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AXOLOTL 101

Here is a disorganized and awkward Care Guide to help you with your research, but please keep in mind that no one source will contain all the info you'll need so be sure to continue your research on your own.

This is currently a work in progress and I'll have a video linked for each topic with a new one added every Monday. These videos will also be posted to all of our social media as well as other fun axolotl related content so if you learn something here and would like to support me I'd really appreciate your follows anywhere you see @thebluethumb!

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Commitments

1. Research. Axolotls are exotic animals. All animals require your time and effort in research to both understand their care requirements and keep up to date with new knowledge but this is especially important with exotic animals. You need to be prepared for a journey of learning that will never end.

2. Science. The most important thing to prioritize in your research is your understanding of the nitrogen cycle so that you’ll know when to do maintenance. Most axolotl tanks will require a weekly water-change. I’ll be making another series all about aquarium cycling.

3. Cold. Axolotls require cold water so you’ll need to seriously commit to a way to keep your aquarium cold all year. Some are fortunate enough to have a cold basement or air conditioned room but without those you might need to dish out some funds for an aquarium chiller.

4. Worms. You need to be willing to commit a spot in your fridge for your axolotls worms. Earthworms should always be axolotls staple diet and extra large ones (like Canadian nightcrawlers) will often need to be cut in half. You will also need a constant supply of them. If this is not something you’re comfortable with please reconsider an axolotl but if these are commitments you’re willing to make be sure to stay tuned for more Axolotl 101!

Diet

Adult axolotls staple diet should always be earthworms. Nightcrawlers, red wigglers, any of those juicy worms. Be careful where you get them from, avoid digging them out of the ground or buying dyed bait worms (which usually appear fluorescent yellow or green) and ensure you have a supplier to buy from even in the winter, BEFORE buying an axolotl.

Pellets and bloodworms should be fed with caution as they act more as junk food and can cause issues with their appetite.

Feeder fish should be avoided as most will pick at axolotl gill filiments and many contain thiaminase which blocks axolotls ability to absorb Vitamin B1. If you must use feeder fish, choose fish that don’t contain thiaminase, quarantine them appropriatly and feed them by hand.

While crickets and mealworms are a go-to with most reptiles the same way bloodworms are the go-to with most fish, axolotls can not digest the exoskeleton of crickets or mealworms which can lead to impaction once they build up.

Feeding

Most adult axolotls will be able to eat even the largest Canadian night crawlers whole and live however, some will require their worms to be cut in half. This is something you should be comfortable with doing because any axolotl could end up needing it. I’ll only be speaking of worms here because they are the best thing to be feeding.

To stun a worm before feeding you’ll need to “blanch” them under hot water. This will stop them from moving and hopefully save them from any discomfort when you cut them if you need to. I suggest doing this even for axolotls who can manage full sized worms as it stops the worm from fighting when being swallowed, some worms can be quite strong and this can spook some axolotls into refusing worms so it’s best to just make it as easy as possible.

In the blanching stage I also give the worm a little ring-out to clean out their digestive track, this is not necessary but saves the worm from pooping in your tank as it’s eaten.

Axolotls can be fed in a few different ways but because of their bad vision most will prefer to be hand fed, directly in-front of their face but they all have different preferences, you’ll have to learn your own but I’ve left a few common examples in this video.

Be sure to check back later to ensure the food was eaten and remove it if it wasn’t as decaying worms will quickly foul your water and the smell can turn axolotls off of worms for a long time. If you’re dealing with pickiness and you find a dead worm hidden in your tank it’s likely the cause.

There isn’t a specific time you need to feed them but it is suggested to stick with the same time every day and axolotls are more active at night so most people do it then.

I would suggest feeding with the lights off or dim either way.

How much you should be feeding depends on the axolotl, it’s age and its gender but most adults will thrive off of one worm every other day. You want to aim for their stomach to be the same width as their head though males tend to be a little skinnier than that and females tend to be a little more round.

For under weight axolotls I suggest feeding half a nightcrawler per day with one day off per week. For over weight axolotls I suggest cutting back to feeding twice per week. In my experience males are happy being fed every other day while females will become over weight and need less despite wanting more.

Keeping their worms alive is pretty easy. Just buy some cups from bait shops or a pallet from an online bait supplier and keep them in your fridge. They should keep for a couple of months, just sprinkle some water in when the soil starts to get dry. If you cut your worms and only need half, cut them before blanching and use the butt end first because the head end can be kept alive for another few days instead of wasting it.

I suggest keeping worms in groups of 12-24 because if one worm dies and gets moldy it would be advisable to toss the whole group outside rather than trying to save the live ones and risking your axolotls health.

If you keep more than a few axolotls it would also be a good idea to look into worm farms so you can farm your own and save the money on them but this isn’t possible in everyone situation.

Here’s a basic checklist of what you should see in every axolotl tank.

1. Size. One adult axolotl will require a minimum of a 2 foot long tank. This equals to about a 20g aquarium in the long dimensions, however some axolotls can reach over a foot in length so more is always better to allow them to reach their full growth potential. Personally, I recommend no smaller than a 2.5 foot long tank which will be about 30-40g. You’ll need an extra foot of floor space which is approximately 10 more gallons for each additional axolotl.

2. Lid. Axolotls can make quite calculated jumps so they will require a lid. I suggest using a lid that allows airflow into the tank rather than a fully closed aquarium hood which will trap warm air. You can use reptile terrarium screen lids or egg-crate cut to size.

3. Filters. Axolotls are dirty creatures who have very large bioloads. Unlike fish their turds are too heavy for most filters to pick up so it’s suggested to filter your aquarium for 3 times the size it actually is. Spot cleaning turds as you see them will still be necessary but the triple filtration will protect you if you miss one and it gets stomped. Axolotls don’t like too much flow so you may need to adjust it. I suggest keeping a mechanical filter as well as a sponge filter in every tank.

4. Temperature. Since axolotl need consistently cold temperatures you’ll need a method to do this and a thermometer to keep an eye on it.

5. Hides. Because axolotls don’t like light they require hides to feel safe. It’s recommended to have at least two hides per axolotl. These can be anything from ceramic pots, mugs, aquarium safe reptile caves or decor, pvc pipes and even large mason jars. Plants can be amazing in axolotl tanks for keeping nitrates in check however it can be tricky as you’ll need to find plants that do well in low light and cold water.

6. Substrate. Never use gravel with axolotls!! They cannot pass it through their digestive track. Stick to bare-bottom or fine sand. Note: axolotls under 6 inches should only be kept on bare-bottom as even fine sand is an impaction risk at that size.

COLD Water

Don’t be the person who purposely ignores the part of axolotl care that states they need cold water. They need it!
In this video I’ve listed methods and tips for keeping an aquarium cold, what happens if you don’t and why frozen water bottles should NOT be your plan. The reason this needs to be figured out before you buy an axolotl is because if none of these methods will work in your situation it may not be possible for you to keep an axolotl and you’ll want to know that before having the animal.

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