Lost my Lotl; Recycling my Tank

ComicMischief

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Hello to all! This is my first time posting in the group, and I wish it was under better circumstances. Try not to judge me too hard about it...

Before I went to bed last night I was finishing up a second salt bath for my year-old golden albino axolotl who had developed fungus on her body, but when I was lifting her out of the bath container to her tank, she wrestled free from me and fell a foot or so to the floor, flailing around. When I put her back into the water, a few small blood vessels in her tail had ruptured, and there was a small tear in her skin near the tip, but she otherwise looked okay. When I woke up the next morning, she had shed so much of her outer skin layer it looked like it was snowing in the tank, and she was acting very restless. I had to leave in the morning for work, so I asked my family to keep an eye out and maybe fridge her if she looks bad. I felt paralyzed by guilt and could barely function at work all day. When I got home, all her gill filaments had detached and she was motionless at the bottom of the tank. Fearing that fridging her under that much stress would add more stress, I just kept the tank dark and cool and forced myself to go to sleep.

The next morning, she was still in the same position, and I realized she had passed overnight.

My axolotl brought me so much joy, and it kills me thinking if I had just used a net to transfer her, or just didn't give her a salt bath, she would be alive right now. Just a couple days ago she had fungus but she was otherwise the same happy lotl I grew to know and love. It's my fault that she died and I'm struggling to forgive myself.

My lotl got fungus in the first place because my surge protector tripped while I was at work and her tank was in a big a temperature spike by the time I got home.

I was already in a bit of a dark place because of other situations, so I find I miss having a smiling little Lotl as the last thing I see before I go to bed at night even more. I learned a lot from this situation, and I'd like to try again with a new lotl, but I want to make sure I do everything right this time. Hopefully I can turn to the good people here to steer me in that direction.

So, with that said, after she died, I decided to break down my tank completely and sterilize it. I want to start a new fishless cycle for my tank in case my poor girl left anything in there that might make my new axie sick. I threw away the filter media and the sand substrate (it was hard to keep clean even with spot cleaning with a turkey baster and weekly siphoning). I boiled a pot of water, aquarium salt, and vinegar, put all the silk plants and her pvc pipe hide, along with the filter housing (not the wired component) into a bucket, and poured the solution over it. As it's already night here, I'm just going to let it soak overnight and dry everything out on the porch when the sun comes out.

For the tank, I used the same warm water, vinegar, and aquarium salt mixture and scrubbed it thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels.

For cycling, after all the decorations dry out completely, I plan on filling the tank back up with water, replacing the filter media, and attempt a fishless cycle.

I'd read that using fish flakes will introduce ammonia, but I'm worried about fungus since that's what started this whole nightmare in the first place. Instead, I'd like to try "DrTim's Aquatics - Ammonium Chloride Solution for Fishless Cycling - 2 oz Bottle" and add ammonia. I've been using test strips for water quality, but I read that it's inaccurate, so I plan on getting the liquid test kits instead.

Right now I only have a 13-gallon aquarium because the pet stores I went to that day didn't carry a 20-gallon long, but I'm definitely in the market for an upgrade.

I have the Iceprobe Thermoelectric Chiller coming by mail. My room had always kept her tank water in the mid 60s, but we've had a couple hot weeks lately in Hawaii, so I need to invest in an electric chiller to keep things stable.

I only had silk plants in her tank, but next time I plan on getting at least a couple Marimo moss balls. I read duckweed is good too? What are your thoughts on live plants for axolotls?

I plan on getting a juvenile this time around, perhaps in a different color... Like the melanoid or starburst even. Maybe a nice copper. I don't expect my tank to be cycled anytime soon, so realistically I'm looking at a month's wait time before I introduce a new axolotl to my tank.

If there are any sellers here or if you know of any good websites that offer axolotls shipped to Hawaii, please let me know!

If you have any other suggestions, I am all ears.

I've always been more of a betta keeper in the past, but I find that after owning an Axolotl, I can't go back to just fish again. I'm not as experienced as I'd like to be in aquatic pet care, so please keep that in mind.

It's nice to meet you all! I hope you can look past my mistakes as a axolotl keeper as I try again. I'm trying to look forward to meeting a cute little lotl instead of digging myself deeper in this hole I've gotten into.
 
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