Beginner’s Ultimate Guide: Essential Axolotl Care and Tips

Axolotl Care Guide and Information for Beginners

Welcome to “Beginner’s Ultimate Guide: Essential Axolotl Care and Tips.” This guide is your gateway to the fascinating world of axolotls, unique amphibians known for their perpetual youth and regenerative abilities. Perfect for both beginners and prospective owners, we’ll cover everything from setting up the axolotl tank for habitat to understanding their dietary and health needs. Our aim is to equip you with the knowledge to ensure your axolotl doesn’t just survive but thrives in your care.

Join us as we delve into the essentials of caring for and maintaining the health and happiness of their axolotl pets. So, let’s dive into the world of axolotls and explore how to nurture these remarkable animals.

What are Axolotls?

Axolotls, a special type of salamander, are fascinating creatures that have captivated the hearts of many. Native to Mexico’s Lake Xochimilco and nearby water bodies, these neotenic animals remain in a larval-like form throughout their lives, breathing through gills and living entirely underwater. Basically, they never grow up.

Axolotls are recognized by CITES as an endangered species and by the IUCN as critically endangered in their natural habitat, with their numbers in decline. A 2016 survey revealed an alarming absence of axolotls in their native environment. Renowned for their remarkable regenerative abilities, axolotls can completely heal lost limbs, tissues, and organs without scarring, provided they avoid infection.

Also Read: Axolotl (Mexican Walking Fish) – Biology, Habitat, Diet, Care & More

Basic Axolotl Care Guide for Beginners

Although they are endangered in the wild, axolotls thrive in captivity under proper care. This guide aims to provide beginners with essential information for maintaining the health and happiness of their axolotl pets.


Axolotls prefer cool environments, mirroring their native habitat in the mountain lakes of central Mexico. Temperatures above 74°F (22°C) can be stressful for them. The ideal temperature range for axolotls is 60 – 65°F (16 – 18°C). Keeping the tank in a cool area and monitoring the water temperature is crucial for their well-being.

Water Quality

Like fish, axolotls require a stable, cycled tank. This means having nitrifying bacteria growing in the filter to remove toxic ammonia and nitrites. Regular water changes and water quality checks are essential, especially in an uncycled tank.

Optimal water parameters for axolotls include 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites, 20-40 ppm nitrates (anything higher becomes toxic), and a pH of 6.8-7.8 (ammonia becomes more toxic above pH 8).

Also Read: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cycling Your Axolotl Tank

Avoid using untreated tap water or distilled water, as both are likely to kill your Axie. Instead, treat the water with a good quality water conditioner, such as Aqua-Safe Plus, API, or Seachem Prime, to remove chlorine. After filling your tank, treat the water and allow at least an hour before putting your Axolotl.

It’s also wise to keep the water your Axolotl was transported in as a precaution. Should you notice any signs of distress, like coughing, scratching at the gills, or bubbling gills, promptly return your Axolotl to this original water. This can help alleviate the issue while you seek a solution.

Axolotl Tank Size

Axolotl Tank Size

Considering potential size (up to 14 inches or 35 cm), axolotls need spacious tanks. Overcrowding can lead to stress and aggression. A single adult axolotl requires at least a 10-gallon tank, but a 20-gallon tank is preferable, providing more floor space and better water quality.

Water Filtration

Effective filtration is essential for maintaining clean water in your axolotl tank unless you plan to change the entire water supply every few days. Opt for a low-flow, bubble-type filter or a small-flow filter, as axolotls are not strong swimmers and can become exhausted battling strong currents. It’s crucial to always cover the intake of your filter with mesh or foam to prevent injuries to your pet.

Keep in mind that maintaining a stable nitrogen cycle in the tank is important for water quality. Until this cycle is well-established, it’s advisable to change about 25% of the tank’s water weekly.

If the water turns cloudy or develops an unpleasant smell, replace it entirely. This can often happen due to overfeeding, so ensure you feed your axolotl as much as it can consume quickly and promptly remove any leftover food within an hour if possible.


Axolotls flourish in cool, dim environments, making additional lighting optional for their habitat. If you choose to use lighting, opt for shielded LED or CFL lights with low wattage to prevent excess heat buildup. To regulate their exposure to light, it’s beneficial to use a timer, ensuring the lights are on for no more than 12-14 hours daily.

Substrate (Stuff on the Bottom)

Choose your substrate carefully. Axolotls are naturally curious and, as suction-feeders, they tend to swallow anything that fits into their mouths. This lack of selectivity can be dangerous, especially with small substrates like aquarium gravel or crushed rock, which pose a risk of intestinal blockage, “floating” issues, and infections, potentially leading to severe injury or even death in young axolotls.

To ensure safety, any stones in the tank should be larger than twice the size of the axolotl’s head to prevent accidental swallowing. For smaller axolotls under 4 inches in length, a substrate-free tank is advisable to ease maintenance and avoid ingestion risks. As axolotls grow and their limbs develop fully, a bare tank might cause stress. They benefit from having a surface to grip for walking and objects to hide behind for a sense of security.

The ideal substrate for axolotls is clean, fine, natural sand. This type of sand is smooth and small enough to pass safely through their digestive system if ingested, reducing the risk of blockages. Besides being safe, natural sand is also economical and easy to replace during tank cleaning. Remember, crushed rock is not suitable due to its potential hazards.

Note: Do not use sand that is made from crushed rock. If the sarid “sparkles” under light, it is crushed rock.


Use large stones and artificial plants in your axolotl’s tank to create hiding spots and add visual interest. Clay pots are an excellent and cost-effective choice for shelters, offering both aesthetics and functionality. For those preferring live plants, ensure they are securely anchored to maintain tank organization and provide a stable environment for your axolotl.


Feed your axolotl a high-protein diet. Good options include earthworms, black worms, small freshwater shrimp, and carnivore pellets. Avoid wild-caught foods due to the risk of parasites and chemicals. Juvenile axolotls, still growing, require frequent feeding with appropriately sized food. Remove uneaten food promptly to prevent water contamination.

It’s advisable to avoid wild-caught foods for axolotls due to the risk of parasites, diseases, or toxic chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. Instead, consider these high-protein, nutritious, and safe options:

  • Earthworms: A top choice for axolotls, earthworms are nutritious, affordable, and easily accessible. For smaller axolotls, cut the earthworms into smaller pieces.
  • Black Worms: These are aquatic relatives of earthworms and an excellent food source, particularly for very young axolotls.
  • Cherry and Ghost Shrimp: Small freshwater shrimp varieties are highly nutritious but may cost more.
  • Carnivore Pellets: We recommend Tetra Reptomin floating pellets as they provide a stable diet and are widely available. For younger axolotls, break the pellets in half.

While the following foods should only be given occasionally as they don’t meet all nutritional needs, they make good treats:

  • Bloodworms: These aren’t highly nutritious but serve as an enjoyable treat. Be prepared for cleanup after feeding.
  • Mealworms, Waxworms, and Small Insects: These are not ideal as a staple diet but can be offered as occasional treats. Avoid feeding large mealworms, known as “superworms,” alive as they can harm your axolotl.

For maximum growth, feed your axolotl at least twice a day with the amount they can consume within a few minutes. A well-fed axolotl will have a belly as wide as its head.

For young adults, two or three floating pellets twice a day is a good starting point. Adult axolotls eat less as their growth rate decreases. Adjust feeding amounts based on their appetite and growth needs. Adults may occasionally skip eating for a day or two, which is normal. Avoid overfeeding if they are not hungry.

Feeding Juveniles

Feeding Juvenile Axolotls

Young axolotls, known as juveniles, range in length from about 2 to 6 inches (5cm to 15cm). During their first two to three months, these juveniles typically prefer live or freshly killed food sources.

Feeding these growing juveniles requires a balance – offer enough food for healthy growth without overfeeding. The goal is to keep their bellies full but not wider than their heads. As they mature, they can gradually start eating the same types of food as adult axolotls, though in smaller quantities and sizes.

Juvenile axolotls can sometimes be selective eaters, much like young children, showing a preference for certain foods. While most will readily accept live worms, such as earthworms or blackworms, they might need some encouragement to start eating pellets. When offering earthworms, ensure they are cut into small, manageable pieces suitable for the size of the juvenile axolotl.

Axolotl Care and Health Tips

Be vigilant for signs of stress or illness, such as refusing to eat or abnormal gill appearance. Axolotls are known for their regenerative abilities, but this doesn’t make them invincible. Promptly address any health concerns and ensure a clean, well-maintained habitat for your pet.

Also Read: Understanding Axolotl Gill Development and Function


Caring for an axolotl can be a rewarding experience. You can ensure your axolotl leads a healthy and happy life by providing a cool environment, a nutritious diet, and a proper tank setup. Remember, these unique creatures depend entirely on you for their well-being, so commit to giving them the best care possible.

It’s crucial to remove from the tank any food that your axolotl doesn’t eat. Leftover food can quickly decompose, leading to bacterial growth. This reduces the oxygen levels in the water and releases toxins, which can harm your axolotl’s health.

About the author

Austin Cannon

Austin Cannon

Austin Cannon, editor for The Spruce Pets and Daily Paws, is a seasoned journalist with a background in award-winning reporting for publications. Austin joined The Exotic Pets in December 2023. Austin holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from Drake University (2016). He edits and produces most of the site’s content and trending stories, giving pet owners daily joy and knowledge.