Optimal Water Conditions for Axolotls: Your Complete Guide

Pet axolotls require certain water parameters to ensure they’re healthy and not stressed. Their water should have a neutral pH with no ammonia.

May 13, 2024By Molly Weinfurter
optimal water conditions for axolotls

Like all aquatic animals, axolotls need specific water conditions to thrive. If those conditions aren’t met, axolotls could become ill and stressed. These water parameters should meet your axolotl’s needs before you add them to the aquarium, and you should regularly test the water to ensure it stays safe.

Axolotls have lots of amazing qualities, but you should only own one if you can keep up with water maintenance. This includes regularly cycling the tank and “tubbing” your axolotl if the water isn’t safe.

What Are Water Parameters?

axolotl short gills
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

There are many fun things to know about axolotls, from their origins to their significance in Mexican culture. However, they’re not recommended for first-time aquarium owners. They need certain water parameters.

Water parameters refer to the level of chemicals in the water (or lack thereof). When you test your aquarium’s water, you’re testing the chemical, physical, and biological properties. The parameters tested typically include pH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, carbonate hardness (KH), general hardness (GH), and salinity. Understanding the right parameters for your tank is critical to having a well-balanced aquarium.

Every aquatic pet thrives in different conditions. An axolotl’s conditions aren’t the same as fish because axolotls have sensitive skin and require cold water. Axolotls are easy to care for as long as you provide the following water conditions.

pH Level Should be Neutral

axolotls hiding
Image credit: Unsplash

pH indicates how acidic or basic the water is, with 7 being the neutral point. Lower numbers indicate high acidity while higher numbers are the most basic.

Axolotls need a pH of 7.4 to 7.6. They can survive if the number is slightly lower, but you should avoid letting it get low.

If the pH is getting too low, you may not be changing the water enough (axolotls need about 25% of the water changed every 1-2 weeks). If you’re keeping up with water changes, you may be forgetting to put water conditioner in your tap water before adding it to the tank.

Nitrate Should Be <40 PPM

axolotl injured gills
Image credit: Unsplash

Nitrate is what appears at the end of a nitrogen cycle. In an established aquarium, nitrate levels should never reach 0.

Axolotls can tolerate nitrate levels below 40 parts per million (ppm), but the ideal range is 5 ppm to 10 ppm. If the nitrate levels are getting too high, perform partial water changes more frequently.

Ammonia and Nitrites Should Be Zero

Ammonia naturally occurs in the aquarium when food and waste break down, and nitrite occurs when ammonia breaks down. Both water conditions should stay at 0.

If an aquarium is cycled and you perform regular water changes and water tests, ammonia and nitrites should stay out of your aquarium. Do partial water changes more often if the ammonia levels ever rise above 0.

KH Should Be 3 to 8 Deg

axolotl aquarium
Image credit: Pixabay

KH is short for carbonate harness, also known as alkalinity. This water parameter calculates the water’s ability to neutralize acidity. It’s essential for keeping the water pH stable. It also provides energy for healthy bacteria.

For axolotls, the KH level should be 3 to 8 deg (53 to 143 ppm). Adding pieces of coral, limestone, and marble to your aquarium filter can help raise the KH if needed.

GH Stands for General Hardness

GH stands for general hardness, which measures the amount of hard minerals in the water. Dissolved minerals found in aquariums could include calcium and magnesium.

General hardness in an axolotl tank should be 7 to 14 deg (125 to 250 ppm). Adding some calcium carbonate to the water can help raise the GH and KH at the same time.

Salinity Measures Salt in Water

This refers to the amount of salt in the water. Axolotls can tolerate up to 15% salinity, but in an ideal environment, it should be at 0%.

Testing Your Axolotl’s Water Parameters

wild type axolotl hiding
Image credit: Pixabay

Axolotls are not low-maintenance aquatic pets. As noted, they need just the right conditions to thrive.

To test the water parameters mentioned above, you’ll need an aquarium test kit. The most common types are strip test kits and drop test kits. Strip tests are cheaper and more convenient while drop tests are typically more accurate.

For a strip test, you’ll take a strip, dip it into the water, and swirl it around. Then, you’ll take it out with the pads facing up. Observe the colors of the pads and compare them to the chart on the test’s container to determine the water parameters.

For a drop test, you’ll collect some of the aquarium water in a small container. These kits come with several solutions, and each one corresponds with a water parameter. You’ll drop some of the solution into the container with the aquarium water. Then, the water will change color so you can compare the color to the chart on the container.

When running these tests, you may notice that some of the water parameters don’t match an axolotl’s ideal environment. If that’s the case, you may need to conduct partial water changes more frequently to help the parameters return to normal.

How Often to Test Your Axolotl’s Water

axolotl in sandy aquarium
Image credit: Pixabay

You should test your axolotl’s water about once per week. It’s easiest to do it while you’re performing other tasks, such as doing partial water changes or cleaning the fish tank. Frequent water testing is great for ensuring the environment stays healthy enough for your axolotl to thrive.

Whenever you perform a partial water change, make sure you’re adding water conditioner to any water you pour into the tank. Forgetting to do so could harm the water conditions and stress your axolotl out. Testing the water before you pour it into the tank is also a good precaution to take.

Axolotls Need Proper Care to Thrive

axolotl in a corner of a tank
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Axolotls may be endangered in the wild, but they can thrive in captivity with proper care. Wild axolotls and pet axolotls require different environments, which is why captive-bred axolotls cannot safely be released into the wild. So, it’s up to you to frequently check your axolotl’s water parameters to ensure they fit your pet’s needs.

Molly Weinfurter
By Molly Weinfurter

Molly has over 5 years of experience writing about animals for various websites. She has two pets of her own: a small dog (Mabel) and an axolotl (Wooper). She’s extremely passionate about helping animals in need, so she regularly volunteers with animal organizations by fostering pets, helping at adoption events, and educating about puppy mills.