New here/beginner questions

Saturn

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Greetings~ We've had our girls home for a few days now. A gold, Buttercup and leucistic, Blossom. We cycled the tank for 2 weeks before bringing them home, which I know isn't long enough. The Aquarium store told us 1 week and that we didn't need a water testing kit, which we got anyway. I had axolotls in 2002 and remembered them to be quite hardy, so was somewhat surprised this time around as to the specifics and also the abundance of information out there, which is great. Unfortunately, once I found out about cycling a tank correctly, we'd already had them on hold and couldn't ask them to hold for 6-8 weeks. The water parameters are: PH 7.4, Ammonia ~0.25, Nitrite 0.25, Nitrate ~2.0, has been the same for 45 hours so am glad there's been no spikes. The tank size is 80cm (2.63 foot) long and 38cm (1.25 foot) wide.

I have a few of questions but feel free to offer feedback or constructive criticism. Firstly, they seem to be doing ok; exploring, taking siestas and eating daily. They have very different personalities with Blossom being calm, slowly walking around and standing in various spots. Buttercup is very active when not sleeping, to the point I'm worried she might be stressed. She very much favours the back right corner, near the purple (fake) plant. She spends a lot of time swimming between it and the other side of the tank or bumping in to the green (real) plants and then turning around. Is it normal for an axolotl to be repeating this behaviour so much? Here's a video. I can't tell whether it's just her personality and engaging/getting use to her environment or she's stressed and wants out... or maybe is hungry? She does it more before feeding time. Maybe by bumping in to the green plants she thinks her tank is smaller than it is, should I move them? I've tried to arrange everything so there's room to walk around objects. Surprisingly, they don't use their pvc pipes that often. Do have some better hides on the way. Thoughts on the setup? You'll notice I'm running 2 filters, switched to canister and am running them simultaneously for a week to transfer bacteria, only 2 days to go. Suspect there's too much water flow with both. The canister filter is a 100L model and the tank is 127.

Regarding food, we're feeding them 6-8cm African night crawlers. Blossom eats 2 then loses interest, Buttercup eats 3 and looks like she wants more. Is this too much or too little, should I feed them as much as they'll eat? Buttercup is pudgy, hope she's not pregnant as the Aquarium store had the boys in with girls. Blossom needs to gain some weight.

Last question, regarding water changes. Should I leave it alone while it's still cycling unless I have spikes? Problem is our tap water results were: PH 8.5, Ammonia 1.5, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0. Seems counteractive to add more ammonia and PH?

Thank you!

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Murk

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Hi!
Axolotls look good to me (Blossom could indeed use some more curves, but you already know).

The behaviour in the clip doesn't seem disturbing to me. It doesn't look manic or forced, which is good. It's too early to tell if it's personality or not. You could try to change the environment and see if this impacts it. If you give her a straight, open route along the back of the tank - does she still do it? If you remove/shut off the filters and air stone for a short while, does the behaviour change?
Some axolotls really like to swim, and for them this wouldn't be a problem. Others don't, but pace out of stress, in which case it would be a problem. The best way to find out is see how the react to changes!

For food, you can feed axolotls as long as they're interested. As long as they are willing to make an effort for food, you're not overfeeding.

As for water quality, well, you're in a difficult position.
The tank isn't cycled, and the ammonia and especially the nitrites are too high - as you know. Usually, the safest would be to do as many water changes as you can. This would slow down the cycling process but also make it safer.
If your tap water honestly has such high levels of ammonia, that wouldn't help much (but also, check that with the municipality or whomever supplies your tap water. It sounds much too high).

What I would do is keep a large supply of bottled water at the ready.
Boiling your tap water might get rid of most of the ammonia as well, but I'm not sure how well this works in practice. (Public service announcement: please do not boil aquarium water with axolotls in it.)

Then, whenever either the ammonia or nitrites rise above their current level, use the clean water for a water change. 0.25 nitrites is actually a bit too high already, so keep a close eye on the axolotls. Higher ammonia and nitrites do help the tank cycle quicker, so you'll have to find a balance between the short-term negative effects of too high ammonia/nitrites, and the long-term negative effects of an uncycled tank.

I think that's all the questions so far. Tank looks good, axolotls look good, and you're aware of the current problems which is also good.
 

Saturn

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Thanks so much @Murk :) Made some changes today and they both seem happier exploring. Miss Busy Body appears much more content now that she can get past the plants.

Glad to hear that regarding food, did feed them as much as they'd take today.

Today's readings are the same as yesterday. At what stage is way too high? We live in the country and only got mains water not long ago. Will check with the council what the readings should be. Ironically, the tap water tastes and looks much cleaner than anywhere I've lived before in the city. We do have rainwater available, problem is that it drains from our steel shed roof. Would heavy metals be reflected on regular tests or require a different one? Will test it tomorrow but if it reads lower ammonia & ph, do you think it would be safer? Will do bottled water tomorrow if need be until I find a solution.

By as many water changes as possible, would 25% a day until they drop to more like 0.1 be ok? That way there's a tiny bit of nitrite to feed the nitrates? Do correct me if I'm wrong. Do have Seachem Stability and Prime. Would adding stability make the problem worse or better? Sorry for asking more questions, eager to figure this out. Thanks again, much appreciated.
 
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Murk

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Especially for nitrites, any nitrites is considered too high and the symptoms of nitrite poisoning are more subtle than ammonia (so harder to detect).
However, you also need some nitrites to get the tank cycled.
Doing huge daily water changes (like, >75%) to keep the nitrites at the required 0 would prevent short-term nitrites issues, but would also leave your tank uncycled - which is risky in its own way.
The safest would be to tub the axolotls in a separate tank/tub, where you can do daily water changes while the main tank cycles. Tubbing has its own issues though, especially if you're not guaranteed to have fresh water (without ammonia) available.

That's a wordy way of saying you'll have to choose the lesser of evils.

Personally I think small daily water changes sounds good, and that as long as you watch out for sudden nitrite spikes you'll be fine. However, I also know I'm more... casual with these things than most other aquarium keepers, so make of that what you will.

--------

I have no experience with Seachem (or any additives) whatsoever; never used it.
From what I know, Stability is bacteria-in-a-bottle. It allows you to speed up the cycling process by adding the needed bacteria directly. In your case speeding up the cycling would be great.

Prime is a conditioner. Aside from dechlorinating I think it also works to detoxify ammonia and nitrites/nitrates for a short while (a day at most, I believe?).
If your tap water has chlorine or chloramines, yes please use it (looking at the high levels of ammonia, I doubt there would be chloramines, but please check).
Otherwise, it will only help to prevent any the negative effects of ammonia/nitrites for a few hours at most.

Again though, no personal experience. Maybe someone else can chime in with more.

--------

Rain water is generally very good for aquariums. Steel, though... Most "regular" tests will definitely not pick up on heavy metals and you really don't want any heavy metals near your axolotls.
I have no clue what the impact of a steel roof would be on the water. I could guess, but I'm hesitant to do so. Interesting question!

--------

Sorry for asking more questions, eager to figure this out.
That's fine! As long as you don't mind long-winded answers, I'm happy to ramble on.
 

Saturn

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Thanks, feel much better having a plan of action. Found official information on our tap water and what it should be/averages. It says PH 8.7 and Ammonia 0.26 so will test it again to see if 1.5 was false reading. Australia does have chloramine and/or chlorine. Here's an excerpt, which explains why there's ammonia:

"Like chlorine, chloramine destroys bacteria and other pathogens that can be present in source water and ensures tap water is clean and safe to drink. This is the amount of monochloramine (NH2Cl) present, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia. Because chloramine is better than chlorine at penetrating longer pipes it’s used in longer water distribution systems across the state. Plus, it makes the water taste better. All South Australia’s chloraminated water systems are consistently lower than the national health limit of 5 milligrams per litre."

Guess I could put tap water in a bucket overnight with Prime and see if it's at ok levels to use the next day? Have been adding a tiny bit of stability to the tank daily. Will get on to researching the rainwater. Very helpful info, can't thank you enough and that's cool, my replies tend to be lengthy too ha
 

Saturn

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They're both acting happy as Larry but the Ammonia in my tap water is a big problem 😢 Tested it again, ~1.2. There's a 'national aesthetic guideline' of <0.5 but no national health guideline. Waiting on a response from authorities but technically it seems they don't have to fix it.

Putting tap water in a bucket for 16 hours dropped it to basically the same as the tank ~0.25. The tank was starting to get slightly smelly so did a 20% change with it yesterday. Today Ammonia and Nitrite were closer to 0.5, so it made the situation worse. Have now done a change using spring water and will continue to do so. Also waiting on a reply from a water filtration company about possibly getting an under-sink system installed but don't know whether it would actually work for Ammonia.

Worried about these two jellybeans and keeping a close eye on them. Will tub in spring water if need be but we have cats so I guess it would have to be in the fridge, how cold is too cold? Also, if anyone could give information on rainwater from steel tanks/steel roofs and what tests need to be done regarding heavy metals that would be great. Thanks kindly 💜

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Murk

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The steel roof-question intrigued me. Do note that all I'm about to say is only the result of a google search :rolleyes:

The internet is hesitant to say rain water from roofs is fine for aquariums. But, y'know, the internet is always hesitant to say anything is fine.
It seems steel is no problem.

The biggest issue would be galvanisation. Zinc does have the tendency to leave trace metals in standing water. Should be easy to check if that's the case for your roof.

Anyway, metal test kits for iron, zinc, copper and lead are easily available, even on amazon. JBL always has solid test kits.

For rain water in general, only use the running water (so don't catch it and only use it much later, with regards to parasites etc.), and if it's been a long time since the previous rain let the roof wash clean first.

---

Unrelated, for fridging: anything above 5 C is survivable for axolotls, but not recommended. I think anything above 12 C will only make them sluggish and slow at worst.
 

Saturn

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Thanks @Murk! Yes, according to Google, I found steel shouldn't be an issue as well and upon further inspection, the tanks are actually plastic. Testing the rainwater showed readings of PH 6.8, Ammonia 0, Trite 0 and Trate 0. Someone recommended using API Tap Water Conditioner with it instead of Prime since it advertises working on heavy metals. Have been doing 20-40% changes daily as the nitrites keep rising but good news is the nitrates are slowly getting there at around 11. The bubs aren't as happy as they were with all of this but are still eating well. Heavy metal tests kits aren't that easy to come by here in Australia. Amazon US has lots but am not buying anything from the US at the moment. Local pet shops had none, can buy online but in the meantime I ran the risk of using the rainwater since I had to do something and can't use 20L+ of spring water daily. Good idea to only use running water. Am a bit concerned about any bugs but many houses out here rely on rainwater for human consumption so I'd hope it's not too bad. Actually having a bad flare with my arthritis at the moment so thankfully my partner has stepped up to help with this. Do you think we're on the right track with doing daily water changes until it balances out, hopefully a few more weeks?
 
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