Illness/Sickness: Ammonia spiking and fridging

Elicia

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Hi all! First post, have been a forum browser for a few months, new member!

New axolotl owner here (6 months) and have never had fish or anything before either, so excuse me sounding a little clueless!

Before bringing Axel home, we set up the tank and had it sit for 2 weeks. The guys at the aquarium tested our water and we were given the all clear to bring him home.

All was fine for the first couple of months but then we suspected something was wrong as his behaviour changed, and took some of our water back to get tested- high ammonia. We were told to do partial water changes and add Quick Start for 5 days. Took the water back and it tested fine.

We ended up getting our own testing kit down the track and the ammonia was constantly spiking and we couldn’t get it down. We would change the water and it would go down (never to 0) but then gradually climb again back up to 4 or 8 a few days later. I bought Ammo Lock and was adding that product. All other tests were fine.

On top of that, it’s been so hot here and his water temp would rise too high if we weren’t home for a full day and couldn’t put frozen water bottles in to cool it down. One day I got home and it was at 24°c

One night I got home and tested and the ammonia was at 8. Did a water change straight away and it went down to 0.25. The next morning it was already up to 1.0 and 4 hours later up to 2.0

Tap water has been tested and is 0 ammonia.

I had had enough and was starting to get worried because he wasn’t looking well at all (hardly any movement, curved tail, a couple of red dots) so I fridged him (as per instructions on this site)

What do I do now? Should we totally clean out the tank and just start fresh? Will he need any medicine or anything? Is he going to survive? ☹ I’ve become so attached to the little guy. His tail was curved but seems better since being in the fridge (3 days now). His tail has white marks on it which I’m not sure if they’re normal.

He hasn’t eaten since being in the fridge but was eating and swimming up for food when in his tank.

Any advice welcome!! Thank you in advance!
 

Tinamlat

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Just some thoughts, how big is the tank you have him in? What are his symptoms right now? And have you done any complete water changes? Do you also clean up any food or poop in the tank when you see it? Sometimes that stuff builds up and causes a lot of ammonia. Also could be related to the filter?
 

Elicia

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Thanks for your reply.

I think the tank is 40L. The filter came with the tank. We never did a full water change- the most would have been 80%. And we would have done 60-70% changes daily for over a week. We hardly saw him poop but when we did, would clean it up. And we only fed him what he eats from the tweezers so no leftover.

At the moment, there are a couple of small red spots on the very tip of his tail, and his tail is kind of transparent/white/papery (I cant explain- I’ll attach a photo) which I’m not sure if it’s normal or not. He also isn’t eating but I read that was normal if they’re in the fridge?
 

Tinamlat

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Hmm, overall he looks okay but the tail is weird, I’m not too sure what that is. Maybe his slime coat peeling? Have you noticed his skin flaking? I would not recommend any medication right now, it would probably just irritate his skin further. Having him in clean water should remedy it, maybe adding some Indian almond leaves would help to soothe his skin and lower pH. Do you know if the pH in your tank has been high? That can make the effects of the ammonia worse. Have you been replacing the filter media regularly as well? I think at this point your best bet would be to do a complete water change and make sure the filter is working properly. The only thing I would add to the water is conditioner and maybe some beneficial bacteria to help with the breakdown. I would recommend adding Indian almond leaves as well for its anti fungal properties and skin soothing abilities (and pH lowering). That’s just my idea though, someone else might have a bit more insight than me but I hope it helps :)
 

Elicia

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Thanks again for your reply. I haven’t noticed his skin flaking at all. The ph was always normal when I tested it too, however, wasn’t sure we needed to change the filter media... so will look into that! Thank you! I will also get some almond leaves- first I’ve heard of them.

We have done a complete water change. Do you think he’ll be ok in the fridge while the tank does it’s thing again- this took 2 weeks when we first set it up? He hasn’t eaten anything at all whilst in there so I assume he won’t eat until we put him back?
 

Kitan

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I am so sorry. You clearly care a LOT about this little one.

SO, I expect what you are experiencing are secondary issues due to extreme stress from heat and ammonia. It's hard to tell from the picture if the end of his tail has some fungus or is just ripped up from ammonia\bacteria. I agree that Indian Almond Leaves could help sooth his skin, but honestly just fridging him with 100% daily water changes should give him time to heal it up. Just watch to make sure it is improving.

The problems:
-you are never going to cycle a cold water tank in two weeks without adding bacteria. When the store tested it, it was VERY likely fine because it was just normal water XD You really NEED your own test kit with axolotls, especially if you are cycling. And cycling a 40L tank is even harder because axolotls put out a LOT of waste. Problem one: tank just isnt cycled.

-as you are finding out, ice water bottle are awful for cooling a tank; it leads to rapid changes of water temperature which ALSO causes stress. Problem two: way too hot.


The solutions:
Okay, this is a LOT of info I am about to lay out for you. You are basically starting from scratch.

-get a test kit
-get some Prime water conditioner
-get some Stability (Seachem bio-starter product)
-get a good fan
-tell me about your filter situation: bacteria needs a home.

So, ideally, you need to keep your tank low and out of light. Both of these mean a lower temperature. If you angle a fan so it blows across the surface of the water, it will cause evaporation, which ALSO lowers the temperature. If this isnt sufficient, I have read that putting that shinny foam insulation (used for A\Cs) around the sides and back might help. Any time your tank goes over 20C, your axolotl is getting heat stress.

Next is the cycling. I tried using the Tetra Safestart Plus TWICE in my tank and each time the bacteria died off. Really didnt work well for me in the cold water tank. Stability, when used as per instructions, actually works. The Prime has a LOT of fantastic purposes; it obviously dechlorinates your water, but ALSO helps make ammonia and nitrites safe for 24 hours. What this means is every 24 hours you need to test your ammonia, nitrites and nitrates and add Prime to make it safe as well as dose your stability. With prime, you want to add 1 mil PER ammonia AND nitrite combined up to 5x the dosage (so up to 5 ml or 1 capful in the case of your 40L tank). If Ammonia + nitrite is greater than this, you HAVE to do a water change to lower the levels. Now it also doesnt matter how much Stability you add if the bacteria has nowhere to live. If you have a hang-on-back type filter, add some ceramic bio rings after the carbon to provide bacteria condos :p Also if you put coarse foam over the intake it will lower the flow and provide additional room for bacteria :D

pH and temperature matter when determining if your ammonia is toxic. Lower temperatures and pH mean less free-floating ammonia, which is the kind that is toxic.

You CAN cycle the tank with your axolotl in it since the Prime will be keeping it safe, but you need to get him to healthy first with your fridging and get that temperature under control :) Let me know if you have any questions :)
 

Kitan

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He hasn’t eaten anything at all whilst in there so I assume he won’t eat until we put him back?
ALSO the cold lowers their metabolism, and obviously being sick doesnt reaaaally make them feel like eating much :( Keep offering food daily regardless and hopefully he wont go more than a couple days without eating :)
 
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    As long as its cleaned yeah! You can even make overhangs if you have enough pieces to make nice caves and platforms
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    Ok, thanks!
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    My pleasure! River rocks work well too, and go rather well with all kinda lung less salamanders,
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    Great! I'll use some of those too. Thanks for the help. :)
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    So everywhere talks about testing your water parameters but I can't find what to do it there aren't right?! Like too low not too high, anybody any ideas?
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    It’s very dry in Colorado. I make sure to spritz every night so while I’m sleeping. I have a nifty hydrometer that I got from Walmart. It tells me blue, green, red; too little humid, good, too much respectively. It’s been helpful to me.
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    It tells me temperature AND humidity.
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    Where'd you get that? Or is it just a combo from petsmart or something?
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    I’m pretty sure I got it at a Walmart.
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  • jnerdx:
    I just looked it up to see if I can find it again. It’s actually a hyGROmeter and temperature. Which measures the dew point. Here is the difference between due point and humidity. https://www.weather.gov/arx/why_dewpoint_vs_humidityYou can calculate Th relative
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    the relative humidity using the dew point measurement.
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    Here is the product I purchased:
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    it has a stand. And I had a spare suction from my filter. So it’s on the wall of my Sal’s enclosure.
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    That’s a pic of it in the enclosure.
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    Nice! Also, from what I can see you have an amazing setup! What species?
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    S. S. Gigliolli
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    Cool! I just have a tiger and a long tail, who we are trying to find as he ESCAPED INTO MY ROOM!
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    Hey y'all, recently my juvenile axolotl's tail has been floating and can swim down but his tail lifts to an angle and I believe that it is stressing him out. He gets in between his plants to balance himself and I am cleaning out the bottom of the tank with my baster. I believe I overfed him and he also may have eaten many air bubbles. He's been like this for nearly 1 1/2 days.
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