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I have almost no idea what I am doing.

This is a discussion on I have almost no idea what I am doing. within the Axolotl tank set-ups, filters, substrate forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; I'm a new axie owner who recently purchased two juvenile axies online along with a tank and filter. (I've had ...

Axolotl tank set-ups, filters, substrate Discussions on tanks, temperature, filters, gravel, lights etc.

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Old 29th December 2015   #1 (permalink)
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Exclamation I have almost no idea what I am doing.

I'm a new axie owner who recently purchased two juvenile axies online along with a tank and filter. (I've had them for less than a month) I was informed that they were easy to keep and was directed to a few posts which told me to keep the water around 18 degrees Celsius and feed them everyday etc etc..
Not going to lie, I didn't do a lot of research, because these posts seemed to sum it up for me.

Only today have I realised how much danger I could be putting my axolotls in.
No I don't mean I have been harming them, starving them, sending them to their peril or anything like that. I mean that the conditions they live might not be adequate for them.

I have never done a water test and I didn't de-chlorinate the water. I hope that these aren't the worst conditions an axolotl can be in as they are eating well, aren't stressed and seem to be contempt with their surroundings. Only now am I aware how bad their water could be with nitrate levels and ammonia levels.

After the Christmas holidays, I have gathered up all of the left over money I didn't spend on Christmas gifts and I am planning to go out and splurge all of it on completely redoing everything and anything to do with my axies and their tank.
Since my previous lacking knowledge, I looked high and low for what I need to do and get, however some sources seem to contradict one another or there is no clear or definitive answer.

I have changed their diet from blood worms, to axie pellets and earth worms. I clean their tank out by 50% every week. I ordered a sponge filter that hasn't arrived yet (was supposed to around the 22nd). But I know that is it barely half way there to keeping them happy and safe.

I have some pretty newby questions that I need help with!
Q1: I have no idea how old they are, but they are less than 4" in length (approx 3.5"). I believe my tank is 12L (UK) and I don't really know whether this is too small for them? I really want to upgrade my tank to something bigger with more floor space and to something that when they get bigger, I wont need to upgrade again. What size would be good, anything around 22L, 25L, 35L etc?
Q2: What is tank cycling and how do I do it? I read that cycling a tank properly with plants and etc will help lower pollution levels and reduce how often you have to clean the tank.
Q3: What are the different levels of chemicals that need to be in the tank to keep the water safe?
Q4: Can I use any real plants as decor and cycling, or is there some types that I have to stay clear off?
Q5: Are Axolotl pellets (main diet) and earth worms (as treats) a good diet for them? I tired blood worms and they were really messy and went off pretty quickly.
Q6: Will any fine sand do, or does it have to be a certain substrate?
Q7: Would any old fish tank kit do to keep levels under check and remove unwanted chemicals and purify the water? Is there any recommend brands or any chemicals (like aloe vera) to stay clear off?
Q8: Can I over feed juvenile axies? Some days they just keep on eating whatever I put in there and they gobble it all up and they are so huge their back legs barely touch the floor. (They can still manoeuvre fine)
Q9: How often should I be cleaning their filter/water?
Q10: Any recommendations?

These are all the questions I can muster from the top of my head, please ask me any questions about my current set up!

I'm sorry for my incompetence!



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Old 30th December 2015   #2 (permalink)
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Default Hopefully this answers all your questions

A1: You tank is okay in the (very) short term but you will find they are going to grow quickly and they will soon outgrow this and possibly attack each other. I recommend getting around 100 litres (50l per axolotl) which isn't going to be cheap but this is really important.

A2: Tank cycling is where you build up the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium so it can break down waste and stop the water from becoming toxic. When I got my first axolotl I didn't know much about it. One of the easiest ways to do it now you already have the axolotls is (once you get your filter and some dechlorinator) do 40-50% water changes every 4 days or so to keep the levels down and within a couple of weeks your tank will be cycled. The first thing you need though is the water dechlorinator because not only is the chlorine harmful to your axolotls but it kills beneficial bacteria so as long as you don't have it you aren't getting any closer to a safe environment. You can pick it up cheap from pets at home for example

A3: Ammonia and nitrites are dangerous; cycling your tank converts them to nitrates which are comparatively safe and are taken out with water changes. Once a tank is sufficiently cycled levels of ammonia and nitrites should be at 0 by itself. Weekly water changes reduce the nitrates. The only chemical you need to put in the water is the dechlorinator, just follow the instructions on the bottle.

A4: Real plants are fine if your aquarium has lighting but low light plants are better because axolotls are better of out of the direct light so you'll need plenty of shade and hiding places. I recommend fake plants as live plants don't help cycling and are more for show and if you have the lights on frequently you're more likely to have algae problems. (also you almost always get snails in your tanks from the plants which are impossible to get rid of)

A5: Yes this diet is good

A6: Get aquarium sand as it has less dust but you must still rinse it thoroughly in a bucket else you'll have a very murky tank!. Any aquatics centre or large pets shop like pets at home will sell it.

A7: The only chemical you need is dechlorinator most come with a little bit of aloe vera but it makes little difference so just get the best value one. Your filter (when you get it soon hopefully) and your water changes is what will purify the water once you start using dechlorinated water

A8: Just feed them a fairly small amount every day. Don't try to feed them until they stop eating.

A9: Once the tank is cycled (so after a couple of weeks of doing frequent changes with dechlorinated water or if you get a test kit when ammonia and nitrites read 0) 25-35% water changes are adequate and you can just rinse the stuff from the filter media in a bucket of water you removed from the tank for the water change (Not the tap water because chlorine will kill the beneficial bacteria)

A10:
The best thing for you to do in my opinion is find another home for one of your axolotls. Then it'll be less likely that you'll have problems with them fighting and you'll be able to get a smaller aquarium so water changes and maintenance in general will be easier but ultimately it's up to you.

You're going to have no problems with tank temperatures in the UK as long as the water temperature is below 24ºc which will probably only happen if you put it next to a radiator or if there's a heatwave (if so you can use frozen water bottles to keep the temp down)

Your top priority is getting water dechlorinator!! And a bucket and syphon for water changes if you don't have one. When you get the dechlorinator add it to your aquarium for the recommended dose straight away and when you do the water changes put the right amount for the amount of water for each bucket of water you add.

Until you get your filter it's essential that you do large water changes with the dechlorinator changing 60%ish of the water every few days because at the moment anything breaking down in your aquarium is creating toxic ammonia and until the bacteria can build up which mainly happens in the filter there is nothing to break it down.

Here's a few things I recommend you get if you don't already have them:
  • Thermometer
  • Bucket
  • Aquarium syphon
  • Test kit (the 'master test kits' work out cheaper in the long run than the strips

One final tip is to keep doing research and reading up on how to care for your axies. axolotl.org and this forum are extremely useful; don't be afraid to ask questions!!

If there's anything I've missed or anything else you want to know just message me or post another question (best to put it in the general discussion section for the quickest reply)




Last edited by Nano; 30th December 2015 at 04:01.
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Old 30th December 2015   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: I have almost no idea what I am doing.

It is good you are now doing your research :). I will try to answer your questions.


Q1: I have no idea how old they are, but they are less than 4" in length (approx 3.5"). I believe my tank is 12L (UK) and I don't really know whether this is too small for them? I really want to upgrade my tank to something bigger with more floor space and to something that when they get bigger, I wont need to upgrade again. What size would be good, anything around 22L, 25L, 35L etc?

I am not exactly sure on their age but at a guess, around 4-6 months? Someone may correct me on this if I am way off the mark.

You will want to upgrade asap as they tend to grow quite fast and 12 litres is quite small. Generally it advised that tank size should be 10 gallons (~37litres) per axolotl but I also like to recommend by floor space as well. I would recommend at least one foot per axolotl plus one foot extra for plants, hides, ornaments etc. So for two axolotls, I would get a 3 foot long tank.

Q2: What is tank cycling and how do I do it? I read that cycling a tank properly with plants and etc will help lower pollution levels and reduce how often you have to clean the tank.

Cycling is a very important component of maintaining good water quality and living conditions for aquatic life. Have a read through the links below.

Scales Tails Wings and Things, What is Aquarium Cycling? How to Cycle your Tank

Caudata Culture Articles - Cycling

There are two methods of cycling. You can cycle your tank with your axolotls or you can do a fishless cycling method. I would recommend the fishless cycling method as it easier and you are not going to potentially expose your axolotls to harmful levels of ammonia or nitrite during the cycling process. Below is a link on fishless cycling. If you choose this method, you will need to keep your axolotls in a separate tub of cool, clean. dechlorinated water and change 100% of the water in the tub daily until your tank is fully cycled and you can return them to the tank.

The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling - Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community

If you would prefer to cycle the tank with your axolotls in the tank, you will need to be very diligent to test the parameters and perform water changes frequently to ensure levels of ammonia and nitrite are maintained below 0.25ppm. A cycled tank will have zero ammonia, zero nitrite and a reading of nitrate. Once cycled, you will then need to perform regular water changes (I would recommend weekly) to maintain nitrate below 40ppm as higher levels of nitrate can be toxic.

Q3: What are the different levels of chemicals that need to be in the tank to keep the water safe?

All you need is a dechlorinator that removes chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals. I would be cautious of using PH chemicals or other chemicals as axolotls are sensitive and some are toxic to axolotls. You should dechlorinate water before you add the water to your tank.

Q4: Can I use any real plants as decor and cycling, or is there some types that I have to stay clear off?

Plants are perfectly fine to have. I would lean towards plants that do well in low light and cold water conditions. Java fern and Anubias are a couple of popular choices. It is good to have a couple of places for axolotl to hide in. Make sure any décor you place in the tank does not have sharp edges and is safe for aquarium use.

Q5: Are Axolotl pellets (main diet) and earth worms (as treats) a good diet for them? I tired blood worms and they were really messy and went off pretty quickly.

Earthworms and axolotl pellets are good choices. Earthworms are a very nutritious option :)

Q6: Will any fine sand do, or does it have to be a certain substrate?

Fine, silica based sand is best for sand choices. Make sure you stir the sand up regularly to prevent noxious gas pockets building up. Also, it is best to feed axolotls in a feeding dish or hand feed above the ground to prevent them consuming the substrate. I use play sand in my tank and I am quite happy with it.

Q7: Would any old fish tank kit do to keep levels under check and remove unwanted chemicals and purify the water? Is there any recommend brands or any chemicals (like aloe vera) to stay clear off?

I am not sure what you mean by fish tank kit but I would be very cautious using chemicals as some are quite toxic to axolotls. Read up on cycling as this will be most important way of maintaining good water quality.

Q8: Can I over feed juvenile axies? Some days they just keep on eating whatever I put in there and they gobble it all up and they are so huge their back legs barely touch the floor. (They can still manoeuvre fine)

It is difficult to overfeed juvenile axolotls. They will usually stop snapping at food or spit the food out if they have had enough. If their back end is floating a little, it may be they just need to do a poo.

Q9: How often should I be cleaning their filter/water?

Test your parameters for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and PH at least once a week once the cycle is established (much more frequently, even daily whilst your tank is in the process of establishing a cycle) and do water changes accordingly to keep ammonia and nitrite below 0.25ppm and nitrate below 40ppm. Depending on your filter, I would give it a gentle rinse in tank water every couple of weeks. Do not use straight tap water as this will kill off the beneficial bacteria and crash your cycle.

Q10: Any recommendations?

Make sure you take your time to read up on aquarium cycling as it is important for maintaining good water quality and health of your axolotls. If you are unsure or have questions, feel free to ask. Also, have a read through the forum and threads as this is a good way of learning and also the website link below as this has a lot of useful information :)

Axolotls: The Fascinating Mexican Axolotl and the Tiger Salamander



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Old 1st January 2016   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: I have almost no idea what I am doing.

Thank you both for your help!
I was going to march my way to the pet store yesterday, but it was closed for New Years so I'm going to make my way down to it again on Monday.

I've made a check list of:
  • 60-70 UK Litre Tank.
  • Thermometer.
  • Master Tank Test Kit or equivalent.
  • At least two caves/hideouts.
  • Dechlorinator.
  • Aquarium sand.
  • Perhaps investing in a new filter because the one I ordered hasn't arrived yet. (Also my current one doesn't seem to be very sufficient and filtering and/or pumping anything)
  • Various bits and bobs that will probably come with the new tank anyway. (lighting, cables, pump, net etc)
  • Any decorations alongside caves.

I will be keeping them in their current tank until I have fully cycled the newer one, however if need be I will attempt to cycle them in the tank, but I'd preferably not since I am fearful that I will stress them out somehow.

Also how would I go about filtering through the sand? Would this just require copious amount of sieving and water changes in a bucket?



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Old 2nd January 2016   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: I have almost no idea what I am doing.

To clean sand place in a tub, have a garden hose at the bottom leave the water running for a few hours to remove lighter particles, stir occasionally. If you fail to clean the sand properly you will end up doing a lot of water changes initially as the water will be very cloudy, try to get prewashed sand its cleaner.



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Old 3rd January 2016   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: I have almost no idea what I am doing.

As a fellow newbie, I really appreciate this thread and all the answers.



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Old 3rd January 2016   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: I have almost no idea what I am doing.

For plants, I really like having water lettuce in the tank. It's a pond plant and can handle colder temperatures as well as being top floating so it shades the tank and won't get uprooted by the axies. It also looks really pretty as most plants grow from the bottom so it adds another dimension to the tank. Don't forget about hides either.

It's really brave to admit mistakes. We all make some in the beginning so do your best to get the dechlorinator, siphon, thermometer, etc. and keep an eye on them. Axolotls are hardy so as long as you work on it now they'll be fine. Ask as many questions as you need; everyone is here to help take the best care possible of axies and they are a great resource.

Good luck!



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