as other decorative elements in the tank, so a 40-gallon tank would bring the best experience with axolotls. Not only that, but you would have much more room to improvise and add various decoration elements, such as rocks. This way, the tank would look much better.

    In my experience, 15-20 gallons is the bare minimum for an adult axolotl. But if you want to truly have the best conditions for an adult axie, you would need at least 40 gallons of water. Of course, the water should not be filled to the very edge of the aquarium; instead, leave some space at the top of the tank.

    This also means that you’ll need slightly more powerful filtration, and an aquarium chiller for the tank size, if your tank gets too hot very often. And the filter should be capable of filtering more than just 40 gallons, especially if you have plants and other axolotls or animals in the tank. I’ll talk more about how to set up your aquarium in detail later on.

    Best Tank Size for Two or More Axolotls

    Many owners opt to have two or more axolotls in the same tank. You can do that, but you’ll have to have significantly more space in your tank. Firstly, because the axolotls will endure a lot of stress if they don’t have enough space for themselves, and if there’s another axolotl in there, it could lead to aggression and other problems.

    So, you should ensure that each axolotl has more than enough space. The absolute minimum requirement if you want to have two axolotls at the same time is 55 gallons. This number goes up significantly if you want to add more to the tank. But I wouldn’t recommend having more than two axolotls in the tank at the same time.

    Firstly, it could lead to an overcrowded tank. And that isn’t good, because the animals in there will go through a lot of stress, but they could also become aggressive towards each other. In my experience, having two axolotls in the tank at the same time is the highest number.

    Similarly, if you’re considering keeping other fish with axolotls, I wouldn’t recommend it that much. Axolotls will actively prey on the smaller fish, and they could even eat them. In fact, they will eat them if the fish are not quick enough to get away. So, if you’re really considering having other fish in the tank, consider getting quicker ones or ones that can defend themselves.

    Setting Up an Axolotl Tank

    Setting up the tank properly is essential for keeping the axolotl happy and healthy. Here are some of the things that you need to consider before you buy an axolotl.

    Buying the Right Tank Size

    We have covered this in the article already; 15-20 gallons for a single axolotl is the bare minimum, although I would recommend having at least 40 gallons of water for a single axolotl. If you plan to have two axolotls in the same tank, then a 55-gallon tank is the minimum to go with. Anything more is a bonus, especially if you want to have plants in the tank.


    The filtration is one of the first things you should consider. Buying a filter with an adjustable flow rate knob is the first thing you should consider. Then, you should buy a filter that’s strong enough for the tank; ideally, it should be able to handle more than just the tank size.


    Gravel should be avoided, as it can cause impaction. A bare bottom tank only works if you don’t want to have plants, and sand can also be considered. Larger rocks that won’t fit in the axolotl’s mouth is a great choice.

    Plants and Decoration

    Consider buying plants that will float or that don’t need to be planted into the substrate. That’s because axolotls will dig them out of the substrate.

    Water Chiller

    A chiller is a must if you live in an area where the air is constantly hot; the chiller will keep the temperatures in the ideal numbers (16-18 degrees Celsius, or 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit).


    Lights can be considered for the plants, as axolotls need dimmer light. Buy a lighting system with a dimming option


    Axolotls will require quite a lot of space. The minimum requirement for an axolotl is 15-20 gallons, but I recommend at least 40 gallons. For two axolotls, the minimum is 55 gallons.

    The Axolotl is easily one of the most unique creatures on the planet, available in only no other place on the planet. Outside of this unique name, there are other things that the prospective owner should concern themselves with – the aquarium. While it does have a certain degree of difficulty, you’ll find that it’s actually not that hard to manage, especially if you’re willing to follow the directions pretty well. But, luckily enough, you’ll find that the cost of these items isn’t very high, and they’re actually pretty easy to apply.

    The Aquarium

    The aforementioned degree of difficulty doesn’t actually lay in the things that you need, but it’s actually a few things that you should keep an eye on, much like other sensitive creatures. The tank itself can be pretty standard; the normal 48 x 12 x 15 inches is generally fine. The water level should be at about 60 litres, and it should employ the use of a polystyrene board for evening the pressure of the weight of the tank. If you’re going to have multiple axolotls in a tank, be sure that there is a divider that separates males, females, and any juveniles that you may have. This cuts down any predation or unwanted mating between them. Also, if you’re going to be lining the bottom with gravel, be sure that they’re too big for the axolotl to swallow.

    Filtration, Lighting, and Temperature

    Firstly, filtration isn’t actually that important when you’re considering axolotls. It should be said that they do secrete a lot, and considering that most of it is ammonia, it’s imperative that you’re keeping the tank in great condition. The light also isn’t very dire here, and a lot enthusiasts actually state that the standard lighting is fine here. But, the only really important thing here is to assure that the temperature is room 14 to 20 Celsius, anything less than that will cause the axolotl to move about sluggishly, which could make them eat less than what they should.

    Tags: Best way to set-up Axolotl tank | Aquariums for Axolotls