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Axolotl tank set-ups, filters, substrate>Setting up tank for new axolotl + axolotl-in cycling
thijazi59 03:34 31st May 2018
Hello everyone,

New to the forum, and so excited to see what I can learn from all of the axolotl owners here on Caudata! About two weeks ago, I rescued an axolotl from a very odd and inexperienced breeder at a strange animal fair. The axolotl was in a tiny tank with nearly 30 others, all of them about 5 inch juveniles, and I couldn't help but want to take a chance at giving at least one of the axolotls a better chance at survival.

Now, I'm not much of an aquarium person, so there is a lot I didn't know about dealing with an axolotl. After the first week of having him, Mo (that's his name) got pretty sick, as his gills were fairly curled. I didn't know what cycling was (and I'm still learning), or much about feeding and care beyond the basics. I assumed it was a water quality issue, so I put him in a cold pot for three days, and just recently returned him to the original tank. He looks like he is doing a lot better now; he is pretty active and loving the new bloodworms I bought for him, but I'm still not sure I'm doing everything right, so I'd love some help.

I have him in a 10 gallon tank with a few decorations, a small Anubias nana (thinking I should get more) to help with ammonia levels, and keeping it bare-bottom. I also have the following (below) sponge filter, which claims to work for up to 15 gallons of water.

I have been changing about 30 % of the water each day and adding some dechlorinator to continue an axolotl-in cycling method, because I don't have the capacity to keep the axolotl out of the tank all the time. I also really think moving him back and forth between spaces really stresses him out.

I just started taking readings with a master kit, doing so every one or two days:
12/28/ 2018 - pH is 7.6-7.8, ammonia is 0.25 - 0.5, nitrites are 0, nitrates are 0 - 5 (for nitrates, it's been a bit hard to tell the exact color of the sample)
12/30/2018 - pH is 7.6-7.8, ammonia is 0.25-0.5, nitrites are 0, nitrates are 0 - 5 (for nitrates, it's been a bit hard to tell the exact color of the sample)

So, main questions (sorry if they seem to be too many, I'm just a new and concerned parent!):
1. How do I know that I am cycling correctly? I'm assuming it all started the first week I got him. What should be happening to my ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels?
2. Is the sponge filter big and good enough? Should I ever clean it?
3. Are the water changes enough? Does anyone have any tips about water changes?
4. Are there any other signs besides gills curving forward that would be a real indicator that things aren't going well?
5. I've been having trouble getting all of the poop off the bottom of the tank - will that hurt him?

Images of Mo and the tank are attached.

Any help would be so, so appreciated!

Attached Thumbnails
Sablette 13:34 31st May 2018
After a recent tank crash I had to start from scratch but had no other tank to seed from so I had to do an axie in cycle. Took about a month and a ton of research but things went pretty well. I'm no expert on the nitrogen cycle but here is what I did--

I didn't do daily water changes but a partial one after every time my axie pooped (2-3 days). This would allow a bit of ammonia buildup but nothing too strong. Usually it would sit around 0.5ppm which is seems to be the max your axie should be exposed to in this method. At that point it's all down to maintaining it. Measure next time they poop. 1.0 or higher? Change accordingly (Anywhere from 20-40% depending on the reading). Dose with Prime first, THEN add dechlorinated water. People are mixed when it comes to bacteria in a bottle but Stability feels like it helped out a lot when doing this. But be prepared to have a lot of ugly biofilm at the bottom of a bare bottom tank. Just hit the one month mark and today's readings are 0.25 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites, 10 Nitrates.

As for the sponge filter, it's fine. I use the exact same one! After letting bacteria build up for a month or two (after you start getting nitrate readings) clean one at a time. Prepare a container of dechlorinated water (But not too cold) and squeeze them out a few times. Plop it back in. Wait a day or two before doing the same to the other sponge. This is to assure you don't kill off your bacteria all at once. Gills curling along with Tail Curling and "flaking" are indicators of stress and potential ammonia burns but if you're doing regular checks on the parameters you shouldn't have to worry about the latter if you're on top of it.

The best way to siphon poop is with a turkey baster but if yours is anything like mine (****ting in every god damn corner) you may want to invest in a siphon. It'll help a lot especially if you plan on putting it on a substrate in the future. It'll also help with the biofilm I mentioned earlier.

Best of luck. o/

thijazi59 19:52 2nd June 2018
Thank you so much for the advice!

It's also great to hear that someone else is using similar equipment, because I honestly wasn't sure I was using the right stuff. I've been getting all of my information from Caudata because pet stores have proven to be fairly useless.

Tags:ammonia axolotl, axolotl, axolotl advice, axolotl beginner, axolotl care, cycling, tank set up & cycling, water quailty
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