Is Fine Gravel OK For Axolotl?

Setting up a tank for an axolotl can be a fun thing to do. But don’t let all the fun make you forget that an axie needs substrate at the bottom of the tank. 

Perhaps you are not aware of the kind of substrate to choose or your head is thinking that it’s not required. 

In reality, you need to get substrate at the bottom of the tank as it plays a major role in improving the quality of your axie’s life. Just because the substrate is needed doesn’t mean you will put anything that you see.

Gravel is certainly NOT the best choice for an axolotl tank because they tend to be small, and an axie can ingest anything that fits its mouth easily. This will cause major health issues such as gut problems and even death. 

Is Fine Gravel OK For Axolotl

Well, here’s an article that highlights whether fine gravel is okay for the axolotl tank. If not, there are other substrates that are good for the tank. What are those? 

We will also shed light on how you need to clean the substrate in the tank. So, let’s dive right in and find out. 

Why is Substrate Needed for an Axolotl Tank? 

Axolotls aren’t fishes. Fishes have the habit of swimming around and interacting with their tank mates. Now, an axolotl doesn’t need a tank mate as they’re carnivorous and solitary creatures. Sure, they can reproduce, but it is best to not keep other tank mates. 

A substrate is needed in the tank because axolotls like to be at the bottom. A bare bottom will be slippery, so they would need some kind of firm holding or something to walk and crawl on. 

If you keep the bottom bare for axolotls, they will be stressed and will also get sore toes. Why should anyone take that risk? Wouldn’t you want your axie to have fun inside the tank and enjoy its new habitat? 

As you move forward, you will get to know about the worst and best kind of substrate for axolotl tanks. Jump to the next section!  

The Worst Kind of Substrate for Axolotl Tanks 

The worst kind of substrate you can put in a tank is gravel. Many axie parents prefer buying this, but, bear in mind, gravels are not good for their axie. As axie parents, you need to think about the well-being of the little one. 

Axolotls ingest gravel and rocks if they are big enough to fit into their mouth. This can cause impaction. You should never keep rocks and gravel that are as big as your axie’s mouth because these can cause gut issues when ingested. 

The Worst Kind of Substrate for Axolotl Tanks 

Axolotls have the habit of sucking and swallowing their food. If they swallow anything inedible, it will cause intestinal blockage. 

Intestinal blockage can be lethal and can take away your axie’s life. One fine day, you might wake and find your axie in a horrible state. Perhaps you will lose them forever. 

If at all you want to put gravel or rocks, they should be smooth, rounded, and large. In case they are large, the axie won’t be able to ingest it. 

However, there’s still a risk of hurting your axie. Never go for general gravel or rocks. Speak to the aquarium owner – they will be able to provide aquarium-safe gravel and rocks. 

The Best Substrate for Axolotl Tanks 

Do you want the best substrate for your axie tank? Well, there are many options out there. Fine sand is one of them, but we would be happy to highlight all kinds of substrate and their pros and cons. 

1.) Bare Bottom Axie Tank 

Many axie parents keep their tank without any substrate. It has some pros and cons. When the tank is bare, your axie wouldn’t be able to ingest anything. The risk is zero and the tank remains clean too. 

Bare Bottom Axie Tank 

Now, the disadvantage here is that there will be no plants inside the tank. The surface will be slippery, so the axie won’t be able to move around as much as it would have liked it. 

2.) Sand Substrate 

The best option for your axie tank is sand. Sand is something your axie won’t ingest, but even if they do, it will stay in the body and not cause as many issues. It is only good for the adult axies though, and not the smaller ones. 

You can also have plants inside the tank as it makes the habitat look natural. Axies enjoy the sand, they can move around without any concerns. Juvenile axies don’t enjoy it as much because they have smaller bodies, so moving around isn’t as easy. 

sand substrate for axolotls tank

The downside is that sand isn’t easy to clean, especially when you are vacuuming it. 

If you are wondering what kind of sand is needed, you must get clean fine natural sand. Washed play sand is as good. You must avoid calcium carbonate sand which is used in marine sand and reptile tanks. 

Stir up the sand once otherwise there will be air pockets inside the layers. It causes bacteria and gases, so it is best to avoid this situation. 

3.) Ceramic Tile 

Many people use ceramic tiles in the tanks of their axolotls. The good part about this substrate is there is no chance of impaction. You can use sand with this kind of substrate because it will make the tank look appealing. 

Ceramic tiles in the tanks of their axolotls

Now, the downside is that tiles are slippery so your axie might struggle to walk and crawl. Moreover, you can’t even have plants inside your tank. 

Some tiles can also get dirty, so it is best to avoid ceramic tiles unless you are absolutely sure that you don’t want to have any other substrate and have time enough to regularly clean the tank. 

4.) Large Rocks 

The keyword is LARGE. You can’t have smaller rocks inside the tank because axolotls are curious, so they might try to ingest the rock. 

The rock should be larger than your axie’s head. Try to bring rocks that are as big as your fist. 

The larger rocks look prettier in the tank, and they provide grip for your axie. In case you want to cover the whole bottom with rocks, it will get very expensive. 

Also, cleaning will be a challenge as you can’t clean between rocks without removing them from the axie tank. Debris and algae will be between rocks, so it will be a mess cleaning up the tank. You can’t even grow plants in such rocks. 

Well, those were the best and worst kinds of substrates. Anything is good as long as it’s not small. The axie shouldn’t ingest anything that causes intestinal blockages. 

Now, the next thing you need to take care of is cleaning the substrate. How do you know that it needs cleaning? You can’t be keeping your axie in a dirty tank. 

How Can I Tell if My Substrate Needs to Be Cleaned?

One of the best ways to find out if the substrate needs cleaning is to watch out for algae-build-up. Do you see algae build-up or uneaten food inside the tank? 

Algae look like a brown or green film at the bottom of the surface. Small particles might be hard to see. 

But cleaning the substrate is important because the number of bacteria will increase gradually. Let’s just face it: your axie will get all kinds of health issues when the tank is dirty. 

How do you clean Aquarium Substrate? 

It depends on the substrate you chose to have. There are different ways of cleaning it. The most common method of cleaning is using a vacuum. You can clear most kinds of dirt and debris that get collected with the substrate. 

You must be consistent with the cleaning bit. Even if you are feeling lazy, keep the tank and substrate clean. 

Decking up the Tank with Hides & Décor 

Once you have figured out what substrate you want in the tank, it is best to choose the aquarium décor as well. This will also go at the bottom of the tank. 

Your axie needs a place to relax and hide. Never put anything with sharp edges because axie’s tend to be clumsy. 

Get a hiding castle for them with smooth edges and look for aquarium-safe décor. Your axie would love to swim through plants as well, so get live plants instead of the fake ones. 

A hiding place in the tank will ensure your axie doesn’t get stressed out. These little creatures might get scared at times, and they don’t like a lot of light too. So, let them hide in a castle or any other hiding space inside the tank. 

Stress isn’t healthy for axolotls or any kind of creature. Never place the tank facing direct sunlight as this could cause more stress. There’s no need for aquarium light as well. 

Should you put live plants in the Axolotl Tank? 

Putting live plants in the aquarium can be a good idea, but it should meet certain requirements. You need plants that can survive in low light. 

The plants need to be sturdy as your axie can be clumsy. Your axie will swim through these plants, and sometimes chew on them. 

If you are getting live plants, they ought to survive in water. The temperature will be less than 70 degrees F (that’s room temperature), so you have to choose accordingly. 

Axolotls love live plants, and they also keep the water clean. Did you know that live plants can also keep the ammonia and nitrite levels down? It oxygenates the water inside the tank. However, you must keep the water clean from your end too. 

Here are some of the best plants you can keep inside the tank: 

      • Java moss
      • Java fern
      • Vallisneria
      • Dwarf hair grass
      • Amazon sword 
      • Anubias
      • Hornwort 

Now, you might want to avoid live plants at times because axie’s can be very destructive. You have to observe how your axie behaves inside the tank. If they are being destructive and breaking the live plants, then you can remove them. 

Have more queries regarding the best substrate for axolotl tanks? Check out the FAQs section. 


Is Gravel Okay for Axolotl Aquariums?

Gravel is not the ideal substrate for an axolotl aquarium. It is small in size so the axolotl might ingest it and have several health issues. 

Ideally, you should be putting sand in the axolotl tank because of its fine nature. 

What Kind of Sand Should I Use for My Axolotl?

Choose aquarium safe sand in your axolotl tank. Never use rocks or gravel that are smaller than your axolotl’s head. This will cause gut issues, blockages, and even the death of your lovely pet. 

Can You Put Rocks in an Axolotl Cage?

You must never use quartz, crushed rock, chippings, construction sand, coral sand, broken shells, and colored rocks in the cage.

These can damage your axie’s skin and internal organs if they ingest any of these. Never put small rocks inside the cage either. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Keeping Axolotl as Pets?

The best part about keeping axolotl as pets is that they’re adorable, silent, and not-so-demanding. The downside is that you can’t really pet them like you pet a dog or a cat. Moreover, they are good to look at but they don’t like to be touched. 

Can You Put Fake Plants Inside the Axolotl Aquarium?

Fake plants aren’t beneficial for axolotls. They won’t really keep the water clean. Also, it will be hard for your axolotl to tear up this fake plant. 

What if they ingest it? If you are bent on putting them inside the aquarium, it is best to tie them to the decorations inside the tank. Anchor it down so that your axolotl doesn’t have any issue swimming around. 

Is it important to Place Substrate at the Bottom of the Tank?

Ideally, you should put substrate at the bottom of the tank because a bare bottom isn’t healthy for an axie. 

Bare bottoms are fine for baby axies but not adults as they don’t get a good grip or hold of the ground. 

These creatures like to be at the bottom, so a substrate would be needed for easy movement. A bare bottom means they will keep slipping. 

Concluding Thoughts 

Bare bottom is a bad idea, and so is fine gravel and rocks. 

Do what’s best for your axie. Sand is the safest bet for axie tanks. If you are thinking of getting an axie, provide the best environment by putting the right kind of substrate inside. 

You might want to decorate the tank with some live plants and hides too. 

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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