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Setting up first tank!

This is a discussion on Setting up first tank! within the Axolotl tank set-ups, filters, substrate forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; Hey guys! I'm planing on setting up my first axolotl tank and wanted to get your advice on some stuff. ...

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

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Old 2nd December 2016   #1 (permalink)
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Question Setting up first tank!

Hey guys! I'm planing on setting up my first axolotl tank and wanted to get your advice on some stuff.

Since I'm on a strict budget I'm starting with a simple tank but plan on improving it later. I'm from Oregon and if anyone thinks they could help that would be fantastic!!!

My basic setup plan is this;
-Find a 20 gallon long tank for $20 or less ( I've seen some but they were almost all the way to WA..)

-Find an axolotl for $20 or less (preferably pink)
-Order some marimo moss balls
-Buy a PH and an ammonia monitor, and something to remove chlorine/chloramine
-Buy a sponge filter for about $15
-Find either slate tiles or black sand for a substrate
-Build a hide of some sort
-Order salmon pellets (I noticed they were for sale in the forums but the post is old, hope they're still going!)

Soon as I can after setting up the basics I'd love to find some Java ferns, water lettuce (which are proving illusive), and some kind of moss, set up a drip system to keep the water cleaner, and otherwise just decorate and make a few hideouts.


I had a few questions about all this I was hoping someone could answer..

•Is National Geographic black sand safe for axolotls?

•Will monitoring temperature, PH and ammonia be enough? What else do I need?

•What is a good sponge-filter brand and are there any major problems with this type of filter?

•How long will 12oz of salmon pellets last an axolotl?

•It's okay to dig up earthworms for food right?

•Has anyone tried a drip filter with overflow?

•I can filter out chlorine but is there a way to filter chlorimine out of the water? This is for the drip filter.

•What is a good alternative to Java moss? My tank will be cool and low light and Java moss appears hard to keep in control.

•What are your favorite plants for axolotl tanks?

•Do you think the axolotl will be comfortable enough in a 20g long tank? It's the best I can fit..

•Is sand substrate hard to clean?

•I've heard Biofilter stones can really make a difference in water quality. Anyone tried these?



Any other advice for a newbie is much appreciated!
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Old 2nd December 2016   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up first tank!

Welcome to the forum! I know you will find a lot of good useful information here for your first axolotl. I will attempt to answer a few of your questions, the rest I will leave for more experienced hobbyists.

Your basic setup plan is a little.... out of order. I realize you weren't putting it in any specific "order" but figured I would help out.


1 - Find a 20 gallon long tank for $20 or less
2 - Buy a sponge filter for about $15
3 - Buy a PH and an ammonia monitor, and something to remove chlorine/chloramine
4 - Find either slate tiles or black sand for a substrate
5 - Order some marimo moss balls
6 - Build a hide of some sort
7 - Order salmon pellets
8 - Find an axolotl for $20 or less (preferably pink)

Now on to your actual questions!

•Is National Geographic black sand safe for axolotls? ~ I have heard and seen some bad occurrences of black sand being made out of crushed obsidian, so it can be a toss up of what you get with the purchase, if you aren't able to feel it ahead of time. When in doubt I would use pool filter sand or play sand. Personally, I use a bare bottom tank for my babies. It makes it easier to clean up, to see the poops and to do general maintenance. Also, with a 20g long you will likely be doing 50-100% water changes every week. It is easier to refill with a water hose or such if there is no substrate in the bottom to disturb, but again, that's just my opinion.

•Will monitoring temperature, PH and ammonia be enough? What else do I need? ~ You need an API Master Freshwater Liquid Test Kit. They are between $20-$30 at the local pet store (Pet Smart, PetCo, etc) and worth EVERY PENNY. They test for PH, High Range PH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. All of which is required to be tested in keeping axolotls. With this kit you will need no other testing equipment, and it will last you a very long time.

Each kit contains enough liquid for:
-250 pH tests
-160 High Range pH tests

-130 ammonia tests
-180 nitrite tests

-90 nitrate tests




•What is a good sponge-filter brand and are there any major problems with this type of filter? ~ Sponge filters are cheap and easy to make yourself, or you can purchase a ready made one. If this is your first time I would suggest purchasing one. You can get them off of eBay or Amazon for around $5-$20 depending on type and style of filter. I have the double barrel biomechanical filters and they worked great.

•How long will 12oz of salmon pellets last an axolotl? ~ I ordered 2lbs of Axolotl Pellets from Lexi Miller (32 oz) and they were shipped in 1/2 lb (8 oz) bags. I have 4 greedy little axolotls that are fat and sassy and in 2 months I still have about 27 oz left. My first 8 oz bag is still 1/4 full and the other 3 are stored in the freezer to keep them fresh. I would imagine a single axolotl would take at least 6 months to a year to go through 12 oz of pellets.


•It's okay to dig up earthworms for food right? ~ Absolutely! If you can confirm without a doubt that they are from an area that is pesticide free. Meaning no chemicals, no soapy water, no bug spray, etc.

•Has anyone tried a drip filter with overflow? ~ I have not, so I cannot comment.

•I can filter out chlorine but is there a way to filter chlorimine out of the water? This is for the drip filter. ~ I cannot comment. I use Seachem Prime that removes chlorine and chloramine from the water.

•What is a good alternative to Java moss? My tank will be cool and low light and Java moss appears hard to keep in control. ~ Anubias plants are great. I have several Anubias Nana in my tank, and they don't grow out of control like java moss can.

•What are your favorite plants for axolotl tanks? ~ Anubias Nana and Marimo Moss Balls are what I have with mine. I love them.

•Do you think the axolotl will be comfortable enough in a 20g long tank? It's the best I can fit.. ~ A single axolotl will be perfectly content and happy in a 20g long tank. More than 1 you would be pushing it.

•Is sand substrate hard to clean? ~ Some say yes, some say no. I found it to be a pain when I had sand in one of my tanks with fish. It wasn't any more difficult to clean than the gravel (gravel in a FISH TANK, not with axolotls), and I ended up getting rid of it.

•I've heard Biofilter stones can really make a difference in water quality. Anyone tried these? ~ I cannot comment on this.










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Old 5th December 2016   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up first tank!

Thank you so much for replying!!!

Sorry about the order! There's been so many increasingly scrambled lists on paper, forgot to reorder it...



I have heard and seen some bad occurrences of black sand being made out of crushed obsidian, so it can be a toss up of what you get with the purchase, if you aren't able to feel it ahead of time. When in doubt I would use pool filter sand or play sand. Personally, I use a bare bottom tank for my babies. It makes it easier to clean up, to see the poops and to do general maintenance. Also, with a 20g long you will likely be doing 50-100% water changes every week. It is easier to refill with a water hose or such if there is no substrate in the bottom to disturb, but again, that's just my opinion.

I will definitely do a double check on that sand! I like the look a lot so I'm willing to do the cleaning, but maybe I could do partial sand instead of filling the entire bottom..



You need an API Master Freshwater Liquid Test Kit. They are between $20-$30 at the local pet store (Pet Smart, PetCo, etc) and worth EVERY PENNY. They test for PH, High Range PH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. All of which is required to be tested in keeping axolotls. With this kit you will need no other testing equipment, and it will last you a very long time.

I found that kit nearby! It looks great but I'm curious why it uses separate PH tests instead of one full range test? Also is a nitrite test necessary after the cycling is over?
Petsmart does free water tests so I'd still get it tested for nitrite while cycling.



Sponge filters are cheap and easy to make yourself, or you can purchase a ready made one. If this is your first time I would suggest purchasing one. You can get them off of eBay or Amazon for around $5-$20 depending on type and style of filter. I have the double barrel biomechanical filters and they worked great.

Found one like that and will order it!


I ordered 2lbs of Axolotl Pellets from Lexi Miller (32 oz) and they were shipped in 1/2 lb (8 oz) bags. I have 4 greedy little axolotls that are fat and sassy and in 2 months I still have about 27 oz left. My first 8 oz bag is still 1/4 full and the other 3 are stored in the freezer to keep them fresh. I would imagine a single axolotl would take at least 6 months to a year to go through 12 oz of pellets.

I had no idea they'd last so long, that's great! How many pellets do you feed them each?



Absolutely! If you can confirm without a doubt that they are from an area that is pesticide free. Meaning no chemicals, no soapy water, no bug spray, etc

There's an herb garden out back that should be perfect. ^^


Anubias plants are great. I have several Anubias Nana in my tank, and they don't grow out of control like java moss can.

Anubis look lovely! I'll see if my local fish shop has them. :)



Thanks for the great answers! Love your avatar
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Old 5th December 2016   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up first tank!

Check out these articles:

Caudata Culture Axolotl Articles

Caudata Culture Articles - Water Quality

Axolotl Sanctuary

Axolotls: The Fascinating Mexican Axolotl and the Tiger Salamander



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Old 5th December 2016   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up first tank!


Thanks! I hadn't seen most of these, great articles!
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Old 5th December 2016   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Setting up first tank!

I guess I did get a little long winded last week, huh? Apologize for that!

Chris posted some really great links, you would do well to read up on things there as well.

To your questions regarding what "I" said though...

"I found that kit nearby! It looks great but I'm curious why it uses separate PH tests instead of one full range test? Also is a nitrite test necessary after the cycling is over?
Petsmart does free water tests so I'd still get it tested for nitrite while cycling."

The separate PH tests are for normal and high range. You can only test with a degree of certainty within a limited range and still be accurate, so they are broken up into two tests.
A Nitrite test is still valuable, even after your cycle is complete. You would still want to check it fairly regularly to make sure the cycle has not crashed. Personally I check all 4 tests twice a month minimum after I do 100% water changes.

"I had no idea they'd last so long, that's great! How many pellets do you feed them each?"
Well that can be tricky. lol I usually drop them on their heads and they gobble them up. One of mine is a greedy little gus and will eat up to 20 pellets at a time, while another one may only eat 5 pellets and ignore the rest. I siphon out uneaten food about 1-2 hours after feeding, so the picky one may eat more than that when I am not looking.

Thank you! I admit, I did not make the avatar, I found it somewhere and just thought it was perfect for this forum.

And believe me, you aren't the only one on a budget with an expensive hobby! lol Sometimes I decide if I want new clothes/shoes or something fish related! Only so much "play money" is allotted.



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