Axolotls stressed by ammonia

jclee

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I am an idiot.

I got my axolotls in the second week of July. They were beautiful, and in fabulous shape. I put them in a 10G that was fully cycled, until I could pick up the 20G that I planned to transfer them to. (I got a great deal on that 20G). Long story short, I was so excited about the new 20G that, although I used all the old tank water, I put in ~50% newly treated tap water and screwed up the nitrogen cycle, and put the Axies into the tank before I realized what I’d done. I knew better. I really knew better. We do stupid things when we get excited. To be honest, I was so preoccupied with keeping the temp stable at first, that I paid less mind to water quality. (The 10g was in the living room, and I was flipping ice every 3 hours or so. Part of my rush to get them into the 20G was that it was assembled in the bedroom, where the air conditioner is. I haven’t needed ice since making the switch. The temp’s been stable, ranging from 70-72.)
Other tank conditions: Yesterday's Ph was 7.0. GH was 80 (slightly hard) and Kh was 50 (mod-low buffer capacity.) I've got a bubbler going -- added a regulator to the tubing so I could put it on a low setting. There are a few pond snails and MTS to help a little with clean-up, and I suspect that, although I haven't seen Max eating much food, he's been picking off pond snails, because their population is down. I've been feeding salmon pellets, and I've given frozen bloodworms every third or fourth day. I'm using a foodbowl for easier cleanup, and I'm about to switch to a jar so the food is even more contained. The light's only over one corner of the plants, and I leave it on ~6-8 hours, mostly to keep the plants going. There are 2 hides. I've also got some Elodea, Java Fern, and Willow moss (tied to rocks -- not free floating) to help oxygenate the water. The filter has been modified to decrease current, which I explained in a post about a week ago: http://www.caudata.org/forum/showthread.php?t=63332
They’re not quite ill, but they’re showing signs of stress. Artie’s gills are thinning a little, and Max isn’t eating much. I realized yesterday that the ammonia level was ~2ppm(!) and did a 20% water change. Today, the ammonia was at 1ppm. I did another 20% change, and half of that was water from my fish tank to quicken the cycling process. (The tank has been established for years, and the fish are all in good health, so I am not worried about parasites/dirty water.) I ran out of NO2 and NO3 test kits, but the ammonia levels indicate that everything's seriously out of whack.
I know that fridging is an option, but I don’t want to jump the gun yet, since they’re just now showing symptoms of stress. I plan to continue to do 20% water changes every day until the ammonia is down to 0pmm. I also plan to continue using half new, treated water, and half fish tank water when I do the changes.
What am I missing? What should I look out for? What should I change.
I really am kicking myself, and embarrassed as I am to admit my follies, the health of these little guys comes first.
 

oceanblue

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If your pH is 7.0 the ammonia level of 2 ppm is unlikely to be toxic. Getting the level back to nil is a good idea but there is no need to panic. It is possible you have a nitrite spike so the 20% water changes are sensible for now but you seem to be doing all the right things.

You were probably right to prioritise getting the temperature down and stable. Temperatures in the high seventies F are very stressful.
 

SludgeMunkey

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What brand of water conditioner are you using? Many of these can cause inaccurate readings in certain types of ammonia tests.
 

jclee

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The only conditioner I had handy is API's Stress coat, which also contains aloe vera. I assume that minute amounts of aloe won't harm the Axolotls. (Please correct me if I'm wrong; obviously, I want to keep these little guys alive.) The label reads: "Replaces slim coat /Reduces electrolyte loss /Promotes tissue regeneration /Removes chloring and neutralizes chloramines."

I never knew that certain conditioners could alter readings.

As I glance through my supply cabines (yes, I have a whole cupboard full of animal supplies), I see that I also have small vials of "Aqua Plus tap water conditioner," and "Wardley Watercare Chlor Out." Do you know anything good/bad about any of these particular brands? Should I stop using the API Stress Coat, so that I stop adding minute amounts of aloe to the water?

I will admit that I did a lot of research before getting these guys, and in reading all the "Sick Axie" posts, I probably made myself paranoid about killing these sensitive little guys. It's reassuring to know that I probably don't have much to worry about as long as I keep doing water changes for the next few days.
 

Darkmaverick

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I think you are much more well informed and prepared than many other new hobbyists.

1) What type of test kit are you using? Colourimetric solution type test kits are more reliable compared to dipsticks.

2) So far all the water conditioners you listed work fine. Do not worry about the API stress coat. I use them myself for years and they are ok.

3) What type of filter are you using? If you are worried about spikes, you can incorporate chemical filtration - zeolite and activated carbon granules. They help buffer ammonia spikes and help clear the water of any toxic substances.

As long as you monitor parameters closesly, perform regular water changes, siphon up detritus and keep temperature stable, there shouldn't be too much of an issue.
 

jclee

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In response to your questions, Rayson:
1.)[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]My test kits all involve tubes and droppers. I use Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc. brand for the pH and Ammonia, and Nutrafin brand for KH/GH.
2.)[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]I’m glad to know that the stress coat won’t do any harm.
3.)[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]My filter’s a HOB whisper, which includes activated carbon and a little spongey thing to help establish beneficial bacteria colonies. (There’s no zeolite in the pre-made filter cartridges I use, but I might have some in my magic-cupboard, so I’ll double check.

I’m glad to know that I’m taking the correct action. It’s been a while since I’ve had aquatic amphibians, so I guess I just needed a little reassurance. Hopefully, with regular water changes, the water will be ammonia free in a week or so, and that will help Max regain his full appetite, and Artie’s gills will fluff back up. I think I just needed to make sure I was doing the right thing and wasn’t missing anything. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid problems like these for quite a while with my other pets, so I think I assumed I’d done something drastically wrong and irreversible.

Thank you, all, for your reassurance.
 

jclee

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(today's ammonia check was somewhere between 0ppm and .25 ppm.)

A quick follow up question: Once the levels are stable, how long should it take for appetite increase and gill regrowth?

(Oh, and the "well-informed" is probably because I'm not new to herp keeping; I'm just new to axolotls. I've been keeping reptiles and amphibians since childhood, and I started getting serious about researching their care in '95.)
 

Darkmaverick

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If water parameters and nutrition are well met, within a week the axie should show visible improvement in terms of appetite and behaviour. Within a month, there should be visible signs of regeneration.
 

jclee

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OK. Ammonia is gone. Water seems ok. I will stay on top of regular changes to keep it that way.

Now, Max has fungus (?) on her side. [It looks like the "skin mycosis" section described on cc: http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/salt.shtml -- I've actually never had to deal with fungal infections in my herps, so I am uncertain.] Is it at all possible this is just a shed (wishful thinking, I know). Is it time to begin salt baths? Or is it possible that it's mild enough that, with water conditions under control, it will clear itself up? The article didn't specify, but I assume I have to treat both animals, even though only one is symptomatic. Do I have to break down and sterilize the whole tank? Will drying out kill this off? Or do I need to bust out the bleach/boiling? Or is it unlikely to be freefloating in the water (which I doubt, but that would make me very happy).

It would be so fantabulous if I were being paranoid, and I didn't have to break down the whole set-up, especially since I finally perfected the water and temp balance. Somehow I doubt it.

Oh, and one last question for anyone who can answer it: While I am very good about hand washing and sterilizing gear between uses to prevent cross-contamination, I would like to know if this can be transmitted to terrestrial amphibians or fish. (I doubt I have to worry about myself, my leopard geckos, and my birds, as none of us prefers high humidity.)

Again, thanks in advance to everyone who has helped. I've never quite had this much trouble establishing a new tank, but, then again, I've never had axolotls before now.
 

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Kerry1968

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Well to my inexperienced eye I can't see any sign of fungus. Fungus is usually quite obviously fungus if you get what I mean. Fungus looks fluffy, kind of like fine cotton wool, this looks more like flakes of skin, from what I can make out. I would hazard a guess that it just some minor shedding, it is just much more noticable on darker coloured axies.

I would keep an eye on her to see if it gets any worse, but hopefully shedding is all it is.

Therefore, you don't need to intervene at all.

Good news! (Hopefully)
 

Darkmaverick

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Your axie has normal skin shedding. That is not fungus. You don't require any further action, although tea baths have an astringent effect and can help sooth the skin.
 

jclee

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Thank you, everybody. Right now, I fall somewhere between embarrassed and immensely relieved that this is something so mundane. If patches of skin had started coming off -- without being preceeded by an ammonia spike, appetite decrease, and gill thinning -- a shed would have been my first thought, and I wouldn't have worried. Given the context, I think I assumed "the other shoe was dropping," so to speak. (I also assumed that an axolotl shed would look more like the other amphibian shedding I've seen: like wriggling out of a too-tight bathing suit... that you then eat in one, long, translucent, and presumably tasty piece.)

Well, hopefully, others who are new to axolotls will learn from this thread, And hopefully, it'll be a long while before I have to bug you guys for advice again. :D
 

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I’m gonna be honest here I’m new at this kinda stuff and i didn’t know anything about cycling a tank .. I know that bad and I feel really bad for not knowing, kinda embarrassed :/ but my lotls are in the tank and doing just fine they both are eating, I’ve been giving them cut up Canadian night crawls, blood worms and some peddles, but mostly the night crawls, the other day picked up a fresh water master test kit and I got readings saying I had ammonia 0.25ppm nitrite 0.25 ppm and my nitrate was 0ppm .. I did a 20% water change and cleaned everything I seen out with my siphon, today I checked again after water change and put my water conditioner ( API stress coat in) 35 gallon tank and my reading now are - high range pH 7.4 ammonia is still 0.25ppm nitrite is 0ppm and nitrate is 5.0ppm.. I’m just wondering what I do next I’m stuck? I need help please I care for these little guys and I know I should of done more research :( they seem to be doing ok though I just get worried and over think.
Do I keep doing water changes until ammonia is at 0ppm and nitrites stay at 0ppm
What do I do next.
Also I would like to add sand into my aquarium this Weekend how would I do that possibly? Take out some water plus lotls and put my sand in? Thanks in advance I really need to know what to do or if it’s toxic to hurt my lotls :( ...
 
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