Axolotls have been bred in laboratories for study since the mid-1800s but have only recently become a viral craze as one of the most sought-after pets and are sometimes known as Mexican Walking Fish. These pets need specific accommodations so we will go over the best tank for axolotls.
I remember coming across this odd, but extremely cute-looking pet in the mall decades ago. It was sold as a “living baby dinosaur.” I was given very cryptic—and I learned years later, incorrect—information on its proper care.
Fast forward to today, I am a much better, way more informed pet owner. I know how these animals are quite sensitive to environmental changes and need a lot more room than I originally was told.
Table of Contents
- Initial Thoughts
- Fun Facts
- Best Tank Options for One
- Tanks for Breeding
- Tank Table
- 5 Best Axolotl Tanks
- Other Tank Considerations
Axolotls Need Space
Though they live underwater, axolotls spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank.
They can swim very well, but they tend to leisurely walk around the bottom most of the time. A setup that is wider than it is tall is essential to keeping your axies happy and healthy.
So Many Options
Picking out a tank for your axolotl isn’t as simple as walking into your local pet store or aquarium supply store and picking out the first tank you see.
You also don’t want to pick out what seems the most pleasing to you. So, what kind of tank should you get?
That depends on a few variables. Are you only going to have one axolotl, or do you want multiple pets?
Are you planning on breeding them? If not, what happens if they do mate when you weren’t expecting it?
Do you prefer glass aquariums, or would you rather go with a seamless acrylic tank? Then you need to think about decorations inside, substrate, filters, light, water temperature, and all that.
Interesting Aquarium Facts
French naturalist and marine biologist Jeanne Villepreux-Power is credited with inventing the first glass aquarium in 1832. She designed it to better study aquatic specimens but little did she know what an impact it would cause on pet owners around the world.
It wasn’t until 1997 that we realized and gave credit to Jeanne Villepreux-Power because her research notes were lost for over 100 years. When it was discovered who invented the first aquarium, scientists the same year named a crater on Venus after Mrs. Villepreux-Power.
Best Tank For a Single Axie
Axolotls are really quite happy on their own. They live their best bachelor or bachelorette life all alone except for your company and do quite well.
Axolotls really shouldn’t even have any tank mates either. This means other small fish, crustaceans, or other aquatic animals should not be kept with axolotls.
Fish in the tank with your axie will quite possibly end up as a snack. Of course, that depends on the size of the fish. If an axolotl can get it into its mouth, they will try to eat it. If the fish is way too big for your axie to make it into a past tense, then the fish could turn the tables on the axolotl.
Those frilly gills waving in the water often look like worms or other tasty bits to fish. Since axolotls often spend a lot of time simply hanging out very still at the bottom of the tank, fish see the gills as an invite to bite them.
Though axolotls are known for their spectacular regeneration powers, it’s not only irritating, but it’s downright painful to have one’s gills bitten off by pesky fish. Fish don’t need to be put in the tank with axolotls.
Then there are the temperature differences between tropical fish and axies. Tropical fish like their water on the warm side, while axolotls, though they come from tropical areas, require much cooler water.
If the water is kept warm enough for tropical fish, then the axolotl could become susceptible to stress and disease. Alternately, keeping the tank as cool as your axie likes it, could cause your fish to deteriorate and ultimately expire.
Also, axies are just messy and require a lot of cleaning up. When you add more tank mates like fish, the water will get dirty quicker, and the delicate pH balance could spiral out of control very fast.
So, keeping an axolotl by itself isn’t cruel, it’s perfectly natural. What size do you need for a single axie? You’ll need at the very least a 10-gallon tank for one axolotl, but for better health and more space, a 20-gallon tank is very strongly recommended.
With a 10-gallon tank, you’ll end up spending more time cleaning and changing water and constantly checking the water quality, even with a good filter. Plus, as your axie grows, they will need more space to move around, so go for the larger 20-gallon tank.
Also, while searching for a good axie tank, you want one that is wider. There are plenty of 20-gallon tanks that are tall and very appealing to the eye and don’t take up much space, but axies need acreage to crawl along the bottom.
The top tank we recommend for a single axolotl is this Aqueon Aquarium 20 Gallon Long. Your axolotl will grow to about 10 to 18 inches long, so having the extra space on the bottom will be good for your pet.
The glass is thick enough to hold all the water and the edges are smooth silicone. There are also lids made by the manufacturer you can get, which are recommended because axolotls have been known to jump out.
Speaking of jumping out, unless you have a very tight lid, you shouldn’t fill the tank to the top. Fill it only about ¾ of the way full. I’ve seen axolotls climb out of the top of full tanks. It could be tragic to wake up in the morning to find your axie laying on the floor.
Two Axolotls Max
As we stated before, axolotls do well on their own so you might want to reconsider that tank mate you were thinking of. If too many are living in one enclosure, they can end up getting aggressive with each other.
Axolotls have been known to eat smaller axolotls, bite others’ gills off, or maim each other.
If you are determined to have more than one axie live in the same tank, don’t do more than two. Of course, you need two axolotls in the same tank if you are breeding, but still, that is the absolute max.
If they start becoming aggressive toward each other, separate them immediately as one could lethally damage the other.
Occasionally, axies can live with another of their kind just fine. Assuming you have a couple of docile amphibians that do well with the roommate situation you will need a much larger tank. A 20 or even 30-gallon fish tank is much too small for two axies together.
The recommended size tank for two axolotls together is at least a 50-gallon tank. This is our pick if you want to have two living together. Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit comes with a tight-fitting lid, a filter, and even a few aquarium plants to get you started.
It also comes with a water heater, but unless you keep the tank in a very cold room, you won’t need the heater for your axolotl. They prefer cold water that ranges from the mid to low the 60s to below 74℉.
A good runner-up to the 55-gallon kit is this slightly smaller but much lighter 50-gallon SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set. It doesn’t come with as many goodies as the Tetra aquarium but it’s an acrylic tank that has its own pros and cons.
Not only is acrylic lighter than glass but it is much less prone to shattering and chipping. That’s extra safety if you have concerns about glass shattering, or if you have small children in the house.
Acrylic tanks are typically clearer than glass which can slightly distort what’s inside.
Best Tank For Breeding Axolotls
If you plan on breeding your axolotls, the same advice as above follows. You need about 50 gallons for both of them. They may not breed at first as sometimes they need help with lighting to trigger the desire to mate.
You also need some specific decorations in the tank for both the male and the female. The male needs a flat, semi-porous surface to drop his spermatophores. Glass or plastic won’t hold them so you’ll need something such as a section of slate at the bottom of the tank.
For the female, you need several plants because she will climb up and around them depositing her eggs one by one on the plants. It doesn’t matter if they are real or artificial. They just need to have water flowing around the leaves so that the oxygen in the water is cycled around the eggs.
After the eggs are deposited, you need to either move the adult axolotls or remove the eggs from the enclosure. The adults will soon forget that they laid those eggs and snack on them, so they need to be led away from temptation.
It will be easier to separate the adults than try and separate 500 to 1500 eggs, so you’ll need either two 50-gallon tanks, or a 50-gallon and two 20-gallon tanks, all with quality filters and clean, clean water.
We still recommend either of the two previously recommended tanks for breeding. The size is big enough for hatchlings until they get big enough to start bullying each other.
Breeding axolotls can be a very intensive and time-consuming hobby because they can lay so many eggs. As they get bigger, it’s recommended to keep no more than 100 to 200 babies in a single tank, and as they start to get more aggressive toward each other, you’ll have to thin them out even more.
Some breeders keep very young axolotls in plastic bins because they are cheaper than having numerous tanks and filters, but the problem with that is you’ll have to change the water much more frequently until you are able to thin the numbers by selling them or giving them away.
Axolotl Tank Table
|Number Of Axolotls In One Tank||Tank Size Required|
|One full-grown adult||Very minimum of 10 gallons but for a happier, healthier axie, 20 gallons is better|
|Two adults who tolerate each other||50 to 55-gallon tank|
|A breeding pair||50 to 55-gallon tank|
|Eggs||Before hatching, 10 to 20 gallons. It’s more important to have a gentle flow of water on the eggs|
|Hatchlings to juveniles||Variable, depending on how many hatchlings, are and how aggressive they are to each other. 20 gallons to start, but separate them out as they get aggressive and crowded|
Acrylic or Glass, Which is Better?
The debate between glass and acrylic aquariums is one that is best decided by the individual user. They both have positives and negatives, and neither one really comes out ahead of the other in my opinion.
Here is a list of glass and acrylic aquariums and their pros and cons.
|Glass Pros||Glass Cons||Acrylic Pros||Acrylic Cons|
|Scratch resistant||Very heavy||Lighter||Scratches easily|
|Easier to clean||Difficult to move||More durable than glass||Needs full support on the bottom|
|Less expensive||Most distortion||Less distortion||Can become cloudy over time|
|Non-porousStays clear||Can’t be repaired||Can flex under pressure||Will absorb chemicals|
|Stronger on the bottom||Scratches can be repaired||Often more expensive|
|Difficult to clean without scratching|
Personally, I like the idea of acrylic, but the difficulty of cleaning them without scratching them is the biggest turn-off for me. I like using magnetic cleaners for my tank, and those are just a little too harsh on acrylic aquariums.
In the end, though, you will be the one with the tank and it’s ultimately up to you whether you decide on glass or acrylic.
Here’s Our Lineup of the 5 Best Axolotl Tanks for Your Needs
- Aqueon Aquarium 20 Gallon Long – Best overall tank for a single, adult axolotl. This tank is good for the extra space at the bottom. This tank will last the lifetime of your axolotl and give it plenty of room to live comfortably. You’ll still have to invest in a high-quality filter, possibly a fan to keep the water cool and dim light.
- Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit – Our best pick for multiple (2) axies, or a breeding pair. It has plenty of space for two adult axies that get along well and has a few extras to get you started.
- SeaClear Acrylic Aquarium Combo Set – This is the best pick for an acrylic tank that is large enough for 2 full-grown axolotls. It comes with a decorative backsplash and a top that’s ready for a light installment.
- COLIBROX Aqua Aquarium, 10 Gallon – This is our budget pick of the bunch. It’s a little bit smaller than we really recommend for a full-grown axolotl, but if you are on a really tight budget right now, this one will work. 10 gallons is the absolute minimum size for an axie.
- LANDEN Rimless Low Iron Aquarium Tank – For those who see the thick black edges along the top and bottom of aquariums as absolute eyesores, here is a rimless, sleek-looking, exceptional quality tank. Made with less iron, this glass aquarium offers clarity similar to crystal but with the strength of glass.
Other Tank Considerations
Now that you have the tank situation figured out, there are other things to think about that go along with the aquarium. Things like a good filter, lighting, and even water chillers as axolotls need cooler temperatures than most aquarium fish.
Filters and Chillers
Axolotls need pristine water to stay healthy. The reason being is when they snatch up a piece of food, they gulp in a bunch of water as well. If the water isn’t clean, they could become ill because of whatever is floating in the water.
Axolotls are also messy eaters and messy creatures in general. In addition to manually removing waste when you see it, a good filter will help keep your water clean and your axie healthy.
We recommend a very high-quality canister filter with multistage filtration to keep the water clean and balanced. Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter is our best-recommended filter for your axolotl tank.
It has different chambers for multi-stage filtration and comes with a spray bar to reduce the current so your axie isn’t stressed because the water is beating him up. Filters can be expensive, but this is one area where it’s much better to spend extra money for a better product.
Axolotls are also sensitive to bright lights. Like fish, they don’t have eyelids to block out bright light. Usually, indirect sunlight is plenty for axolotls, but if you feel like you need to have a light on the tank, or they are housed in a dim room, get a dimmable led light. This NICREW ClassicLED Gen 2 Aquarium Light, Dimmable LED would work for an overhead light that’s not too bright for their sensitive eyes.
Don’t Get Pets and Tanks on the Same Day
One of the important steps when setting up an aquarium is to not set your pets into a brand new aquarium tank with brand new water. Filters need to cycle, the water conditioner need time to neutralize chlorine and other chemicals, and beneficial bacteria need time to get established.
When you have multi-chamber filters as we recommend for axolotls, they usually have a place for biomedia. Biomedia is an inert material that beneficial bacteria can colonize. This bacteria helps to neutralize ammonia and nitrites which can be fatal to aquatic pets at high levels.
Ideally, you should let your filters run in a new aquarium set up for about a week to two weeks to give everything time to balance out. But if you’re under a time constraint, the very least amount of time would be about 3 to 4 days before setting in your new animals.
Do axolotls need bubblers?
Axolotls do not require air bubblers. They live in cooler water which holds a higher concentration of oxygen.
Filters will also stir up the water enough to add more oxygen to the water, so an air bubbler is actually unnecessary.
What do axolotls need in a tank?
Axolotls do best with plants and some kind of cave or hide. They like to swim around the plants, and sometimes hang out on them.
The hiding place is for them to escape from the light if they want or just to get away. They do not require a substrate, in fact, some owners prefer not to have any substrate because the tanks are much easier to keep clean without it.
If you do use substrate, stay away from gravel, and use fine, clean aquarium sand.
Why does my axolotl come up for air?
Axolotls have lungs as well as gills.
If their gills are small, stunted, or there isn’t enough oxygen in the water, they can come up for a breath of air. Maybe he or she just wants to use its lungs on occasion.
How often should you clean an axolotl tank?
Try to clean up any waste and uneaten food daily. This will help to keep the water balanced and keep the water clean.
A good filter will help keep the water pure and clear. Try to aim for a fractional water change—20% or so—about once a week to every two weeks.
Testing the water weekly will give you a good idea of what’s needed.
Axolotls are cute, exotic pets that will bring you years of fascinating joy as you watch them swim around, explore, wave their external gills at you, and give you constant smiles. With all that cuteness comes extreme sensitivity to light, water quality, and temperature.
Finding the right-sized tank can be confusing because of all the different sizes, shapes, and materials. We hope this guide was able to keep the confusion down to a minimum and that you are able to find the right home for your new pets.
If you are just starting out owning axolotls, I would definitely recommend just one at first. They can require a lot of time and specialized cleaning, and if you are just purchasing all the equipment you might want to budget it out because initial setups can get a little expensive.
If you are getting into breeding, keep in mind that you may end up getting over a thousand eggs that hatch out to babies that require a lot of care and time. Do your research before getting into breeding and make sure you have plenty of set-up tanks and plenty of time.