So you’ve finally decided to get an exotic pet and write a new chapter in your aquatic journey.
But what’s the most appropriate axolotl tank size and setup you should aim for?
Well, the answer to this question will depend on the number of axolotls you intend to keep and their age.
Juvenile axolotls can be kept in a 10 gallon aquarium, but they will need to be relocated into a bigger tank when they mature.
Keep reading if you want to find out what’s the best tank for an axolotl and how to set it up.
What is an Appropriate Axolotl Tank Size?
Even though they’re salamanders, axolotls spend their entire life underwater.
This means that they need pristine water conditions and plenty of space to roam about in order to thrive.
Keeping these cute water dragons in suboptimal conditions will only stress them and potentially shorten their lifespan.
So how big of a tank does an axolotl actually need?
The minimum tank size for a single full grown axolotl is 20 gallons of water. If you’re going to keep more than one you should add another 20 gallons of space for each new specimen. So if you’re going to house 2 axolotls together you’ll need a tank with a size of at least 40 gallons.
With that said, your axolotl will benefit greatly from every inch of additional free space you provide it.
A larger water volume will not only dilute waste and make maintenance easier, but also increase the lifespan of your pet.
Most axolotls have an average lifespan of 10 years, but with proper care and a large enough tank, they can live for up to 20 years.
So if you want to enjoy the company of your new companion for as long as you possibly can, then it’s probably a good idea to house them in a bigger tank.
Apart from longevity, the amount of free space in their tank also affects the body size of these water salamanders.
An average full grown axolotl typically reaches a size of 9 inches (22.9 cm) and weighs roughly 0.4 lbs (181 grams).
If, however, you keep them in a larger tank, axolotls can get even bigger than this.
On the flipside, an aquarium that’s smaller than 20 gallons will stunt their growth.
Pro Tips To Set Up an Axolotl Tank?
Setting up an axolotl tank isn’t difficult but you can easily slip up and make some minor mistakes.
And even though axolotls are quite hardy and resilient, their health will diminish if the environment isn’t adjusted to their needs.
You’ll need to closely monitor the water parameters and filtration, and create plenty of hiding spots for them.
Maintaining Water Parameters
The semi-permeable skin of axolotls makes them quite susceptible to rapid changes in the water parameters.
Any fluctuations in water temperature, hardness and acidity outside of a specific range will adversely affect their health.
Therefore, it’s crucially important that you keep all of these parameters in check to keep your axolotl thriving.
Fortunately, you can meet and maintain these conditions quite easily.
In order to match the water parameters in your tank to an axolotl’s natural habitat, you’ll need to keep a water temperature of between 60 – 65°F (15 – 18°C).
Investing in a water chiller for your new axolotl aquarium may be a good idea, especially if you live in a warm climate region.
However, keep in mind that these devices are costly, and so are not the norm for most axolotl keepers.
In terms of alkalinity, the water should be slightly acidic and have a pH level in the range of 6.5 and 7.5.
As for water hardness, the water shouldn’t be too hard and measure roughly 7 to 8 dKH.
Setting Up Filtration
One of the most important things when you’re setting up your axolotl tank is to make sure that the water flow isn’t too strong.
Axolotls have evolved to live in still waters and don’t handle strong currents well.
Since standard canister filters produce too much water movement, it’s a good idea to avoid them or buy ones with an adjustable flow rate.
On the other hand, hang-on-back filters are generally much cheaper and easier to find. I recommend buying one with a low-flow head as it will make the least amount of water disturbance.
Regardless of the type of filter you choose, it’s important to make sure that it has enough horsepower to cycle your entire aquarium.
Axolotls are quite the messy animals and produce more waste than your typical betta fish.
Using Plants and Decoration in the Tank
Axolotls naturally inhabit the bottom of their environment.
As a result, they will feel more at ease if you decorate their tank with rocks, caves and aquatic plants.
This will allow them to overcome their timidness and express their adventurous nature.
When it comes to substrate, it’s best to stick with sand and avoid gravel. Traditional aquarium gravel is too large and your axolotl might try to munch on it (mistakingly).
In terms of vegetation, you can use pretty much any type of plant that can withstand the cold water temperatures.
In my experience, Java Fern and Anubias typically work best while being easier to find and maintain.
If you’re feeling creative, you can also play around and use potted plants to make your new axolotl setup more interesting.
Keeping Tank Mates
If you’re new to aquariums in general I recommend avoiding keeping your axolotl with other aquatic animals.
Axolotls are solitary creatures by nature and typically do best when they’re kept in a single species tank.
But despite this, you can still manage to keep them with other aquatic species as long as they’re carefully selected.
The ideal tank mate for an axolotl should occupy the top of the water column and be fast enough to avoid any attacks.
Axolotls will try to eat pretty much any living creature that falls within their eyesight for too long.
As a result, the Blackspotted Top minnow and White Cloud Mountain Minnow are one of the best companions you can get.
Both of these species occupy the top of the aquarium, are well equipped to evade predation, and thrive in cold water tanks.
For a detailed list of fish that can live with axolotl you can check my article on the topic here.
On this note, if you intend on keeping more than one axolotl, you should make sure that both specimens have roughly the same size.
Axolotls tend to be highly aggressive among each other and will attack specimens smaller than them.
If the cohabiting specimens are not roughly the same size, It’s not unseen for the smaller axolotl to lose a limb to its larger tank “mate”.
And even though they can regenerate their limbs, this can cause stress and reduce their lifespan.
My Short Recap
Axolotls are quite easy to keep as long as you provide them with enough space and keep their water clean.
For this purpose, you’ll need a tank with a size of at least 20 gallons to keep a single specimen.
If you want your pet to reach its maximum size and lifespan, then getting a bigger tank will be more appropriate.
Leave me a comment below to share what tank size you ended up going with.
Or maybe read next: Different Axolotl Colors And Morphs