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What am I doing wrong?

This is a discussion on What am I doing wrong? within the Axolotl General Discussion forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; Hi everyone, I really need some help. I've owned 3 axies in the past year and all of them have ...

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Old 31st August 2013   #1 (permalink)
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Default What am I doing wrong?

Hi everyone, I really need some help. I've owned 3 axies in the past year and all of them have had the exact same fate (eventual death). I've come on here several times looking for advice but I haven't been able to identify the problem, so I will just describe every thing I've done and put in my tank and hopefully someone can shed some light. At first I had 2 juveniles who were both healthy for quite a while. At that point they were both in a 10 gallon together that had been cycled and it included: bare bottom, hides, artificial plants, waterfall filter. They both ate earthworms. Then one day my wild type started spitting out food. This progressed into completely rejecting food and he became very frail and skinny until he eventually passed away a couple months later. But my golden albino looked healthy as ever and ate fine. I then decided to add a sand substrate. I went with black "aquarium sand" from petco.my axie seemed to like this so I eventually got another lotl. This guy was very healthy for a few weeks until he too started spitting out/rejecting food and eventually died a few weeks later. At this point I decided I would just stick with my one golden albino who was healthy as ever. I also decided to get some live plants for my tank. I got a small bamboo and I grew an onion plant myself and there is something else I can't remember. The only change I made since then was moving my tank up to college with me. My axie seemed to take the trip well and continued eating but about a week ago he started rejecting worms and looking very skinny. I moved him to a separate container but he didn't even make it through the night. I usually do 10-15% water changes weekly if not more and when tested my ammonia, nitrite and nitrate have never been alarming, but my pH has always tested high. Anywhere from 7.7-8.2. I always use Prime water conditioner when adding water, I use canadian mini nightcrawler worms from wal mart. I have fallen in love with axolotls but I don't want to get another one without figuring out what is going wrong. Thanks in advance to anyone who reads all of this and offers help!



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Old 31st August 2013   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

What a mystery! At first the only thing that stood out to me was the 10 gallon for two axxies - really they need around 10 gals each - but I don't know how big they were, and that shouldn't have resulted in them gradually losing interest in food. The black aquarium sand has been mentioned before, but then again that shouldn't cause eventual death unless he was swallowing it. It's just weird that they all seem to have succumbed to the same thing...which makes me either suspect the tank or the water supply, although you said you moved your tank to College. The only other thing I would suspect is possibly the PH but apparently I've heard they tolerate PH well and I'm sure you would have seen other symptoms.

What I would do is ensure your tank isn't old or that the sealant isn't rotten. Failing that you might need to strip down your entire tank including the filter sponges and begin cycling again in case it's a bacterial infection. Another idea might be to ring your local water company and see if there's anything in the water that might have caused them to get ill.

I'm sorry you've had such rotten luck, but I hope you find out what the cause is. I know it's upsetting but you could ask a vet to perform an autopsy on your axxie and that would tell you for sure what your last axxie died of.

I hope this helps!



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Old 31st August 2013   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

Thanks for the reply! Yes it is indeed frustrating. I also forgot to mention that my water stays at about 68F. My tank was bought new and it seems to be in great shape. I think I will probably strip it down and basically start over, but I would sure like to know the culprit.



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Old 31st August 2013   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

Sorry about your axies! My thought was about the food itself.
Were you always getting the worms from the same place? My albino Fen eats like crazy, but when I decided to farm worms myself he started eating less and eventually rejected food for over a week straight. (while my other axie with him thought the worms were super tasty) When I went back to buying my worms by the tub, he started gobbling them up like he'd never stopped.
Hope you can figure something out and have better luck in the future!



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Old 31st August 2013   #5 (permalink)
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No problem Senshuo! I hope you have better luck in the future.



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Old 31st August 2013   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

That is quite the mystery. Other than what everyone else has said, I would think that maybe your axolotls got some sort of illness from the food. It's always a bit if-y buying any sort of food from Walmart, and the only kind I've come across that's been proven to be safe for axolotls is DMF Bait Co. I wouldn't go with any worms from Canada because they're bred with chemicals and other nasty things. If the container says "not safe for human (or fish) consumption" don't feed it to your pets. I'm really sorry you had to lose your little 'lotls. Best of luck if you choose to have another in the future!



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Old 1st September 2013   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

You're probably right about the wal mart worms. But I always assumed they'd be safe since people use them to catch fish that they eat, but I'll definitely get food from elsewhere next time!



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Old 1st September 2013   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

You might just be able to dig some worms up from outside. That is, if you're sure that your soil isn't contaminated with any chemicals. Other than that, you could ask around at pet shops and they might have some ideas for you.



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Old 1st September 2013   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

I'm sorry for your losses. I too have lost an axolotl who just stopped eating and slowly wasted away, despite everything else being as it should be, and even trying different food. I hope you find the culprit, I'd like to hear about it if you do, perhaps it was the same thing that ailed my axie.

Have you tried getting your worms from a petstore rather than a chain store?



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Old 2nd September 2013   #10 (permalink)
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There may also be online specialists that offer worms specifically bred for prize fish and pets - in the UK we have 'Yorkshire Worms,' all bred without pesticides and chemicals, and you can order them and have them at your door within 2 days.

I'm not sure if the US has something similar, but it's worth a shot. I couldn't use the worms from any of my local bait shops because most weren't certain whether the worms were organic - and a few were sure they weren't. Even my LFS which also breeds amphibians doesn't sell earthworms, although it does sell waxworms, crickets and other live foods.



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Old 7th September 2013   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

Hi everyone, I forgot to mention that when my last axie died he appeared to be a dark orange almost red color when I found him. I have heard that this can sometimes be because of nitrate problems. Is there anything that might have caused a nitrate spike in the water?



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Old 7th September 2013   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

If it would be a nitrate spike, it could have been caused by putting too many axolotls in a small tank. You could have put too much on the bio-load.

First off, if you want several axolotls and not just one, I'd say... get a bigger tank.

As for food, rather than buying them from a store, ask if anyone near you breeds worms. That way, you can ask them what they use to breed them.

And if you can't find decent worms, you could always feed your axolotls pellets instead. They're perfectly fine with those :)
You do have to clean up half an hour after feeding them though. Pellets can be messy, but hey, if it keeps your axolotls fed...

What also helps in a cycle... plants. They suck up the nitrates and keep algae in check. Floaters (often used in ponds) don't contribute to the oxygen levels, but again suck up a lot of nitrates. It really does help.

When you go for plants though, make sure you tie them to something, like a piece of driftwood. You can just tie them with some fishing line; it's aquarium safe. If you don't tie them axolotls have a tendency to uproot them
Of course, you could always just leave them in the jar they came in. Some people do it that way :)

Also; make sure the decorations you use in your aquarium are safe. I've heard horror stories of how decorations broke down in the water and basically poisoned the entire tank. If you don't trust it, you could always go for the natural look or be creative and make your own decorations :)

Best of luck setting up something new, let us know how it goes and don't be afraid to ask questions :)



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Old 7th September 2013   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

well it was just one axolotl that I had in my 20 gallon so I don't think it was overload. But it's interesting that you say that about decorations, I have 3 live plants in my tank and one artificial one. It's sort of a plasticy waxy type material. Do you think that could have broken down over time? (You can kind of see it in my avi, the pinkish colored thing)



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Old 7th September 2013   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

Plastic plants are fine. It's more the sculpted aquarium decorations that can be bad.

That white hide your goldie was in, what was that made of?
If you're not sure, you can always make your own hides.

Also, the filter you use... What kind is it, and what do you put in there? I myself have a multi-layered filter from Juwel. It looks like this:

Click the image to open in full size.

In the past, I used all those layers, including the carbon sponge (the black one). Carbon sponges have to be switched out regularly, or they can leak toxins into your water. Also; I find that they're not really necessary. I stopped using them and replaced them with a regular sponge (the blue ones). I no longer have to worry about switching them out, and my axies' gills have actually grown in length and have become "fluffier". I completely prefer the non-carbon method now.



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Old 7th September 2013   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

That little hide is made of a ceramic I think. It's called a "moon rock". And I use an Aqeuon quiet flow 20 filter with carbon cartridges. How often are they supposed to be replaced?



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Old 7th September 2013   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

I'd say once every two weeks to once a month.
I've known people to replace it every time they did a water change - to be on the safe side.

I still prefer the non-carbon approach though. My water has never been better :)
And it's much less costly.


And the hide is safe - ceramics are perfect for an aquarium. No worries there.



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Old 7th September 2013   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: What am I doing wrong?

Hmm I might have to give the sponge idea a try. Thanks so much for your help!



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Old 7th September 2013   #18 (permalink)
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No problem :)

Before you try though; make sure you empty your tank. Clean everything, fake plants, ornaments, anything... Only then should you start up a new cycle. To be on the safe side. If anything bad happens again, you should post on the sick axolotl forum and post all your water readings. And preferably include pictures.


Best of luck!



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Old 8th September 2013   #19 (permalink)
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Everyone else kind of said most of it already, but after you mentioning the redness and also the many variations of ph(the ph should stay pretty constant) i am just wondering, do you ever add aquarium salt to your tank?

And could you give us an example of what your water levels were at? And what testing method you used(strips or liquid)? Im not convinced that the water levels were axie quality. 10-15% water changes weekly may not of been enough to keep the nitrates in check and any level of ammonia and nitrite is not good. These toxins if left there will slowly poison your axie.



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