How Long Should I Cycle My Tank Before Adding an Axolotl? 

Look closely and you will find that axolotls are one of the cutest and most unique-looking amphibians. If you’ve thought about getting them home, you will have to set up the perfect home for them first. 

One of the most important questions that come to a prospective axolotl parents’ mind is the following – how long should you be cycling the tank before adding the little amphibian? 

The Mexican walking fish or the Axolotl’s tank needs to be cycled for at least 6 to 8 weeks. It depends on the ammonia and nitrate level. 

How Long Should I Cycle My Tank Before Adding an Axolotl

Providing the perfect environment is your duty. You will have a healthy and happy axolotl if the environment is right! 

Dive right into the article to find out more about the cycling duration and why it’s an absolute need for axolotl parents to cycle the tank. 

Setting up an Axolotl Tank 

Creating the perfect habitat for your axolotl is supposed to be YOUR duty. If you are keeping a living being in your place, you will have to take good care of it. 

Now, always remember that the minimum capacity of the tank should be 20 gallons. Twenty is still small as the axolotl tends to grow to a much bigger size. The Axolotl is going to grow sooner or later, so it will need space to move around. 

1.) A 10-gallon capacity tank is fine for little axolotls, but not the adult ones. It is best to get a 30 to 40-gallon capacity tank in the beginning. 

2.) The next thing you need after buying the tank is sand. You can’t have a bare bottom because it will stress out the little axolotl. They need something to hold on to, so a bare bottom will be slippery for them to crawl or walk on. 

3.) Fine gravel is not the best option as axolotls tend to eat it. The gravel isn’t easy to digest so there will be some issues with the gut. Thus, it is best to provide sand or a rocky bottom. Make sure the rocks are not too little (again, the little bugger will eat them). 

The tank space, the bottom, and the water inside it will play a major role in keeping your axolotl healthy and happy. 

When we talk about axolotl tanks, there’s a concept you need to understand. It’s called, ‘cycling the tank.’ Read on as we dig deeper into the subject. 

Do axolotls need a cycled tank? 

It is an absolute necessity to cycle the water inside the tank before you place the axolotl inside. If this doesn’t happen, axolotls will get stressed (physically). These little creatures will have to live with tons of toxins and they might just die. 

Nobody wants to bring a pet home and see it die out of misery. When a dog or a cat comes home, you want the best of the best beds, toys, cushions, and food. Axolotls might be solitary creatures, but they need a comfortable space to live in. 

You should get the tank cycled before getting the axolotl. If it’s done before, the axolotl will have a safe space to live.

The question is – What is this cycling process? What does it mean? 

The goal is – it establishes a colony of good bacteria that helps in breaking down all the waste. 

The process regulates the water’s ammonia content too. Please remember that too much ammonia can be toxic for your little axie.  

Cycling the axolotl tank brings out the good bacteria in the filter. It consumes the ammonia and converts it into nitrites. Then, another bacteria group consumes these nitrites and converts them into nitrates. 

Ammonia tends to arise from the poop of the axolotl, the uneaten food, and even dead plants. It has to be converted to nitrite and then to nitrate. It’s because ammonia can poison a little axolotl. 

The nitrate level should be low. Thus, you need to change the water of the tank once a week. 

How long should you cycle the tank before adding the axolotl?

Cycling the tank takes about 6-8 weeks in general. You must do it before putting the axolotl inside as it can be potentially dangerous for the little one. 

The cycle gets complete when nitrites and ammonia test to about 0 parts per million and the production of nitrates is regular. 

Decorating an Axolotl’s Tank: Do’s and Don’ts 

When you bring an axolotl home, you are not just worried about the cycling process and the bare bottom. You need to follow certain dos and don’ts when it comes to decorating the tank. 

Here’s a quick sneak peek of what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Always remember that you might decorate the tank all you want but it is something YOU want. 

The Axolotl did not appear in your dreams or tell you vocally that they want a decked-up tank. Thus, keep it simple and add things that the axie would like. 

#1. Lighting (A big, NO)

An axolotl will be happy without any filtration lights. So, you don’t really need to invest in fancy lights per se. 

These amphibians are nocturnal animals, so they are happiest in the dark. In case you are thinking of getting some lights, make sure it’s not too bright because these little axies have lashless eyes that are sensitive to light. 

If there are lights inside, make sure there is a good hiding spot for them. 

#2. Filtration System (It’s a Must-Have)

These little silent creatures can create a lot of mess or waste inside. Thus, you need a strong filtration system. 

The filtered tank should have a low flow. If the flow is too strong, your little axolotl will get stressed. You don’t want that to happen! 

Getting sponge filters would be ideal. These can filter waste efficiently, and the flow is also low as compared to other filtration systems in the market. 

#3. Hides (your axolotl will love it)

A hiding spot can be good for an axolotl. They’re not very interactive. An axolotl likes to sleep and stay silent. 

AQUA KT Aquarium Landscaping Tree Stump Trunk Hollow Log Hole Rocks Cave Cichlid Stone Fish Hide for Discus Guppy Goldfish Tank Decorations

Also, they’re very sensitive to light, so create a hiding space for them. An aquarium castle would be nice to have inside the tank but make sure there is enough space. You must never crowd out the tank. 

#4. Plants (not the fake ones)

Plants are good for the aquarium. Don’t go for fake plants because they tend to have sharp edges. 

Look at a little axolotl – they’re so sweet and delicate. Place some soft edge plants. 

You can also get an anubias nana plant for the axolotl tank. The plant should be flexible and soft so that the axolotl can swim through them. 

#5. Rocks (They’re necessary)

Add some rocks to the aquarium. You can create a little cave for the axolotl to swim through. These rocks can be stacked to make caves. 

This will be a fun activity for the axolotl. Aqua KT Store has the most amazing cave for axolotls. 

It’s the perfect hideout for axolotls. Make sure you don’t add any small rocks because axolotls are always curious about new things so they might gobble it up – 

#6. Driftwood (it’s a nice addition)

Add driftwood that doesn’t have any sharp edges. This will help you create some good spaces to hide. 

You can also use this driftwood to grow some plants inside. Anubias nana and Java fern are good for axolotl tanks. 

PINVNBY Aquarium driftwood is quite good-looking and functional. Your axolotl might enjoy it and see it as a little space to take naps. 

Now that you are aware of what you should and shouldn’t be doing with the tank, it’s important to know whether your little axie likes to socialize or not. 

Let’s find out!

See also: Can You Feed Axolotls Ham? (6 Best Foods)

Tank Mates: To Keep or Not to Keep 

Axolotls are solitary creatures, so they don’t really love to socialize or chat up with fellow tank mates. 

There is a chance that your axolotl might even eat another axolotl. It’s because they think that their tail is a worm. 

Isn’t it amusing and sadistic how the axolotls can accidentally eat their own kind? 

So, there are some dos and don’ts here. Ideally, you should let the axolotl be. These creatures can be alone – they don’t have socialization needs. 

Suitable Tank Mates:

• Axolotls of the same size (not juvenile) – The axolotls should have their own space and not come in the way. 

• White cloud minnows

• Snails (dangerous, but doable) – There’s a chance your axolotl might eat the snail too. 

• Ghost shrimps (once again, your axolotl might eat them if they’re too hungry) 

Tank Mates You Must Avoid:

      • Goldfish 
      • Catfish 
      • Any aggressive fish 
      • Cichlids 

It isn’t recommended to keep any fish with an axolotl. But, if you are bent on keeping one, it is best to have a fellow amphibian in the tank. Don’t be surprised if they eat each other. 

Have any more queries regarding the cycling of tanks? Here’s a quick FAQs section that has all the answers. 


1. Why do I need to cycle the tank for my axolotl?

Creating a positive and healthy environment for the axolotl is your duty. Also, beneficial bacteria are crucial for the entire nitrogen cycle. 

It helps in turning the toxic ammonia in the waste into less harmful waste. You need to mature the water for at least a few weeks before you can introduce it to your little one. 

2. How often should I water my axolotl tank?

Once the nitrogen cycle gets complete, you can introduce it to your little axolotl. Water change is a necessity. 

You should change approximately 20 to 30 percent weekly. Test the water parameters on a weekly basis for the first five to six weeks. 

3. How to introduce an axolotl to a new tank?

You should introduce the axolotl to a new tank after the water has matured. You must also check the water parameters. 

4. What is the nitrogen cycle in an axolotl tank?

The nitrogen cycle of the axolotl tank should be looking like this – 

Ammonia – Nitrites – Nitrates 

All the ions are toxic in nature, but nitrate (the end product) is less toxic. Nitrates are removed by the water changes that happen on a weekly basis. 

5. Should your axolotl have tank mates?

Ideally, you should avoid keeping any tank mates with the axolotl. They tend to eat other tank mates since they are carnivorous. 

If at all you wish to keep an axolotl in the tank, it should be a similar size axolotl. Juvenile axolotls might eat each other, so avoid this cannibalistic stage. 

6. Can I use tap water for my axolotl? 

Tap water happens to be chlorinated, so it’s toxic for the axolotl. You must neutralize the tap water. 

7. What are nitrites in an axolotl tank?

Nitrites are harmful; thus, a cycling process should take place to convert them into nitrates. 

The nitrite level in the tank should be 0; however, it’s still toxic. Turning it into nitrates is a better idea as it is less toxic to the axolotl or aquatic life. 

8. Why shouldn’t you skip the cycling process?

In case you skip the cycling process, the axolotl will die within a few days. 

Ammonia comes from left-over food and poop. If this crowds up the tank and the level of ammonia increases, it will burn the gills of the axolotl. 

Concluding Thoughts 

Did you find this article useful? If yes, share it with people who are thinking of getting an axolotl. It’s such a wonderful and intriguing amphibian. 

One look at it and you would know that it’s a Pokemon character. Distinctive looks and silent nature – it’s a great pet to have. But you can only look at an axolotl from a distance and not touch it time and again. 

In case you have made up your mind about getting an axolotl home, make sure you cycle the tank and decorate it appropriately. 

Susan R Elliston

I have over 11 years of experience as a vet working with a wonderful variety of species of innocent and lovely animals. Whilst I still work two days a week for a local practice, I realized that I could help more people by sharing my knowledge and experience with my readers.

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