Someone who is considering getting an axolotl or already has one may be wondering what other tank mates can go with these amphibious animals. The answer may surprise you because there really aren’t many who do well with these enigmatic pets.
In the wild—if you can find them because they are so critically endangered—axolotls typically spend a lot of time on their own.
There are several reasons why axolotl tank mate options are so limited. Part of it comes because of their attitude, but more of the reason is related to their ideal climate, axolotls like their water on the chilly side of the spectrum.
Let’s get into more detail about these reasons and then we’ll give you all the best tank mates for axolotls.
Table of Contents
- An Ideal Axolotl Climate
- Clean Water is Essential
- Axies Like to Keep it Cool
- Fish Are Not Good Tank Mates
- The Best Tank Mates for Axolotls
An Ideal Axolotl Climate
Axies are also called the Mexican Walking Fish because they are only found in one place in the world, a small waterway near Mexico City.
hey keep their external gills and tails and are good swimmers, but they like to spend a lot of time at the bottom of their environment leisurely walking around. Hence the nickname.
When setting up an axolotl’s tank, water quality is one of the most important factors to consider.
Clean Water is Essential
Axies are messy creatures on their own, and when they eat, they make an even bigger mess.
Not to mention how they eat; they suck in a mouthful of water every time they take a bite of food, so they swallow a lot of water. If the water is dirty, this increases the risk of illness.
Owners will spend a lot of time keeping an axolotls environment clean. This may be a reason you ask if there are other tank mates that can aid in keeping the water clean.
Maybe some filter feeders would help out, but the question to ask is, can these filter feeders handle the cool water that’s essential for axie health?
Axies Like to Keep it Cool
Unlike most reptiles like turtles, and tropical fish who like warmer climates, the axolotl needs their water to remain on the cooler side. In fact, if the room where you keep your tanks is too warm, you will have to utilize some water cooling techniques.
Axolotls require water between 65℉ and 74℉. Most tropical fish require temperatures to be at least 75℉ but no more than 80℉.
These warm temps are too high for axolotls and can cause health problems for them.
Fish Are Not Good Tank Mates
There are a few fish that like their water temperature on the cooler side such as goldfish, but goldfish are very messy fish. They can quickly throw off the delicate water balance that will put your axie at risk for illness.
Also, some species of goldfish can get pretty big, and then they could bully your lone axie. A lot of fish will mistake axolotl gills for worms and nip at them. This is painful for axies and a stressful environment.
As for smaller fish, even if they can survive the cooler temperatures, axolotls will often eat these fish. A good rule of thumb is this; if it can fit into an axolotl’s mouth, it will eventually attempt to eat it.
So, if goldfish are out, and smaller fish are no good for axie companions, what about the docile, non-gill nipping Plecostomus? These are still a no-go.
Even if they are able to withstand the cooler temperatures, I have seen pictures of the damage a pleco can do to the soft, thin, scale-less skin of an axolotl.
Axolotls often sit still at the bottom of the tank for long periods. Plecos will scurry about the tank, using their suckered mouth to scrape off small bits of algae off the tank and objects inside.
It’s only a matter of time before they inadvertently attach to your axie. The pleco isn’t looking to make a meal of the axolotl, it’s simply because they often sit so very still.
When the pleco attaches to the soft axolotl skin, it can cause a wound or abrasion that can lead to an infection. Some people have reported that they have kept this combination with no problem, but for us here, we’d caution against it.
The Best Tank Mates for Axolotls
Axolotls are essentially the cool water version of an introvert.
They are loners that do perfectly well on their own. You don’t have to worry about them getting depressed because they live alone, axies do fine.
But if you really want to have more than a single axolotl in a tank, there are a few options you can try out. Without further ado, we will list the best tank mates that will get along with your axolotl.
If you are determined to keep some kind of companions in the tank with your axolotl, you should only consider the vast majority of them temporary. As I mentioned before, if an axolotl can put it in its mouth, it will end up as a food item.
That being said, there are a few fish you can keep in the tank with your axie, but again, you should expect them to become food at some point.
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Poeciliidae
- Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
- Other Names: Millionfish, Rainbowfish
- Adult Size: 0.6 to 2.4 inches
- Lifespan: 1-3 years
- Average Price Range: $1 to $100 depending on breed
- Where to buy: Most pet stores carry them
Guppies are small, peaceful fish that typically won’t bother your axie, but be warned, your axolotl will eat them. You may even want to breed guppies in a separate tank to provide a potential free food source for your axolotl.
Before putting any fish into the tank with your axolotl, you should keep them quarantined for at least 30 days. This way you can tell if they have an underlying disease, and you don’t transfer that to your axie.
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Cyprinidae
- Scientific Name: Danio Rerio
- Other Names: Zebrafish
- Adult Size: 4 to 6 inches
- Lifespan: 2 to 5 years
- Average Price Range: $2 to $10
- Where to buy: Most pet stores
Danios are another fish that can withstand the cooler temps axies require and will often become a snack for you Mexican Walking Fish. One thing in the danio’s favor is their speed.
They can quickly dart around the tank and out of the way of the slower axolotl. Danios also tend to stay mid to upper tank, so they won’t typically be in the “danger zone.”
Again, don’t get too attached, because when the danio lets its guard down, it will get snapped up and swallowed.
White Cloud Minnows
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Cyprinidae
- Scientific Name: Tanichthys albonubes
- Other Names: Canton, China danio, Cardinal fish
- Adult Size: 1 to 1½ inches
- Lifespan: 5 years or longer
- Average Price Range: $5 to $10
- Where to buy: Pet stores or Aquaticarts.com
These are another safe and inexpensive fish you can keep with your axolotl. There are only a few fish that can be kept with your axie that won’t pick on them, cause them stress, or are safe for your axie to eat.
Some fish have sharp barbs that can poke out and cause internal damage to your axolotl if it attempts to eat them. If you really want to keep fish with your axolotl, stick to these three for the aforementioned reasons.
Other Possible Temp Axolotl Mates
Here are some other options for possible roommates for an axolotl tank:
Adult Apple Snails
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Ampullariidae
- Scientific Name: Ampullariidae
- Other Names: Mystery snails, Spike-topped apple snail, Golden apple snail
- Adult Size: 2 to 6 inches
- Lifespan: 3 to 10 years
- Average Price Range: $4 to $30
- Where to buy: Most aquatic pet stores or Aquaticarts.com
Some species of snails can be a risk to keep with adult axolotls, because of the risk of impaction or choking on the hard shells. If an axolotl is able to swallow the snail, the shell could become lodged in the digestive tract causing impaction.
This can be life-threatening to the axolotl or require surgery to fix. And if the shell breaks, the sharp shards could cut the soft organs.
Apple snails are considered safe only if they are too big for your axolotl to get into its mouth. They work fine for small and juvenile axolotls, but the snails should be on the larger side for adult axies.
This doesn’t mean your axolotl still won’t attempt to snatch up the soft insides, so if you are going to get snails, be aware that you may end up having to replace them as well.
Another thing to be aware of when it comes to keeping more than one snail in your aquarium, if they start to breed, you will find yourself removing a lot of baby snails.
On the other hand, snails can be beneficial to keeping the tank clean. They like to crawl along the bottom while cleaning up waste and leftover food.
Even though they help to clean, you should still use a turkey baster or similar to remove any leftover food or axie waste as soon as you see it though.
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Family: Palaemonidae
- Scientific Name: Palaemonetes paludosus
- Other Names: Glass shrimp, Eastern glass shrimp
- Adult Size: 1 to 1½ inches
- Lifespan: Up to 1 year
- Average Price Range: $1 to $5
- Where to buy: Most pet stores, occasionally Amazon, Aquarium Fish Sale
Ghost shrimp are small, translucent, or sometimes completely transparent crustaceans that are excellent filter feeders.
They are inexpensive so you can get them in bulk. You’ll probably need to buy multiples because again, your axolotl will devour these bottom feeders.
Occasionally, because they are so transparent, the ghost shrimp will be able to hide in the vegetation or in corners away from your axie. The problem is that adult axolotls have an excellent sense of smell and will sniff out the shrimp.
These shrimp are fine for your amphibian to eat because their exoskeleton is very soft. Some owners feed axolotls shrimp as treats, so you won’t have to worry about if and when yours devours the shrimp you put in the tank.
Just follow the same quarantine procedures required for fish. Keep them separate for about 30 days to see if any diseases show up.
The Only Real Tank Mate
We come down to the only true tank mate for axolotls that can truly last as long as they do. The best tank mate for axolotls, aside from leaving them on their own, is another axie.
While axolotls will do perfectly fine by themselves all their life, if you are so determined, you can keep two axies together. But doing so comes with a few cautions because sometimes even this does not work out so well.
Babies can stay with other babies as long as they aren’t too crowded. But you’ll have to keep an eye on them because they will start to bully one another as they grow. It’s the same for juveniles, though they need more space, so you’ll have to thin them out even more.
You don’t want to put adults with juveniles or babies because adult axies have no problems resorting to cannibalism for no other reason than ‘because they can.’
We definitely don’t recommend putting any more than two axolotls together in one tank, which needs to be at the very minimum, a 40-gallon tank. Though for two, a wide bottom 50 or 55-gallon tank is more suited for them.
Even with all that space, the axolotls may not get along, so you will have to keep an eye on them for a little while to make sure they don’t start getting aggressive toward each other.
If they simply can’t put their differences aside and get along you will have to either separate them or put a divider between them.
Putting a male and female together will often net a ton of eggs. They can lay upwards of 1500 eggs at a time. Then you’ll have to figure out what to do with all the babies, so be prepared for that if you put both genders in one tank.
To tell the difference between males and females, you’ll have to look at their cloaca. Males often have a bump or raised ridge, while females are mostly flat. Unfortunately, unless you have done axolotl sexing for a while, it’s easy to be mistaken.
Can you put an axolotl with a betta?
In short, No. Betta’s are territorial and very aggressive. They will bully your axolotl if they are in the same tank. Besides, if the axolotl is larger, it could end up eating or at least attempting to eat the betta.
Can axolotls live with turtles?
Turtles and axolotls cannot, or at least should not be housed together. Aside from temperature differences, turtles can become territorial and bully or even severely injure your axolotl.
Can axolotls live with frogs?
Frogs and axolotls are not good tank mates. Frogs often need warmer temperatures than axolotls, and one or the other will end up being aggressive to the other one.
Some large frogs like Pacman frogs or bullfrogs will probably try to eat the axolotl. Another reason not to house these two together is frogs can carry diseases that can harm the axie.
There You Have It
Axolotls will be perfectly fine on their own. It’s just a human trait to see a lone person, or creature and assume that if it’s sitting by itself, it must be lonely.
The truth is, many wild animals do better on their own. Yes, they do have to interact with others from their species occasionally, but that’s usually during the mating season. Axolotls fall into that category because if you only have one, it will be perfectly happy all by itself.
With all the possible problems or inconveniences that can come with other tank mates, my personal opinion would be to leave the axolotl by itself. But that’s an individual decision, and many axolotl owners keep more than one together.
Axolotls can certainly live harmoniously with other mates as long as you do your research and look out for the health of your pet.
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