Are Axolotls Freshwater? Yes But…

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To know if axolotls are freshwater or saltwater, you simply need to journey back to their origins.


Axolotls originated inland away from the saltwater oceans, so we know they are freshwater creatures. They originated from lakes in Mexico that are freshwater.

Okay we know that axolotls are freshwater, but did you know how important it is to keep their freshwater clean in an aquarium?

Do Axolotls Need Water Conditioner?

Yes, this is the first step when setting up your axolotl tank. Whether your aquarium creature is salt or freshwater, you should always use water conditioner to remove all chlorine from the water before you fill your aquarium.

The most popular water conditioner is a product called Prime which you can order easily online or buy from your local pet shop. Just measure a certain amount of water and then follow the directions on the Prime bottle to know how much Prime you need to mix with the amount of water that you poured.

Can I Use Tap Water for My Axolotl?

You can use tap water to fill your aquarium as long as you use a water conditioner to clean chlorine and other contaminants.

We find it easier to use a five-gallon bucket to measure out five gallons at a time. However, if you fill your aquarium and it is a 20-gallon aquarium then even if you don’t fill it all the way to the top you know it is roughly 20 gallons so you can proceed accordingly with the mixing instructions.

How Often Do Axolotls Need Water Changes?

You need to change your axolotls’ water at least once a week to keep it healthy. Axolotls are like a fish but much bigger.

What some people don’t realize when they first purchase an axolotl is that they have giant sausage shaped poops compared to a normal fish. Axolotls also known as ‘the Mexican walking fish’ like to walk along the bottom of their aquarium, so they will smash the poops into a dust that floats and mixes with the water.

This poop dust can cause ammonia in the water at a faster rate than a fish tank so you may have to clean it more than once week depending on your water parameters.

Does Axolotl Water Need pH Test?

If you clean your axolotl tank once a week you should test the water with a pH water testing kit or strips that you can order online or buy from your local pet store.

I would test the water in between water changes and just before water changes to make sure you keep the amount of ammonia in the water down. The more you test the more you will know if once a week water changes are enough.

What Kind of Filter Do Axolotls Need?

The best kind of filter for an axolotl is an external canister filter accompanied by a spray bar.

The canister filter encases mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration all in one.

The purpose of the spray bar is to receive the flow of water back into the tank and spray the surface rather than letting a strong current in the water from having an external filter. Axolotls originated from the still freshwaters of the lakes we were talking about, so they do not like strong water currents.

How Long Should I Cycle My Axolotl Tank?

Once you setup your aquarium with decorations and filtration you will prime your canister filter pump and start the water flowing. You will have to cycle the tank for at least two weeks which allows time for beneficial bacteria to build in your filter.

Beneficial bacteria consume ammonia and help keep your water clean. To achieve this, you can just wait a couple of weeks and then just start testing your water every day with test strips or a water testing kit. You need to test the water until the proper water parameters are met for your axolotl and then you can add your axolotl to the tank.

What Are the Proper Water Parameters for An Axolotl Tank?

The pH or acidity level of the water needs to be between 6.5 and 7.5 for an axolotl tank.

The specific gravity of the axolotl tank needs to be at 1.0000. This can be measured with a hydrometer or refractometer.

You add small feeder fish that poop or buy ammonia to add to your tank. You want the ammonia level to get to 2-4 ppm. During the first two weeks. After the two weeks it should drop to 0. You can then simply dump some fish food in your tank to make ammonia and nitrites rise back to 2-4.

Check every day to make sure the ammonia and nitrites are dropping back to 0 before you add your axolotl.

Nitrates need to be dropping to 0 also before you add your axolotl. This can all be read in the test kit or test strip instructions.


It wouldn’t be fair to tell you that axolotls are freshwater and then just to leave it at that. Yes, axolotls are freshwater, but they came from freshwater lakes of water that were very expansive and cleaned by mother nature.

Now you have them in a tiny tank, so you have to mimic mother nature by setting up your own system to keep the water clean. So, yes axolotls are freshwater but if you have one you become mother nature and are responsible for keeping the water clean.

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Pet Aquariums

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