Axolotl Supply List
Updated: Feb 3
Image depicting a leucistic copper axolotl courtesy of Nick Miller.
Aquatic animals are very expensive when properly cared for, and axolotls are no exception. Just like with any other pet, it is always a great idea to do plenty of research beforehand and to prepare your new pet's environment before bringing them home. In this article, we will discuss the necessary supplies for owning an axolotl and briefly go over the cost to set up an aquarium for them.
Setting up the Aquarium:
Aquarium: The first thing needed to start creating a home for your axolotl is their tank. A minimum of 110 liters (29 gallons) is needed for one, and 284 liters (75 gallons) for two. However, we advise against cohabiting axolotls, due to high risk of injury and the potential for accidental breeding.
Filter(s): A flow rate that is 3-6x the size of the tank is ideal. For example, a 180 liter (40 gallon breeder) tank would require a flow rate of at least 450 LPH (120 GPH). If a sponge filter is used, it will require an air pump and airline tubing to function.
Thermometers: In order to ensure that an axolotl is at the proper temperature, a thermometer is needed. We recommend having at least two thermometers in your aquarium at a time for increased accuracy. Basic analog/liquid thermometers may be used, as well as digital thermometers with probes, and laser thermometers.
Water Conditioner: Water conditioner is required for treating any new water that is added to your aquarium for both chlorine and heavy metals. Seachem Prime is the most widely recommended conditioner for axolotls, especially due to it being known to not contain any substances harmful to axolotls, such as aloe vera, iodine, or copper. Many other conditioners contain aloe or other slime coat additives that are irritants to axolotls. This conditioner is also beneficial because it can be overdosed up to 5x the normal dosage in emergencies, to detoxify ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.
Clip-on Fans or Water Chiller: Axolotls require cold water at all times. If water temperature cannot be consistently kept between 15-20˚C (60-68˚F), then clip-on fans, an AC unit, or a water chiller will be required. We recommend checking this before purchasing your axolotl. For more information on how to keep an axolotl tank cold please see our article How to Lower the Temperature in an Axolotl Tank.
Cycling the Aquarium:
Ammonia for Cycling: An ammonia source (either liquid or powder) is required to cycle any aquarium through the nitrogen cycle before it is safe for your pet to live in. Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride is the easiest to dose, since it is liquid and already has set dosage instructions. NOTE: The dosage instructions on this product are incorrect. The correct dosage is 1 drop per gallon of water = 1 ppm of ammonia. Unscented cleaning ammonia may be used if neither of these are available, but has no established dosage instructions.
Liquid Test Kit: A full liquid test kit with reagents is required to accurately keep track of your water parameters in any aquarium. The most recommended kit is the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, as it is easy to read and tests for all the necessary compounds (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH). Test strips are known to be inaccurate, and are more difficult to read.
GH and KH Test Kit: In addition to the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, the API GH & KH Test Kit may be required if you pH is too high or low in your aquarium. GH and KH are necessary to know in order to know how to adjust your pH.
Bottled Bacteria: Cycling an aquarium can be a lengthy process. One way to speed up cycling is with bottled bacteria. There are various brands of bottled bacteria, but some seem to have more luck with true refrigerated live nitrifying bacteria, such as Fritz Turbo Start 700. However, pet stores' claims that bacteria in a bottle can instantly cycle your tank or work without an ammonia source are false.
Siphon: A siphon is required to perform water changed and siphon debris from the bottom of the tank.
5 Gallon Bucket: Buckets are required to help perform water changes if you do not use a Python or Hygger siphon.
Turkey Baster: A turkey baster is required to manually suck all poop and larger debris from the aquarium.
Diet and Enrichment:
Earthworms: Many axolotl owners keep a worm farm for consistent supply of food for their axolotl. Even if worms do not breed quickly enough to maintain their own population, it may still be beneficial to have a large supply available and only have to restock every few months. Worms can be ordered in bulk from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis), Canadian nightcrawlers (Lumbricus terrestris), or red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) can be used as your axolotl's main diet. This main diet can be supplemented with axolotl pellets and occasional treats to add variety (Refer to our FAQ).
Axolotl Pellets: Pellets can be used to supplement an axolotl's main diet of earthworms. Three recommended types with at least 45% protein are Rangen Salmon Pellets, Hikari Sinking Carnivore Pellets, and Invert Aquatics Pellets.
Hiding Spots: Axolotls have no eyelids and are sensitive to light, so we recommend having at least 1-2 cavelike hiding areas for your axolotl to escape the light. An appropriate hide will have no small openings that the axolotl could get stuck in. Some examples of hides: Shale Ledge Cave, Extra Large Shale Ledge Cave, Marina Polyresin Cave Hide, Ancient Vase Hide, Artificial Driftwood Decoration, Rock Cave Hide
Aquatic Plants: Plants that do well in cold water and low light or with no substrate, such as Anubias and java fern.
Plastic Tubs: Two 15-20 liter (3-5 gallon) tubs should be kept around in order to tub your axolotl for illnesses or transport to the veterinarian.
Substrate: Slate, untreated tile, or very fine-grained sand can be used as a substrate. Two of the safest sands on the market are CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight Sand (white or sunset gold) and Exo Terra Riverbed Sand, due to their grain size of less than 1 mm diameter. Some pool filter sand brands will work if they are fine-grained enough to not see individual grains. Note: Only axolotls 15 cm (6 inches) or larger can be safely housed on sand, due to impaction risk.
Air Pumps and Air Stones: Adding an air stone to an axolotl’s aquarium is an easy way to ensure that their water will stay oxygenated. Some owners will often find their axolotls interacting with the bubbles streaming out. Air stones also have the added benefit of causing surface agitation which further helps to increase oxygenation of the water. Air stones will require an air pump and airline tubing to function.
Python or Hygger Siphon: The Python siphon and Hygger siphon make water changes significantly more easy and efficient by attaching directly to your faucet and both siphoning out and refilling aquarium water. Keep in mind that the entire tank volume must be dosed with water conditioner immediately before refilling water.
Feeding Tongs: Feeding tongs without hard or sharp edges can be used to assist in feeding your axolotl. Silicone tongs are a good option that will not hurt your axolotl's mouth.
Gel Super Glue: Gel super glue can be used in your aquarium for things such as anchoring plants to decor.
Vet, electricity, and water bills are also significant
Image depicting axolotl aquarium with plants, hiding areas and CaribSea Super Naturals Moonlight sand.
If you live in the United States, these items can be more affordable than other places. Axolotl Central's recommended 29 gallon tank minimum can sell for $29 USD at Petco during their frequent $1 per gallon/50% off sale, which happens about four times per year.
If you do not live in the US, the aquatics hobby is significantly more expensive. You may be looking at or around over $1,265 CAD or €888 for all the starting supplies. In Europe, tap water is often high in nitrate, which means an alternate water source, such as RO or spring water, will be required. It is recommended to purchase the API Freshwater Master Test Kit and test all of your tap water parameters before beginning the aquatic hobby to ensure that your water source is safe and usable. Keep in mind that with an RO system, you would have to manually re-mineralize the water before it can be used in an aquarium.
Needless to say, axolotl ownership is expensive and time consuming! As mentioned in our guide, How to Cycle an Aquarium, cycling can take upwards of 4-8 weeks to complete before your axolotl can safely live in your aquarium. Hopefully this guide helps you determine if an axolotl is the pet for you!
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