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Getting my First Lotl!

This is a discussion on Getting my First Lotl! within the Axolotl tank set-ups, filters, substrate forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; Hello there, as you can see I'm new to this site, and to keeping aquatic animals, and I'm extremely nervous ...

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

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Old 4th May 2013   #1 (permalink)
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Default Getting my First Lotl!

Hello there, as you can see I'm new to this site, and to keeping aquatic animals, and I'm extremely nervous about getting my first axolotl tomorrow, and I'd like to get some advice and opinions on my questions and all that. At first I was nervous to ask, but this seems like a wonderful community, and I look forward to hopefully becoming fairly regular on it :)

Anyway, tomorrow I'm getting an axolotl from an expo, unfortunately I'm going to be picking the axie up before I can cycle my tank :/
Not too happy about this, but I want to make sure the transition for the little guy is going to be as smooth and safe as possible regardless.

I'm going to do daily water changes of 20% or more, though I was wondering if I should add the conditioners in to the fresh water being added, and how much should I add? I'll also be doing spot cleaning, as well as keeping a few feeder fish in there to hopefully help with the cycling. Is this alright for the axolotl? Or would it be safer to keep it in a small plastic container or tank with 100% daily water changes while it cycles?

Also, where can I get a master fresh water tester kit, I have been having trouble finding them in pet stores around where I live.

How to I safely introduce my axolotl to the tank upon getting it? I know the change in water type and quality can be a shock to the system and stress them out.

Right now I have a 10 gal, hoping to get a juvenile axolotl, are juveniles okay for a beginner to raise or should I go for an adult? Any tips on raising a juvenile?
If the tank starts looking too small, I'll upgrade to either a 15 or 20 gallon later, but I know the general rule of thumb is 10 per ax so hopefully it will fit him comfortably.

I have a couple hides, a bunch of plants, sand as the substrate, and some large rocks in there for decoration. Rocks are smooth, and I don't think there is going to be a risk of them being swallowed, but I'm going to keep a close eye on that and remove them if they look small enough to eat.

In there I have 4 marimo moss balls, so from what I've read that should help with the cycling? I also heard axolotl like to play with them as well so hopefully they will do well in there. Will the moss balls be enough to work through the cycling, should I be doing other things?

Temperature is something I've been having a bit of an issue with, its staying in the 20.x zone, and I can't seem to get it to lower any more. My room is in the basement so that isn't an issue, and it's out of the way of direct sun. I know 20C isn't necessarily a bad temp for them, but I would love to ideally get it around 16. I know using a fan can help, does anyone know of a brand that can clip onto the side of your tank, or is small but higher up? There is like 3, 4 inches between the tank top and the bottom of a cupboard, so its going to be hard squeezing a fan in there.

I have a low powered pump in there right now, adding more oxygen to the water since I have the marimo in there eating some of it up, and the pump is also helping to cycle since there is the good bacteria in it. I have a sponge filter ordered, its arriving on the 8th, I have a few questions regarding that. Will the oxygen still be circulating around the tank once I attach the pump to the filter? How often should I clean the two things? And is there a good way to quiet filters down a bit, the one I got, had wonderful reviews for how good it was, and easy on sensitive animals such as fry and all that, but it was described as very loud.

No pet stores around where I live had any earthworms at this moment in time, one was planning on ordering them for me, but for now I have red wigglers. I was told that they are even better for axolotl then earthworms, but I've never heard of them for axies online, and can't seem to find information about them. Anyone got any advice for me on that?

Regarding feeding as well, I'd like to feed a variety, what kind of pellets are best for lotls, and if I'm going to give em a pinkie mouse from time to time, how little should I do it? I know it's not an ideal thing to give them often.

And returning to the topic of earth worms, once I get my hands on some, I'd like to start breeding. I'd love to know how to go about doing that. I've heard you basically just get a big tub with a lid so it's dark, and fill it with a dirt filled with vitamins and such from a garden center. Do I have to do anything else? How many should I start with? How long do I wait until they are established enough to start using them as feeders without worrying about using them all up? Any smell? I have a pretty chill cold cellar room in my basement, would that be an ideal place for the worms tub?

Still, in the end I'm most worried about the whole cycling issue. I don't want the axolotl to get hurt or stressed too badly. I had bought 4 red rosy minnows to test the waters a bit before I picked up the axie, but one died before I arrived home, and the other 3 died in the tank. I am terrified that the water is that bad of quality that the fish died. Part of me thinks there was something wrong with the minnows before I added them, since one died before being introduced. Maybe the trip home was too much for them? But still it worries me that none survived in my tank. Any thoughts on that issue? Should I get more minnows to help with the cycling and for feeders for the lotl later on? Or leave it without for now?

Also if anything I described sounds wrong, please, please correct me, I want to do this right the first time, and have a happy, health axolotl. Any other advice you can give me is greatly appreciated as well!

Thanks in advance!
-Maven



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Old 4th May 2013   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

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Here's a bad quality picture of my set up.



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Old 4th May 2013   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Welcome

If I were you, I'd keep the feeder fish separate if you don't have the cycled tank. I'm just wondering if the axie and the fish are all in one tank all the waste would build up ammonia. It's probably best to either put just the fish in the tank to cycle it, or just put the axolotl in. I got a juvenile axie as my first. To be honest it probably doesn't make much of a difference. It's just nice being able to watch a young axie grow up.

Make sure you add dechlorinator to the water each time you do a water change. It's good to let the water sit for 24 - 48 hours too before you add it to the tank. The freshwater test kits should be available online. I can't really help with good websites since I'm in the UK, but I bought mine from amazon. The quicker you get one the easier it will be, they're the best tool when it comes to keeping axolotls.

Adding the axie is easy. The shop will most likely put it in a plastic bag, like they do with fish. You just allow the bag to float on the top of the water for 20 minutes or so for the water temperature to stabilize. Then you can add a little of the tank water to the bag for a few more minutes, after that the axie can be let loose!

I'm having temperature issues too. 20c isn't too bad, but obviously you don't want it to get much higher than that. I just bought a clip on fan for my tank off ebay. It's not arrived yet but I can review it once I've got it going. It looks quite convenient because it clips onto the tank and is quite flat. It is like this one http://www.amazon.co.uk/Azoo-Aquariu...words=azoo+fan

I have a sponge filter in my tank. You just attach the air pump tubing onto the filter and it's good to go! I've found air pumps can be really noisy so I just sit mine on top of a cheap household sponge and it's 10x quieter.

Earthworms are the best diet for axies. I've never seen anyone feed or recommend pinkie mice on here. Red wrigglers would be fine, but I've heard that they can taste quite foul to an axie. It's worth a try, if they spit it out don't be alarmed lol. If you get a juvenile you'll have to chop the worm up to around the width of it's head size so it can swallow it. They really do love wriggly worms though!
My earthworms have started to reproduce. I basically just stuck them in a tub with soil, add water when they need it and chuck in worm feed. A few weeks later there were loads of worms eggs in there. I seem to go through them too quickly though so I keep buying more.

Hope this helps.



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Old 5th May 2013   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

I see what you mean about the fish. Definitely want to keep the tank's water as safe as possible. I'm actually kind of worried though, I heard a few hours ago that often minnows and feeder fish from big name pet stores will have illnesses, and the ones I had in my tank died. Is the water contaminated? Should I change it before putting the axie in?

I was able to find a master strip test pack, so even though its not as accurate, at least it's better than nothing, I'll be using it until I a better water tester comes in. Any tips for getting the most accurate reading possible on these things?

Thanks so much for the link, that looks like it is perfect for what I need and the space I have. I'd love to hear how it is once you've tested it out!

Ah a regular sponge underneath, that's really clever. I saw someone do that with a pillow with an outside of tank pump, didn't think it could be applied to my set up. I'll definitely try that thanks!

Haha alright, I'll give the wigglers a shot. Still I want to get onto earthworms since everyone says they are the best. Thanks so much for the breeding tips! Hopefully I can get a colony going soonish Do you know which pellet foods are best for lotls?

Also about my tank size, even though a lot of sites say a 10 gal is good for their entire lives, I'm noticing a lot of people also say its too small. If a 10 gallon is only barely suitable for an axolotl, I'd love to know at what size you think is the best time to move up to a 20, I'd love to give my axie as much room to swim as possible! :)

Thank you so much! This helped so much!



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Old 5th May 2013   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Hi whereabouts are u? Are u going to the Toronto Reptile expo to get ur lotl? Is there a Big Al's near u? They should have the master kits there, but they won't have it at the expo since they tend to concentrate on the reptiles at the expo if that's where ur going.

I think U've misunderstood snuggly time's mention of the sponge filter, I've attached a pic of one of mine, hopefully it shows up.

I use frozen bloodworms mostly as their food, but I've fed my biggest one red wigglers before and she's eaten them fine, if u cut them up just pat them down with a paper towel before feeding to take some of the bitter secretions off the worm.

The recommended size of tank is 10 gallons for an adult, but of course the bigger the better, just depends on ur space and if u want more lotls later on. But I think that 10 is sufficient for a Juvie when they're small, I think too big a tank would overwhelm a small lotl.

Have fun at the expo, I'll be at the one in Toronto

P.s. sorry the pic's sideways
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Old 5th May 2013   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

I'm in St.Catharines, so yep, I'm driving up to Toronto to get my axie. Good detective work haha :) No Big Al's near me, at least to my knowledge, though. Do you think there might be a chance someone there has a masters kit?

Yeah I figured I might have, like I said, this is my first time with an aquatic animal. Thanks so much for the picture, I think I understand now haha.

Oh that's a really good tip for the wigglers, thanks! Hopefully I can make them palatable then XD

Yeah I'll definitely go a bit bigger then later on. But it's good I've got a small one for the younger axie though.

Thank you! You have fun too! Thanks for all the help!



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Old 5th May 2013   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Dont buy a axolotl at big als they take very poor care of them. The big als here in Vaughan takes such poor care of them that Axolotl Canada has refused to sell to them.

I recommend you look on kijiji where you can go to the persons house and see the breeding process and everything such as the tank they are housed in to the food they are fed or go to a reptilia ( they have good axies there) or go to Axolotl Canada and they will deliver one right to your house and even help you set everything up plus a free care booklet



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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

I meant getting the master freshwater test kit from Big Al's not the lotl. Do I have pet smart near u Kinn? They should have it in the fish section, at least the one near me has it it, If they don't have it there, ask them to order it in for u.

I got my first one at the reptile expo auction last year, a black melanoid, she's (i think its a she at least) getting really big now. Then of course I just had to to a second one, this time I got a leuistic from Lydia a couple months ago, she was also nice enough to give me some eggs that were just laid to try and hatch myself. Now I've got about 18 juvies, will keep 2, an albino and a white melanoid, am trying to sell the rest on the forum and going to see if I can trade for a golden with axolotl Canada.
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Sorry it won't let me post more then one pic at a time, here's my black melanoid, the one b4 is the leuistic.
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Old 5th May 2013   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Thats a very nice axolotl. Not the black dark axolotl i was expecting when you said melaniod but still a very beautiful axolotl.



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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Awww I can't believe I missed the reptile show. I always learn about things the day of =P

I'm looking to buy an axolotl in the summer so I'd love to hear your adventures, Kinn



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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kinn View Post
I see what you mean about the fish. Definitely want to keep the tank's water as safe as possible. I'm actually kind of worried though, I heard a few hours ago that often minnows and feeder fish from big name pet stores will have illnesses, and the ones I had in my tank died. Is the water contaminated? Should I change it before putting the axie in?
!

If the tank is not cycled already anyway I would definitely just change all the water out and remove the fish. Most big name pet stores put their fish directly in to the display tanks when they receive them. If one of the fish has a disease all the fish will probably all end up with a disease. In the future the best way to do it is to have a separate tank called a 'quarantine' tank that you put any new fish you have bought into and observe them for a week or so. If they don't die/have any weird behaviors/are taking food properly than move them into your main tank. Worst case scenario - you can't afford another tank setup and you just use a tub and change the water everyday. One bad fish can wipe out an entire tank.



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Old 7th May 2013   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Hey sorry for the late reply guys, I've been busy caring for my new little guy.

Anyway, I ended up picking up a young leucistic axie from Axolotl Canada, looks to be about 2 inches, 2.5 inches. Named her Ambrose, which means 'infinity', and I feel like that relates to how much they look like little dragons, since many dragons in fairy tales will live for 'infinity'. Not to mention they are called water dragons, and Toothless was based off of axolotls.

Anyway, getting the actual axie made me much less worried, as she seems very at home in her new tank already. Ambrose hasn't displayed any signs of stress, no gill curling or tail curling, and loves to explore and move around. She seems to love looking at her reflection, as she does it most of the time, though I'm kind of worried she thinks its a predator, since this morning she tried sizing it up, by filling her mouth with water or something.

The pump is blowing on her a little harder than expected, but it's near the top and doesn't really disturb anything but the top of the tank, and like I said, Ambrose isn't displaying any signs of stress. In fact, she seems to enjoy the current, as she swims toward it on purpose all the time, and goes still and rides it around, and stays towards the top of the tank as much as possible. Is this common for a young axie?

I fed her blood worms yesterday, and Ambrose ate like a little piggy. I love how you can see their insides while they are this young, it's really interesting how I can see the food slowly being digested! And I love watching her little heart beat! Though the blood worms were incredibly messy, I'm worried I didn't clean them all up and there are still a few hiding around. Any tips to keeping the mess in one location? Should I shut down the pump while feeding? Would a shallow bowl help? Or keeping them in place by feeling her directly with tweezers? Should I feed her every 2 or 3 days?

Ambrose warmed up to me pretty much instantly when I bought her, I was holding her little tank she came in, and she looked up at me as I walked around, and when I passed her off to my friend so I could use my hands to buy fuzzies for my snake, she tried to swim toward me. She loves to come up to the side of the tank and say hi whenever I come over, and when I stick my fingers in the tank she comes up and rubs along me.

I've been keeping up with the 20% water changes every day until the tank cycles, and she seems more than fine. Spot cleaned up any poop or specks I see. I have the Seachem Stability product ordered and being shipped immediately, that will be arriving tomorrow with my filter, so I can hopefully get this tank up and running properly asap!

Thank you everyone for your help, it has made this such a wonderful easy experience. :) Baka, your going to LOVE having an axie this summer! I can't wait for you! They are such social, affectionate animals, its so much fun taking care of them!

Click the image to open in full size.



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Old 7th May 2013   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Did some reading on behaviourism of axolotl, and apparently them sticking around the surface a lot means there might not be enough oxygen in the water, which is strange considering I have 4 marimo moss balls (live plants) and an air pump, soon to be attached to a filter. She does come up for air decently often, and I'm starting to worry.

How should I proceed? Should I take away the air pump to reduce possible stress and add a bubbler of some sort instead? What are the best kinds of bubblers?

I'm pretty sure this part is just in my head because I'm worried, but I'm seeing a very very slight difference in the length of her gills. Though I'm pretty sure I'm probably seeing things, as I have a tenancy to over worry and find ways to work myself up. Still it's worth noting just in case.

Help?



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Old 7th May 2013   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Usually when they say they stay near the surface they mean float. If you have a sponge filter and some plants in the tank you shouldn't have a problem with oxygen.



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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

What could the issue be then? Or perhaps I'm over reacting and mine just likes to do that sort of thing like I original thought? Like I said Ambrose don't seem stressed at all she's eating great, but she's coming up for breaths more than what seems normal, and as you said, floats. Should I change the water even more? Is this from ammonia? I'm just worried and I don't want her to get sick or hurt

EDIT:// Did reading of what I'm seeing, I'm getting a lot of search results relating to topics of axolotl constipation. She's exhibiting a lot of the 'symptoms' (back legs wont stay on the ground, has trouble staying down on the bottom, looks fatter than normal, is standing kind of crooked). I had just kind of assumed she looked fatter because I fed her a big meal yesterday, but that could have contributed to the constipation, especially considering she hasn't pooped since, and ever since she fed her intestines have looked very full! How quickly will they expel waste after a meal? This is looking hopeful as to what's the problem, I'd be hugely relieved if this is all it is. I read that just moving them to a small container and letting nature work it's course is how to help, should I go through with that? I don't want to cause unnecessary stress if it won't help at all.



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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Oh and here's a picture of what Ambrose's insides look like right now.
Click the image to open in full size.

She's becoming more and more floaty. Do you think constipation is the problem?

EDIT://Sorry for so much talking, I just really want to make sure Ambrose is okay. Anyway, more research, and there also might be a possibility that there is an air bubble trapped in her stomach? I mean it's reassuring because other that the breathing and floating and all that, she looks happy and healthy. How often is normal when it comes to a young axolotl taking breaths? I'm getting the sense that they do it a decent number of times, but I'm still worried that she might be breathing abnormally. Is the air bubble or constipation likely the problem? Or do you think it might be too much ammonia? I have been changing the water in the tank daily, about 20%, until it cycles, but is this enough?




Last edited by Kinn; 7th May 2013 at 23:44.
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

A quick update, I just finished my daily water change, Ambrose is back on the bottom, but her back legs are off the ground, and her backside tends to float up. It's not as bad as before the change, when I couldn't get her off the surface of the water, but it's still worry some. She still looks as happy and healthy as can be otherwise, no stress related behaviour, still very curious and attentive. She released a small pellet of poo, but it doesn't look like everything she has in here. I'm thinking the problem is constipation?

I feel bad for spaming the board this much, but I'd really appreciate some second and third opinions, I want to make sure she's okay, and deal with whatever is happening appropriately. I'm really worried Should I move this topic to the illness section, or is it not that complicated?



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Old 8th May 2013   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Phew okay looks like she just had a bit of gas/was hanging around the surface partly from enjoyment, she's sticking down at the bottom for the most part, except when she wants to swim around from time to time.

I feel so silly overreacting like that, but I'm sure you all know what I mean when I say I'd die if anything happened to my precious little axie.

I remember freaking out similarly when I first got my corn snake haha.

Anyway, thanks again for all the help you guys! I really appreciate everything!



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Default Re: Getting my First Lotl!

Axies tend to have a floaty butt when they need to poop, if they are still seethrough and they have swallowed an air bubble you can usually see it in their tummies.
My axies like to float around quite a bit, i think they find it comfy



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