The Complete Axolotl Supplies and Starter Kit Guide

Axolotl supplies and starter kit

If you’re new to axolotl care, a complete axolotl starter kit can be a game-changer! These adorable pets, known for their cute appearance and regenerative abilities, have specific needs that must be met.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you’ll need to set up a comfortable and safe home for your new axolotl. From choosing the right tank to getting essential axolotl supplies, we’ve got you covered. Let’s dive in!

Basic Aquarium Setup

Setting up an aquarium for your axolotl isn’t just about making it look good; it’s about creating a comfortable and healthy environment for your aquatic friend.

From choosing the right tank to monitoring water quality, each component plays a vital role in your axolotl’s well-being.

Here are some of the items you need to secure for a basic aquarium setup for your axolotl:

1. Tank

Empty axolotl tank

Choosing the right tank is the first step in setting up a healthy environment for your axolotl.

A 20-gallon tank is the minimum size for a single axolotl. If you plan to keep more than one, add at least 10 gallons for each new axolotl to ensure ample space.

Glass tanks are popular and widely used, but acrylic tanks are lighter and more resistant to cracking.

Just remember that axolotls aren’t swimmers but bottom dwellers, so go for a wider tank rather than a taller one.

Additionally, a tank lid or cover is non-negotiable. Axolotls are curious creatures and may try to jump out. A small hole for filters and wires is fine, but the rest should be securely covered to keep your axolotl safe.

2. Substrate

Colorful substrate for axolotl tank

Substrate plays a vital role in your axolotl’s habitat. Fine sand or going bare-bottom are the most recommended choices.

Gravel should be avoided as it poses a choking hazard for axolotls that might accidentally ingest them. These aquatic salamanders are known to gobble up anything that fits their mouth.

Sand offers a more natural environment and is easy on an axolotl’s skin. On the other hand, a bare-bottom tank may not look as natural but is much easier to clean.

Remember to rinse any substrate to remove chemicals and dyes thoroughly. This ensures you’re not inadvertently introducing harmful substances into your axolotl’s home.

3. Filtration

Filter system for the aquarium

Keeping the water clean is critical for axolotls. Sponge filters are usually the go-to choice because they offer a gentle water flow, which axolotls prefer.

If you opt for a hang-on-back filter, adjust the water flow. Axolotls can get stressed with strong currents, so keep it mild.

Regular maintenance is vital to a well-functioning filter. Check and clean it periodically, ensuring it’s effective and not a harbor for unwanted bacteria.

4. Tank Decoration

Java fern in an aquarium

Decorations can add beauty to your aquarium but should be chosen carefully. Live plants like Java fern and Anubias can offer aesthetic appeal and double as hiding spots.

Artificial decorations are fine as long as they don’t have sharp edges that could injure your axolotl. These exotic pets have fragile bodies and can easily get injured.

5. Hides

Terra cotta pots used for decoration in an aquarium

Providing good hiding spots is essential for your axolotl’s well-being. Terra cotta pots, specialized plastic caves, or even PVC pipes can serve this purpose well. Driftwoods are also a good choice.

Safety should always be a priority when choosing hides. They should not have sharp or rough edges to prevent injuring your axolotl. 

Two to three hides per axolotl should suffice. Spread them out across the tank to offer multiple retreats, making the environment more engaging and comfortable for your pet.

6. Lighting

Aquarium with glowing yellow light lamp

While axolotls aren’t fans of bright lights, some illumination is necessary to view your pet and for the well-being of any live plants. Opt for dimmable LED lights that can be adjusted to a low setting.

Avoid high-intensity lights, which could stress your axolotl. Aiming for a gentle, ambient glow rather than bright, direct light is the key.

You can utilize a timer to maintain a consistent light schedule. This ensures your axolotl can stick to its natural day-night cycle.

7. Tank Cooler and Heater

Heater used in aquarium

Axolotls are sensitive to temperature and prefer a cooler environment, around 60 to 65 °F. A tank cooler may be necessary in warmer climates to keep the water at an ideal temperature.

Heating is only needed if your home gets exceptionally cold. If you need a heater, an adjustable one with a built-in thermostat is preferable to prevent overheating.

8. Thermometer

Thermometer used for aquarium

Investing in a reliable thermometer is crucial for keeping your axolotl in a safe temperature range. Both digital and analog thermometers can work well, but make sure to prioritize accuracy.

Stick-on thermometers that attach to the side of the tank can sometimes provide inaccurate readings. Submersible thermometers placed directly in the water are generally more reliable.

Here is an informative video discussing the pros and cons of various aquarium thermometers:

🌡️ Which Thermometer is BEST For YOUR Aquarium? 🌡️

9. Water Test Kit

pH tests for axolotl aquarium

Regular water testing is a cornerstone of good axolotl care. A comprehensive water test kit that measures pH levels, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates is highly recommended.

High levels of these substances can be detrimental to your axolotl. Routine testing allows you to spot issues before they become major problems.

Keep a log of your test results. Monitoring trends or changes in water quality can provide valuable insights into your axolotl’s health and the overall condition of the aquarium.

Aquarium Cycling Needs

Getting an axolotl is exciting, but there’s a crucial step to complete before bringing your new buddy home. It’s called ‘aquarium cycling.’

Cycling means creating a colony of beneficial bacteria that will convert harmful substances like ammonia into safer ones. Ammonia and other waste products could reach toxic levels without a cycled tank.

Axolotls constantly produce waste that turns into ammonia. This ammonia can be deadly if not managed by these beneficial bacteria.

Here are the steps you can follow to cycle your axolotl tank:

  • Set up the tank and dechlorinate. Start with a clean tank, install your filter, and add the substrate. Fill the tank with water and immediately treat it with a water conditioner to remove chlorine, which can kill beneficial bacteria.
  • Introduce ammonia and monitor it daily. Add an ammonia source, such as fish food or pure ammonia, to initiate the cycle. Begin daily testing of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates with a reliable test kit. Aim for an ammonia concentration of two to four ppm initially.
  • Accelerate and maintain the cycle. Optionally, you can add a commercial bacterial starter to speed up bacterial growth. Monitor water parameters daily and perform a 20% water change with dechlorinated water if nitrate levels exceed 20 ppm or if there’s a significant fluctuation in pH levels, which should be between 6.5 and 8.0. Keep the tank’s temperature between 60 and 65°F.
  • Monitor water parameters and transition. As ammonia levels drop and nitrites rise, a second type of bacteria will emerge that converts nitrites into safer nitrates. Your tank is cycled when both ammonia and nitrite levels read zero, and some nitrates are present for at least seven consecutive days.
  • Do the final preparations before introducing your axolotl. Conduct a last 20% water change and recheck all parameters (pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates) to ensure they are within ideal ranges.

Once everything is stable, your tank is ready for your new axolotl. Following these steps will create a stable, safe home for your axolotl. Patience is key, as cycling can take between four and six weeks.

Tank Maintenance

Man cleaning up aquarium with a hose at home

Taking care of an axolotl also requires a well-maintained tank. Consistent tank upkeep is crucial to avoid the buildup of harmful chemicals like ammonia and nitrates.

Start with the basics: You’ll need a gravel vacuum, water testing kits, a water conditioner, and an algae scraper.

As an experienced axolotl keeper, I recommend replacing about 20 to 25% of the tank’s water. This routine water change helps maintain a stable environment. Use a water conditioner to treat the new water to make it safe for your pet.

Axolotls are messy creatures; hence, regular weekly water changes are needed. They leave waste and often scatter food leftovers at the bottom of the tank.

Nonetheless, tank size, feeding habits, and the number of axolotls you have will also affect how often you need to clean. Bigger tanks may require less frequent but larger water changes.

Here is a walk-through of the steps in maintaining your axolotl tank:

  • Regularly test and change water: Aim to replace 20 to 25% of the water in your tank each week, although some situations might call for more frequent changes. Use a liquid water testing kit to measure pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. Always add water that has been treated with a conditioner to remove chlorine.
  • Clean the substrate: Utilize a gravel vacuum to clear waste, uneaten food, and debris. Clean specific sections each week to minimize disruption to the tank. However, if you notice visible waste or food in any section, clean it immediately.
  • Scrub the algae: Use your scraper to eliminate algae on the tank walls. Make this a part of your weekly cleaning routine to keep your tank looking its best. Excessive algae can disrupt the water’s chemical balance and compete with other aquatic plants for nutrients.
  • Check the filter: Check the filter to ensure it is functioning properly. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning or replacing the filter media. Monitor water parameters, which may change as your axolotl grows and produces more waste.

While tank upkeep might seem overwhelming initially, it quickly becomes a manageable routine. Consistent maintenance is the key to a happy, healthy axolotl and an aesthetically pleasing tank.

Food and Development

In the wild, these fascinating animals are strictly carnivorous, feasting on a variety of smaller prey like insects and little fish. When you bring one home, mimic this diet to keep your pet in tip-top shape.

For fully-grown axolotls, you have multiple food options. Earthworms, brine shrimp, and axolotl pellets are all excellent choices.

Meanwhile, baby axolotls prefer live foods, such as daphnia and baby brine shrimp, because they use motion to detect their meals. This is important, especially since their sense of smell has yet to develop fully.

These aquatic pets have a unique way of eating, involving a sort of suction technique, even though they have small teeth. Their teeth are not for chewing but for holding onto their prey.

Ensure you’re feeding them the right amount; a good rule of thumb is that their belly should be about the same width as their head. Over or underfeeding can cause health issues.

The frequency with which you feed your axolotl will change as it grows. Younger axolotls need to eat daily because of their rapid growth.

Older axolotls, however, can be fed every 2 to 3 days and can even go without food for up to two weeks if necessary.

Keeping track of how much and how often your axolotl eats can help you adjust their diet as they grow. It’s essential to note any changes in their behavior or appearance, as this could call for a dietary adjustment.

Other Items to Consider

Axolotl tank setup with gravel

In addition to the items already covered, there are other items to consider as a beginner axolotl owner. Although most of these items are optional, they will surely come in handy along your axolotl ownership journey.

A siphon or gravel cleaner can be your best friend when it comes to tank maintenance. It helps remove waste and uneaten food from the substrate, keeping the environment clean.

You should also consider an air stone or bubble wand. While axolotls can gulp air from the surface, adding extra oxygen to the water through aeration can be beneficial.

Dedicated food dishes or feeding rings can help contain the mess during feeding. These can be especially helpful if you’re using a bare-bottom tank, preventing food from scattering all over.

Another handy tool is a set of long tweezers or feeding tongs. This makes offering food directly to your axolotl easier without sticking your hand into the tank.

Lastly, invest in a backup power source like a battery-operated air pump. In case of a power outage, this will ensure that your tank stays aerated and your filtration system keeps running temporarily.

Keeping these additional items in mind may add cost to your overall setup, but it will also help you go the extra mile in caring for your axolotl, ensuring it lives a comfortable and healthy life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Axolotl pet at home

What to Do When You First Get an Axolotl?

When you bring your axolotl home, give it time to acclimate to its new environment.

Place the bag it came in into the tank water for about 30 minutes, letting the water temperatures equalize. Then, gently release the axolotl into the tank.

For the first few days, it’s best to minimize stress by reducing disturbances like tapping on the glass or frequent handling.

Keep the tank lights dim and ensure the water parameters are stable. Your axolotl may not eat right away, and that’s okay; it might need a little time to feel secure.

Do Axolotls Need Sand or Rocks in Their Tank?

Fine sand is a popular option, offering a soft surface and a natural look. However, make sure to rinse the sand well before using it to eliminate any harmful chemicals.

You should avoid gravel or any large rocks. These substrates pose a choking hazard and can cause digestive issues for your pet.

How Often Do You Change the Water in an Axolotl?

For keeping your axolotl healthy, water quality is key. Changing 20 to 25% of the tank water weekly is recommended. This helps keep harmful chemicals like ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates at bay.

Do Axolotls Need Salt or Freshwater?

Axolotls are freshwater creatures; hence, they need fresh water in their tank. Putting them in salt water can cause serious harm and stress, leading to potential health issues.

How Do You Cycle an Axolotl Tank as a Beginner?

Cycling your tank helps establish beneficial bacteria, making the tank safe for your axolotl. It usually takes four to six weeks to cycle a new tank fully.

Start by setting up your tank. Add a source of ammonia to kickstart the cycle; fish food or pure ammonia works well. Test the water regularly to monitor ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

When ammonia and nitrite levels drop to zero while nitrates are present, your tank is cycled. Perform a large water change before introducing your axolotl. Keep testing the water weekly to ensure it remains safe.

Your axolotl will require more than just food and a place to swim. Knowing the essentials in an axolotl starter kit will make your journey much easier. Do you have questions or tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

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