One of the first decisions you should make before acquiring an axolotl is what you will use for housing. While maintenance should be relatively easy, getting the initial setup done well can take a bit of time and money. Before purchasing, make sure to give a fair amount of thought to your axolotl tank size and setup. We recommend reading through the rest of our care sheet for an idea of what to expect in the course of axolotl ownership.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing suitable housing for your axolotl.
Axolotl Tank Size
An adult axolotl will generally reach a length of 7-14 inches, although a size closer to 9 inches is most common and above 12 inches is rare.
With this in mind, you’re going to want to get a 20 gallon tank (24” long, 12” wide) for your first axolotl to make sure it has adequate space to move around. This is considered the minimum axolotl tank size for an adult, and smaller tanks will leave your axolotl cramped and stressed.
The only exception to this is when your axolotl is young and hasn’t hit the 4-5” mark yet. At that point you would be fine housing it in a 10 gallon tank, but you would definitely need to upgrade once it gets bigger. A 10 gallon tank is also the minimum you can get away with in terms of starting a good nitrogen cycle.
For the recommended tank size with more than one axolotl, see below.
Axolotl Tank Mates
Fellow Axolotls as Tank Mates
Axolotols are not social animals, and don’t actually require any company in their tank.
Young axolotls are cannibalistic until they reach a length of around 3 to 4 inches. If you’re planning to get more than one baby or juvenile you need to house them separately, or they will most likely injure or kill each other. Another solution is to either buy an aquarium divider or use a guide to make one yourself.
If you are planning to have tank mates for your axolotl, keep in mind that this is only a good idea if your axolotl tank mates are adults of the same size. Axolotls are curious nibblers, and anything in their tank big enough to fit in their mouth will probably end up there. If you have axolotls of mixed size together, this can mean accidental nipping, lost limbs, or in the worst cases outright cannibalism. If you are housing axolotls together, make sure to feed them well and also feed them on opposite ends of the tank (this will also help avoid accidental nips).
There is also a simple and helpful formula for finding how much space you will need to house your axolotls together comfortably. For each additional axolotl, you want to have an additional foot of length in your aquarium.
- 1 Axolotl – 24 inch long tank
- 2 Axolotls – 36 inch long tank
- 3 Axolotls – 48 inch long tank
Of course, keep in mind that bigger is better, and this guideline represents a minimum requirement.
Fish, snails and other tank mates
The long and short of it is that other than fellow axolotls, you should not introduce additional creatures into the tank. As mentioned before, axolotls have a tendency to take a nibble at anything they can, and this means any snails or fish can wind up eaten (and pose a choking hazard).
This also works in the opposite direction. Fish in the tank can mistake an axolotl’s colorful gills for worms or other food and takes bites out of them, causing great harm to your pet.
If you’re not convinced, you can take a look at the results of mismatched tank mates on caudata.org’s species mixing disasters page.
As far as lighting, it is important to note that axolotls do not have eyelids and prefer dim lighting. The lighting in your tank will be primarily for the benefit of aquatic plants or to create a day/night cycle. This means that regardless of the lighting you use in your tank, you will want to make sure that your axolotls have some good hides that allow them to escape the light if they want.
The best option in terms of lighting is an LED tank light. It is energy efficient, long lasting, and doesn’t produce as much heat as other types of light (remember that axolotls need a low water temperature!).
Regardless of what type of lighting you decide on, a lid is a crucial investment for your axolotl tank. Axolotls cannot climb, but they have been known to leap out of their tanks. That is not something you ever want to come home to. Also if you have children, dogs, cats, or any other type of curious pet, you don’t want them to have easy access to your tank.
A screen lid would be the most preferable option, as axolotls need cool water to stay healthy. A screen lid helps with this by allowing for easy evaporation, and also allows you to angle a fan as the water to help keep it cool during summer months.
Keep Reading: Axolotl Care Sheet
- Tank Size and Requirements – Current Page
- Filter and Water Temperature Requirements
- Starting a Nitrogen Cycle
- Substrate Requirements
- Hides, Plants, and Decor
- Tank Cleaning and Water Chemistry
- Diet and Nutrition
- Illness, Injury, and Treatment
- Additional Reading and Resources